Coffee with a side of Snark

Would we drink coffee with Joan Rivers?

Kristy: I’m going to cautiously say, I think so. Let’s be honest, if in real life she was much like her television persona, she wasn’t a terribly “nice” person. That said, anyone who’s read my twitter feed knows I love cattiness more than I should, and Rivers could do catty like no one else. I suspect that coffee with her would include some hysterical people watching commentary, but there’s no way I’d get out without being on the receiving end of a barb or two. So it all comes down to whether my skin is thick enough. Judge me if you must, but I watched Fashion Police on a semi-regular (emphasis on the semi) basis and enjoyed the hell out of it, both for the fashion and the snark. Rivers’s humor crossed all kinds of lines to the point it was sometimes downright offensive. I actually appreciate that she never apologized, even though there were times she offended me. Humor often pokes at sites of discomfort and social anxiety; that’s why it’s awesome–it allows us to say things we can’t say and talk about things we can’t talk about. I’d actually like to talk to her about her philosophy of humor. Wikipedia tells me she had degrees in English Lit and Anthropology, which basically makes her right next door to a folklorist, so she might actually have some knowledge of humor theory.

I think the bottom line is, that I would like to have a cup of coffee with her because while there were times I didn’t necessarily like her, I respect her. I think we’ve discussed on this blog before the fact that it’s much harder for women to be funny than for men. Rivers was very much a pioneer in that area–she was the first woman to host a late night talk show, and sadly not many have followed after her. I’d love to talk to her about her thoughts on women in comedy today. Have we made progress? How do we make more?

I’m really just afraid of what she’ll say about my hair.
Cammy:  That’s simple:  I’m in.  That one may shock a few of you, dear readers, but I, oddly enough, have no hesitation.  I know going into this that I’m toast.  There really is no way I could avoid the fashion skewering, but knowing that going in, I’m okay.  And yes, she’s probably going to say something offensive, but then that frees me up to do the same.  Knowing she’s not “nice” and never has been, there is nothing to lose here at all.  It boils down to this: she’s funny, and she’s clearly smart.  And funny, smart people are exactly who you want to have at the table in the coffee shop, watching the patrons and letting the comments rip.  While I wouldn’t mind listening in on Kristy getting her to talk seriously about women in comedy, I really just kind of of want to let her do her thing: make me laugh.  And maybe my far more grievous fashion violations will draw away any fire about Kristy’s hair.

Coffee….or Carménère

Would we have Coffee With….Chilean President Michelle Bachelet?

Cammy:  Sure.  I mean, every-friggin’-where but here, gals are getting the top political job.  It’s almost getting to be old-hat.  Almost.  But even if we’d crossed into old hat territory, I think it would still be worth it to have coffee with Bachelet.  For one, thing, mad respect to a woman who has a medical degree and success in politics.  That pedigree puts her into that category with Angela Merkel (physicist) and Margaret “The Lady” Thatcher (chemical engineer) (could that be why we haven’t had a female president yet?  Should we be tapping the science department instead of the law department or wherever the fuck we’re getting the female set in US politics?  Me?  I’m hoping for a Computer Science Gal.  Preferably NOT me).  And then, well, she was tortured and exiled.  Even though she tends to play her torture down somewhat (generally pointing out that others suffered far more), doesn’t change the fact that she was tortured.  That puts her into a very unfortunate, and limited circle of world leaders, and I don’t think there are a lot of other girls in the club with her.  There is no way that cannot result in some serious insight and unique viewpoint on things.  Not saying I’m likely to agree with her politically, but I don’t agree with a lot of people politically, so it’s not like that’s a coffee-killer.  And if we can pull together a special bonus round, I want coffee with Bachelet AND Merkel.

Kristy: Definitely. As Cammy said, she’s got to have a fascinating life story, and I would love to hear her tell it. I would like to hear also what she thinks we’re doing wrong up here in los Estados (or what they’re doing right down south) that has enabled women to have more success seeking executive office. Besides her lack of a Y chromosome she has a couple of other factors that would make it harder for her to get elected in the US: she’s an open agnostic and she’s separated (for those not in the know, divorce was only legalized in Chile about ten years ago, so most people just stop living with their spouses when things go bad). I’d like her take on whether that’s a sign Chileans are just less uptight, or were those things she had to overcome. I’d also like to chat about relations between Latin American nations; she’s had some issues with Peru, Bolivia, and Cuba, does she have any thoughts on those? (other than simply telling Peru their maps are wrong)

Cammy:  And seeing as both Kristy and I are fans of a good Chilean Carmenere, I think we opt for wine over coffee here….

Coffee with the Lady of Mercia

Would we drink coffee with Aethelflaed?

Kristy: Yes. Surprise, surprise. Kristy’s willing to drink coffee with the badass medieval lady. But seriously, she would be an interesting one to talk to. Like most people from her era we know some of what she did, but very little of who she was. I would kind of like to know what she was like personality-wise. If Aethelred was already willing to make her co-ruler, you think she had to either be brilliant or super tough or both. Or was that all about impressing her daddy? Inquiring minds want to know. One of the things I like about her story is that while we have other examples of medieval women who got power through scheming and manipulation (which, admittedly, I enjoy as well), she seems to have just earned it outright. She was actually named ruler rather than having to find ways to control said rulers. I’d kind of be interested in hearing her perspective on the position of women after her time. A thousand years later England still seemed unsure of whether women should rule–you have to think she’d be a little miffed about that.

Cammy:  I have a strict policy which states I will always take the opportunity to sit down and drink any beverage with a person whose name begins with “Aethel-”   So far, the policy has not led me astray.  Not that it’s actually gone into practice anywhere but here, for beverages in the Spacial Anomaly Coffee Bar and Refueling Station, but nevertheless.  Realistically though, she seems like she must have been one smart cookie.  Kristy already covered the good questions, though I’d also like her two cents on the fact that she (like other women in history who were actually pretty awesome) is not even on people’s RADAR today?  I mean, I had no clue she existed until Kristy brought her up, and she’s not the first female monarch that’s been that way.

Coffee at Java the Hut

While we were away, I saved Veronica Mars. Sort of via the Kickstarter campaign, but mostly during my brief stint at a Nielsen viewer. I got a week long Nielsen survey in the mail and hosted a Veronica Mars marathon, in part so that we could log it in my diary. Less than a month later, the Kickstarter campaign hit. Coincidence? Probably, but that still makes this extra relevant.

Would we drink coffee with Veronica Mars?

Kristy: Is this a trick question? Absolutely. Unless she sent me a cryptic message inviting me to coffee since that would probably be a sign that she was setting me up for some sort of epic vengeance for something I had done wrong. And as much as I love the clever ways Veronica Mars gets back at those who have wronged her or her friends, there’s no way I want to be on the receiving end of said vengeance. But in a fictional world where I just get to sit and have a cuppa with with Ms. Veronica, it sounds like a blast. First of all, I feel I owe her a cup on behalf of all those who were bullied and/or socially repressed in high school. Second of all, it seems like it would be a blast. Can you imagine people watching with Veronica Mars? You know she’d have some hysterical things to say. Which, on that note, I’m going on record as saying that I’d order an iced coffee so that if I wind up snarffing and one of her witty comments it won’t hurt so bad. As anyone who’s watched the show too much, I’d of course like to ask a few questions like, “Okay, so I applaud you for getting away from the self-loathing rich boy type, but Piz? Really?” And “I know she’s a bitch and all, but why does Madison get the blame for drugging you when it was Dick who put it in her drink?” Plus, potential bonus, you might get to see Veronica make some privileged obnoxious person realize how worthless they really are. And that’s always fun.

Cammy:  On the one hand, I want to say “absolutely!”  but on the other, for as much fun as Veronica Mars is to watch, she kind of intimidates the shit outta me.  One wrong comment and she can and will verbally slice you into tiny pieces.  It would be my luck, I’d make a verbal misstep and wind up another victim of that razor wit.  I think Kristy is better suited for that match up.  So I’ll let her have the coffee and do the asking, and I’ll sit over at the bar and listen in (until Veronica calls me on my eavesdropping, then I’ll just have to go hang out somewhere else and get the play by play from Kristy later).

Coffee with Mary Magdalene

Would we drink coffee with Mary Magdalene?

Kristy: Okay, this suggestion comes from a colleague, who said if he could pick any historical figure to have coffee with, it would be her. She’s not the first person I’d pick, but I think I’d have coffee with her. I’m not sure I could turn down coffee with her, because what a great opportunity to fill in all sorts of historical mysteries, though on the other hand… asking the questions you’d need to ask could be really awkward. “So… tradition holds that you were a prostitute, but all the Bible says about you is that Jesus drove some unclean spirits out of you… what’s the truth there?” “Speaking of Jesus… you hitting that?” “So… The Davinci Code… what a pile of steaming crap, amiright?” (actually, I wouldn’t feel awkward about that last one at all) But yes, I would like to meet the woman, because I’ve suspected since the first time I read the Bible (yes, I’ve read the whole thing more than once, but I just skim the begats looking for interesting names) that the present perception of her, the folklorized version of her to drag out my dissertation for a second, is probably very different from the real woman. And I’d like to know what the real woman was like.

Cammy: I’m in.  Like Kristy, it’s really a matter of how could I not?  Strangely, I don’t feel any awkwardness in asking those questions (along with the “So, tell me, how do you feel about this all boys club image of Jesus’s road-crew?  Was it really the He-man Woman-Hater’s-Club?  Or is this something I should be blaming Paul/Faux-Paul for?”).   And beyond this, if you get one of the most infamous women in the Bible to sit down for coffee, why not ask her general opinion of how the gender gets treated in the book over all.  If anyone’s ever been entitled to an opinion on that subject, it’s her.  Only thing that would be better is if we could rope the BVM into the conversation at the same time.

Coffee With Control of Your Educational Destiny

Would we have Coffee With Sophia Stevens?

Cammy:  Well, maybe not coffee, since we’re talking about an 8th grader (and in 8th grade, my mother was still telling me coffee would stunt my growth…), but tea, soda, ice-cream–whatever works.  And yes, her parents can come along because I don’t want to be creepy (and because I want to give them kuddos for having an impressive daughter).  Any which way you cut it,  I want to give this young woman a high five, buy her some manner of beverage or snack, and assure her that she is not alone in her feelings about standardized tests.

When I came across this article on the Washington Post site Eighth grader designs standardized test that slams standardized tests, I scrambled to click through and read it.  I have zero use for standardized testing in schools, due in large part to the experiences I had with them during my own school years.  And from this article, it’s clear that Sophia Stevens is in the same boat.  She’s a good student, a good test taker–but she’s got no use for the system standardized testing imposes on kids.

And she’s right.

She uses the format of a standard “reading passage” section to convey her concerns about the wasted educational opportunities, the lack of accurate measure of success and the undue stress it puts on teachers and students alike.  My form of protest was not so witty (to prep for the writing section we were told to find a topic and write a persuasive essay–I wrote a persuasive essay about how prepping for these tests was a waste of my educational time), so I give extra props to Miss Stevens for turning the format on itself.  It’s inspired.  As one standardized testing hater to another, I’d like to ask her how long she’s felt this way.  What made her realize this whole mess was a problem?  Is she angry, or just annoyed?  Are there topics in particular that she feels are missed because of the focus on these exams?

While the sad truth is that The Powers That Be are no more likely to take Sophia’s creatively-expressed concerns any more to heart than the administrators at my school did my essay, I want to encourage her to keep saying it.  She is far from alone. And if the bureaucracy of education would fire a few synapses, they would listen to students like Sophia who are smart enough to pass these stupid tests and to point out what what a waste those tests are. It may be futile, but let the record show, that one bright girl tried to point out the stupidity of it all.


Kristy: Absolutely (and as someone who was drinking coffee in the 8th grade, if she wants a cup, I’ll totally buy it for her). I was told not all that long ago by a family member that the only reason I don’t support standardized tests is because I don’t care about kids. Yes. He was absolutely correct. I don’t care about kids. That’s why I spent two years teaching them for less than minimum wage and no health insurance. Because I just don’t care.

No wait… that’s not it… I oppose standardized tests because I’m the person who has to deal with these kids when they get out of high school still lacking basic skills like analytical thinking, creating a thesis statement, and putting together grammatically correct sentences. This determination that everything must be quantified on a standard scale is creating a generation of poorly programmed robots. An ad running in Indiana right now announces that one in three high school graduates in the state has to take remedial courses in college. It doesn’t mention the fact that where I teach, one of the largest universities in the state, students that should be in remedial classes don’t wind up taking them because the classes are overflowing.

I really applaud Sophia not just for realizing what crap these tests are but for coming up with such an ingenious, creative way to critique them. While we’re on the subject of creativity, I especially love that she points out the lack of creative thinking that results from test taking. I’m honestly not sure our society values creative thinking, which is upsetting. Not only is creative thinking at the core of the arts (and no matter what those who hold the purse strings in academia will tell you, the arts ARE important), I have it on good authority it’s an essential skill to progress beyond drudge level in the hard sciences. But yeah… why should we bother encouraging that in our society. I’m sure we have all the art and science we need.

For the record, I’m fairly awesome at test taking myself. I’m someone who works best under pressure and my brain just gets the system at work behind those suckers. You want proof standardized tests are a joke? I scored in the 95th percentile on the math portion of the GRE. And I barely passed high school math.

So yes, Sophia, you deserve a tasty treat of your choice on It’s My TV, It’s My Peanut Butter’s dime (by which I mean Cammy’s dime, because I’ve been too busy not caring about young people to earn a dime).

Heliocentric Coffee

Would we drink coffee with Nicolaus Copernicus?

Kristy: Sure. I mean the nice thing about those Renaissance Men was that they knew a little about everything, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find something to talk about. The bad thing about those Renaissance Men, of course, was that they knew a little about everything, so I will no doubt leave feeling like a colossal idiot. But hey, grad school as me well acquainted with that sensation. I’m going to do my best to skip the hard science discussion and ask him about two things I find much more interesting: education and national identity. Yes, I realize the man revolutionized science, and that’s important, but I also think that makes it that much more interesting to know what he thinks of our current educational models. Does he applaud the trends toward specialization or wish people were forced to be more well-rounded? And yes, I’m very curious to know what he considered himself: Polish? Prussian? German? Silesian? Do any of these terms mean anything at all to him? Yes, I know it’s no more relevant to him than it was to thousands of people of his generation, but I’m not having coffee with them. I’m having coffee with him, and while were there I’d like some insight into identity perceptions is fifteenth-century Poland.

Cammy:  Coffee with Copernicus?  To quote Gus from Psych, “You know that’s right!”  Of course I want to have coffee with him.  He’s a lawyer, he’s a scientist, no one knows what flavor of European to truly call him–he’s like my really poorly timed and incredibly funny lookin’ soul mate.  A huge part of my family comes with that same troublesome cultural classification issue (Prussian?  Polish?  German?  Silesian?  Just confused?), so maybe his insight into where he puts himself could help with putting my only family tree into the right buckets.  I’m not so scared of the hard science discussion, but I am more interested in some of what Kristy wants to talk to him about, particularly the specialization vs. seeking broad-based knowledge.  I’m guessing he’d have some choice comments to make about how we’ve divided up subject matter and, in some cases, pitted them against one another (art and science mutually exclusive?  Not for him!).  At least with him, we’re not going to be limited on topics.

Catholic Coffee

Would we have coffee with soon-to-be-former Pope Benedict?

Cammy:  In light of today’s shocker news that Pope Benedict is planning to retire via some means other than the grave, it seems like we ought to address whether we’d have coffee with the guy….and I’m gonna go with no, myself.  While I would totally love to ask about what really brought on this retirement thing (is he really doing it because he feels he can’t be the best Pope he can be?  Multiple centuries and he’s the first one to think that?  Really?), I doubt we’d get a straight answer.  And, to be honest, he always kinda creeped me out a little.  Pope John Paul was all warm and fuzzy and Polish-grandpa-esque.  Benedict?  Well, I go back to what my German Catholic friends said when he was first elected , “Ach!  Ratzi der Nazi!”  Also, being so painfully Lutheran with no close Catholic influences in my life, I’m pretty sure I lack the proper deference.  So unless Kristy’s feeling up to quizzing him….

Kristy: Yeah, it’s a no for me as well. Yeah, there’s lots of interesting stuff he could tell us, but I’m not convinced he would. I’m with Cammy on the creep factor, and it would be kind of hard to not ask things like, “So… how do you feel about the fact that your papacy will be primarily remembered for the whole child molestation thing?” I have lots of influential Catholics in my life, and it would be really hard for me to be disrespectful to him, but I think it would also be really hard for me to enjoy coffee with him.

Now is the Coffee of Our Discontent

Would we drink coffee with Richard III?

Kristy: With trepidation I say yes, if for no other reason than out of curiosity. The portraits you get of him are so varied, I want to know which is more accurate. I’ll admit most of my knowledge of him is from Shakespeare, who doesn’t paint the most flattering portrait. He’s witty and brings a fair bit of the funny in Shakespeare’s play, but he also orders the murder of several family members. I think it’s a fair bit the man was ruthless, you kind of had to be to survive in a noble family at that point, but was he any more so than his contemporaries? Inquiring minds want to know. He doesn’t seem to have been all bad. If wikipedia can be trusted he favored printing in vernacular languages and made publishing stuff in general easier. Aside from the possible baby killing he might not have been a bad king at all. So yeah, I’d like to just get a sense of the guy. I’d like to know how he feels about his own legacy (and being buried under a car park all those years). And if there’s a way to work it politely into conversation, yes, I’d love to ask, “So… what did happen to your nephews?”

Cammy:  I’m going for the “I-had-coffee-with-a-star-of-a-Shakespeare-play” factor and the potential to harass someone.  Anything I’d want to ask is generally pretty smart alec.  Kristy is covering the obvious, “Sooo, what’s up with those nephews?”  to which I also want to add, “So, have you seen what Shakespeare says about you?”  That should be a real doozy of a conversation right there.  And then, to add insult to injury I’d like to go with ,”So, the arrow in the ass–before or after you lost consciousness?”  and “How does it feel to know you’ve been entombed under a carpark in Leicester?”  Yeah, he’s going to hate having coffee with an ass like me.

Flying Coffee!

Would we drink coffee with Karl Wallenda?

Kristy: Yes. Now, I might have some explaining to do before we can sit down and enjoy our coffee. I’m a slack rope walker (slacker) and I might have mentioned a time or two that anyone can walk on a tightrope, it’s walking on a slack rope that takes skill. I’m not willing to retract that statement entirely, I do want to make it clear that I don’t think just anyone could do the things on a wire Karl Wallenda used to do. But I would love to ask that man what life was like in an early twentieth-century circus. I’d like to know more about his family history–every source I’ve read indicates his family had been doing circus for centuries, but they aren’t clear what they did at the circus. He seems to have learned rope walking elsewhere, so what field was his family in and how did they feel when he went elsewhere? I’m sure he has more than a few great stories about raising a family on the road with the circus. I’d like to know what he thinks it was that drove him to stunt wire walking rather than the typical big-top style performance. It’s a delicate question, but part of me wants to know about his final walk. When his great-grandson Nik was getting ready to walk across Niagra Falls, I was horrified that the channel kept showing footage of Karl’s final walk (they didn’t show his death, just the fall). For me, that’s something that people don’t need to see, but I wonder if Karl would agree with me. He was a lifelong showman, you kind of have to think that if he died giving a performance, he would want people to see it. I’d also like to know his opinion of the more modern style cirque shows. I know a lot of old school circus types that hate them because they say the “show” takes away from the actual acts, but I know there are also many who love them. What does he think?

Cammy:  Once again, I had not a single clue who this guy was until Kristy mentioned him above.  While I’m kind of interested in hearing about his family background (circus family for generations?  Now that’s kinda awesome), I’m a little leary of hearing about his actual high-wire daredevil stunts–I find the idea terrifying.  So I might be at the table for part of the conversation, and then retreat to far side of the bar over by the jukebox so my imagination doesn’t kick in with paralyzingly horrifying images as he describes any of his stunts.