From The Washington Post
By Anthony Faiola
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NEW YORK -- The hot spot du jour of Manhattan nightlife looms large over Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, where crowds of stylish YoCos -- young cosmopolitans -- were jostling inside one evening last week for the right to pay the $15 cover. Rather than crossing the velvet ropes for a rave, house party or disco, the hip patrons here were packing into a controversial lecture at the New York Public Library on the modern meaning of feminism.
"We've both been going to bars and clubs less because events like these are more provocative," said Paul Torres, an MTV producer holding hands with his girlfriend of eight months, IT manager Amy Stemmler, also 30. Recent dates have included a museum crawl at MoMA and a discussion titled "Was the 20th Century a Mistake?" by German director Werner Herzog. "Maybe we'll agree, maybe we won't. But at least we're getting inside each other's heads."
In New York and other northeastern urban centers, including Washington and Boston, gray matter is the new black of the hip social scene. Thousands of young singles and couples are eschewing the perfunctory dinner and a movie for a growing circuit of late-night museum prowls, Oxford-style debates with pre-feud cocktail parties and book readings with cash bars and after-hour bands. In New York, even spelling bee nights have popped up as a romantic twist for the chic, unmarried and grammatically gifted.
It is, observers of the trend say, a visceral backlash to life in a Paris Hilton world. It's a chance to impress a mate, or a potential date, by flexing a body part that has lost ground in recent years to biceps and pecs -- the brain.
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Nerds rejoice! Dorks are back with a vengeance, just look at the movies: First Star Wars returned (and returned…); then the Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter made the supernatural magically cool; now comic book-inspired flicks are box office hits. It seems only natural that “I’ve been admiring your pocket-protector” should become the latest pick-up line. And how many bars can you go to, really? Debates are a great way to stimulate conversation whether it’s your first date or fiftieth. Comparing the stylistic differences between Monet and Manet is slightly more enlightening than slurring into your pint glass.