First Date Ammunition: Conversation Starters April 11th

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Got a hot date tomorrow? Didn’t catch the news this week…or ever? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. This is a snapshot of what’s current in the world, so you’ll always have something interesting to say…on a first date or otherwise. Remember, if you want to find someone great, be someone great. Go get your read on.

POP CULTURE

What:  What’s all this hullaballoo about this ‘First Kiss’ video about strangers kissing?

The Essentials: This has become such a compelling video on its own that many people don’t realize it’s actually a commercial for women’s apparel maker Wren Studio.

Why It Matters: Obviously anything that is designed to appeal to an emotion is highly subjective to the viewer, but let’s try and break it down. It’s artfully tapped into a very compelling scene – that playful, vulnerable state where you really wouldn’t mind planting one on the lips of this new, interesting person and wonder if they feel the same. Add in the extra dimension that you’re doing it in front of a camera and crew, and the taboo element certainly spices things up. Very few of us in life have a first kiss with someone on camera (ideally). Who should make the first move? How passionate do you allow yourself to be? Did I brush my teeth recently enough? What if their breath stinks? Certainly all the kissers being fairly attractive and hip helps, but also take into account that the audience watching the video has sort of a voyeuristic thrill of being a witness to this mildly taboo idea of passionately kissing a perfect stranger.

FASHION & BEAUTY

What: Historically, pale skin and being overweight were seen as the pinnacle of female beauty in some cultures.

The Essentials: In other cultures & time periods, being very overweight or having a ‘plump’ wife was a sign of your high economic status, meaning you were successful enough to buy enough food to be obese in an otherwise food-poor time. Also at some points, having very pale skin meant you were successful enough to not have to work in the fields under hot sun like the average poor person.

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Why It Matters: Ever heard of the phrase “Rubenesque”, referring to a woman who has a little extra junk in the trunk, but still is pretty damn hot? It actually refers to 16th century Belgian artist Peter Paul Rubens, who liked big butts and he could not lie. He created a style of painting that adoringly documented plump, mostly naked women that would typically go against the current Western ideal of symmetry, thinness and tanned skin. Even today, in some countries, having an obese wife is a status symbol. Probably the most extreme example of this is in the West African country of Mauritania, where women are ritualistically fattened during their teen years in a practice called Gavage, by force feeding themselves huge portions of milk, fat & carb loaded meals over long periods of time. This is done willingly, and often with the help of ‘consultants’ to make sure they stick to their diet. We view it as very controversial, and it is undeniably unhealthy, but is prized in their culture. In India and other parts of south Asia, historically speaking, poor people had to spend most of their time in the fields tending to crops to survive. Working under the hot sun all day of course tended to cause your skin to darken, which therefore meant that if you were pale, you had higher economic status than a common subsistence field worker. As a pale person, therefore you were considered to be higher status than a field worker, more desirable as a mate. This affinity for pale skin persists even today in India where skin bleaching and keeping out of the sun remains a national obsession among high status seekers.

 ENTERTAINMENT

What: Game of Thrones tropes – it’s pretty much just middle ages Western Europe, the Middle East & Africa

The Essentials: Game of Thrones’ world of Westeros, Essos & Sothoryos seems pretty much based on Western Europe, the Middle East & Africa

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Why It Matters: It doesn’t really. But it’s mildly interesting, and people love Game of Thrones, so hey – might as well make this snappy observation and show your geography and history knowledge. The Game of Thrones world consists of 3 continents – Westeros (Europe), Essos (Middle East, Asia) and Sothyros (Africa). On Westeros, the truculent but undermanned cold-weather Starks of Winterfell are the Scots, the wealthy, treacherous Lannisters are the English, the Piracy-inclined Ironblood are the rebellious Irish, the Riverlands of House Tully and Frey are the Welsh, the hot blooded, passionate Dornish are Spain & Italy, the Stormlands of the Baratheons are the warlike Germans, and the cultured knights of the Vale are the French. The Free Cities are East & Central Europe, which is the last barrier between “civilization” and the wild savage horsemen from the great beyond are the Persians, Ottomans, Parthians, Mongols – all various menaces from “The Great Waste”. An alternate theory is that Westeros is solely based on England, Scotland, Wales & Ireland, and the horde of the Dothraki Horsemen just represents everything from Germany east.

SPORTS

What: Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves….Why are these teams’ nicknames suddenly a big deal?

The Essentials: North American sports teams with nicknames based on native Americans are considered by some to be racially insensitive stereotypes. Others see this a political correctness running wild against a name that’s not even meant to be insulting.

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Why It Matters: Well…it’s not really recent. This has been an issue to some people for decades. Society’s views on these have evolved over time to the point where it might make sense to consider changing these names to…well…anything else. Warriors maybe?. Both sides kind of have a point. You’d be hard pressed to claim it’s not even a LITTLE bit cheeky, at least. Yet you could also make the case of  The name Redskins is particularly iffy, though probably when they were named in 1932, it probably didn’t raise any eyebrows in a world where wildly racist language by today’s standards and open segregation of was still an accepted part of a number of western countries. But – times change. To those who think the name is a proud one, and not in any way offensive, consider if there were cartoon renditions of other cultures that were meant to be playful?

WORK

What: Some traditionally “middle-class” jobs are disappearing

The Essentials: Increasing automation, decline in demand and evolution of self-serve service jobs is making some jobs obsolete.

Why It Matters: The economy has always changed, for as long as there has ever been supply and demand. Candlemakers and buggy drivers used to huge industries before fuel lamps and cars. The change, though is usually pretty gradual and the reasons are often interesting in themselves. If you’re in these fields or know someone who is, it might be time for a change:

1. Gaming Cage Workers – If you’ve been to a casino lately you’ve seen that automated chip cashing machines are on the rise

2. Auto Insurance Claims Adjusters – Cars have been getting safer for decades. This is slowly reducing the number of accidents, and thus the number of claims

3. Floral Designers – Grocery & Big Box stores can sell flowers much more cheaply than speciality shops that tend to employ Floral Designers

4. Farmers – Farming continues to be ever more dominated by large industrial players, driving out the number of individual farmers through consolidation & automation

5. Power Plant Workers – The same mindset that pushes for energy efficiency pushes for plant operation efficiency. Newer plants have more computerized automation and require fewer human workers

6. Mortgage Brokers & Loan Officers – More online, more automation. This qualification process is being ever migrated onto web-based forms.

7. Computer chip makers & Electronic Equipment Assemblers. 4 reasons: Automation, automation, automation and continued global outsourcing to Asia

8. Warehouse Workers – Self-navigating robots that can ‘see’ obstacles and know the layout of the warehouse they work in will appear in more and more companies.

 




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