Tag Archives: Star Trek

Tips For Adulthood: Five Facts To Use In Small Talk

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

About a year ago, I wrote a post entitled Five Things You Never Knew About Finland. I had just come back from a short trip to Helsinki, and was amazed by the assortment of fascinating – yet obscure – things I learned about this small Scandinavian country.

In a similar vein, I’ve just attended a quiz night at my son’s school, where I again spent an evening absorbing a treasure trove of arguably arcane – but indisputably interesting – facts about the world ranging from religion to history to pop culture to sport.

It’s tempting to dismiss these little facts as irrelevant. But as this recent post by etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts notes, small talk isn’t trivial. It is, in fact, the very fabric of social interaction, the way we connect with other human beings.

In that spirit – and because, let’s face it – at some point in our lives, we all end up stuck in a line…or on a bus…or at a cocktail party with people we don’t know, here are five facts you can whip out of your back pocket to liven up that conversation:

1. The River Thames changes name when it passes through Oxford. It’s called…The Isis. My well-bred hubby knew that one. I had no clue. Whenever I think of “Isis” I think of that proto-feminist, the Marvel Comic Superhero, Isis, as in: “Oh Mighty Isis…” Live and learn.

2. A simple white cooking sauce made from flour and butter is called a Roux. That’s right, not a Béchamel, as you might have guessed. (Gotcha!) That one’s got milk in it as well. The roux is the basis for all else sauce-wise, at least in French cuisine.

3. The minimum number of shots in darts needed for a checkout is nine. What is a check-out, you ask? Excellent question. Inquire here. But you are now armed (no pun intended) with some serious dart trivia the next time the topic arises.

4.The first American television program to air an on-screen kiss was The Flintstones. I love this answer. I was sure it was Lucy and Desi on I Love Lucy. My husband thought it was The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. But here’s an even better bit of trivia. The first on-screen inter-racial kiss? Star Trek (between that knave Captain Kirk and the wily Lieutenant Uhura). Love it.

5. Marie Antoinette was Austrian. I think most people – well, OK, me – assume she was French because she later became the Queen of France, and, well, her name sounds so French. But she’s not. Just another wanna be…

Image: Darts Anyone? by Shankool007 via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Beam Me Up, Scotty: Are Sequels an Escape from Adulthood?

In case you haven’t heard, the summer movie season has officially begun.

Two weeks ago X-Men Origins: Wolverine opened. And last weekend Star Trek hit the Cineplexes.

Many of the current releases are either some version of a franchise, a re-make or an adaptation. And, for some, this trend is a veritable assault on adulthood.

Dennis Palumbo of Huffington Post bemoaned the current dearth of movies for adults, urging those of us who go in for more serious cinematic fare to “get off the couch” as it were (he’s also a psychotherapist). His point:  no one’s going to make movies for adults if we don’t actually go see them.

Another blogger, Lorrie Lynch, made a list of the serious Indie films coming out this summer and then wrote “Grown ups, read on.” (True confessions: I bookmarked the page post haste. I mean, c’mon. Atom Egoyan? In the summertime? Sign me up…)

I must say that I’m sympathetic to some of these concerns. The sight of grown men and women parading around theatres in their velour-insigniad Starship Enterprise tunics and Vulcan ears does give one pause. (For a particularly thoughtful review of the entire Star Trek franchise, read this article by Chicago Reader critic J.R. Jones. He argues that the original TV show was actually quite mature in its subject matter – with its mixed-gender, multiracial crew and Cold War overtones. Over time, however, the series – and movies it spawned – were dumbed down considerably to appeal to kids.)

But for me, the most interesting analysis of this trend was an article in the Washington Post by Hank Stuever examining the effect of  extreme fans (of the lightsaber bearing sort) on the making and marketing of these blockbuster-type movies.

The central question he asks – and I paraphrase here –  is why we feel compelled, as a society, to compulsively remake The Dukes of Hazard or our favorite books from fourth grade. Is it a lack of creativity? Nostalgia? Escape?

I don’t have an answer to that question. But as someone who’s quite prone to nostalgia myself, I can say that I, too, find it moving to revisit signature cultural artifacts – books, movies – from my childhood. I don’t necessarily need to don Lieutenant O’hura’s mini-dress in order to do so. But I understand the impulse.

So go ahead and beam me up, Scotty. But be warned: I’ll be looking for the Indie screening room on the Starship Enterprise when I get there.

Image: Trekkies by San Diego Shooter via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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