Gearing Up for Another ‘Sexy’ Halloween

29 10 2009

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Halloween tries really hard to spook people with its skeletons, zombies and pedophiles, but what I find most spooky about Halloween is the brief, 4-hour glimpse of how “sexy” the women in America would be if they weren’t repressed every other day by social and behavioral norms.  

Imagine with me, for a second, what life would be like if every day was a “costume” day.  Women would get up in the morning and think to themselves, “Ok, I have a meeting at 8 am.  Should I go as a sexy cowgirl or a sexy Pocahontas?”  They’d wear a sequined bra and short skirt with 7-inch high heels and glue on fake eyelashes, and no one could call them a hussy because hey, it’s a costume, people. 

Men would continue to dress like themselves, except they’d put an ironic or “punny” spin on it.  Your boss would wear jeans and a sweatshirt with block iron-on letters that said “Go Ceilings!” and then take offense when no one got the ceiling fan joke, when really, everyone got the ceiling fan joke, we’ve just seen it before.  

The man at the dry-cleaners would wear all white with a devil-horn headband and call himself a deviled egg, and you would just hand him your laundry without breaking his stare and explain that this stain on the left boob of the sequined bra of your sexy Statue of Liberty costume is actually grey body paint, in case he needs to know for cleaning purposes.  Also could you have it back by the end of the week?  Because Friday is the 4th of July, and that costume will be worn again. 

Sexy and ironic costumes have so become the norm on Halloween that they have actually ceased to be sexy or ironic.  One Halloween in college I made the mistake of dressing up as a pumpkin.  No, not a sexy pumpkin– a serious pumpkin.  I bought a big, round pumpkin costume from Wal-mart, complete with the green stem hat and green tights.  I showed up at a frat party in my rotund orange suit thinking surely I’d be the most ironic person in the place, because really, what college girl actually dresses as a pumpkin for Halloween?  But everyone at the party– the men all dressed as Spongebob Squarepants and the women in unidentifiable, themed stripper garb– stopped and looked at me with sad, disappointed eyes like I was the Grinch Who Stole Halloween. 

I shouted, “WHAT!? I’m more ironic and sexy than all of you Spongebob Stripper-Pants Creeps!”  And then the music started again, and I sulked out of the party like the smelly kid at school.  

I have a feeling Halloween 2009 will be the creepiest of all.  We’ll see a slew of Sexy Public Options, Sexy Swine Flus, Sexy Aborted Fetuses and Sexy Stephanie Tanners on meth.  Honestly, I can’t think of anything more frightening than a sexy Stephanie Tanner on meth.  

**Sigh**  Time to pull the old pumpkin costume out of the mothballs.

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Break-up Songs

28 10 2009

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Some people are amazingly talented at surviving break-ups.  They can be in a serious relationship one day, broken up the next, and after a week they’re already over it.  These people (“mutants,” I call them) subscribe to the old adage, “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.”  They cry for a day or two, then immediately toss out all pictures of the ex, de-friend him on Facebook, delete his phone number, complain to their friends about what an asshole he was and then hit the local bar to meet the next flame.

I’m not one of these people.  I’m one of the other kind– the kind that masochistically stares at old pictures for months after the break-up.  The kind that dramatically flails herself against brick walls and manages to lose 20 lbs. in a month because she can’t even wash down a comforting bite of Spaghetti-O’s.  The kind that calls her mother crying a hundred times a day from the bushes outside of her office, asking pathetic rhetorical questions like Will anyone ever love me?!

My methods of dealing with break-ups almost ensure that I will not move on.  I pick and pick at the wound with an arsenal of sad songs, old love movies and e-mails from early in the relationship.  A random guy could say “Hello” to me at a bar, and I respond, “I’m not ready for this, my ex-boyfriend is in the hospital!” and then, in the wake of his confusion, dart out of the bar like a spooked squirrel.  

I know I can’t be the only one who takes break-ups really badly.  As a dedication to anyone who has ever made a complete ass of him or herself in the wake of a break-up, I am going to rank my 10 favorite break-up songs of all time :

1.  Jackie Wilson- “Lonely Teardrops”

2.  Joni Mitchell- “River” 

3. Rolling Stones- “Ruby Tuesday”

4. Nancy Sinatra- “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”

5. Bob Dylan- “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)”

6. Patsy Cline- “Crazy”

7. The Clash- “Train in Vain”

8. Lauryn Hill- “Ex-Factor”

9. Alanis Morissette- “You Oughta Know”

10. Sam Cooke- “Bring It on Home to Me”

Honorable mention:  Lil Troy, “Still a Bitch in My Book” (won’t include the video due to profanity, but it’s a can’t miss.)

What are some of your favorites?





Would you give up meat for Natalie Portman?

27 10 2009

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Natalie Portman penned an article in the Huffington Post today about Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals, which inspired her to “convert from a twenty-year vegetarian to a vegan activist.”  Throughout her impassioned article, she argues that we should all be vegan because animals have personalities and feel pain, because the torture of animals under mass farming is unacceptable, and because the consumption of meat is detrimental to our health.   She lists a number of health concerns, including the development of new bacterial strains due to the overuse of antibiotics on animals and the respiratory ailments caused by “the copious amount of pig shit sprayed into the air” on mass farms.

Portman then asserts that our food is reflective of our personal beliefs, and in this way, eating meat out of respect for one’s dinner host and tablemates when meat is served is akin to accepting rape to please one’s dinner hosts.  It’s a compromise of principles. 

The main problem with Portman’s argument is that she is confusing environmental health and animal abuse concerns with the general morality of eating meat.  It is possible to be an animal rights activist and still eat meat.  Those of us who are undoubtedly against mass farming and the animal torture it necessitates have the option to cook with only antibiotic-free, free-range chicken, or only wild fish, or only kosher beef.  

Environmental pollutants certainly do taint our food, but instead of arguing that we should stop eating fish as a result of water pollution, why don’t we work to combat the source of the problem?  Water pollution poisons fish, but it also poisons our drinking water.  E. coli taints spinach and tomatoes in the same way that it taints red meat.  To simply stop eating meat is to ignore the issues of pollution and irresponsible farming that are really causing all the health concerns.

If Portman is going to argue that eating meat is immoral because animals have personalities and feel pain, then she should embark on a mission to stop animals from eating each other.  When a coyote kills a cow, it hurts the cow just as much as when a  human slaughters it.  You can’t stop another species from ever feeling pain, and you can’t remove any species from the food chain for protection.

I respect veganism and vegetarianism as personal choices, but I have a hard time respecting those who judge and proselytize. The ability to be vegan is a privilege– there are whole communities of people that would not survive without the ability to eat meat, and millions of people here in America simply can’t afford to feed their families tofu, broccolini and whole grain rice every night.  So if you’re going to be an activist, protest the overuse of antibiotics on farms, or the unnecessary torture of chickens, or the fact that factories are allowed to dump their pollutants into the Great Lakes rather than the dietary habits of your neighbors.  

What do you guys think?  Would you give up meat for Natalie Portman?





Note on the Phillips and Letterman Scandals

26 10 2009

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It’s a shame that I’m having to write about this topic after holding out for so long.  Office “sex scandals” have been plastered all over the news lately, one after the other, and I’ve purposefully avoided discussing them because office sex scandals are about as common and as interesting to me as Honda Accords.  

Oh my god, David Letterman slept with an employee!  WTF, Steve Phillips did it too!  So did Bill Clinton, Mark Foley, Jimmy Kimmel, and billions of other men in powerful positions across the globe!  Snooze.  At what point does it stop becoming a scandal every time we find out that a public figure had an affair with an employee?  The only thing these men did differently from billions of other people was get caught.  

A few years ago, I worked for a Congressman on the Hill who had left his wife for one of his staffers.  After I put in my two weeks notice and we were interviewing candidates (all women, of course) to take my place, the Congressman told me, “I’m not looking for someone I can talk about the issues with– I talk politics all day.  I’m looking for someone I could take to a titty bar.”  Seriously.

And remember Jessica Cutler, the Hill staffer who slept her way up the ranks and blogged about it?  Married Congressmen and affluent public figures were essentially paying her rent and giving her lavish gifts to ensure that she continued sleeping with them on the DL, and then she got a very lucrative book deal out of it (The Washingtonienne) because the public has such a voracious appetite for scandal.

Washingtonienne -Jessica Cutler Ultimate DC Intern

I’m sure we could all go on and on about sleazy bosses, torrid workplace affairs that have made national headlines and plenty others that haven’t.  Let’s be honest: the fact that Letterman slept with a co-worker is no more scandalous than the fact that I had yogurt for breakfast.  Women have learned to use their bodies as currency, and men in positions of power are more than happy to barter.  It’s been this way since the beginning of time; plastering the story all over the news and firing both parties is not going to curb the epidemic.  

Let’s talk about something that’s actually interesting, like wiffleball or fat free salad dressing.





The Day Print Journalism Died

25 10 2009

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My passion is cultural journalism.  Admittedly, I’ve taken a roundabout approach to actually working in this field, but I’ve always known in the back of my mind I should really be pursuing a career in writing.  Now, knee-deep in this recession with a resumé that doesn’t reflect my ability or potential, I embark on a job search in what some people say is a dying industry.  

Four years ago, classified ads for entry-level editorial gigs looked like this: 

Editorial Assistant

Duties: Copy-editing, fact-checking, some light administrative duties and the opportunity to pitch your ideas to editors. 

Qualifications:  B.A. in English, Journalism, or related field.  Strong written and oral communication skills.  College newspaper experience a plus. 

Compensation: low 30’s

Today, they look more like this:

Editorial Assistant

Duties: Support and expand growing website with online marketing and communications efforts, edit and upload content, including text, images and videos to our page, manage our social networking efforts through Facebook and Twitter, write weekly e-blasts to our subscribers and maintain online database of subscribers.

Qualifications:  B.A. in Communications, Journalism or Marketing (M.A. preferred), at least 2 years experience developing content for a major website,  experience with Quark, InDesign, HTML, Photoshop and CSS web-based content management systems, exceptional oral and written communication skills and a strong social media presence. International work experience a plus.

Salary: $8/hr., no benefits

 

It’s only been four years since I graduated college, and I already feel outdated.  Magazines and newspapers are steadily laying off, moving online.  Job competition is stiff.  It’s nearly impossible to get an interview in D.C. right now without a connection, and even when you do, the employer will go out of his way to let you know that you are one candidate of many.

A few days ago, I dusted off my suit and trekked up to Rockville for what I thought was going to be a traditional magazine interview.  The staff at a well-respected history magazine with a sophisticated readership had reviewed my resumé and writing samples and wanted to speak with me about an editorial position.  Perfect!, I thought, they’ll focus on my editorial skills instead of my proficiency with Photoshop.

I was mistaken.  After waiting in the cramped “conference” room for half an hour, the editor strolled in, took one look at my resumé and said, “We got a lot of resumés for this position.  How did you get in here?” 

“Well, I have an M.A. and some strong editorial internships.  I also write a daily blog…”

“Most of the other applicants have more relevant experience than you,” he interrupted, “We have people with stronger history backgrounds, more IT experience, more marketing experience…”

“Well, I’ve been working in communications for Island Press, a non-profit book publisher, so that did involve online marketing…”

“Right,” he interrupted.  “My wife used to work there.  I think non-profits like Island Press are just an excuse to raise money.”

I was taken aback.  “Actually, they do put out some great titles,” I countered, “And their mission is noble.”  This was clearly not going well.

“You went to UVA?” he asked.  I nodded my head, and he said, “My wife went there too.  She hated it.” 

I had no response to that, so I just glared at him as he scanned my resumé again.  

“We’re not exactly sure what this position is going to be,” he finally said, breaking the silence.  “It’s kind of editorial, but it is also kind of a marketing position.  And it’s very technical.  It’s actually going to be a huge, important position, if we ever get the money to pay the person a salary.  I mean, I picked a really terrible time to purchase this magazine… print publishing is nearly dead.  We need someone to build us a website, but we don’t really have an online department yet, which is why I’m interviewing candidates myself.  But I’m not sure that you have the right kind of experience.”

“This is a paid internship, right?” I asked, reclining in my chair.

“Right.”

“And… you’re looking for an editorial person with a history background, technical expertise and significant web marketing experience?”

“Yes, ideally,” he said, “And hopefully, if this grant that we just applied for comes through, we’ll be able to pay that person.  Eventually.  I mean, this magazine used to be headquartered at Rockefeller Center.  Now we’re on Rockville Pike.  These are tough times.” 

“Right,” I said.  “Well I’m sure you have a lot of other candidates to interview before you make a decision, and I have to catch a bus to New York at one.  It was nice speaking with you.” 

 

Magazine 1, Me- 0.  Only during a recession could a nearly bankrupt publication whose primary readership is over the age of 65 find an extremely experienced marketing/editorial/IT savvy historian to build their website for $8/hr and no benefits.  

It’s a crazy world out there for aspiring journalists.  You want to be an administrative assistant at Nursing Home Weekly?  Better have a Twitter account, some web-design experience and a working knowledge of HTML!  (PhD in Systems Engineering preferred…from MIT, if possible, but Harvard would also do.)

Looks like this old-school blogger (oxymoron no longer) is headed back to J-school.





Oh, I Love Me Some John Stewart.

23 10 2009

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Many of you took an active interest in my recent post on that crazy Halliburton/KBR vs. Gang-Rape Victim case.  Well, I am pleased to post this video of the incomparable John Stewart smashing those GOP Senators into a million bits with his biting rhetoric (couldn’t embed it, so you’ll have to click the link):

John Stewart Goes Rape-Nuts

Also check out this controversial website, RepublicansforRape.org, created as an ironic jab at those rogue GOP voters.  I’m neither endorsing nor condemning this website, just offering it up as a conversation piece.  And loosening my proverbial necktie. 





Why Many Women Aren’t Funny

22 10 2009

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Up until recently, I’ve always had a disproportionate number of male friends to female friends.  At first I thought  it might just be a reaction to having attended an all-girls Catholic school from Kindergarten through 12th grade (general man-deprivation?), but no, that’s not the reason. It’s because most of the men I meet are, on the whole, much funnier than most of the women.

Before I push further with this, I should add that I have many brilliant, hilarious girlfriends, and that I am fully confident in womankind’s biological ability to be funny.  This is why I find it so interesting that, for the most part, when I meet a new girl, her sense of humor seems to be either markedly lame or entirely nonexistent.  Considering how smart and successful and well-adjusted many of these women are, this is not an issue of intelligence or any inherent social deficiency–it’s an issue of social and cultural power.

A sense of humor is essentially a kind of social currency.  It displays confidence, it displays intelligence, and it displays a particular kind of command over the topic or conversation at hand.  Being truly funny amongst a group of your peers says, “I not only understand what you just said, but I’m so comfortable with that information and quick on my feet that I can play with it and manipulate it in a way that is both impressive, entertaining and unexpected.”  Funny people use jokes and puns and clever banter to mark their social territory in the same way that a dog pees on a fire hydrant–it’s a universally understood source of  power over one’s peers.

For this reason, women who learn early in life that they can achieve a similar kind of social power with their physical appearance alone never bother developing an edgy, well-rounded sense of humor, because they don’t need it.  The really funny women are the ones who either never received that kind of reinforcement throughout their formative years, or, for whatever reason, never sought or enjoyed that particular kind of power.  These women take far more pleasure in competing on a social level than on a physical one.

The same rule applies to very good-looking men every once in a while, but not nearly as often, because even the most physically attractive men have to be at least a little funny to attract and keep friends and admirers.   Women will list “sense of humor” as the number one trait they look for in men, but you will never hear a man say to his buddy, “You know, if I could just find a woman at this bar that was laugh-out-loud funny…”

An article in Vanity Fair on this very topic asserts that men are actually threatened by funny women and prefer that their girlfriends not be funny because of the power play involved:

“Precisely because humor is a sign of intelligence (and many women believe, or were taught by their mothers, that they become threatening to men if they appear too bright), it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny. They want them as an audience, not as rivals.”

In my experience, there are definitely men out there who are threatened by smart, funny women, and those men are in luck, because there are plenty of women with the personalities of velcro who would be thrilled to sit pretty and giggle at their jokes all day.  I’ve found that the smartest, most secure men love funny women, enjoy the social/intellectual challenge of conversing with them and recognize their good fortune when they find one.