TIME viral

Watch a Dramatic Reenactment of Lawyers Arguing about Photocopiers

Lawyers are not like the rest of us

Back in 1998, when President Bill Clinton was knee deep in grand jury testimony concerning allegations that he had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the law-school-educated leader reached new heights of word-parsing when, in response to a question, he said: “That depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” The response is an example of how lawyers have a different understanding of the English language than the rest of us mere mortals.

This week, The New York Times produced a dramatic reenactment of a legal deposition in Ohio in which a lawyer hits a seemingly insurmountable hurdle when the man rebuts his line of questioning with another question, “When you say photocopying machine, what do you mean?”

Everything goes downhill from there, as the lawyer is dumbfounded by opposing counsel’s attempts to justify the fact that his client has no way of knowing what a photocopier in an office setting looks like. As the Times put it, the result was “a 10-page argument over the semantics of photocopiers.”

The debate was part of the Ohio Supreme Court Case 2010-2029, which had to do with the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office wanting to stop making digital files of their records. People would have to pay $2 per page for copies, and companies that collect public information would have been hit hard by this policy.

After two years and many depositions, the case never went to trial, and the court decided a $1 CD of the records should be made available. But now it lives on in this hilarious video:


LIST: Top 10 Unfortunate Political One-Liners

TIME society

How Conformity Became a Crime

The phrase "Basic Bitch" is the newest name for trend-followers, but why do we have so much contempt for fitting in?

Note: If you don’t like to read the “b-word,” you will not like this post.

Ten years ago today, somebody in the movie Mean Girls said “I saw Cady Heron wearing army pants and flip flops, so I bought army pants and flip flops,” and the “Basic Bitch” concept was born.

Nowadays a Basic Bitch would never be caught dead in army pants or flip flops, because alas, trends have changed, and a Basic is always on trend. The phrase doesn’t appear anywhere in Tina Fey’s 2004 cult classic and didn’t even show up on Urban Dictionary until 5 years after the film was released, but Mean Girls is the closest thing we have to a Basic Bitch origin story.

A Basic Bitch is a conventional girl who conforms to what all the other girls are doing, but doesn’t know she’s doing it. To be called “Basic” implies that you have made a gross miscalculation of your own specialness, that in fact you are not a twinkly snowflake, and your boringness is obvious to everyone. And in a social media climate that is all about self-branding and distinction, there’s a particular humiliation in being indistinguishable. Conventional girls have always existed, but they used to be called Cling-Ons or Wannabes. The naked contempt for trying so hard – the Basic Bitch – is something new.

Twitter’s on it:

How can you spot a “Basic Bitch?” She Instagrams her pumpkin-spice-latte with #caffeine. She bought a neon croptop from NastyGal to wear to Coachella. She takes quizzes to find out which guy from Sex and the City would be her perfect match. She’s “obsessed” with Taylor Swift and scented candles. She and her brethren are probably planning a Mean Girls-themed party to celebrate the anniversary tonight. In other words, a “basic bitch” is just your normal, conventional high school girl, except now she’s all grown up.

We’ve always had “Wannabes” who try to get into the “popular crowd” by wearing the same clothes, saying the same catchphrases, and liking the same music as all their friends. Rosalind Wiseman, who wrote Queen Bees and Wannabes (which inspired Mean Girls) says that most of this kind of conformity comes from teens being afraid to stand out. “When we’re being conventional, we’re doing it because we’re afraid of the consequences for being original,” she says.

But why have we gone from tolerating trend-followers to publicly shaming them?

Because the trend-following that was almost necessary in high school has become deeply uncool, even embarrassing, in adulthood. Most teenage Wannabes grow out of their desire to fit in. Basics don’t. They continue to resist originality in the pursuit of cool, which means they missed the memo that originality is cool.

The phrase first started appearing in hip-hop and rap lyrics in 2010 and 2011 to describe a particular kind of “fake” girl who loves imitation designer handbags. But in the last few years it’s expanded to become an umbrella put-down for a conformist girl who wears Uggs, ends her emails with inspirational quotes, and sends texts with lots of extra letterssssssss.

Of course, this whole “basic bitch” phenomenon is all about aesthetics. Basics wear conventionally popular clothes (PINK-brand sweatpants, NorthFace fleeces,) drink conventional drinks (lattes, Diet Coke, SkinnyGirl cocktails) listen to conventional music (Taylor, Miley) and do predictable things like Instagram their all-girls brunch.

But what’s so bad about having a tattoo of your astrological sign and then Instagramming it? All your friends are doing it after all.

And that’s exactly the problem. This CollegeHumor video gets it right; there’s nothing more pathetic than a grown woman who still wants to do only what all her friends are doing (ie eating scooped-out bagels and watching Teen Mom.) Or, as Kreayshawn put it in her 2011 hit “Gucci, Gucci, “basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother.”

Wiseman says that the contempt for Basic Bitches makes it even harder for girls to walk that fine line between fitting in and standing out. “The irony of the ‘Basic Bitch’ thing is that it says ‘you’re trying too hard because you’re buying certain brands,’ but we’re all being told constantly to buy those brands,” she says. “There’s a fine line between being cutting-edge ‘cool’ and cutting-edge ‘you’re a freak.’”

And even out of high school, calling someone “Basic” comes with its own social power. “It’s like saying, ‘you think you’re so special but you’re not, you’re nothing,'” as Wiseman puts it. “‘And I get to determine and name that.’”

But even though Basic Bitch is a sneer at trend-followers, some people are actually trying to re-claim the term in a positive way, and start a whole new trend. The Guardian and VICE have published essays defending the Basic Bitch, poet Nicole Steinberg has written a poem about being one, and even Spiderman star Emma Stone has begun to jokingly refer to herself as “The Bland Basic Bitch,” because someone called her that online.

Of course, actual Basics would never be self-aware enough to joke about the term, because one of the qualities of Basic-ness is a complete lack of irony. So will Basics ever reclaim the term and become the new Plastics? Probably not. But they can keep trying.

TIME society

All MIT Undergrads Will Get Bitcoins When They Start This Fall

A photo illustration of a model Bitcoin in Berlin on April 25, 2014. Thomas Trutschel—Getty Images

Just stay off the deep web

The MIT Bitcoin Club — because of course there is an MIT Bitcoin Club — has a very important announcement to make. Come fall, all 4,528 undergraduate will be treated to $100 in bitcoin to spend however they please with the goal of creating a functional cryptocurrency ecosystem on campus.

“Giving students access to cryptocurrencies is analogous to providing them with internet access at the dawn of the internet era,” sophomore Jeremy Rubin said in a statement. He and MIT Bitcoin Club president Dan Elitzer (all hail) raised a whopping $500,000 to bring this project to life. Most of the cash came from an MIT alum who works as a high-frequency trader on Wall Street.

Although there are currently only two restaurants in Cambridge that accept bitcoin, the hope is that more businesses will find ways to start accepting the currency. The idea is that the more people use bitcoin, the higher the likelihood that it will survive as a viable payment model.

“We’re trying to seed an ecosystem and see what emerges,” Elitzer told VentureBeat. “That’s how startups work.”

TIME Food & Drink

Restaurant Tries to Make Dining Alone Less Awkward by Seating Patrons with Giant Stuffed Animals

Much less conspicuous

Ever feel self-conscious eating out alone? Moomin Café in Tokyo has recently gone viral because gigantic stuffed animals are seated across the table from solo diners in an attempt to reduce any discomfort.

Waiters enthusiastically pair parties of one with characters from a Finnish picture book series.

While a dining partner that looks like a hippopotamus certainly won’t make your table any less conspicuous, will you really be worried about other people’s opinions when you have this punim resting over your pancakes?

Some of the meals appear to be inspired by the stuffed animals, too:

This restaurant might even be more magical than the cat cafe that opened in New York.

(h/t: First We Feast)


Socialite Attends Her Own Wake With a Cigarette In One Hand and a Champagne Flute In The Other

Being dead doesn't mean you don't get to be the life of the party

A new standard has been set for funeral swagger. Socialite Mickey Easterling passed away at 83 last week, but that didn’t stop her from attending her wake as she would have attended any other party on her roster: with a glass of champagne in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

According to New Orleans ABC affiliate WGNO, Easterling had a strict set of rules for her funeral arrangements, including stipulations that her body be propped up on an iron bench. Easterling looked over the proceedings while wearing a bright pink boa and rhinestone pin that read “Bitch.”

Tom Sawyer, you are no longer impressive.



TIME society

Not All Men: A Brief History of Every Dude’s Favorite Argument

The "not all men" defense against feminist arguments is infuriating and unhelpful, but it also represents a weird kind of progress

On April 10, artist Matt Lubchansky updated his popular webcomic series, Please Listen To Me, with a new comic called “Save Me.” It features a presumably mild-mannered fellow in a polo shirt who spots the “Man Signal” and barrels into a phone booth to emerge as a fedora-masked Not-All-Man, “defender of the defended” and “voice for the voiceful.” He catches the whiff of misandry in the air — a pink-haired woman in the middle of saying “I’m just sick of how men…” — and smashes through a plate-glass window to play devil’s advocate.

Matt Lubchansky (listen-tome.com)

It’s a sharp, damning satire of a familiar kind of bad-faith argument, the one where a male interlocutor redirects a discussion about sexism, misogyny, rape culture, or women’s rights to instead be about how none of that is his fault. And it struck a nerve.

The comic was retweeted and reblogged tens of thousands of times. Nerd hero Wil Wheaton, comedian Paul F. Tompkins, and comics artist Matt Fraction were among its Tumblr boosters. Within a few days, science fiction writer John Scalzi, who frequently wades into feminist discussion, ranted about the “not all men” defense and followed up by posting the comic. Clearly, Not-All-Man is the antifeminist antihero for our times.

But his origin story is shrouded in mystery. Certainly Lubchansky’s comic was not the first humorous deployment of the term. For instance, two weeks before the comic came out, a “Not All Men” Tumblr made the rounds. It featured a handful of movie scenes enhanced with a “not all men” speech bubble — the shark from Jaws jumps in a boat to play devil’s advocate, the chestburster from Alien emerges from a man’s torso to explain that you’re overgeneralizing. And a few days before that, Twitter user @a_girl_irl posted an image of the Kool-Aid man crashing through the wall to deliver the catch phrase.

Before its meteoric rise as an object of mockery in the early parts of 2014, “not all men” had a past life as an object of frustration. For feminist bloggers it was a classic derail, a bad-faith argument used to shift the focus of a discussion instead of engaging with it.

“I know. Not all men are rapists. Not all men abuse their significant others. Not all men actively oppress women. I get it. Moving on,” wrote blogger elledeevee at Bitchtopia in July 2013.

But while it was clearly a source of irritation by mid-2013, and ripe for parody last month, “not all men” is curiously absent from earlier compilations of derailing arguments, including the ever-popular bingo cards that people who write about activist subjects on the Internet often make.

Of course, this doesn’t mean people weren’t not-all-menning it up before 2013. As early as 1985, author Joanna Russ expressed a familiar weariness in her feminist love story On Strike Against God:

…that not all men make more money than all women, only most; that not all men are rapists, only some; that not all men are promiscuous killers, only some; that not all men control Congress, the Presidency, the police, the army, industry, agriculture, law, science, medicine, architecture, and local government, only some.

But the absence of “not all men” on Internet bingo cards is a striking example of how the phrase, before it rocketed to prominence, went almost unnoticed in online arguments about activist subjects. If a feminist blogger made a derailment bingo card in April of 2013, “not all men” might be the free space in the center. But before last year, the place of prominence currently afforded to the phrase “not all men” was instead held by “what about the men?” and “patriarchy hurts men too” — pleas for inclusion, not for exemption.

Without the assistance of a trained Redditologist, it may not be possible to track down the source of this shift. Most likely “not all men” erupted in several places on the Internet simultaneously and independently, like the invention of calculus — an idea whose time had come. I asked Matt Lubchansky, the Not-All-Man comic’s creator, if he remembered where he first heard it; he told me that in his experience it arose from nowhere, or more accurately, from everywhere.

“I don’t recall a very specific instance so much as it was sort of everywhere, very suddenly!” Lubchansky wrote in an email. “But instead of this being something with a single origin, i think this phrase is unique among this kind of stuff because it was actually coming from the mouths of these dopes. Like some dummy would for REAL be coming at people talking about racial or gender equality stuff, waving their arms and saying ‘UM ACTUALLY NOT ME!’”

It’s true that previous derailment favorites like “patriarchy hurts men too” were paraphrases in a way that “not all men” is not. The demand is the same — “please move me to the center of your discussion” — but “not all men” is, in many cases, straight from the horse’s mouth; even an amateur Reddit spelunker can turn up plenty of sulky or defensive uses of the phrase.

“Not all men” also differs from “what about the men?” and other classic derails because it acknowledges that rape, sexism, and misogyny are real issues — just not, you know, real issues that the speaker is involved with in any way. The “not all men” man, at least in some cases, agrees with you and is perfectly willing to talk about how terrible those other guys are, just as soon as we get done establishing that he himself would never be such a cad. It’s infuriating and unhelpful, but in a way it represents a weird kind of progress.

Lubchansky agreed that the shift from “but what about men’s problems” to “not all men are like that” paralleled his own gradual development into a decent human. Perhaps men arguing on the Internet (though not all men!) follow a developmental path that echoes an individual man growing a social conscience, which in a very simplified form goes something like this:

  1. Sexism is a fake idea invented by feminists
  2. Sexism happens, but the effect of “reverse sexism” on men is as bad or worse
  3. Sexism happens, but the important part is that I personally am not sexist
  4. Sexism happens, and I benefit from that whether or not I personally am sexist
  5. Sexism happens, I benefit from it, I am unavoidably sexist sometimes because I was socialized that way, and if I want to be anti-sexist I have to be actively working against that socialization

Is it possible “not all men” rose to prominence when the level of online discourse moved from stage 2 to stage 3?

The Not-All-Man hero and his minions are paralyzingly obsessed with protecting their own self-concept, to a degree that prevents them from engaging in sincere discussion. But this contrast — between “not all men” and earlier derailing tactics — suggests that maybe they also represent a small and subtle shift towards good-faith argumentation.

Not all men will make that shift, ultimately. But some is better than none.

TIME society

College Students Found a New, Better Way To Use Tinder

Hungry Man Eating Fruit Pastilles Getty Images


College students have begun using Tinder to pursue the greatest thing in the world. No, not love. Free food.

American University junior Julia Reinstein realized that the dating/hookup app could be used for more practical means than finding makeout partners. People could identify if they had or were in need of a spare meal swipe at the school’s cafeteria. By limiting your search distance to a mile, meal matches would proliferate. Think of all the food babies yet to be born.

“That’s symbiosis, folks,” Reinstein wrote on Swipe for Swipes’ Tumblr.

I had friends who, while in grad school, used to joke about using OKCupid as their meal plan, but this endeavor is much more direct. As long as the salad bar doesn’t come with a side of expectations, everybody wins.

[Washington Post]

TIME Religion

God Is Dead. Except at the Box Office.

While Hollywood is finding God, Americans are losing their religion. But that’s not a bad thing.

These days, God is dead everywhere except at movie theaters. But rest easy, America, that doesn’t mean we’re spiraling into an amoral abyss or a lawless society. Indeed, by most indicators of anti-social behavior, things have never been better.

Even as polls and church-attendance records show the U.S. is becoming a more secular, less pious country, current films such as Heaven is for Real (based on a best-selling account of a four-year-old boy’s supposed trip to the afterlife) and Noah (based on the Old Testament’s account of the Great Flood) have done boffo business.

Noah is closing in on $100 million, the line that separates mere hits from blockbusters, and Heaven is for Real easily bested Johnny Depp’s poorly reviewed meditation on computer-enabled immortality, Transcendence. God’s Not Dead, a drama about a college freshman challenging his professor’s atheism, is also performing strongly, and so is Son of God, the latest cinematic version of the life of Jesus.

Expect to see more Christian and religiously themed movies as a result. “If there’s a sense that there’s a growing market and a growing hunger for more films like this,” a Columbia TriStar Pictures executive tells The Christian Post, “then the desire to continue to provide more films will increase, and decisions will be made to be able to make more films like this.”

Yet there’s no reason to think that such movies will do anything to stanch the broad and ongoing decline in religiosity. And there’s even less reason to worry about the trend toward a less godly country.

Gallup reports that fully 77% of Americans agree that religion “is losing its influence on American life,” and that just 20% think religion is gaining influence. Mainline Protestantism has especially taken it on the chin over the past 50 years. In 1965, over half of Americans were “active members” of Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and similar denominations, according to The Catholic World Report. That number is now below 10%. While independent bible-based churches and the Catholic Church show some growth (largely due to immigrants), Pew Research reports that “the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace.” Indeed, such “nones” now comprise 20% of the population and one-third of adults under the age of 30.

Those numbers will keep growing. With each successive generation – from the “Silents” born between 1928 and 1945 to Gen-Xers born between 1965 and 1980 – Americans have gotten less and less religious. Millennials, who were born between 1981 and 1994 and outnumber Baby Boomers, are embracing secularism for a variety of reasons, none of which is likely to disappear.

Millennials are far more likely than previous generations to view organized religion as intolerant, sexist, and homophobic. That attitude isn’t helped by traditional Islamic theology, the Catholic Church’s position on female priests, or political candidates such as Ray Moore, who is running for lieutenant governor of South Carolina and calling for Christian parents to remove their children from public education (“Pharoah’s school system”).

Sociologists agree that religion is generally less important in societies where basic existential needs – food, clothing, shelter, education, work – are covered. Even with the global financial crisis of the past few years, the fact is that Americans and other residents of the developed world are still doing extremely well by any standard. Even the poorest countries are gaining ground, which suggests that they too will become more secular over time.

While it’s understandable that believers would worry about secularism’s effect on non-believers’ souls, the widespread sense that a godless society is a lawless society is clearly wrong. A line routinely (though controversially) attributed to Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky sums up the fear of many religious people: “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.” Yet the plain fact is that over the same period during which America has gotten less religious, crime of all sorts has declined massively, teens are waiting longer to have sex, abortion rates are down, the divorce rate is at a 30-year low, and philanthropic giving remains strong despite economic lassitude.

Christians and other believers can take pride in the fact that moviegoers are shelling out millions of dollars to watch films dealing with religious themes – and that an entertainment industry long hostile to such topics seems ready and willing to deliver whatever the audience wants. And they can also take solace in the fact that, even as America has become an increasingly godless society, it’s become a nicer, safer place to live.

TIME society

Girl Gets Kicked Out of Prom for Having the Nerve to Wear Pants

Shafer Rupard should have known better than to show up to a prom in 2014 wearing pantaloons

For whatever reason, prom season has become a marker both of how far we have come as a society and of how far we still have to go. Signs of advancement (a Massachusetts high school elected a transgender girl prom queen in 2013) are regularly met with opposition to progress (a group of Indiana high schoolers joined together to try to ban gay classmates from a “traditional” prom).

Today’s story that will make you feel right at home in your poodle skirt? A North Carolina senior was asked to leave her prom because she dared to wear… pants. And not just any pants. Skinny jeans. If you can handle this BSFW (barely suitable for work) photo, here’s how Shafer Rupard looked at her Cherryville High School prom:

There are many obvious problems with this situation, not the least of which is that Cherryville High School didn’t even have dress code requirements for its prom (which the school acknowledged to Rupard’s mother Shawn McQuaige, although never actually apologized for).

Beyond that, as McQuaige put it to WBTV News, wearing pants is just the way Ruparb “feel[s] comfortable in her own skin… We want to put out the message to all teenagers that you should be allowed to be yourself.”



Paralyzed Woman Goes Surfing Thanks To Duct Tape

Everybody's gone surfing

They say duct tape can do anything. One man tested that theory by duct taping a paralyzed woman to his back and going surfing. It worked, too.

Pascale Honore was paralyzed in a car accident, but that didn’t stop her from dreaming of surfing, especially as she watched her sons learn the sport in the oceans of Australia.

“I’ve always been active, so I had to be active in a different way,” Honore, 51, told TODAY.com “S— happens and you get on with it. After rehab, I started to look at what I’ve got, [rather than] what I haven’t got.”

Tyron Swan, a now 24-year old friend of her sons and a professional diver, thought he could help.

Swan and Honore hit the beach with a roll of duct tape and an idea. Using a backpack and a roll of the strong tape, Swan was able to rig a harness for Honore that MacGuyver would be proud of. They hit the waves for the first time in December 2012, and have been heading out to the breakers together ever since.

They documented their journey in the 2013 short film, Duct Tape Surfing, and a follow-up is in the works as the duo take on bigger and bigger waves together.

[Via TODAY.com]

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