Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
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A Decade Later, Whither the Metrosexual

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When was the last time you considered the metrosexual? If you are a reasonable person—not this guy—it’s been about ten years. Or at least I thought so, until, after a decade of silence, three people mentioned metrosexuals to me in the same week. Perhaps because it’s the twentieth anniversary of its coining and the tenth(ish) anniversary of Queer Eye.

In reconsidering the metrosexual, we must first distinguish between the metrosexual’s imagined and actual properties. Like hipsterism, metrosexuality is an insult more readily slung than substantiated. According to canon, David Beckham is the ur-metro. Although Beckham initially goes unmentioned in the word’s first printing (in 1994), the word’s progenitor, Mark Simpson, introduced American readers to metrosexuality through the British football star in 2002, when he called Beckham a "screaming, shrieking, flaming, freaking metrosexual…famous for wearing sarongs and pink nail polish and panties…and posing naked and oiled up on the cover of Esquire." Other icons of metrosexuality of the time included Mark Wahlberg and P. Diddy. This was somewhat shocking to me, since I associate metrosexuality with men who resemble heterosexual twinks—your Zac Efrons, your Ryan Seacrests. Hair that swoops, cheeks that apple.

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From Mark Simpson’s first article on the metrosexual.

Unlike homosexuality, metrosexuality, one would think, is determined exclusively by artifice. But when I asked friends to delineate that artifice by describing "metrosexual fashion," there was no consensus (rings? v-neck tees? scarves?). There are also no obvious metrosexual products, and certainly no defining brands—like Sperry Top-Siders are to preppies or Herschel is to hipsters.

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From The Advocate, December 2003. Metrosexuality was omnipresent, but vague.

Rather, it seems, metrosexuality is attitudinal and behaviorist: It isn’t about using a certain pair of tweezers, but by using them often. On Urban Dictionary, you just might be metrosexual if "you own 20 pairs of shoes, half a dozen pairs of sunglasses, just as many watches and you carry a man-purse." Attitudinally, we might ascribe it to what Simpson calls "narcissism" and what I would call, in heavy scare quotes, "indulgence." This is why it is so outrageously easy to lob metrosexuality at even the muscle-ogre-iest of targets; in 2003, Howard Dean was a metrosexual.

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Ask Polly: A Chilling Cautionary Tale About the Dangers of Getting Involved With Attached People

the futility of living Dear Polly,

Yesterday, I woke up to an email in my inbox with the subject "Uncontested Divorce Papers." I need to sign them and send them back to the lawyer, at which point she'll file them with the courts, and I'll officially be a divorcée. In order to make the process as quick and hassle-free as possible, the reason given for the divorce is "irretrievable breakdown of marriage over a period of at least six months." The problem is, as far as I'm concerned, that's a complete lie. 

I'd been married for fourteen months and twenty days when my husband told me he was in love with one of my close friends and that he didn't want to be married to me anymore. The day before he told me this, he'd sent me flowers at my office. The night before THAT, he'd texted me that he loved me so much. When friends say, "Well, there must have been signs," I ask if flowers and love poems and dates are signs of irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. Then they stop asking. 

I met my husband in graduate school, where we became good friends. Deep down, I knew I had developed feelings for him, but I denied them, because he had a girlfriend. When he moved to New York after graduation, we kept in touch, talking every day for hours on g-chat. When he told me he had feelings for me, as more than a friend, I was ecstatic.  He'd been telling me about problems with his girlfriend for a long time, but they were still together. I told him he needed to break up with her and then we needed to take a break before we could start dating. I assuaged my guilt by believing he didn't love his girlfriend, that she was possessive and boring. I never asked more questions because I was too happy. 

We dated long distance for a year, seeing one another almost every weekend, until I moved to New York to be with him. We adopted a dog and got engaged. After eighteen months of planning together, our wedding was by far the happiest day of my life. Though I'd felt isolated when I first arrived in New York, I eventually made friends of my own at my job (one of whom became the woman who is now my husband's girlfriend), and got closer with his friends. I loved our life together. 

One thing I knew about my husband, though, was that the same boundless ambition and creativity that made me love him was also a destructive force in his life. Nothing he did was ever good enough. My real fear was that nothing I did was ever going to be good enough either, but he assured me this was not the case. It turns out that I was right. Though he gave me no sign that he was unhappy with our relationship, I'd somehow missed the mark. 

It's been three months since he told me he didn't want to be with me anymore, and since then, we've had very little contact. Every time I've tried to reach out for answers or to express any emotion, he hasn't responded. When I asked him why he never gave me a chance, he responded that our "marriage was my chance," though he'd never expressed his unhappiness to give me a chance to try and make things better. 

I've moved back to where I lived before I moved to New York and I'm doing my best to move forward. I'm seeing a therapist. I'm keeping busy. I'm doing yoga and talking to friends and taking care of myself.  We had many mutual friends, many of whom are still his friends, which is another difficult situation. 

My question to you, Polly, is how do I continue to move forward when it feels like I've failed at my marriage, my love, the life I loved? Though rationally, I know it was his actions that destroyed our relationship, it's still difficult to keep from feeling like I messed up somewhere along the way and that no one will ever love me again. I'm torn between anger toward him (and her) and devastation for the huge loss I feel.

And I don't know what's better—that sadness, or the anger? The anger feels better than the sadness but I don't want to become bitter. Is there a middle ground? 

Looking for Balance

Dear LFB,

I know this is going to sound harsh, but bear with me, because it's necessary: You did mess up somewhere along the way. You engaged in an ongoing flirtation with a guy who not only had a girlfriend, but had the bad taste to complain about his girlfriend to you, his attractive female friend. And what were his complaints about his girlfriend? That she was possessive, and boring.

Attention, Every Single Human Reading This: If you're flirting with someone who's currently attached, and they start to badmouth their partner? That is a giant red flag. Even if the partner in question is verifiably not so great, it's fucking weird for a person to hang out and whine to attractive others, rather than simply, say, dumping said malignant partner and THEN bagging on his/her irredeemable ass with vim and vigor (and with other dickish friends with weird lowercase names). READ MORE

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The Cost of Bringing a Person Into The World Via C-Section

Screenshot 2014-08-26 11.11.15 The claims section for my personal account on my health insurance provider's website gives me great anxiety lately. This is why.

CLAIM ONE: $24,254.25
$14,489.90 Allowable
I OWE: $500 Copay

A few notes:

Did I go to the emergency room ($500)? I did not! I went to triage in Labor & Delivery, which is I hope what they mean. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, though I have no idea why I would do that.

Did I get an ultrasound ($480)? Okay I did but it was for like two seconds in triage when they checked to make sure he was still head down. That should have cost like, $20 tops.

Anesthesia, $338? My first epidural didn't work so they had to give me another one. Then they did more stuff to me in the OR, don't really know what. This relatively conservative amount only makes me fear there is another claim coming from the anesthesiologist, and that the anesthesiologist doesn't take my insurance. If you pray, pray for me.

The line item I take the most umbrage with has to be $14,400.00 for three nights in a 8'x5' section of a hospital room, cordoned off by puke green curtains. My neighbor—yes I shared a room—did not want to use air conditioning, as it was presumed to be bad for the baby. She wailed to the nurses when visiting hours were over, not that I blame her, and demanded that her husband be allowed to stay. They said no but he stayed anyway. No one had the energy to forcibly remove him. I told the nurse, who insisted I could say no, that I didn't care. I wanted my person there, too, desperately, but I am, I guess, more desperate to follow the rules. In the middle of the night, after days of no sleep, I'd wake up and hear her husband snoring. The curtains would billow open and various family members of hers (of which there were many) would catch sight of me, sweaty, wrestling with my sweaty baby, tits out, on the verge of tears. $4800/night. Cool. READ MORE

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As a child, one might have imagined counting to ten billion in the course of reckoning with the seeming infinitude of enormous numbers. This is actually impossible to do in a human life time, since it would take over three hundred years. But, as an adult, one might discover that he can simply will himself from zero to that number, or even more—at least as long as he is counting in dollars, as the founders of Snapchat and Uber have discovered, whose companies are now valued at more than ten billion dollars. A lingering question: now that the ten-billion-dollar frat has become a little less exclusive, who will be the first to reach infinity?

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Jay Prince, "Polaroids"

Jay Prince, the East London rapper, tells The 405: "I don't know, I mean it wasn't really much else, there was no big thing that happened behind it—it was just me getting back into the swing of things and just trying something new." Good enough for me!

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New York City, August 25, 2014

weather review sky 082514★★★★ An orange flash of sunrise came off a building to the west and through a crack in the blinds. The morning was cool still but humid. The uptown train came to a stop with a wash of heat across the platform, raising a sweat. On the ride downtown, a couple carried matching beach chairs. Every line of mortar was distinct in the upper-story brickwork. By midday, up on the roof, the sun was hot. It was pleasant to let it pin the body down in a chair, to feel the black plastic hot but not hot enough to hurt through a shirt. One eye had to stay squinted shut for a while, till acclimation set in. A blue-white haze enfolded an airplane and tinted the Freedom Tower; a blue-white glow flooded the retinas. By rush our the streets were shady and cool again, with a breeze moving through them. Dazzling beams of light came through gaps in the buildings without warning. The sun went down behind a line of bright-rimmed blue clouds, with nacreous ones above.

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A Redder Summer

riottsOn the third Saturday of July in 1919, a number of military men—some recently discharged, some just off-duty, but many in uniform—began indiscriminately beating black men who happened to be walking in the area of the National Mall in Washington D.C. The attackers sought to avenge a white woman who had been allegedly “jostled” by two black men; she claimed that they tried to steal her umbrella. The Washington Post reported the incident under the headline "Negroes Attack Girl."

Washington, D.C., faced a particular set of racial tensions that summer. Local newspapers carried reports decrying the racial conflict tearing apart the nation in other cities, all the while publishing sensational stories about a new wave of crime caused by blacks in D.C. The Washington Post published a letter to the editor on July 13th that was concerned about the "crimes and outrages that have recently been committed." It suggested that, because "many of the suspects are negros" perhaps some "negro ex-soldiers" should be appointed to the police force. READ MORE

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Who Reads 'Mein Kampf'?

kampfyEarlier this year, a new volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard's novel My Struggle arrived in America, prompting a fresh discussion of why the writer borrowed his book's title from Adolf Hitler. Knausgaard said the choice was about scaling down; he wanted to contrast the dictator's "grand, ideological worldview with the reality of the individual." But he also believes that, "for someone interested in the zone between literature and reality, this book is, in the end, impossible to avoid." In fact, he added, "I think everybody should read Mein Kampf." Responding to the surprising spike of digital sales of Mein Kampf, Stephen Marche echoed Knausgaard's sentiment in Esquire: "Everyone should read it. It's essential to understanding history and the way that history reaches into our present moment." And, last month, when considering if Germans should read the book, Peter Ross Range concluded in the Times that they would be "better served by open confrontation with Hitler’s words."

So, perhaps everyone should read Mein Kampf, as these men have recently determined. But who actually does? What perspective do these bring to the book? What do they buy alongside it? What did these people hope to learn? There are over six hundred reviews of Mein Kampf on Amazon, and I read all of them. Who gave it five stars? Three stars? Or just one?

Of the patterns that emerged as I read Hitler’s readers, none were so immediately unsurprising as readers who do not reckon with Mein Kampf so much as adhere to it, chapter and verse. Consider the following review, titled "Jesus and Hitler":

Hate them both or Love them both. What's important is the realization that they came preaching the same message and suffered the same fate.

This type of reader frequently discusses "our servile deference to Jewry" or refers to the author as "Herr Hitler." They deny the Holocaust. They call the book a "must read for any racially conscious white person." They sign off, "All the best, to one of the Volk!" But many of this ilk are less overt, suggesting they came to Mein Kampf innocently and found reason there. They imply a process of discovery and conversion, much like Hitler's. READ MORE

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The Many One-Season Sitcom and News Parodies of Comedy Central

biglakeHaving previously tackled Comedy Central's multitude of short-lived reality parodies and sketch shows, this time I’ll be examining Comedy Central’s large quantity of news parodies and warped versions of sitcoms. READ MORE

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"But walking around the East Village, I just want to cry at the state of it. There are so many fuckin’ jocks everywhere! It’s like a frat house everywhere. There are all those terrible bars like The 13th Step, and it’s just spreading over to A and B. And now, in Williamsburg, you have all these frat guys dressed as alternatives. I don’t know if it’s a sign of the times, but where are the real weirdos?" They have apparently moved to Park Slope.

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The War on Drugs, "Under The Pressure"

The second single from Lost in the Dream, and a rare example of a song that's cheery despite its constituent parts signaling, in unison, overwhelming depressiveness.

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"There are currently nine major North American freight railroads. Operators point out that hopping freight is illegal and extremely dangerous and hope that the slide in hobo numbers in recent decades will continue."

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New York City, August 24, 2014

★★★★★ Sunshine came slamming down, and the shade was near opaque by contrast. Out on the Sheep Meadow bodies were mashed into the grass, and the grass without bodies on it was mashed down by the bodies of days before. The children made for the rocks and the trees beyond, in the farthest corner of the meadow. Walking across the open space in full sun was one of the few ways to feel uncomfortably warm. The big cumulus clouds were visibly moving at first glance, but seemed to slow down under inspection. One of them drifted over the sun, and the silvery deposits in the nearest boulder glimmered instead of shining. A bare-chested man with a ponytail and wristbands climbed quickly up the biggest rock and flattened himself out, blue-lensed sunglasses to the heavens. A huge clot of fungus was swelling from the foot of one of the oaks, and a Paraphidippus jumping spider clambered up the trunk, its metallic green markings flashing. The children sat on a bench in the shade to eat hot dogs and a stale pretzel, accompanied by irregular thumps from the sand volleyball court. A breeze found the small of the back. The two-year-old hopped down from his seat and tried out a volleyball stance. A cloud big enough to achieve grayness made things so dim, for the moment, that one of the street lights came on. Foreshortened from the edge, the Sheep Meadow was so full it was almost impossible to find a vertical or horizontal line of open green across it. On the next lawn over, a young man threw his leg over the backs of a young woman's thighs and pressed his face into hers. The gray clouds held their majority, or at least a ruling coalition with the white. All day the balance kept shifting. The afternoon sky in the west out the windows looked as if the clouds were still keeping control, but outside, the east and the zenith revealed themselves to be wholly uncontested blue.

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A Rally for the Dead

2014-08-23 10.18.07

“How many times must we drink from the bitter cup of injustice?” Bishop Victor Brown asked at the “We Will Not Go Back” march on Saturday, which began in Staten Island where Eric Garner, a forty-three-year-old husband and father of six, died a little over a month ago after being placed in a chokehold, by officer Daniel Pantaleo. “We will not engage in the luxury of ‘cooling off’ or the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

The demonstration—organized by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network—was intended to pressure federal prosecutors to step in and investigate the death as a civil rights case. As complicated as police brutality cases are, bringing such cases to trial—much less attaining a conviction—in a place like Staten Island, where so many have family members who work in law enforcement, is a challenge.

“We need the Feds to come in right now,” Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed eighteen-year-old who was shot by the NYPD in February 2012, said while addressing the crowd. “We need accountability.” She was joined by Kadiatou Diallo, the mother of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed twenty-two-year-old who was shot by the NYPD in February 1999. “Too much pain, too much struggle. Too many tears, too many victims,” Diallo said. “This has got to stop, and we will be here until it does.” Graham was five years old when Diallo was killed; Ferguson’s Michael Brown was three.

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Um, Is Your Facebook About To Get Less Dumb? Wow.

Haha, no. But a lot of people are wondering about this, because Facebook just made an announcement:

A small set of publishers who are frequently posting links with click-bait headlines that many people don’t spend time reading after they click through may see their distribution decrease in the next few months. We’re making these changes to ensure that click-bait content does not drown out the things that people really want to see on Facebook.

Great. Who doesn't hate clickbait? Actually, here's a better question: Who even knows what clickbait is? Here's Facebook's working definition:

Click-baiting’ is when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see.

Facebook says it will penalize publishers who do this by measuring the durations of their site visits. Sites that attract and keep Facebook users will be favored over sites that attract them and quickly send them back.

The instant media response here has been glee and relief—Facebook is stopping the march of Viral Media!—just as it was last time Facebook talked about "quality" content:

This, also like last time, misreads (reasonably) what Facebook means by "quality." READ MORE

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The Cost of Throwing a Pony Party for Your Seven-Year-Old Daughter Who's Really Into Horses

horse rescueAs much as I hope my children will come into their own as individuals, there’s something just overwhelmingly adorable about watching my kids be "into" the typical milestones of childhood. So while I very much dream my daughter will one day be some sort of hip-yet-together hybrid of Kate Bush and that woman who flaks GoldiBlox, there is just something irrepressibly cute about her obsession with all things horses and ponies.

To be clear, her horse obsession is the thing of I-Can-Read novels and made-for-cable movies. Though we live in a somewhat rural area, my wife and I are about as far from horse people as you get—not even in that faux landed gentry sense that Ralph Lauren enables. Come to think of it, I don’t think my wife even owned fake jodhpurs back in the early aughts when they were sort of cool. All of which puts my daughter’s love of horses on the level of fantasy and whimsy, which is where we all hope our kids will be when they're still rollin’ with the booster seat set; that sweet spot in time when they are becoming more independent but don’t actually hate you yet.

So as my daughter's seventh birthday approached, it was clear we had to do a horse theme, which presented a conundrum: There are riding rings and stables around the area that will host birthday parties, and even a few pony purveyors who will bring one to your house for kids to ride. These options are, of course, rather expensive. I just have a really hard time dropping serious cash on little kid's birthday parties, and by "have a really hard time" I actually mean "don’t have the funds to do so." READ MORE

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The Time I Worked at That Celebrity Bakery

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, Becca Laurie tells us more about some famous people who enjoy eating cupcakes.

Becca! So what happened here?

A decade ago, I applied for a bakery job on a whim. I had no experience, and I’d never been to this specific bakery before. I was out to dinner with friends, and we stopped in for dessert. I filled out an application and started training the next week. 

The bakery was having a moment: It was featured on a TV show, and that meant a ton of tourists and a handful of celebrities. I worked there for two consecutive summers. By the end of the second year, the hype started to die down, and so did the frequency of famous customers. My memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be, but here’s who I remember: READ MORE

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The Best Time I Met Captain Jack Sparrow in Brazil

he'll get him high tonightThere's a tiny island town in Brazil called Morro do Sao Paolo where the idea of "the honeymoon" was born. It takes a winding cab ride through the jungle and two boat rides to get there, but once you do, you’re hit by sweeping ocean views and the smell of passion fruit that mysteriously wafts through the air at all times. This is a place where cars aren’t allowed. Where beautiful Argentinean girls with tan legs and ankle bracelets invite you to parties on the beach. Where you dance to the Brazilian pop song of the moment in the rain at 3 am, while guzzling down drinks made of Cachaça and pure glee.

Lovers come to this place to entangle in hammocks (and then make babies), which is why it was a particularly awkward destination for my platonic friend Dustin and I, who were both smack dab in the middle of quarter life crises. We met in New York, but as two kids hailing from the West, a couple of years in the city left us burnt out and confused. He had been in South America for the past couple of months living off insurance money from a bad car accident (and recovering from a heartbreak). I was blowing savings I should have actually been saving before starting grad school in California (and lovesick for a boy back in Brooklyn).

When we arrived on this island, we had spent the past couple of weeks traveling from city to city, but everyone we met said the trip wouldn’t be complete without an indulgent tropical leg. By the time we got to Morro, we were both hard out of cash, so our first stop was the one bank on the island. We had noticed over the course of our travels in Brazil that many ATMs didn’t read American cards, but we didn't let that stop us from spending what we had. After a couple of failed attempts at the machine, it was apparent that we weren’t getting any money. We were faced with the realities that we might not be able to 1) get a room at a hostel 2) ever leave.

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Only Real, "Pass the Pain"

A wobbly and proudly silly pop song from London's Only Real. Like "Cadillac Girl," "Pass the Pain" tips back and forth between endearing and slightly irritating, and never quite lets us know if its relationship with the 90s is pastiche, tribute, or coincidence.

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A Study in Contrasts

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 8.58.27 AMAs hundreds line up for Michael Brown's funeral, the New York Times is running twinned profiles of twenty-eight-year-old Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson and the unarmed eighteen-year-old he shot to death. This is how Wilson's begins:

On the early afternoon of Feb. 28, 2013, Officer Darren Wilson answered a police call of a suspicious vehicle where, the police said, the occupants might have been making a drug transaction. After a struggle, Officer Wilson subdued the suspect and grabbed his car keys before help arrived, the police said.

A large amount of marijuana was found in the car, the police said, and the 28-year-old suspect now faces seven charges, including possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute and resisting arrest. The incident won Officer Wilson a commendation, presented by the police chief this year as Officer Wilson stood, hands clasped before him, and city officials looked on.

And Brown's:

It was 1 a.m. and Michael Brown Jr. called his father, his voice trembling. He had seen something overpowering. In the thick gray clouds that lingered from a passing storm this past June, he made out an angel. And he saw Satan chasing the angel and the angel running into the face of God. Mr. Brown was a prankster, so his father and stepmother chuckled at first.

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