Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

10 May 2009, 0:56 a.m.

Star Trek, Dilbert, Drunk History, And Self-Help Mysticism In One Inconvenient Package

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2009 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

"This will enhance shareholder value while ensuring continued GAAP strategic focus on a going-forward basis," I quipped in IRC, scaring colleagues. Yes, I can talk like the Pointy-Haired Boss when I want to. Brendan mentioned offhandedly that, after all, technobabble and bizlinga are basically similar. I'd read a parallel observation, on West Wing and Star Trek as meritocratic office fantasies, but I hadn't thought about that aspect of the jargon.

Some administrative technocratbabble would be useful in a Trek spinoff Leonard imagines, a version of TNG that focuses on the administration of the Enterprise. You may not know that The West Wing was supposed to be all the people who orbit the Oval Office, everyone but the POTUS. This TNG would be like that, Riker-centric, lots more of the meaty process and politics stuff we see in "Chain of Command" and "Lower Decks", and the B-plot of "Thine Own Self." Picard is aloof and melancholy because he's clinically depressed, and he's on antidepressants, but the bergamot in his Earl Grey tea reduces their effectiveness, so Riker runs interference. Okay, the bergamot thing is my idea, but basically I'm saying this would be what DeCandido's novel Articles of the Federation started getting at.

Pat was over the other night and suggested Leonard and I could use our nonalcoholic grape juice to fake Drunk Scifi videos, akin to Drunk History. "Lemme tell you, Paul Atreides was one badass m*^$#@f@&%*," I fake-slurred. We could use Drunk Scifi to create a sort of fanfilk of our favorite universes. La Forge gets the recognition he deserves. The Troi and Crusher characters get combined. I'm sure we know someone who looks enough like a young Wil Wheaton. Wait, it's funnier if he's hilariously unlike Wheaton. Leonard in a wig for no good reason.

Kevin doubts that the Drunk History people are just regular folk with some specific pet interest. He thinks they're history grad students. He reasons: when you're severely drunk, what can you tell a coherent narrative about? Your life's work. The domains you know best. He might be right, but I hold out hope that Derek Waters's friends are just undiscovered Sarahs Vowell and Kates Beaton.

It's a kind of improv, this thing you can do with mastery. The joy always surprises me, and I need to remember it so I don't give up during the grind.

I'm remembering an awe-inspiring riff Tara Copeland improvised in MOTHER about the phrase "Jordan Knight, it's all right," all her New Kids On The Block fandom like the length of the spear driving the point home. Our obsessions get us to this place, where we've gone past crawling and toddling and walking and running -- now we can dance.


11 May 2009, 14:19 p.m.

Hi there, nice journal, loving it! Used the word "leverage" in conversation the other day and spent a few days contemplating how exactly I was going to kill that memory, until I realized that I tolerate technobabble, l33tspeak and other lingo, so why not this?

Which brings up the question: When and how do we say what we mean without wasting time?