WATCH: Hook up culture in colleges is rampant: Students need a reminder to “be nice” after sex, says Phd

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Hook up culture is endemic in college environments now, and Dr. Lisa Wade says we need to better prepare our kids. After doing a many-year study, she found that college students don’t now they are entitled to be treated with respect by their sexual partners. “When people treat them cruelly or dismissively, they don’t know it’s not their own fault. They think, “If I feel bad, what’s wrong with me? Why am I weak and fragile? Why don’t I have a harder shell?” Wade says its essential that adolescents re-learn how to be nice, especially after casual sex.

“We have bifurcated human sexuality; now, we have decided that this is what modern sexuality looks like,” she said. “If someone isn’t being nice to you, it’s about them, and not on you,” she added.

Lisa Wade, PhD, is a professor of sociology at Occidental college.  In her new book, American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus,  Dr. Wade found that “hooking up”, or having casual sex, is more prevalent now in college circles than ever, and that the expectations students have around hooking up are also more fluid and demanding (current culture suggests they feel “everyone” should do it).

Interestingly, Wade discovered that “hookup culture” is being driven by mostly upper class teens with high social standing at colleges.  She looks at the differences between these young people and those of different ethic backgrounds, especially at predominantly white schools, finding that many kids feel pressured to participate in hookup culture, but can’t relate to it.   While her research may have many parents quaking in their proverbial boots, Wade provides constructive strategies to address how campus sex practices can be humanized, and undertaken with greater respect and empathy.  And the through line for this return to respect and decency is deceptively simple: be nice.

 

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With “Crashing,” Pete Holmes makes a good comedy about a decent man who’s a bad comic

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Crashing (Credit: HBO/Mary Cybulski)

Working toward making it as a professional comedian isn’t all that fun. This is one of many takeaways from “Crashing,” the new HBO series executive produced by Judd Apatow and starring Pete Holmes as a fictional version of himself. Another hard truth Pete learns is that making it from zero to headliner requires a bottomless tolerance for being exploited, a willingness to fail in public as many times as it takes to get better, and the ability to find humor in any situation.

Pete has all of those components nailed except for that last one, which is the crux of the show’s humor. In reality Holmes is a success and a man of many talents. He had a talk show on TBS for a time, lent his voice to the E*Trade baby when that was a thing and has gotten a few of his cartoons into the New Yorker, a feat many professional artists have yet to accomplish. He’s also a goofy, grinning and very tall man who made a name for himself by mining the sensitive, vulnerable parts of his own life to create accessible sets. He does curse, but refrains from getting too blue; he would rather be kind and likable than edgy.

Holmes also hosts the “You Made It Weird” podcast, where he coaxes fellow comedians to bare their souls in the manner that he does. Each episode is a confessional experience where conversations coast through sex, addiction, death, religion and an extensive variety of neuroses.

That side of Holmes shows up in “Crashing,” debuting Sunday at 10:30 p.m., more than the happy go-lucky giant stand-up fans may be accustomed to seeing in specials and onstage. That battered cliché that dying is easy and comedy is hard? “Crashing” blends both ends of that line into a half-hour show that’s often more tragic, absurd and uncomfortable than funny.

Only a few instances in each of the six episodes made available to critics rightfully earn the designation of being hilarious.

That doesn’t mean the show is a failure; not at all. Indeed, some of the show’s legitimately side-splitting moments earn their laughs by being tragic, absurd and uncomfortable at the same time. Pete is a man who will bleed for his jokes — quite literally, as is shown in a pathetic, farcical mugging — but who seems to gain very little for his loyalty.

“Crashing” provides a mixed take on starting over, a concept that Holmes and Apatow flesh out with a balance of honesty sugared with fantasy. You could call Pete a man who’s beginning again if not for the fact that he never launched in the first place. Pete followed the rules laid out for him by his family and religion; he’s a devout Christian who married his college sweetheart and remained a virgin until his wedding night.

These are details we find out later, but it explains what we see of Pete when we first meet him and his wife Jessica (Lauren Lapkus) in their modest suburban starter home and immediately witness how stilted and awkward their sex life is. But if Pete is an unskilled lover, he’s an even worse comedian, although he dedicates his life to attending open mics in New York. Nevertheless, he loves his wife as much as he loves stand-up, giving his heart to both in equal measure.

Only one of those relationships has a future, as it turns out; Peter catches Jessica cheating on him with one of her colleagues (George Basil, at his hippie-crunchiest) and decides to throw himself fully into his stand-up career. But he has no money, talent, or place to stay, and somehow stumbles into a series of adventures with famous people who put him on the path to. . . something, presumably.

“Crashing” is based on the 37-year-old Holmes’ real life: He was married at 22 and divorced at 28, and like his character he was raised in a religious family. Apatow’s stamp is apparent throughout the series, however; Holmes serves as a writer on each episode, and Apatow directed the first and co-wrote the third with him.

Both Holmes and Apatow are veteran stand-up performers who made the transition over to Hollywood, and their reverence for the art of entertainment dominates this show. “Crashing” shows that there is no magic to a successful set, only the ability to learn and grow from trial and humiliation.

We see this when Pete is called to go onstage on the very day he discovers the love of his life in flagrante delicto with another man, urged on by the example of Tig Notaro, who pulled of a legendary set on the same day she was diagnosed with cancer. Left out of that motivational speech was the detail that Notaro had been honing her craft for years and had earned a loyal following. When Pete gets the mic and attempts to make light of being cuckolded, he flames out.

“This is painful,” an audience member yells at him. “Can’t you feel it?”

Pete is a stand-in for every underdog comedian who refuses to have his dream squelched by hecklers or uncaring nightclub managers. And just like those hundreds of comics paying their two-drink minimum or standing on corners hawking fliers all for a chance to pour a few minutes’ worth of their spirit into a dark room, Pete has fantasies of running with big dogs of that world.

The difference is, he actually gets to do that. Holmes’ Pete is homeless, but somehow manages to charm his way onto the couches and bean bags of some of comedy’s heaviest hitters, starting with Artie Lange, T.J. Miller and Sara Silverman. Part of the reason they give Pete shelter is because he is a feckless, jovial oaf who got dealt a bad hand; Lange and Miller obviously see their past miseries and lost innocence in Pete. Silverman, meanwhile, is this show’s version of a crazy cat lady, only the furry strays she takes in are unshaven gagsters like Pete.

It’s no coincidence, though, that “Crashing” is a show that treats comedy as a divine calling. Because of his background, Holmes remains fascinated with religion. In “Crashing,” Pete slowly loses his fealty to conservative Christian concepts of how life should be lived and what one can and must not do to be “good,” and instead gives his soul over to the work of being funny.

Fortunately he doesn’t have to say it – Miller, one of Holmes’ friends in real life, gets to make that case on the show. In “Crashing” the comedian styles himself as a philosopher drunk, seeing material in everything, and especially in Pete’s pain. “Comedy’s kind of the new religion,” he spouts at one point. “When you’re traveling, you’re preaching to people this ideology of seeing everything with a smile. People need it.” He goes on to liken comedians to holy men, “except we’re better than priests because we’re not lying.”

In order for “Crashing” to completely work the viewer has to be a convert to that religion in all of its fullness, and overlook some of the flaws of the characters who would be saints. Start with Apatow, who has been a target of criticism for his female characters. Viewing Lapkus’ Jessica through the Apatow detractor’s prism reduces her character to one of his shrews — totally hot, but also a buzzkill — and one could correctly point out that Silverman is here because she’s the quintessential guy’s girl; that is, she can sling dick jokes with the best of them. Those points aren’t wrong.

“Crashing” shakes off some of that by Holmes making it obvious that Pete wasn’t holding up his end of the romantic partnership. Even when he throws himself into going pro, Pete’s really more dedicated to the idea of comedy than putting in the work of studying the form and finding material. Most of his success is earned by his good nature, and most of his payments are in the form of kindnesses from celebrity strangers who for whatever reason decide to become his friends.

The comics in “Crashing”are fond of speaking to the alleged nobility of their profession, but it’s also aware of how silly that vision is in the larger scheme of things. When Miller attempts to shame Jessica for refusing to support Pete’s dreams, declaring that comedians are the new philosophers, she shoots back, “Did Socrates ever talk about his nut sweat? Did Plato ever talk about jerking off into a trash can?”

“Crashing” shows comics as the earthbound beings they are — even the household names. This series shows them as people who haven’t forgotten that they used to be sad sacks who bombed more often than they brought the house down. Pete has yet to figure out that the art of winning an audience is perfected through enthusiastically failing again and again. “Crashing” shows that Holmes has already mastered that lesson and has moved on to quietly, honestly killing it.

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The spy who taught me: My sophisticated British diplomat friend harbored a secret double life

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(Credit: Wikicommons/CelticVT)

Having split up with my girlfriend in Paris, I sailed for home on July 28, 1950, on Cunard’s Caronia, broke and broken. I was traveling tourist class, but my London tailor’s art ensured no one would stop me when I walked into the elegant cabin-class lounge in search of a drink.

I noticed a man at the bar, drawing a strikingly vivid sketch of a 1941 Lincoln Continental convertible in all its glory. Fascinated, I sat down next to him and asked him about his meticulous doodle. He told me that his name was Guy and he was a British diplomat about to become the second secretary in the UK embassy in Washington.

I had no idea what such an officer did, but the title sounded impressive and important. We fell into a voyage of conversations, both of us drinking away every evening. He introduced me to gin and tonics.

Guy struck me as the epitome of an Englishman gentleman. In his late thirties, he was handsome and self-assured. He dressed with a mix of the rakish and the regal, just as I imagined a sophisticated Cambridge-educated diplomat would on an Atlantic crossing. I was charmed by his accent, which conjured up images of Cambridge evenings filled with wit and vintage port.

I was amazed and impressed by the range and depth of his erudition. He was a virtuoso conversationalist, seemingly able to talk about anything: politics, books, music, travel. He served up a stream of stridently anti-American gossip. He pressed me to read Paul Bowles’s gloomy existential novel, “The Sheltering Sky.” He celebrated Beethoven in detail. He had holidayed in Tangier in French Morocco and loved its libertarianism.

I was in awe when he laced his tales with what “Winston” had told him about this and that. He invited me to his stateroom to see a book the great man had given him. He dug it out of his locker, where he kept his most prized books and documents. Sure enough, it said something like, “To Guy, in agreement with his views, Winston S. Churchill.”

After several rounds of gin and tonics one night, we went to the men’s room to pee. I was totally surprised when he reached over and tried to kiss me. I remember my first impression was that his face was scratchy. As usual, he hadn’t shaved.

I wasn’t homophobic, but the prospect seemed decisively unattractive to me. When I made it clear that there was no way we were going to have sex, he seemed not to mind.

He found lots of other guys on the ship to pick up, and every night, in addition to our usual rations of gin and his usual tour of the horizon, he would tell me about his conquests of the day, mostly to make fun of them.

Guy and I liked each other’s company, and by the time we arrived in New York, we had become friends. His shipboard friendship helped me in some important ways. For one, he gave me some direction. I needed to find a school by early September to get on the GI Bill, and I was running out of time. He told me I should become a diplomat and suggested I go to Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He promised we could have fun together in Washington.

I enrolled in Georgetown in the fall of 1950. Guy kept in touch with witty notes on the embassy’s gold-embossed stationery, usually lampooning General Douglas MacArthur, whom he loathed. I still have the original copies of a few of the letters and notes he left for me, usually folded into fourths or eighths and wedged into my mailbox or slipped under the door. One of them, dated December 31, is a handwritten note that Guy titled “Weeks Celebrated in U.S.A” with the caveat “Incomplete List,” added in parentheses just below the title. It lists twenty-seven fictitious “weeks” observed in the U.S. — from “National Honey for Breakfast Week” to “Posture Week” to “Leave Us Alone Week” — each of which joked about things we laughed about then during our many discussions together, almost always over a glass or two.

I loved going to dinner with him every two or three weeks, just the two of us. I enjoyed the buzz he created with my friends at school — this dashing British envoy who picked me up in his swank 1941 Lincoln Continental convertible with its prestigious diplomatic plates.

Guy always had in his possession a bottle of bourbon, and I liked drinking with him. The last night I saw him, we went to the movies to see Irene Dunne play Queen Victoria in “The Mudlark.” We were sitting in the back row, passing the bourbon back and forth, when Guy dropped the bottle. It rattled and banged all the way down the slope of the floor and finally broke, provoking everyone to clear out of the theatre.

As we headed out, Guy suggested we go to his place, a basement apartment in the beautiful home of one of his colleagues.

Guy’s host, Kim Philby, a strikingly handsome man, came in and sat down to chat. He also liked bourbon. Guy had already told me his friend was a spy, a key officer in the embassy’s intelligence operations. I was too impressed and too naïve to appreciate this indiscretion. The two of them proceeded to swap speculations about which notables in their crowd and around town were homosexual. I was so star-struck, I didn’t consider the oddity of their conversation.

A few weeks later, I went to see a movie that changed my life. “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” was about two Americans who moved to Mexico to hunt for gold. The movie roused in me an appetite for adventure.

When the spring semester was over, I drove home to Philadelphia, and told my mother that I had made a decision to move to Mexico. I left a week later. But before I did, on Thursday, June 7, 1951, I unfolded the Philadelphia Bulletin to see how the Phillies were doing, and I was startled to see a screaming front-page story about my friend Guy Burgess. It said he and Donald Maclean, a senior diplomat who had been posted with Burgess at the British embassy in Washington, were suspected of being Soviet spies. The British government believed they were on the run and had launched a massive manhunt to find them.

I learned later that Guy had abandoned his vintage Lincoln Continental at a local Washington garage and had left his prized book autographed by Churchill at a friend’s place in New York. Kim Philby turned out to be a third man in the operation, which history would remember as the highest-profile and most-costly conspiracy of the Cold War. When the British finally flushed him out a decade later, he fled, like Burgess and Maclean, to Russia, where the three lived the rest of their lives in exile.

I later read that Guy had an especially bad time of it in Moscow. Early on, a street gang beat him up and knocked out his teeth. The Soviets frowned on homosexuals and took away his privileges. He slid further into alcoholism and died a lonely death in 1963, pining for his homeland.

Adapted with permission from “Being Dead is Bad for Business by Stanley Weiss (Disruption Books), available Feb. 28, 2017.

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Strange fruit: Laird Hunt on the crime that inspired his new novel

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One of the most notorious and shameful crimes in American history is the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in of Marion, Indiana. It’s estimated that a crowd of as many of 5,000 people  swarmed to the site to witness the murder, yet not one person was ever charged for it.

But in the aftermath, Lawrence Beitler’s iconic photograph from that night became a galvanizing image for  the early civil rights movement, and the inspiration for the haunting ballad “Strange Fruit.”

In his new novel “The Evening Road,” Laird Hunt, author of “Kind One” and “Neverhome,” has created a fictionalized tale of  a small town lynching, and of two very different women’s experiences around it. Talking with the Salon, Hunt laid out how he separates fact from fiction.

“It was an evolution. As I was writing, things were happening that didn’t happen that night, indeed things of a fantastical nature were happening… I realized [the story] was sitting just outside of actual time and space,” Hunt said. “Allowing that kind of fever dream into the mix… I think you can speak with great urgency about the facts of the matter while allowing the facts of the heart and the imagination to flood in.”

Hunt also explained his inspiration.

“If you’re going to talk about American history, you have to talk about race. You have to take it on to the best of your ability.”

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Combatants in the information war: How to protect your digital privacy in the era of public shaming

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(Credit: PGlebStock via Shutterstock)

Every January, I do a digital tune-up, cleaning up my privacy settings, updating my software and generally trying to upgrade my security. This year, the task feels particularly urgent as we face a world with unprecedented threats to our digital safety.

We are living in an era of widespread hacking and public shaming. Don’t like your political rivals? Beg Russia to hack them, and their emails mysteriously show up on Wikileaks. Don’t like your ex-spouse? Post a revenge porn video. Don’t like your video game opponents? Find their address online and send a SWAT team to their door.

And, of course, the U.S. government has the capability to do even more. It can spy on much of the globe’s internet traffic and has in the past kept tabs on nearly every American’s phone calls. Like it or not, we are all combatants in an information war, with our data under constant siege.

So how can ordinary people defend themselves? The truth is you can’t defend everything. But you can mitigate threats by reducing how much data you leave exposed for an intruder to grab. Hackers call this minimizing your “attack surface.”

The good news is that there are some easy steps you can take to reduce the threat. Here is what I am doing this year.

Updating software

Every year, I ditch old buggy software that I don’t use and update all the software that I do use to its most current version. Exploiting software with known holes is one of the ways that criminals install ransomware — which holds your data hostage until you pay for it to be released. (Read the FBI’s tips on avoiding and mitigating ransomware attacks.)

Making passwords longer

This year, I’m working to lengthen my passwords to at least 10 characters for accounts that I don’t care about and to 30 characters for accounts I do care about (email and banking). After all, in 2017, automated software can guess an eight-digit password in less than a day.

Most important, don’t re-use passwords. You don’t have to think of unique passwords yourself — password management software such as 1Password and LastPass will do it for you. EFF technologist Jacob Hoffman-Andrews makes a very good case for password management software being the best defense against a phishing attack. (Phishing is how the email of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, got hacked).

Securing communications

The good news is that it’s never been easier to send encrypted text messages and make encrypted phone calls on the phone apps Signal and WhatsApp. However, please note that WhatsApp has said it will share users’ address books with its parent company, Facebook, unless they opted out of the latest privacy update.

Of course, people who receive your messages can still screenshot and share them without your permission. On Signal you can make it slightly harder for them by setting your messages to disappear after a certain amount of time. In WhatsApp, you can turn off cloud backups of your chats, but you can’t be sure if others have done the same.

Protecting mobile web browsing

The websites that you browse are among the most revealing details about you. Until recently, it was hard to protect mobile web surfing, but this year there are a lot of good options for iPhones. You can use privacy protecting standalone web browsers such as Brave or Firefox Focus, or install an add-on such as Purify that will let you browse safely on Safari. In an excess of excitement, I’m currently using all three.

Of course, blocking online tracking also means blocking ads. I hate to deny worthy websites their advertising dollars, but I also think it’s unfair for them to sell my data to hundreds of ad tracking companies. Brave is building a controversial system that pays publishers for users’ visits, but it remains to be seen if it will work. In the meantime, I try to subscribe or donate to news outlets whose work I admire.

Dropping Dropbox

You wouldn’t leave your most sensitive documents in an unlocked filing cabinet, so why do you keep them in cloud services such as Google Drive and DropBox? Those companies have the keys to unlock your files. One option is to password protect your files before uploading them. But I prefer a cloud service that encrypts for me. In my usual overkill approach, I’m using Sync.com to synchronize files and SpiderOak for backup.

Deleting some data

Consider whether you really need to store all your old emails and documents. I recently deleted a ton of emails dating back to 2008. I had been hanging onto them thinking that I might want them in the future. But I realized that if I hadn’t looked at them until now, I probably wasn’t going to. And they were just sitting there waiting to be hacked.

Reconsidering installing cameras and microphones at home

As internet-enabled devices — ranging from smart hairbrushes to voice-activated speakers — invade the home, criminals are finding new ways to penetrate their defenses.

Hackers have spied on women through the women’s webcams and used networks of online cameras and other devices to bring down the internet in Liberia. Like many people including the Pope and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, I have covered the cameras on my computers with stickers and magnetic screens to avoid peeping Toms. But until device makers heed the Federal Trade Commission’s security recommendations for internet-enabled devices, I won’t introduce new cameras and microphones into my home.

Opting out of data brokers

Fears that President Donald Trump might build a Muslim registry prompted thousands of Silicon Valley tech workers to sign a pledge stating that they wouldn’t participate in building any databases that profile people by race, religion or national origin. But only three of the hundreds of data brokers that sell lists of people have affirmed that they would not participate in a registry. Two other data brokers told a reporter that the price for such a list would range from about $14,000 to $17,000.

It’s not easy to remove personal data from the hundreds of data brokers that are out there. Many of them require you to submit a picture of your photo ID or write a letter. But if you do it — as I did two years ago — it is worth it. Most of the time when a new data broker emerges, I find that my data is already removed because I opted out from the broker’s supplier. I compiled a list of data broker opt-outs that you can use as a starting point.

Taking a deep breath

The size of the problem and the difficulty of the solutions can be overwhelming. Just remember that whatever you do — even if it’s just upgrading one password or opting out of one data broker — will improve your situation. And if you are the subject of a hateful, vitriolic internet attack, read Anita Sarkeesian’s guide to surviving online harassment.

Correction, Jan. 31, 2017: This article incorrectly said that Google and DropBox files are unencrypted. The post has been updated to clarify that those services are encrypted, but that those companies have the ability to unlock users’ files.

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High school transgender wrestler wins Texas regional title

Female transgender athletes are challenging traditional sports standards.

Female transgender athletes are challenging traditional sports standards. (Credit: Shutterstock)

ALLEN, Texas — A 17-year-old Dallas-area high school transgender wrestler who is transitioning from female to male has won a girls regional championship after a female opponent forfeited the match.

Mack Beggs, a Euless Trinity High School junior who is undefeated this wrestling season, hugged losing opponent Madeline Rocha, from Coppell, on the victory stand Saturday after their match for the 110-pound Class 6A Region 2 championship never took place when Rocha declined to wrestle.

Beggs and Rocha advance to the state championships next weekend. The top four finishers in the region qualified for the state tournament. Beggs did wrestle Kailyn Clay, of Grand Prairie, in a semifinal match Friday night, and won by pin. Clay finished fourth in the regional tournament.

Beggs’ coach, Travis Clark, told The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/2kNtnnA ) the forfeit was expected but declined further comment. Coppell’s coach and athletic director also declined to comment. Beggs’ grandmother and guardian, Nancy Beggs, says the outcome was about “bias, hatred and ignorance.”

A Coppell lawyer and wrestling parent filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the University Interscholastic League, the agency that governs Texas high school athletics, seeking to have Beggs suspended for steroid use. Beggs is taking testosterone and Jim Baudhuin’s lawsuit contends allowing Beggs to compete while using testosterone exposes other athletes to “imminent threat of bodily harm.”

Beggs identifies as male but must compete against girls because of two UIL rules, one requiring student-athletes to compete as the gender listed on their birth certificate, and the other prohibiting boys from wrestling girls.

Beggs’ grandmother said Beggs wants to compete against boys but will follow UIL rules.

The Texas Education Code and UIL rules prevent steroid use, but the code allows their use if “dispensed, prescribed, delivered and administered by a medical practitioner for a valid medical purpose.”

Nancy Beggs says the UIL has Mack Beggs’ medical records and has approved the student to compete.

Baudhuin has denied his lawsuit is a reaction to Beggs being a transgender male.

“I respect that completely, and I think the coaches do,” he said. “All we’re saying is she is taking something that gives her an unfair advantage.”

___

Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

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50 shades of regret: A cautionary tale about online dating and the movies

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(Credit: Getty/Universal Pictures/Salon)

I’ve never been good at sexy talk. First of all, the phrase is awful: “sexy talk.” It’s like “dental dam”: words that make me hope my vagina freezes over till I’m 80. Nor can I see myself rocking someone’s world with our modern-day equivalent, the online-dating sext. Something gets lost in that exchange, or maybe it was never there to begin with. Like conjuring up Kelly Le Brock in “Weird Science” with a few commands on your 1983 desktop computer, today you can wish something — or someone — into being with a few swipes and taps. I’m not opposed to anonymity, but I want to know that’s not an ex-con with a diaper genie fetish on the other end of the line, texting me from his mom’s basement.

I’ve been burned before.

Two years ago, I received a message on OK Cupid from a gorgeous portfolio manager in his 30s named Simon. His message was short and to the point: “You are stunning. I would let you do unspeakable things on my face. I’m sorry for such honesty.”

Usually I’d do what everyone else does with a message like that — forward it to my friends, have a laugh, then delete it forever. Isn’t it funny, though, that sometimes the only difference between a sleazy proposition and an appealing offer is how attractive the sender is?

In his photos, Simon looked nothing like the boorish undergrad finance majors I met in college, the Gordon Gekko preemies of the universe pushing their business cards at each other in the hallway. He was more like the movie star version of a businessman — like Jamie Dornan’s character in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” dressed in a tailored suit, with a chiseled body he worked on whenever he wasn’t out conquering the world or gnawing on a raw steak. In his main profile photo, Simon, wearing a dark suit and tie, stared sullenly into the camera. I marveled at his ability to look so alluring and aloof, both hot and so cold at the same time. His other photos showed his casual side — laughing in a baseball hat, looking up from the couch with his dog, bowling with his sisters.

I was skeptical of Simon, but intrigued. I texted him back. “This can’t be your real photo because that would make you stupidly good looking.”

“The same could be said about you,” he replied.

Just like that, all was forgotten. My ego owns me.

***

A week later, “Fifty Shades of Grey” came out. Lured by all the negative reviews, my friends and I decided to go see it as a joke, hoping for some “Showgirls”-style clunky greatness. It was another night drinking through a ridiculous movie with friends: What bad writing! A total insult to BDSM! When did stalkers become sexy? Is that a play room or a crappy Victoria’s Secret?

We agreed with all of this, all of it, yes, yes, still do, still do. We laughed when she seemed to convulse in orgasm even though he was still hovering a foot above her vagina. But as the movie went on, as he took off his shirt, and put his shirt back on, and scowled stiffly, and stiffly scowled, and crawled on all fours across the bed, and gnawed on her toast after crawling across the bed, how he wore those jeans that always seemed to be falling off, if not held up by the shelf of his perfect . . . well, he wasn’t so awful-looking, was he? That intense look he gives her in his office — so hot and yet so cold, so cold and yet so very hot . . . you know, it reminded me a little of . . .

That night I messaged Simon.

He had just gotten back from entertaining clients. I asked about his evening: What was he drinking that night? Oh, I like whiskey, too. What kind of whiskey does he like best? Does he like —

“What cut of panty?” he wrote back.

Cut? When did he become a tailor? I looked down at what I had on. A free t-shirt from a tech startup, promoting open source integration. “MULE,” it said across the front. Tentatively pulling down the waistband of my pajama shorts, I took a peek. Black-and-white polka-dotted cotton briefs from Charter Club. I got them last summer when I ran out of clean underwear.

“My underwear is black,” I typed back.

“Trimmed or no hair?” he asked.

Lord. I let him know I was a full-grown fucking woman.

This wasn’t going well. Where was all that sexual heat? In movies and on TV, and even in those occasional stories that wind their way over to you in the real world, there were loads of people having loads of sexy encounters, made all the sexier by their impulsiveness and anonymity. I imagine it helps to meet in person first, just to make sure your partner’s not a psycho or a Republican. But wasn’t anonymity supposed to have its own appeal, too? I didn’t really know. My lack of experience in this area was appalling.

“Why don’t we talk on the phone?” I suggested. “Here’s my number.”

He called me. His voice was deep and soft at the same time — rather pleasant, actually. After we exchanged a few awkward hellos, he launched into a sexual fantasy involving him and me. I couldn’t tell if it was the same fantasy as the one before or different — the longer he spoke, the more whispery and hard to hear his voice became. I tried to get into it, but he confused me. Wait, I thought, am I behind you? In front of you? Am I flipped around? Did I miss a pivot somewhere? But your hands are in front? Wait, am I upside down? Huh? Where? Where?! WHERE?

“So?” he finally asked. “What do you think?”

I was silent.

“I’m so sorry, man.” I said. “I just . . . haha, I just can’t do this. It’s just . . . so sorry, dude.”

“Uh, that’s okay,” he said. He sighed. “I guess I’ll just hang up and jerk off now.”

In a few days, he disappeared from the site entirely.

As the days wore on, I started to wonder what happened to him. In this case, absence didn’t make the heart grow fonder, but it did make the mind a hell of a lot more curious. Did he meet someone? Was he just passing through town? Was he secretly married and cheating on his wife in one of those not-really-open relationships? I googled his screen name and came up with his profile — same job, same photos — but this time he was on Match.com, and it said he was from Philadelphia, not from the area near Seattle he previously claimed.

I told my friend Tricia about this curious location switch.

“He might have been a catfish,” she said.

“A cat-what?”

“Oh my god,” she said. “You don’t know?” She sent me a link to Urban Dictionary, which I read with increasing dread:

catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

Did you hear how Dave got totally catfished last month?! The fox he thought he was talking to turned out to be a pervy guy from San Diego!

I felt like I was holding onto a dream that was slipping away: the hot portfolio manager who worked hard, played hard and just wanted a short chick to sit on his face.

“You have his number,” Tricia said. “In your past history. Send it to me.”

Tricia, a longtime reporter with a private detective license, had switched into investigative mode.

“This is it,” I said. “It’s a 604 number. You know, I think he lives on the East Coast. Maybe he was just in Medina for a business trip?”

“What was his name?” she asked.

“Simon. You know, it seems like from his Philly Match profile he’s looking for more of a relationship, so I assume he really lives there,” I said.

“Yeah,” Tricia said. “Not him.”

Tricia’s phone-number search turned up a 54-year-old guy with white hair in New Jersey. There were photos of smiling kids and an age-appropriate wife on his Facebook page. He had been married since 1985.

“Dude, that can’t be him,” I said. “He didn’t sound that old. Maybe he has a son? A 15-year-old son?”

Why a 15-year-old pretending to be a Medina portfolio manager sounded better to me than a 54-year-old Jersey dad, I have no idea.

“Also,” I added, “his phone number is the third listed. Maybe it’s an old phone number that my guy used to have.”

“Maybe,” Tricia said. “Did he try to meet you right away?”

“Yeah, but it didn’t work out.”

“Hmm. Do a reverse google image search,” Jeannette said, like we were in some bad episode of “To Catch a Predator.” “I have figured this shit out before.”

When I put the image into the link she gave me, the same photos I had been looking at of Simon instantly popped up again — those and many, many more. They all came from the same place: a Flickr account owned by a male model.

While Simon was certainly good looking enough to model, I had been thrown off because the photos he posted online weren’t editorial-level. He had used candid photos the model had clearly taken with his iPhone — selfies and the like. It was an extra level of deception you almost had to admire.

Smart girls don’t get fooled, or so I used to think, nor do they contact rando “Simons” after seeing a bad movie. Did online dating make me dumber — or was it watching “Fifty Shades of Grey?”

I should have known better with Simon. I had gone to college with the real versions of portfolio managers, and the reality was nowhere near as hot or as charming. But as much as I disliked some of the arrogant, sexist guys from school who would never deign to consider me their equal, I had to admit that as an outsider, their world held some allure. They were the kind of guys who aggravated you so much that you couldn’t stop staring at them, envisioning a hate fuck extraordinaire.

But did I even want anything approaching reality? This hot businessman fantasy was kind of like a sexy nurse dream, minus the free enema. Did Christian Grey actually do any work in that building? Did they say what kind of businessman he is? Does it even matter? He could have been building a pencil fort in there all day for all I cared.

I think I was doing what a lot of us do with online dating. I still wanted to believe it could conjure up a Kelly Le Brock.

In the days after, I concerned myself with what we all think about after sending ill-advised crap over the Internet: Will my mother find this? What about my coworkers? What about the next guy I date? What about if I run for president of the United States, what then? Have my messages been uploaded to a secret network enjoyed by the kindly perverts of New Jersey?

Thank god Simon and I never exchanged photos.

I was ready to move on from the entire experience, but someone else was not. I forgot I had given Tricia the catfish’s phone number, and she was not prepared to let him off so easy.

“Can’t keep up with all the girls you’re texting, huh?” she texted him one night.

“Who is this?” he wrote back.

“So. Using pictures of male models on your profile, huh?” She forwarded him the link to the model’s Flickr account.

“Who is this?”

“Don’t ya hate feeling like you’re being toyed with? Jersey? Really?”

“Sorry,” he texted. “Wrong number I think.”

But the number was definitely right. Everything else was an illusion.

“Fifty Shades Darker,” the next installment of the movie adaptations of E. L. James’ book series, was out in time for Valentine’s Day. My friends and I have plans to meet up for round two. I have promised myself to stay off dating sites after, if only to avoid encounters with Simon’s potential big brother, Reynold. Reynold’s into venture capitalism, lives on Mercer Island, and likes to fondle Hermés ties. This week, at least.

Source: New feed

Trump vs. the Deep State: This death match of American political power will forever change history

Michael Flynn, Donald Trump

(Credit: AP/Susan Walsh)

AlterNet

The firing of Gen. Michael Flynn has popularized the concept of the “Deep State” across the political spectrum.

Breitbart’s Joel Pollak attacks the disloyal “Deep State #Resistance” to President Trump, while conservative pundit Bill Kristol defends it.

“Obviously [I] strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics,” Kristol tweeted Tuesday. “But if it comes to it, [I] prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”

Glenn Greenwald is more even-handed: “Trump presidency is dangerous,” the Intercept columnist tweeted Wednesday. “CIA/Deep State abuse of spy powers to subvert elected Govt is dangerous.”

And the conflict is deepening. The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump wants to bring in Wall Street billionaire Stephen Feinberg “to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies.”

The idea is reportedly provoking “fierce resistance” from intelligence officials who fear it “could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview.”

What is the Deep State?

The Deep State is shorthand for the nexus of secretive intelligence agencies whose leaders and policies are not much affected by changes in the White House or the Congress. While definitions vary, the Deep State includes the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency and components of the State Department, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and the armed forces.

With a docile Republican majority in Congress and a demoralized Democratic Party in opposition, the leaders of the Deep State are the most — perhaps the only — credible check in Washington on what Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) calls Trump’s “wrecking ball presidency.”

The leaders of these agencies are generally disturbed by Trump’s cavalier treatment of their intelligence findings and particularly worried about contacts between Trump’s entourage and Russian intelligence officials.

As Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire noted, the undisputed facts are accumulating:

  • Multiple U.S. intelligence services believe that Russian operatives, at Putin’s directions, tried to help Trump get elected. The FBI is investigating contacts between Russian officials and at least three people connected to Trump’s presidential campaign: Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Roger Stone.
  • There were “continuous” contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian intelligence officials. At least some of the claims made in a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence official have been confirmed, though none of the more salacious details.
  • Trump has had many financial dealings with Russian oligarchs, as shown in an investigation by the American Interest.

As a result, the intelligence agencies are withholding sources and methods from the president out of fear they will leak to foreign powers, according to the Wall Street Journal. Senior officials are also leaking the results of the ongoing investigation into Trump to reporters at The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The leaking of classified information, which Trump welcomed during the 2016 campaign, is indeed a felonious violation of the law, although it has been standard procedure for Washington power players since the passage of the National Security Act in 1947. If today’s leaks targeted a Democratic national security adviser, they would likely induce the outrage now heard mostly on the political right.

In denouncing the “political assassination” of Flynn, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake noted that, “Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.”

Writing in Foreign Policy, Marc Ambinder observed, “The fact the nation’s now-departed senior guardian of national security was unmoored by a scandal linked to a conversation picked up on a wire offers a rare insight into how exactly America’s vaunted Deep State works.”

Roger Stone responds

One target of the leaks, hard-right political operative Roger Stone, said the allegations that he had contact with “senior Russian intelligence officials,” as reported in the Times, are “categorically false.”

“Show me the proof,” Stone said in a telephone interview with AlterNet. “Show me an email. Show me a copy of a financial transaction. They’ve got nothing.”

“I have never been contacted by the FBI,” Stone added. “If they’re conducting an investigation, it’s in secret.”

Stone charged that former CIA director John Brennan is the source of the leaks, noting that the Times report cited “current and former officials.” Brennan should be investigated for leaking classified information, he insisted.

“This is an effort by the Deep State to destabilize the president,” Stone said.

Vanity Fair calls the crisis of Trump’s presidency Watergate 2.0. The historical analogy is apt because the Watergate scandal that engulfed President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s was also a struggle between the White House and the intelligence agencies. But today’s crisis is more accurately described as Trump vs. the Deep State.

It is the death match of American political power and it will determine the fate of Trump’s troubled presidency.

Source: New feed

Roy Wood Jr. chooses his words

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Roy Wood Jr.’s head kept banging against a dangling light fixture. He was sitting at the front of the Olive Tree Café, with his back to MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village, getting ready for  what would be a six-set night. “I try to block out one or two weekends a month in the city to do stand-up, because what’s the point of living here as a comic if you’re not on stage,” Wood said, the conical stained-glass light hovering over his broad forehead like a hippie dunce cap.

It was a warm Thursday for early February, a fine night for hopping from club to club. Though such evenings are ritualistic for Wood, on this night his performing was dictated by a purpose. Wood, who has become best known through his role as a “Daily Show” correspondent, was honing a five-minute set that he would perform on “The Tonight Show” in four days — a set intended to promote his special, “Father Figure,” which will be released Sunday, Feb. 19, on Comedy Central.

The special is Wood’s first in his 19-year career. He began performing stand-up when he was a junior at Florida A&M, studying broadcast journalism. A friend of his was dating a girl at nearby Florida State and would sometimes bring Wood along as a wing-man. During one trip, Wood entered a student talent night and told jokes. He may have been searching for lust at Florida State, but he found a lasting love. He rearranged his course schedule so that he could spend weekends taking Greyhound busses around the south, performing five- to ten-minute sets at clubs from Tallahassee to Atlanta, or his hometown of Birmingham.

The broad demographic of the club patrons taught Wood to craft jokes that would appeal to any audience. “If you’re telling jokes to four different demos in one week, you’re better served creatively if you have one joke that all four of them can laugh at,” he said.

The types of jokes Wood wanted to tell were ones that could deconstruct societal norms. “Growing up I watched a lot of Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and George Carlin,” he said. “My first year of comedy was a bad Martin Lawrence impersonation. I watched so much Martin Lawrence, I was Martin Lawrence. And it didn’t work for me.”

After graduating, Wood returned to Birmingham to work as an urban morning show host. He spent 11 years on the radio, earning notoriety for his riotous prank phone calls, and eventually getting his own eponymous show for which he would win several awards. But during that time, he continued to hustle the South’s barren comedy scene.

By the time he was in his late 20s, Wood found his voice and stage persona — fast-talking, distinctly Southern, someone who would back up bold statements with thoughtful takes (e.g., the first line in his special questions getting rid of the Confederate flag). That perspective was distinct from the style of comedians who had developed in the comedy hubs of New York, Los Angeles and Boston, and “The Daily Show” took notice.

“Being a black, Southern-born road comic who has traveled to every corner of the U.S. means that Roy brings to the show a point of view shaped not by a bubble but rather every real edge of this world,” said Trevor Noah . “He’s also devastatingly funny.”

On “The Daily Show,” Wood often plays the role of the incredulous or wronged black man — such as in a bit about whether all police are racist. But many of his best segments have been unrelated to race. In a bit at Super Bowl media day, he tried to interview players without bringing up Donald Trump — “alternative stats” and proper vetting undid his plan. And a story about the Army Corps of Engineers’ wasteful spending shone a light on the problematic New Madrid Floodway, a project for which President Obama cut funding just before leaving office.

“The thing that ‘The Daily Show’ has given me that I feel like my stand-up didn’t have before is the compulsion to dig deeper on issues,” Wood said. And yet, working there has not satiated his voice. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s in my system that I can’t get out on ‘The Daily Show,’” he said.

One of those things is the minutiae of everyday life — the irritations at the supermarket checkout line, the anticlimactic job of a co-pilot, and arguments with his girlfriend over, say, dangling light fixtures. These were the topics Wood would talk about on “The Tonight Show.” As he moved from club to club, he calibrated and tuned, focusing the first few sets on his material and the last few on his delivery.

After performing at the Cellar, he realized the first line — “I lost an argument at Ikea. My girl, we got into it over lamps” — wasn’t quite right. “I’m okay with how the joke opens about losing an argument at an Ikea,” he explained, as he walked around the corner to the Cellar’s sister club, the Village Underground. “But I feel like there’s a funnier way to establish that. Only one of two things is funny. Either the location of the argument or what we were arguing about. Originally, the joke was set up so we were talking about lamps. But the word ‘lamps,’ the vernacular of it doesn’t — I just feel like ‘lightbulbs’ connects better.”

When we got to the Underground, the night’s host, Ray Ellin, was finishing his introductory set. As Wood waited in the back of the club and thought about a new opening, his thoughts were interrupted by a whoosh and roar. A woman’s hair fell into a candle and caught on fire. “You alright?” Ellin said. “Now, I did say that this was not a safe space; however, I didn’t mean to light your head on fire. The aroma reminds me of summer camp. It really smells like you’re cooking hotdogs and marshmallows over here.”

“Oh, you can smell it, bro,” Wood said, crinkling his nose. When he went on, he neglected to change the first line.

An hour later, he was in Brooklyn, at a bar that embraced all of Brooklyn’s stereotypes — minimal vintage furniture; a majority of patrons wearing beanies; a carnival’s worth of activities, including bowling, pool, televised sports, and comedy.

Wood tinkered. “I lost an argument at Ikea in the lamp department.” Still not right. But this go-round Wood successfully adjusted his cadence. “On late night, you’re performing for a lot of people in Middle America,” he said. “A lot of people who don’t necessarily keep up with black vernacular. I always talk too fast and jokes get lost. So I have to physically remember to slow down.”

In his special, Wood was able to slow down to great effect. “Father Figure” was filmed in Atlanta, in front of a mostly black audience. Throughout, he moves and speaks deliberately, clearly comfortable. “Because there’s a lot of race in my show, I wanted to be in the black people capital of America,” he said. “I wanted to be in the South, I wanted to be somewhere where I felt at home, amongst family for lack of a better phrase.”

Wood was quite literally in front of family. The special opens with him addressing his 9-month-old son backstage, coaching him on how to be black in America. The special is a time capsule of his life and the world at this moment, which he thinks his son might watch in the year 2029, through his “YouTube glasses.” In it, Wood confronts the universal tendency to think that you’re right and the other side is stupid. “We may not agree on the problem. We may not agree on the solution. But as long as we can agree that something’s wrong, that’s a starting place,” he says.

When asked about that line, Wood explained how well-intentioned people can reduce others’ experiences. “Like there’s so many people who think the black experience is A, when it’s actually A, B, C and D,” he said. “And I hope that whatever blackness my son identifies with when he’s older, he can recognize that there’s nothing wrong with being who he is and feeling the way he feels. Because there’s something wrong, yeah there’s something wrong in the world. But it’s like, if I can figure out a way for my son to have opinions and think about other people then I’ve done something, man.”

While looking at the world in a deeper and more critical way means having greater empathy, for Wood, sometimes it can also mean thinking hard about an argument over lightbulbs.

“I lost an argument with my girl over lightbulbs.” Yes.

Source: New feed

I am autistic and I want a more responsible conversation about autism — and that means leaving Barron Trump alone

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Greensboro, North Carolina

(Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Drake)

Is it appropriate for the autistic community to discuss Barron Trump?

This question ties into deeper issues of how autism should be discussed in respectable public debate. When autism pops up in the news, it is often because people approach the topic in a highly irresponsible or even downright dishonest manner. This is why we see Robert De Niro joining forces with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to claim that mercury in vaccines may cause autism (it doesn’t) or why President Trump could ask a Virginia special education principal about rising autism rates by saying, “When you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really such an incredible — it’s really a horrible thing to watch, the tremendous amount of increase.”

The thing of it is, though, that autism isn’t always debilitating. In fact, it isn’t even always a disability. And it without question has nothing to do with vaccines. If there is one thing I’ve learned from not only being autistic but talking to countless other individuals on the spectrum, it is that very often the hardships associated with this condition stem from the intolerance and cruelty we experience from others — not from our actual neurological atypicality.

Which brings us to the case of Barron Trump, the 10-year-old son of President Donald Trump, who was called out for being autistic (no one knows if he actually is) by a writer for “Saturday Night Live” several weeks ago. The writer was suspended, Trump went on air to call the claim a “disgrace,” and the nation seems to have moved on.

But for autistic people and those who advocate for us, the underlying questions raised by this incident still remain.

“Poorly informed speculation about whether Barron isn’t neurotypical isn’t going to destigmatize autism,” said Kayla Schierbecker, a transgender autistic woman and college undergraduate. “I don’t know what we gain from tearing apart a few cherry-picked examples of typical 10-year-old behavior. When Barron runs for public office the media can reconsider whether the autism question is worth re-opening, but not right now — he hasn’t even graduated fifth grade.”

John Donvan, who co-authored “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism” with Caren Zucker, echoed Schierbecker’s point.

“It’s wrong in so many ways,” Donvan said. “He’s a minor, whose privacy demands respect, regardless of his parent’s fame. Moreover, speculation about a sophisticated diagnosis is unsound, not to mention tacky.”

Sharon daVanport, founder and Executive Director of Autism Women’s Network, offered some specific examples of how the commentary about Barron Trump “crosses a line on numerous levels.”

“I’ve seen commentaries dissecting Barron’s body language and speech, with speculations as to why he is presenting a certain way, and it’s indefensibly wrong,” daVanport said. “More often than not, these conjectures cross over into bullying as they’re coupled with disparaging criticisms about Barron. It’s important for us to say something when we hear these kinds of conversations happening.”

This view was shared by Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, a board member of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and Autism Women’s Network and an autistic woman of color. “It appears that many of those who are making assumptions about whether or not Barron is autistic are doing so in a stigmatizing manner — as if they are ‘outing’ him of some secret shame,” Onaiwu explained. “As an autistic person, I find this highly offensive. Whether Barron is autistic or not, it’s nothing to be ashamed of — but at the same time, diagnosis and self-disclosure are deeply personal — and he’s a 10-year-old child already under tremendous scrutiny.”

While all of the people I spoke to felt that it wasn’t right to drag a 1o-year-old child into the social discussion about autism, some were quite willing to put his father in the proverbial hot seat.

“Barron Trump deserves his privacy; he isn’t the Tweeter-in-Chief,” said David Matthews, the subject of the romantic documentary “Aspie Seeks Love” (which I reviewed in 2015 with Liskula Cohen). “The media should instead report on the suffering that would most likely result if his father slashed Social Security and other programs that help those on the autism spectrum. Muckrake on a Trump family member only when he or she has any influence.”

Matthews says that if the media continues to “punch down” at a child, it could only put more strain on the public’s trust of the press, “permitting Trump to get away with eviscerating the First Amendment with little if any public protest.”

Julie Sokolow, who directed “Aspie Seeks Love,” made a similar point.

“If Barron is indeed autistic, he’ll have the best specialists, education, and health care that money can buy,” Sokolow said. “Meanwhile, Trump threatens to deprive ordinary Americans, both on and off the spectrum, of access to basic health care and education. I especially worry about low-income families with autistic children, who are doubly vulnerable.”

As the Autistic Self Advocacy Network explained to me, “Aside from his noted and unscientific anti-vaccination stance, President Trump really doesn’t have any autism-specific policies. What he does have are policies aimed more broadly that are profoundly alarming to all autistic individuals in this country.”

Perhaps this, then, is the bottom line when it comes to Barron Trump. Even if it turns out that the president’s son is on the autism spectrum, it is inappropriate to drag a 1o-year-old child into the national debate on these issues. Considering that there is no concrete evidence proving that he is on the spectrum, however, it is also socially irresponsible to do so.
At the same time, we do need to have a national conversation about Donald Trump and the impact his policies will have on the autistic community. Not only does the president subscribe to pernicious and debunked conspiracy theories about vaccines causing autism, but he advocates policies on health care reform and education that will have a severely detrimental impact on autistic individuals.
A conversation about autism, and Trump’s policies toward autism, very much needs to happen. It must not, however, go for low-hanging fruit or subject innocent children to vicious scrutiny. For the debate to be respectable, it must be responsible.

Source: New feed