February 19, 2017

February 19, 2017

(I Can’t Get No) Conversation

It seems to be harder and harder these days to have a substantive conversation with someone about a third-party topic. It’s easy to discuss our vacation plans, or a funny thing that happened on the drive to work, but bring up Kim Jong Nam’s assassination* and I get a blank face.

Sigh. Maybe it’s my demo. [Insert complaint about a Henry Kissinger soul in a lady millennial body here.]

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a set of conversation Avengers you could summon at will? I’m thinking you’d need at least six:

The Politics Person: Knows the ins and outs of governance. Prior education and experience in public policy preferred. Lobbyists need not apply. Ideal candidate: A scandal-free version of Anthony Weiner.

The Business Person: Capitalist for life, but can reasonably defend the belief. Follows the markets with a keen eye to give the rest of us stock tips. Those with degrees in actual business fields will be selected over those in marketing. Ideal candidate: Steven Levitt.

The Sports Person: Needed only on a part-time basis, specifically during the Super Bowl, Olympics, Triple Crown, tennis and golf majors, and World Cup. Know your stats, know who’s hot, and come with a list of ridiculous prop bets for us to laugh about. Ideal candidate: David Jacoby.

The Entertainment Person: Conversant in both Old and New Media. Will need to create Top Five lists of books, movies, TV shows, albums, and podcasts at the end of each year for the groups’ holiday gift shopping purposes. Should have seen Hamilton at least once. Ideal candidate: N/A – I’m taking this slot.

The Science Person: This position is reserved for Neil DeGrasse Tyson, now and forever.

The History Person: Gives all our discussions CONTEXT. Are the Kardashians the Borgias or our time? Would the Super Bowl be better if competitors were naked, as in the early Olympics? Politics may be crazy now, but what of that Teapot Dome Scandal?! And so on. Ideal candidate: Dr. Lucy Worsley.

So there you have it: my ideal dinner party. I also want to work Ezra Klein in somehow as our Wunderkind Emeritus. Who else did I miss?

Avengers, assemble!

*Anyone who does want to discuss this with me, let’s talk. Because, I mean, WTF. Every time I think I can stop watching Arirang News for a while, they reel me back in with geopolitical intrigue. WELL PLAYED, KOREA.

February 4, 2017

February 4, 2017

To Seem, Yet Not to Be

Alternate universes are all the rage these days. (A statement presented without comment.) Whatever your media poison of choice, you can find something set in a time and place just a little different from our own.

I recently finished the book Underground Airlines, which sat on or atop many “Best of 2016” lists. In its reality, slavery is still legal. The author does an excellent job of explaining the historical precedent and latter-day logistics, and it’s eerily fascinating. I fully expect Underground Airlines to fill the “Book I Thought I’d Hate but Ended Up Loving” slot on this year’s list.

I’m slowly making my way through season 2 of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, set in the years after a World War 2 won by the Axis powers. It’s a dark show, and I find that the most innocuous bits can turn out to be the darkest. They celebrate V-A Day each year on the date America fell. The American flag has a swastika in it. The Pledge of Allegiance is to Hitler.

(Start at 1:37.)

I mean, thank goodness we don’t live in a dystopia anything like this. Right? RIGHT?

I’m also sticking with NBC’s show Timeless, though it’s become less about how small changes in the past have big effects on the present and more about “Time Period of the Week.” And that’s okay. I’m all for meaningless costume drama (cf. 98% of Downton Abbey). I’ve seen the Columbian Exposition, the Wild West, the Colonial Era, and the Space Race. Each of those episodes has been a diverting hour.

All this has gotten me thinking about other turning points. If we’re really living in one of an infinite set of universes, what might the others look like?

What if the Spanish Armada succeeded? Would my Spanish be better? Or at least, less offensive?

What if the Normans stayed in France? Would I spell everything lyke thyss? (Or not be able to read at all because I’m a woman?)

What if humanity domesticated foxes instead of dogs and cats? Would we be asking “What does the dog say?”

The possibilities are endless, and a thoughtful amusement (I know it's an oxymoron) on a cloudy day.