Sunday, 29 June 2008

Dinner Party

Tom Harris linked to his answers to a political questionnaire on Total Politics. His answers (and those of the other politicians interviewed) are vaguely interesting, but one of the questions was also one I wanted to ask on here:

Imagine you are planning a dinner party, pick six people (living or dead) to invite.

I can remember being asked this question a number of times (though usually with one rather than six people to invite). I think before university I generally said Alan Shearer, in first year maybe Stephen Fry, then later Derren Brown, and now probably Charlie Brooker. I'm rather restricting myself to modern, living, English men, there, but they're just my historical choices.

I'm not sure which six I'd pick, though I suppose it'd have to take into consideration people who would enjoy each other's company, rather than just six people who would entertain me. Would Abraham Lincoln and Jeremy Clarkson get on? Would Maralyn Monroe and Dave Gorman have anything to talk about? It's a difficult business, this dinner party organisation...

I'll have a think and put my six in the comments when I decide. Who would you pick?


James said...

The problem with a question like this is how you decide to answer it. Do you go for people you admire and want to meet (e.g. Einstein), people you know changed the world and you want to meet (e.g. Muhammad / Jesus), or people who you think would be fun to meet (e.g. John Cleese). Also, whatever you say, the next person will say something better / judge you for your choices. With that in mind, these are my 6:

- Archimedes / Leonardo da Vinci both partly to let them know that their thoughts still live on and so that I could impress them with my modern knowledge :-)

- George Washington / other writer of declaration of independence and US constitution for their thoughts on their actions, and again to show how far reaching their ideas have been.

- Martin Sheen, he's the star of both my favourite TV show and favourite film and seems like an all round great guy.

- Isaac Asimov & Terry Pratchett, my two favourite writers, hard to pick which, so I'd invite both.

- John Cleese, to keep everyone entertained.

For getting on with each other, I imagine Asimov would love to meet either of the top two, and George Washington and Martin Sheen have both been preident (in a sense), Terry Pratchett and John Cleese are both extremely funny (and therefore get on, obviously).

immedia reaction said...

Neil Gaiman, David Bowie, Tilda Swinton, Diana Wynne Jones, Ian Hislop, Jo Brand.

TheTelf said...

"The problem with a question like this is how you decide to answer it."

Well exactly, it's more a thought exercise than a question per se.

My shortlist atm is:

Stephen Fry
Derren Brown
Charlie Brooker
Michael Palin
Randall Munroe
Terry Pratchett
Quentin Tarantino

Abraham Lincoln
Charles Darwin
Nikola Tesla

Though that's really more of a "people I would like to meet" list than a recipe for dinner party success.

I mean, I can't really justify putting Gandhi and Charlie Brooker on the same list for anything, but nevertheless, there you go. I had a couple more actors on there, but it started turning into a list of celebrities I would like to meet, so I took them off.

It's interesting that Hannah picked 6 living people and that there are no women on either James or my lists.

James said...

I also realised that my list consists entirely of white men, ah well. That said I was trying to think of a woman or non-white person I would like to invite and really struggled. For women I still can't think of one who has done things I find interesting enough to replace any of the men I listed. Maybe that should be a challenge for Hannah :-)

For non-white maybe Ghandi or Confucious. Confucious especially could sit there saying wise things for everyone else to smile a nod thoughtfully to.

TheTelf said...

As middle class white men, I suspect we are influenced more by and aspire to be like other, more successful, middle class white men.

immedia reaction said...

Or it's just that you're both a couple of sexist tossers? :P

Off the top of my head before I rush out to the swimming pool, how about:

Mother Theresa
Emmeline Pankhurst
Florence Nightingale
Elizabeth I
Joan of Arc
Marie Stopes
Marie Curie
Whoopi Goldberg
That black American woman who refused to give up her seat to a white person on a bus, can't remember her name
Debbie Harry
Angela Rippon
Moira Stewart
Kate Adie

Will that be enough for now, you misogynistic bastards? :P

immedia reaction said...

And you could add to that list Indira Ghandhi and Benazir Bhutto.

immedia reaction said...

And Margaret Thatcher, Gwyneth Dunwoodie, Baroness Shirley Williams, Dame Brenda Hale, Margaret Attwood, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rosetti and JK Rowling.

TheTelf said...

Yah, 'cos what we said was totally that there were no great female icons, alive or dead.

At least half of the names you mentioned went through my head, but the fact is I can't see any of them making my top six. Assign that to whatever you will, but that's the way it is.

Queen Elizabeth I was clearly an amazingly important historical figure, but would I rather have a conversation over dinner with her or Derren Brown? It's going to have to be Derren. Not because he's a man and she's a woman, but because I feel I know more about him, have more in common with him, and would have more to say to him.

I don't feel that that's a misogynistic position to take, but naturally you're welcome to disagree.

immedia reaction said...

I wasn't being entirely serious. Hence the proliferation of :P

There might be some larger pattern at work in the fact that my list is entirely balanced and you and James both went for all men, but I wouldn't know what that would be and we're hardly a representative sample of the general population.

The question is probably not a good one to look for signs of gender bias in the answers thereof as there are so many factors that could determine how you select your people. If we're going simply on how well you feel you know them, I'd say I certainly know more about Elizabeth I than Derren Brown...

James said...

I guess the balance in my list was trying to have a mixture of people who I think of as really important and changed the world (through science or politics in this case) and people who appreciate the work of, acting, writing and humour and would like to meet for that purpose.

Whilst lots of women have done significant things, a lot of the time I feel their venerated partly because they were women and that was what made it amazing. Marie Curie, for example, certainly did a lot, but I don't think would go down as the greatest or most important physicist ever.

I agree that my later (non-historical) choices are almost certainly influenced by my middle-class-whiteness. (and the fact that women aren't funny)

TheTelf said...

"and the fact that women aren't funny" - Seriously, dude, Hannah does judo. Don't give her more excuse to hurt you than she already has...


James said...

yeah, but she's a woman, how much can HER judo really hurt?

immedia reaction said...

More than you might think... ask telf. And whether you're being strangled by a man or a woman becomes somewhat irrelevant when you can't breathe... Plus when judo options run out, there's always the last resort of a swift kick to the groin :P

On a serious note, I don't think the fact that a woman doing something remarkable for a woman in that particular time/context but perhaps not as good as her male contemporaries should devalue it. The fact that she achieved recognition in a world significantly stacked against her because of her gender is, to me anyway, just as important as what she did to achieve that recognition in the first place.

And telf, James said: "For women I still can't think of one who has done things I find interesting enough to replace any of the men I listed. Maybe that should be a challenge for Hannah" so although you didn't say there were no great female icons, I was listing as many as I could think of in response to see if any stirred him.

"And women aren't funny." And men aren't intelligent. Fact.