Your Party Conversation Cheat Sheet: Coyotes, Baltimore, and A-hole Factories

There is an upside to the coyote invasion, air sex is real, and one of our major exports today are major-league jerks. These are just a few of the fascinating stories we enjoyed over the past month. Read on for 10 inspired conversation starters for your next happy hour or picnic in the park.

  1. Obviously, the death of Freddie Gray and the resulting protests in Baltimore and elsewhere are at the top of everybody’s mind at the moment. While taking the media to task for acting shocked by the existence of long-standing systemic problems in Baltimore earlier this week, Jon Stewart quipped, “”You know your city’s fucked up when its last, most successful employment program was casting extras for a show about how fucked-up your city was.” He was referring, of course, to The Wire, which shined a light on Baltimore’s race and poverty issues and is widely considered one of the best television shows of all time. The Marshall Project posted a Q&A between Bill Keller and David Simon, the show’s creator, about the dynamics that led to the breakdown of police/community relations that is at the root of much of the unrest.
Ginger's Bar in Park Slope is one of a dying breed. Photo: Ginger's Bar

Ginger’s Bar in Park Slope is one of a dying breed. Photo: Ginger’s Bar

  1. Did you know that there are only four lesbian bars left in New York City? And that that’s more lesbian bars than you’ll find in any other city in the country? Heather Dockray wrote a fascinating piece for us exploring the possible reasons for the precipitous decline in places that were once considered “the church of the lesbian community” at a time when more women than ever identify as queer.

  1. Diane Sawyer’s blockbuster interview with Bruce Jenner last Friday night, in which he came out as a transgendered woman, was a huge step in the right direction for trans awareness and acceptance, and this Slate article does a nice job explaining how it has already changed the conversation in profound ways. But The New Yorker points out another pleasantly surprising result of Jenner’s revelation: The Kardashians, a family that literally built an empire on superficiality and appalling behavior, reacted to the news with tolerance, love, and unconditional acceptance.

This couple used to live in Brooklyn, but now calls Pittsburgh home. Photo: Libby Hilf Photography

This couple used to live in Brooklyn, but now calls Pittsburgh home. Photo: Libby Hilf Photography

  1. The next time you’re bemoaning the fact that the rent is too damn high, you might seriously think about scrapping it all and moving to Pittsburgh. Our own Nicole Davis spoke to a handful of ex-Brooklynites who now call Steel City home and are seriously loving it, although they all seem to agree that public transportation there sucks.

The Battery Park coyote was captured by NYPD, who tweeted this photo.

The Battery Park coyote was captured by NYPD, who tweeted this photo.

  1. Last week, I watched what seemed like endless NY1 coverage of a coyote running amok in Riverside Park, so I couldn’t believe they were still talking about the damn coyote when I turned on the TV two days later. Turns out, this was a different guy altogether–another coyote (!) spotted wandering around Battery Park City who was eventually captured with the assistance of a tranquilizer gun. There have been six sightings in the city in the past two weeks alone! Yep, the coyote invasion is real, according to a small team of urban ecologists who call themselves The Gotham Coyote Project and are the subject of an interesting read on Narratively, but it’s actually a good thing–these canine cousins aren’t as dangerous as you might think and their migration into the city means that our ecosystem is evolving in a positive direction.

  1. The New York Times had an eye-opening op-ed earlier in the month about the dramatic rise of heroin use in this country. Not only have fatal heroin overdoses nearly tripled in the last three years, but overdoses of heroin and chemically similar prescription opioid painkillers now account for more deaths than car accidents. If those stats surprise you, it’s because it’s a very quiet epidemic; the primary traffickers avoid public violence as a general rule, and most of the victims are young, white, affluent, and born to parents reluctant to publicize the real cause of their offspring’s untimely death. Tom Parks, a Maine man who recently lost his 24-year-old daughter to an overdose and was interviewed on NPR, took the opposite approach and addressed her addiction directly in the obituary he wrote that went viral.  “I didn’t want to hide behind a cloak of, you know, sudden-death,” he said. “I wanted it to be transparent and blunt. People need to know there’s an epidemic. It’s rampant.”

  1. If you’ve ever looked around at work, out at a bar, or even with your group of friends and thought to yourself, “ugh, I am surrounded by aholes,” this Medium post might strike a chord. Economist Umair Haque posits that we don’t make stuff anymore, and what we create instead are major-league jerks: “The chain-store; the mall; the hypermarket. The corporation; the firm; the partnership. B-school; law school; med school. The boardroom; the backroom; the trading floor. These are, by and large, Asshole Factories. They don’t make people. Capable of great things. Who create and build and touch and soar. They make assholes.” His solution? Don’t let them get to you and always strive to be your passionate, loving, kind, noble self.

  1. Eater has a great feature about a program in DC that provides culinary training to ex-cons so that they can get jobs in the restaurant industry, which is characteristically forgiving when it comes to things like addiction and criminal records. Nationwide, about sixty percent of released prisoners end up back in the system within a few years, but graduates of this program have a recidivism rate of only two percent.

The highly anticipated fight between Pacquiao/Mayweather fight will be broadcast on pay-per-view tomorrow. Photo: Showtime

The highly anticipated fight between Pacquiao/Mayweather fight will be broadcast on pay-per-view tomorrow. Photo: Showtime

  1. Truth be told, boxing isn’t really my thing, but even I can’t ignore the Internet drumroll leading up to the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight taking place tomorrow night. Louisa Thomas has a good piece over at Grantland about Floyd Mayweather and the tension between his troubling history of essentially unchecked domestic violence/generally detestable character and his remarkable skill at the sport in which he makes his (insanely lucrative) living. Says Thomas: “What Mayweather does in the ring is special. He is the rare kind of athlete who, if you watch him closely enough, can help you see the human mind and body a little differently. And what Mayweather does outside the ring is reprehensible. What do you do with this? I don’t know. You can focus on the boxer or focus on the batterer. Or you can keep the two in stereo. With or without resolution, we can talk about it.”

  2. Just when you think the smallest penis contest in Brooklyn is as awkward and out there as you can get, GQ does a story about a competitive Air Sex contest, which is a new thing that’s kind of like an Air Guitar contest except instead of pretending to play November Rain or whatever on an imaginary guitar you have to pretend to do the dirty with an imaginary human being. On stage in front of a lot of people. And you will be judged for your “performance.”

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