4

Memetic Dinner Parties

The Set Table by romanboed, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  romanboed 

There’s this memetic question that people ask from time to time, and it’s a fun exercise. The question: “What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?” One assumes, here, that any dead people you invite would be alive, again, for said party. Because otherwise that would kind of be a party killer, whether they remain corpses or become zombies. So, I picture it as more of the kind of thing as in that Babylon 5 episode “Day of the Dead,” where the dead come back, but only briefly, and without all the rotting or brain-eating. But I digress.

I don’t know why it’s always six, and I don’t know why it has to be a dinner party. Let’s assume that bonding over food is a thing all humans share, and that seven (because I’m the seventh person) is the largest group of people who can have any sort of meaningful conversation without it splintering into sub-conversations. Yeah, let’s assume those facts (that I just made up).

My answer to these memes is usually something along the lines of “my current friends,” because it’s an easy answer that is also very flattering to the person asking, because they’re in that group. It’s also true. I mean, that’s why they’re my friends. But it’s also beside the point.

The most recent time I saw the meme was on Facebook. Thanks to a conjunction of that appearance of the meme along with some videos I’d watched over the last few days, I realized I actually had an actual answer! But I will not be artificially constrained to just one party. Because . . . well, because reasons, that’s why.

. . .

Oh, fine. I think it’s important with any dinner party that your guests get along with one another, have things in common, and get along with one another (it bears repeating). I mean, you wouldn’t invite your loudmouth, racist uncle Bob to dinner with your Jewish or African-American friends, right? That would be inviting disaster. And we’re dealing not with just friends and family, we’re dealing with people throughout history.

(This is what is called “setting up the premise of the post.” See how seamlessly I did it? You’re welcome!)

I’m always kind of amused by people’s answers to this question. “Jeanne d’Arc, Jesus, Cleopatra, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Madonna” would be a typical, ridiculous answer. It’s asking for trouble. It would be the worst dinner party ever. I mean, come on. Cleopatra and Madonna would get in a sexy-off contest (possibly involving underwear and snakes) while Einstein and Newton argued physics in at least three languages and Jesus tries to convince Jeanne not to slay everyone else for being heretics. Talk about a party buzz-kill. But it would make an awesome YouTube video. Guaranteed for millions of hits. But I digress once more.

So I decided that I’d have to have four parties. Because I immediately thought of four people in vastly different categories, and was fairly sure they would not get along, in the very unlikely event of a Day-of-the-Dead-style resurrection just to come to a dinner party thrown by a total stranger. So even though I had to have them, it would be kinder to them to have them in related groups. </premise set-up>

Also, these are for me to selfishly sit and bask in the inevitably wonderful conversation(s) that would grow organically. Or I’d toss a few leading statements out there to see how they’d react.

Party the First: Teh Science

These guys are not only scientists, they are all excellent at communicating complex ideas in science to the lay public. That’s me! I’m so lay, I might as well rhyme! I have just enough understanding of physics that I could probably follow them if they remembered to speak down to on my level. All of them have books or podcasts or TV shows or some combination of the three. The reason I put Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan on the same line is that they were married until Sagan’s death in 1996. They’re kind of a package deal. :)

Also, one of the tracks that is on the Voyager space probe’s golden record is a representation of Ann’s EEG while she’s thinking about how much she loves Dr. Sagan. I literally tear up every time I hear or read the story. So even without Dr. Sagan, she’d be on my list.

Party the Second: Teh Funny

Do I even need to justify or explain this list? I didn’t think so. Also, I’ll add that if you’ve never experienced the comedy of Adam Hills, you owe it to yourself to look him up on YouTube and/or NetFlix and just . . . enjoy. He definitely fits (as far as I’m concerned) with the other luminaries on the list.

I could add so, so many more people to that list.

I would, of course, have a supply of oxygen on hand, and some medication to ease my aching jaw and abdominal muscles from all the laughter.

Party the Third: Teh Fanboy/Squeebait

I would challenge the last three to collaborate on a project and hire the first three to star in it. I might also suggest that it wouldn’t suck if the project also included Drew Barrymore and Neil Patrick Harris. Just saying. And I would sit and squee with (barely suppressed inner) glee while the six of them tossed around ideas and then probably die of happy with a smile on my face that no mortician could ever eradicate. Just the thought of it makes me hyperventilate a little. Maybe I’d need the oxygen from the previous party.

Party the Fourth: Teh World-Changers

Malala Yousafzai impresses the absolute hell out of me, and her cause (making education available for all girls/women) is arguably one of the most important causes in the world. The Gateses, Musk, and Carter are accomplishing amazing good in the world. You may or may not agree with any of their politics (or religious views), but it’s hard to argue against their collective net positive effect on the world.

And, frankly, any group of world-changers without Fred Rogers would be woefully incomplete. He may not have literally saved the lives of millions of people or negotiated with world leaders or used his billions of dollars helping humanity, but his simple message of “You are worthy just as you are” goes very quietly right along with what the others are doing. Teresa Heinz Kerry (wife of John Kerry) said of Mr. Rogers, “He never condescended, just invited us into his conversation. He spoke to us as the people we were, not as the people others wished we were.” And that was his magic.


So these are my “dream teams” as it were. I only included seven people, total, who are not living, and those all died relatively recently. The rest are contemporaries. No historical people like Shakespeare or Leonardo da Vinci or Billie Holiday. Don’t get me wrong: those people are great. I just want people who could relate to the current state of the world.

People who know me won’t be at all surprised by the first three, but might raise an eyebrow at the last one. Good. I like surprising people who think they know me. :)

I could easily add several more themed parties.

A lot of people who know me might be surprised that there is no ‘authors’ group in there. There’s a simple reason for that: I literally have a plethora of interesting, intelligent, talented authors around me so often, there is no way I could limit it to merely six.

Who’s on your dream team(s)? What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party/-ies?


  1. Disaster is one guest that’s never on my list.
  2. It’s a pun! On two very different meanings of the word ‘lay’! . . . Trust me, it’s extremely funny.
  3. The story is here. It’s worth reading. Search for “I had this idea” and read. Or, you can listen to NPR’s Radio Lab’s interview with Ann Druyan about the EEG here. About seven and a half minutes.
  4. He has so many oars in the water, I couldn’t find just one website for him, so I linked his Wiki page with links to all his endeavors.
6

Guide to Social Media

This is a bit of a departure for this blog, but I figured, “What the heck?” and here it is. :)

Full disclosure: This was originally something I wrote on Facebook as a note. It was inspired by a comment on my friend Nick Falkner’s wall. I started to respond to Nick’s comment, and it got long, so I decided to create it as a note, instead. Another of my friends (Carol Cassara) liked it enough that she asked if she could host it as a guest post on her blog. I was (and am) quite flattered, and it ran on the 8th of December. I waited a few days to put it on my own blog so as not to steal Carol’s blog’s thunder. There may also be a few minor differences between what’s here and what’s on Carol’s blog and on my Facebook page. This is the “definitive copy.”

The characterizations herein are based solely on my personal experience with the sites. Sites I didn’t mention, I have no personal experience with. (Or I do, but couldn’t think of anything pithy to say.) Your mileage may vary, and that’s awesome. Feel free to comment with your own characterizations.


Facebook

is my living room. I’m very careful about the people I invite in. I expect them to have a certain sense of decorum and to not leave garbage all over the place. I expect people I invite in to respect me and the other people in my home. Or if not respect, at least show tolerance. Or if not tolerance, just politely ignore me/them, or come back at a time when the others are not there. No one has to agree, but you don’t have to get in anyone’s face, either. I’m not always the most gracious host because I forget others are around, but I do at least try. If I overstep, I expect to be shown the error of my ways. I have certain rules, though, and if you break them, out you go. It is my living room, after all.

Twitter

is the busiest train station downtown (the one where all the lines meet). Everyone is standing on their own soapboxes, shouting into the wind. Some of them use megaphones. A few people are gathered ’round some of the louder voices, listening intently, but most people are busy and hurry by without paying attention, occasionally looking up from their phone to listen for a few seconds, then moving on. Some people toss heart-shaped coins at speakers’ feet; others yell things at them. A lot of people are just animatronics blaring the same things over and over. A lot of people are just animatronics blaring the same things over and over. Other people just say the same things others are saying without contributing anything original. It’s kind of a mess to figure out which are which.

Google+

is the monorail station at Google HQ. Everyone is still standing on their own organic kale-boxes, but the only people listening are other geeks and nerds with the same cross-section of interests. Most everyone is wearing Google Glass, and some of them are tuning you out, even though they look like they’re in a circle around you. For some reason, a lot of people are intensely angry that they had to go through this station just to get to YouTube. It is an unnecessary stop . . .

Ello

is a bare-bones, designed community that has fallen into disrepair, and no one really goes there anymore, except on a dare. All the buildings look pretty, but if you examine them more closely, they’re all merely façades. They all say, “IN DEVELOPMENT” on the door. There are two people there, right now, wandering around on opposite ends of the subdivision saying, “Hello? Anyone there? Is anyone listening?” The guy who sold you the property led you to believe it was going to rival all the other communities, but now he’s nowhere to be found. Good luck getting a refund.

Instagram

is looking at everyone’s boring vacation slideshow at the same time. Some of them are interesting, but most of the time it’s nothing anyone would ever want to see except your closest friends and family. The occasional celebrity shows up and everyone runs over to see their boring vacation slideshow. At least there are a lot of cats.

Pinterest

is looking at all of your great-aunts’ friends’ scrapbooks at the same time. All of them. They’ve all gone a little “off” and think they’re Martha Stewart, but deep down, they’re closer to Rod Stewart. You know they’re never going to try to do any of those things they put in their scrapbooks, and if they did, they’d never show the results.

Etsy

is kiosks at Burning Man.

Snapchat

is the lunch room at the largest high school, ever. Everyone is so self-obsessed, it’s just a bunch of people standing around taking duck-face selfies and obsessing over finding just the right filter, while talking endlessly about themselves. There’s the occasional streaker, but they mostly seem to be looking at themselves, as well. No one stays for more than a few minutes, and then everyone forgets them, because me!

YouTube

is the largest cineplex ever, and people just go from theater to theater, watching videos. Sometimes, you find yourself in a theater and wonder how you got there, but it’s OK, because the “safe” ones are just across the hall. Every time you turn a corner, you find another huge -plex of related content. The cat video -plex seems to be the most popular, but no matter what your interest is, if you keep looking, there’s a whole wing devoted to just that. Every once in a while, the RIAA or MPAA will send goons in and rip films out while they’re playing, but if you wander next door, someone already posted the same video. It’s probably in Portuguese with English subtitles, but it’s there. The films vary wildly in quality because it’s free to show them. In every theater is a group of 9-year-olds who shout ‘fat’ and ‘gay’ and ‘ugly’ and ‘go kill yourself’ and ‘first!’ because they’re at the age where they think that kind of thing is funny. Sit in the front with your bluetooth headset on and ignore everyone behind you and you’ll do fine.

Vine

is an infinity of iPads set up in an infinite theater lobby, each playing a six-second video that loops continuously. People wander from iPad to iPad. And then wonder where Tuesday went. Every six seconds, there’s an enormous laugh from the people clustered around the funniest clips.

Vimeo

is pretty big, like YouTube, but the theaters are all IMAX. You have to pay to get your videos on screen, so the quality is amazing, but other than that, it’s basically just like YouTube, only not as full of 9-year-olds.

Tumblr

is a diary that just happens to be public. You pour your heart out onto its pages, and other people copy it and share it without attribution, or draw a big pink heart on it to let you know they liked it.

LinkedIn

is a break room full of water coolers where everyone you’ve ever worked with eventually shows up. Recruiters dash from cooler to cooler, desperately trying to get everyone’s attention. Every time someone gets a promotion or changes jobs, a PA announces it to the whole room. Everyone golf-claps. Occasionally, someone you barely remember shouts, “This guy/gal? S/he’s great at” some skill you don’t actually possess. You look around, embarrassed, and wonder who let them in. People you’re glad you no longer work with solicit you for recommendations and you have to pretend you didn’t hear them.

MySpace

is a 70s disco. The people who are in there have no idea it’s not 1979. Don’t tell them. It’s . . . kinder, this way. ♩♪You should be daaaaanciiiiin’, YEAH!♬

LiveJournal

is that apartment where you used to live in college, where all your friends were in and out at all times of the day and night, having lively discussions about anything. But then the Russian mafia took over the management right after you moved out. Now the security gate at the complex entrance is locked on more days than not. It’s too bad, because it used to be a really nice place.

Goodreads

is an infinite book store where readers and authors tear each other to shreds in public, while onlookers cheer with bloodlust, often turning on each other in the excitement. Meanwhile, in nooks scattered about, peaceful groups of readers and writers meet, ignoring the spectacle going on around them.

Reddit

is a bulletin board in the rec room at a college dorm. People post all kinds of crazy stuff on it, and other people can move it around so it’s more (or less) visible. People hang smaller bulletin boards off the big one, but around corners so you have to go looking. Often, if you do, you find yourself scrambling back to the main board, wishing for eye-bleach.


Hope you enjoyed. I wrote it in about 20 minutes of inspiration, not giving a lot of thought to it, and it turns out to be one of the most popular posts I have made on Facebook. Go figure. Such is the fickle nature of humor. :)

4

NaNoWriMo 2015 Redux

I-have-not-failed---Edison by Inspiyr, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Inspiyr 

Let me start out by saying that, from the stated goal of NaNoWriMo, I failed. I wrote just over 20,000 words, which is my least successful NaNoWriMo run since 2007.

HOWEVER.

And it’s a big ‘however,’ as you can see by the font and bold and . . . SEE WHAT I DID THERE?

Anyway . . . I wrote 20,000 words that I do not hate. This is something that I’m still having a problem believing. I haven’t liked anything I’ve written for a long time, aside from some flash pieces. So the fact that I have this foundation to work with is heartening, so I don’t really consider this a loss so much as a good start.

Now, I just have to keep my momentum going. I have characters, a plot, clues I have to drop, lead-ins for the next two books to subtly hint at . . . and now I just need to put butt in chair, hands on keyboard, and follow through. Which is easier when you sit down and don’t hate what you’re writing. Hence the lack of posts on this blog over the last . . . long time.

For added incentive, I sort of have to get this to a point I like before too long. I am going to Paradise Lost VI in San Antonio, TX, in April, 2016. In the critique track. So I have to have, you know . . . a thing to critique. I think it’s something like the first x chapters or the first x,000 words, plus a synopsis. I think I have enough that I could conceivably do the synopsis now, and maybe even use that as the outline for writing the rest of the novel.

Me? Do an outline? I’d be practically unrecognizable!

A while back, I posted something about J. K. Rowling’s method for plotting the Harry Potter series. After I posted that, I played around with the format until I landed on something I could maintain. I have a spreadsheet with columns for all my plot lines and rows for days/chapters. It was surprisingly easy to lay out several linear plot lines. I’ve known what has to happen in my story for a long time. It’s all that wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff where you have to smush them together into something coherent that was the issue. Because I kept trying to do that on the fly. I’ve been a pantser for as long as I’ve been writing. This whole ‘planning’ schtick is . . . hard.

There are twenty-one work days in December (plus four weekends and a two-day work holiday). Of those twenty-one, I will be at the office for only eleven. This means that for roughly two thirds of December, I will be at home. With nothing to do. Except write. If, that is, I can avoid the time-sucks that are Facebook and Twitter. And Codex. And Goodreads. And Reddit. And YouTube. And podcasts.

I may have a . . . slight problem.

Maybe what I’m leading up to is to take a month off social media to work on actual things that matter to me, or so I keep telling myself.

In other news, by the way, I have been submitting one story for publication. I’m currently waiting on a rejection from its fourth market so I can send it on to the fifth one. The waiting is the hardest part, because some markets have wait times measured in months. And this is a humorous, science fiction, flash piece. The number of markets is quite limited. :) I have other pieces I’m working on to get ready for submission, and will start those as soon as I think they’re done. And then have one or two people look them over to make sure there’s nothing else I can cut.

I could set an actual goal for December, if I put my mind to it. Something like . . . let’s say, getting two — no, three — more stories (of any length) ready for submission before 31 December.

There! I did it! I set a goal. An actual goal! And it’s a SMART goal, I think.

Which, of course, gives me the perfect opportunity to put a progress meter up for the actual writing of my novel, and for the SMART goal.

No, it’s not an elaborate form of procrastination. Really.


  1. This is not me being a pessimist. This is me being realistic. :) I’m not at the level in my writing where stories get accepted more than rejected, yet. Because I don’t write and submit as much as I should.
  2. Specific (3). Measurable (stories ready for submission). Achievable (it’s a stretch, but I can do it). Relevant (to my personal goals; duh). Time-bound (by December 31st, 2015).
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