What women want, to judge from Fifty Shades of Grey, is not just people doing It. Many pages go by in this book without any of It getting done, although there is a great deal of thinking and talking about It. The thoughts are provided by the narrator and main character, Anastasia Steele, who is a twenty-one-year-old American woman as well as such a clueless, self-absorbed ninny that you, the reader, find yourself wishing that you still smoked so you would have a cigarette lighter handy and thus could set fire to certain pages, especially the ones where Anastasia is telling you about her “inner goddess.” This is a hyperactive imaginary being—I keep picturing Tinker Bell—who reacts in a variety of ways to the many dramatic developments in Anastasia’s life, as we see in these actual quotes:
“My inner goddess is swaying and writhing to some primal carnal rhythm.”
“My very small inner goddess sways in a gentle victorious samba.”
“My inner goddess is doing the Dance of Seven Veils.”
“My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.”
“My inner goddess has stopped dancing and is staring, too, mouth open and drooling slightly.”
“My inner goddess jumps up and down, with cheerleading pom-poms, shouting ‘Yes’ at me.”
“My inner goddess is doing backflips in a routine worthy of a Russian Olympic gymnast.”
“My inner goddess pole-vaults over the fifteen-foot bar.”
“My inner goddess fist-pumps the air above her chaise longue.”
That’s right: Her inner goddess, in addition to dancing, cheerleading, pole vaulting, etc., apparently keeps furniture inside Anastasia’s head. Unfortunately, this means there is little room left for Anastasia’s brain, which, to judge from her thought process, is about the size of a walnut.
Oppressed peasant and champion of the laboring man (despite being himself a highly paid journalist and graduate of Brown) Kevin Roose gate-crashed a financial industry’s private club party at the St. Regis, and was shocked, shocked to find joking about the financial crisis (and cross dressing) going on.
Roose indiscreetly waved his cell phone around, recording songs and monologues, and taking snapshots, until they finally recognized him as an interloper and threw him out.
As I walked through the streets of midtown in my ill-fitting tuxedo, I thought about the implications of what I’d just seen.
The first and most obvious conclusion was that the upper ranks of finance are composed of people who have completely divorced themselves from reality. No self-aware and socially conscious Wall Street executive would have agreed to be part of a group whose tacit mission is to make light of the financial sector’s foibles. Not when those foibles had resulted in real harm to millions of people in the form of foreclosures, wrecked 401(k)s, and a devastating unemployment crisis.
The second thing I realized was that Kappa Beta Phi was, in large part, a fear-based organization. Here were executives who had strong ideas about politics, society, and the work of their colleagues, but who would never have the courage to voice those opinions in a public setting. Their cowardice had reduced them to sniping at their perceived enemies in the form of satirical songs and sketches, among only those people who had been handpicked to share their view of the world. And the idea of a reporter making those views public had caused them to throw a mass temper tantrum.
The last thought I had, and the saddest, was that many of these self-righteous Kappa Beta Phi members had surely been first-year bankers once. And in the 20, 30, or 40 years since, something fundamental about them had changed. Their pursuit of money and power had removed them from the larger world to the sad extent that, now, in the primes of their careers, the only people with whom they could be truly themselves were a handful of other prominent financiers.
Perhaps, I realized, this social isolation is why despite extraordinary evidence to the contrary, one-percenters like Ross keep saying how badly persecuted they are. When you’re a member of the fraternity of money, it can be hard to see past the foie gras to the real world.
Traditional WASP culture, any Ivy League graduate should know perfectly well, is not utterly and completely built around hard work, steady habits, and the Protestant Ethic. It occasionally lapses into self-mockery and carnival.
WASP culture has a recognizable penchant for creating extremely socially exclusive, but purely farcical, tongue-in-cheek “secret” societies devoted to holding occasional banquets featuring abundant alcohol, comedy sketches, and cross dressing.
The Financial Industry’s Kappa Beta Phi is clearly an institution created on the basis of the same impulses, and operating the same way, as San Francisco’s Bohemian Club. Membership in this sort of club is a rare honor, awarded only to persons famous and eminent, but it is also entirely a joke.
You clearly couldn’t have a mock secret society of progressive journalists with its own annual comedy dinner. They take themselves too seriously, and are too poorly informed to be capable of accurately identifying the causes of current events like the great recession. Kevin Roose thinks it was the financial industry’s “foibles,” rather than federal meddling in real estate finance followed by Obamacare, which produced “real harm to millions of people in the form of foreclosures, wrecked 401(k)s, and a devastating unemployment crisis.” He would never get the point of a comedy routine, mocking the failure of the News Industry to properly vet a radical democrat candidate for the presidency.
Humorist Dave Barry gives us a month-by-month rundown of the year currently slinking like a yellow dog toward its well-deserved end.
The Good News: Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer did not successfully revive their loathsome political careers. The Bad News: New York City instead elected a Stalinist mayor, who is scheduled, it was recently reported, to be sworn in by Bill Clinton. To which news, Christopher Buckley responded: “Bill Clinton is swearing in De Blasio? On what, a stack of Playboys?”
… the federal government, in an unthinkable development that we cannot even think about, partially shuts down. The result is a catastrophe of near-sequester proportions. Within hours wolves are roaming the streets of major U.S. cities, and bacteria the size of mature salmon are openly cavorting in the nation’s water supply. In the Midwest, thousands of cows, no longer supervised by the Department of Agriculture, spontaneously explode. Yellowstone National Park — ALL of it — is stolen. In some areas gravity stops working altogether, forcing people to tie themselves to trees so they won’t float away. With the nation virtually defenseless, the Bermudan army invades the East Coast, within hours capturing Delaware and most of New Jersey.
By day 17, the situation has become so dire that Congress, resorting to desperate measures, decides to actually do something. It passes, and the president signs, a law raising the debt ceiling, thereby ensuring that the federal government can continue spending spectacular quantities of money that it does not have until the next major totally unforeseeable government financial crisis, scheduled for February 2014.
Things do not go nearly as smoothly with the rollout of Obamacare , which turns out to have a lot of problems despite being conceived of by super-smart people with extensive experience in the field of being former student council presidents.
Kelly MacLean offers a cynic’s description of the Whole Foods shopping experience.
Whole Foods’ clientele are all about mindfulness and compassion… until they get to the parking lot. Then it’s war. As I pull up this morning, I see a pregnant lady on the crosswalk holding a baby and groceries. This driver swerves around her and honks. As he speeds off I catch his bumper sticker which says ‘NAMASTE’. Poor lady didn’t even hear him approaching because he was driving a Prius. He crept up on her like a panther.
As the great, sliding glass doors part I am immediately smacked in the face by a wall of cool, moist air that smells of strawberries and orchids. I leave behind the concrete jungle and enter a cornucopia of organic bliss; the land of hemp milk and honey. Seriously, think about Heaven and then think about Whole Foods; they’re basically the same. ...
I move on to the next isle and ask the nearest Whole Foods clerk for help. He’s wearing a visor inside and as if that weren’t douchey enough, it has one word on it in all caps. Yup, NAMASTE. I ask him where I can find whole wheat bread. He chuckles at me “Oh, we keep the poison in aisle 7.” Based solely on the attitudes of people sporting namaste paraphernalia today, I’d think it was Sanskrit for “go fuck yourself.” ...
I grab a couple of loaves of poison, and head to checkout. The fact that I’m at Whole Foods on a Sunday finally sinks in when I join the end of the line…halfway down the dog food aisle. I suddenly realize that I’m dying to get out of this store. Maybe it’s the lonely feeling of being a carnivore in a sea of vegans, or the newfound knowledge that some people’s dogs eat better than I do, but mostly I think it’s the fact that Yani has been playing literally this entire time. Like sensory deprivation, listening to Yani seems harmless at first, enjoyable even. But two hours in, you’ll chew your own ear off to make it stop.
A thousand minutes later, I get to the cashier. She is 95 percent beautiful. “Have you brought your reusable bags?” Fuck. No, they are at home with their 2 dozen once-used friends. She rings up my meat, alcohol, gluten and a wrapper from the chocolate bar I ate in line, with thinly veiled alarm. She scans my ladies acidophilus, gives me a pitying frown and whispers, “Ya know, if you wanna get rid of your Candida, you should stop feeding it.” She rings me up for $313. I resist the urge to unwrap and swallow whole another $6 truffle in protest. Barely. Instead, I reach for my wallet, flash her a quiet smile and say, “Namaste.”
I used to shop at Whole Foods in Foster City and in Menlo Park.
I’d always marvel at how a loaf of bread, a bag of apples, and a piece of meat somehow mysteriously invariably added up to over $200 at the Whole Foods register, while at my next stop, Trader Joe’s, I’d have trouble racking up a total of a hundred dollars even with two cases of Two Buck Chuck in my shopping cart.