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In a recent phone call with an old friend, I complained, in my First World way, about how conversations and social interactions had suffered during the coronavirus pandemic because the only thing there was to talk about was the coronavirus pandemic.

“Oh, there are more things to talk about,” my friend replied. “People just don’t want to talk about them.”

After some reflection, I realized my friend was right, as he usually is. There are at least a few topics to discuss besides COVID-19, some of them not so pleasant.

If you and your friends have grown weary of dissecting the latest COVID-19 Task Force briefing or mulling over whether you should wear a mask while gardening, here are seven icebreakers to add a little variety to your phone, text or socially-distanced driveway conversations during this strange and awkward time.

Korean baseball

As you probably already know, the NC Dinos are off to a 10-1 start atop the league standings for the Korean Baseball Organization, although the third-place LG Twins reeled off six straight wins before last Sunday’s loss to Kiwoom.

The KBO, which opened its season in early May before crowds of mostly stuffed animals (along with vivacious baseball cheerleaders), is one of the few live sporting events to watch on ESPN.

It’ll have to do until Major League Baseball starts its season, perhaps as soon as early July — or as late as April 2021.

White people doing horrible things

The appalling death of George Floyd under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee was just one instance of African American men being victimized by white folks in the past week. There was also the case of Amy Cooper, who called the police on a bird watcher in Central Park because he asked her to leash her dog. A few days earlier, a Florida woman accused two black men of abducting her autistic son before surveillance cameras revealed she drowned the nine-year-old by pushing him into a canal. Finally, a Georgia youth pastor claimed he was kidnapped by two black men before admitting he was at a hotel to meet a male prostitute.

All of this just in the past week.

As my former Hallmark Cards colleague Tara Jaye Frank eloquently writes in this blog piece, it’s not enough for white people to feel sadness about these events. Clearly, more must be done. Perhaps it can start with a conversation on why these racist attacks keep happening on a drumbeat basis in the world’s largest and most powerful liberal democracy.

The Presidential Election

The last time I checked, the U.S. presidential election was still happening on the first Tuesday in November. Donald Trump has not yet demanded it be canceled due to social distancing concerns (although don’t be surprised if he does). Until then, there is much to discuss. Who will Joe Biden select as his running mate? Can a sitting president survive more than 100,000 deaths, a collapsed economy and a 15% unemployment rate? What are the Russians going to do about this, and why can’t anyone under the age of 70 win their party’s nomination for the general election?

So many unanswered questions about what could be The Most Important Election of Our Lives (or at least the most important once since 2016).

Cornhole championships

Most live sporting events have ceased, but there’s always the American Cornhole League, televised regularly by ESPN, in which masked people take turns trying to toss beanbags into a box with a little hole. Not exactly must-see-TV, but still more exciting than NASCAR for people who absolutely must consume televised sporting events during these times.

That new Jeffrey Epstein documentary

Want to be totally creeped out? Watch the first two minutes of this new Netflix series, which starts with criminal deposition footage of Epstein in 2012. Not sure I need to watch four hours of Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, but the story of a serial rapist/child molester and his powerful friends is sure to be talked about in the coming weeks.

Those simple, carefree days when we almost had a war with Iran

Hard to remember now, but the big story in January wasn’t coronavirus (although it maybe should have been) but the near certainty that we were going to war with Iran.
Fortunately, Trump’s targeted killing of Iranian military chief Qasem Soleimani and Iran’s missile strike rebuttal did not lead to a larger conflict. But these two rivals could be at it again soon enough. Or maybe it will the U.S. vs North Korea next time? Or China?

The disappointment of “Onward.”

There are precious few certainties in this life: death, taxes, people behaving stupidly and, finally, Pixar putting out a polished, smart movie about the human condition that adults and children alike can enjoy.

That last certainty was shattered with the March release of Onward, a sentimental road-trip movie about two brothers on a quest to bring their late father back to life for just one day. Also, the brothers are mythical creatures, and their father’s spirit is reduced to a pair of slacks for almost the entire movie. Also, one of the brothers is an adult Dungeons & Dragons fanboy voiced by Chris Pratt.

You get the idea. A pretty mediocre effort from the Disney-owned studio that gave us Toy Story, Up, Wall-E and many other classics. In fact, I just had to double-check IMDB to be certain Onward wasn’t a DreamWorks production. That’s the kind of bland, formulaic storytelling I’m talking about here.

Disagree with me? Fine. Let’s have a conversation about that.