Somewhat disappointing evening at Wafflers last night. To refresh your memory: dinner speaking group, meets once a month, and five members speak for about ten minutes each.
Rey is one of the better speakers there, and I'm not just saying that because she's my wife. She always comes up with something interesting, and tells it well. Once in a while, when she's feeling mischievous, she's delivered it in verse (and decent verse, with proper scansion and no horribly forced rhymes).
A couple of years back, just after one of these performances, another member decided that if Rey could do hers in verse, so could he. The result was excruciating
, and we still wince at the memory. (How bad was it? Let's just say that his chosen form for telling a long story was 'limerick'.)
But looking back on it... at least he tried. He told us a story about his holiday, and if the scansion was bad and the moral he tried to draw from it was annoying, at least he wrote ten minutes of material. I don't claim to be a great speaker, but I do at least put a fair bit of effort into preparation; even if I'm drawing on other sources (which I do fairly often), at least I'll put something of myself into it, and work those sources into an overall structure of my devising. On average, we only have to speak about twice a year each, and we get a month's notice; it's not really very onerous.
Of last night's speeches:
- Two speakers, I thought, did a good job of it. One told us about her recent holiday in Japan, and the other about her wedding forty-odd years ago. Nothing earth-shattering in either one, but they were well-told and personal.
- One told us three or four 'disaster survivor' stories in this format: person in awful situation, person treads water for 24 hours/holds out underground for days/walks down mountainside and across desert/etc, ask "What was it that gave them the strength to survive?", don't answer question, repeat until done without ever actually answering the question.
I can take a good guess at why he did this; Wafflers discourages people from focusing on sex, religion, politics, or other things liable to discomfit other members. For that reason, I would have been annoyed if he'd answered his own question by saying "Faith", or some such - but not as annoyed as I was by the bowdlerised version. At least if he'd broken the rules (which others have done before) his speech would've had a point
- One read out a long list of 'funnies' of the sort that annoying friends send you by email. The "you know you're old when" list, the Space Pen story (back to that in a bit), that sort of thing. Unfortunately, this sort of speech is getting pretty common - if I want ten minutes of filler from Internet sites without anything original from the speaker, I can go surfing for myself, thank you.
- And one produced a book of Goon Show scripts and read from it. It got some laughs here and there, because the original material was
very good, but again - original content nil.
So, all in all: two proper speeches, one that kept promising to make a point and then balking at the jump, and two that just didn't try. Things may improve again, but right now the group seems to be in a bit of a slump.
As for the Space Pen, I'm getting very tired of this particular dead horse:During the space race, NASA spent a bajillion dollars* developing an "astronaut pen" that would write in vacuum. How did the Russians deal with the problem? They used a pencil.
*The version on Snopes
says $1.5 million, but last night it had inflated to $150 million.
As Snopes explains, the facts of the matter are:( Read more... )
All in all, I think that particular episode was 'money well spent' on NASA's part.