In honor of Thanksgiving, I break with tradition here (ya know, two-month-old Smarty at the Party tradition. STEEPED, I say) to give you… a veritable CORNUCOPIA of shmooze news to go with the feast! What to do ‘n say at the 8-hour party to make it feel like fewer. Whether you’re spending the holiday with your family (yay, home cookin’ & laughter!) or your friends (Apples to Apples!) or your family (boo, home cookin’ & tears!) or your boss at Walmart (as your heart becomes blacker than Black-Friday-that’s-now-spilling-into-Thursday) or no one because you’re not American and the Mayflower means nothing to you… wait, is this still one sentence? Ehem. No matter WHERE or WITH WHOM you’re celebrating the Pilgrims’ gratitude, and your own, the day is about feeling warm and glowy. Sometimes a little spark is all you need, and this week I’ve curated some kindling to light the fire of your soul. Ya welcome.
First, some buzzwords you may hear at your Thanksgiving gathering: Twinkies! Oh, everyone’s just aghast that the snack “food” made out of thirty-nine creepy-sounding ingredients (some of which are also found in sheet rock, shampoo, and rocket fuel), yes the VERY “food” that you haven’t touched in decades, may suddenly not be available anymore. ANYTHINGBUTTHAAAAT!!!
Hostess, the company that makes The Twinkie, blames the labor union of bakers — not you, of course, who haven’t touched ’em in decades (and not themselves, even though the CEO & a bunch of execs gave themselves raises WHILE filing for bankruptcy…). But while negotiations broke down Tuesday night & Hostess faces liquidation (‘cuz the only thing better than a Twinkie is a liquid Twinkie), there’s still a chance that another company will buy up the Twinkie brand (and Ho-ho and Ding-dong, seriously it’s like Sex Scandal Week all over again). So don’t join the “hoarding and price-gouging frenzy” epitomized by the $10,000 box of Twinkies up for bid on eBay. Don’t do it! And if the Twinkie is over and done with — well, this might be a good day for our health (eat a goddamned carrot) but for Hostess, and its tens of thousands of workers, it’s a bad day to represent a has-been era of snackery.
Which brings me to the next buzzword: Irony! The famously difficult-to-define term! (What people often don’t realize is that CONTEXT is required. Yeah, Alanis was totally wrong about “rain on your wedding day” constituting irony, unleeeess… maybe the unspoken part of the lyrics was that the bride had been obsessed with wearing a plastic wedding dress because she was studying to be a meteorologist and thought for weeks in advance that it was going to rain but the groom, who was already an established weatherman, forecast sun and was adamant that she toss the dress aside for something more traditional so she wouldn’t ‘drag the whole institution of meteorology through the mud’. And then it rains! Now that’s ironic. And a fantastic new rom-com starring Katherine Heigl.) But really, the buzzword here refers to the more prevalent use of the term, eg. when lamenting hipsters with their handle-bar mustaches & faux nostalgic tee-shirts taking over the planet like a zombie apocalypse. In this case “irony” is more about tone (like the above card) than situation (like the above example).
This week saw quite an upswing in pop cultural discussion on the subject of irony once this fun-but-reductionistic article dropped over at the New York Times, damning the entire millennial generation. The author, a gen-Xer so totally not millennial, writes:
“To live ironically is to hide in public. It is flagrantly indirect, a form of subterfuge, which means etymologically to “secretly flee” (subter + fuge). Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us. […] This kind of defensive living works as a pre-emptive surrender and takes the form of reaction rather than action.”
The best reaction’s here. Which leads me to wonder… does anyone know what percentage of that age group, even just in big cities, is actually a true-blue hipster who doesn’t just dress the part but also shows all the signs of ennui? How does that percentage rank compared to 20-somethings in earlier generations who also irked the older ilk? Feel free to discuss at the Thanksgiving table. Or while you serve soup at the soup kitchen — that would be really ironic.
Next buzzword: Iron Dome! Yes, the situation in the Middle East is complicated & delicate — looks like a ceasefire between the Israelis & the Palestinians has been brokered just this morning — BUT as the allegiances in that region are tried in the post-Arab Spring world, everyone here’s talking about this mysterious defense system the Israelis have (thanks to the U.S.). It’s not literally an iron dome; sorry those of you hoping it heralded a futuristic dystopia. But it’s pretty futuristically impressive nonetheless: a series of batteries around the border of Israel use radar “to track incoming rockets and then fire two interceptor missiles to knock them out,” according to this great explanation from the BBC. I wish this were a meme:
Next buzzword: Secession! No no, I’m not going to get political because I bet YOU don’t want to get political, especially if you’re spending the weekend with, shall we say, mixed company. But this might help: here’s a pretty great map to remind us that we’re actually purple states (and to remind us where people actually live in this country — heh, Nevada is for suckas!). Click on it for more info.
Also, you may have to water down your terminology here, since this article clearly states that the good guys won — but it’s actually a pretty smooth ‘n sexy lesson in economic philosophy from Eliot Spitzer, who’s feeling all giddy after the election because “democracy was elevated.” And, if you’re more into de-elevating it, here’s some fun facts about Thanksgiving that your conservative relatives will LOVE. (That was sarcasm, not irony).
Or, politics entirely aside, here’s an awesome & disgusting overview of life for those early Pilgrims if you want a little Thanksgiving lesson — apparently “it’s quite possible that America as we know it would not exist without rat urine and leptospirosis, the disease it spreads.” Maybe drop this later in the meal, when everyone really should stop eating anyway?
If there’s a computer or iPad handy here’s a few other fun items to share with your Thanksgiving party guests (some of the good stuff always falls to the bottom of the cornucopia): Icons through history caught in photos that, as the headline suggests, utterly shatter your image of them. It’s amazing! Also amazing: what Twitter can tell us about humanity: This heat map charts the angriest people in the United States based on their tweets. And as an antidote, this ridiculously no-duh New Zealand study tells us whether God or alcohol makes us happier (or whether we think it does… I’m not so sure we’re always the best judge). And if there are kids around, or just disgruntled English majors (is there any other kind?) show them this fun video. The dude’s totally manic, but what he says is so right it warms my little Elizabethan Theater enthusiast heart. And if you’re all sitting around listening to music, feel free to bring up the age-old conundrum about why international singers sounds American as soon as they open their mouth to music — and teach ’em a thing or two about it.
Finally, on a less fun note, because this really is a day to be grateful for what we have, check out this image for a little perspective.
Quote of the week, a Buddhist proverb:
Enough is a feast.
Next week, back to Friday Shmooze News, as per yooge.