Topical tips for cocktail chatter

With New Year’s Eve this weekend, many people will find themselves thrust into social situations. And whether you’re a social butterfly

With New Year’s Eve this weekend, many people will find themselves thrust into social situations. And whether you’re a social butterfly or wallflower, it helps to have something to say after you’ve resolved that the weather is pretty mild for this time of year.

To help you either change the topic or add to the chit chat, here’s a quick look at some of the news that might make its way into cocktail party conversation this weekend.

World economy

If you’re stuck in a corner of a party with a group of people talking about this, you want to re-think the kind of parties you go to.

Seriously, though it’s a topic that’s on many people’s minds, it’s not a lot of fun in dissecting this magnitude of a bummer. If you must chat about debt and the definition of an economic depression, you could point out that Greater Victoria’s unemployment rate of 6.1 per cent is slightly better than the national rate of 7.4 per cent.

Although this is likely to lead to various theories about housing bubbles. Better to avoid financial advice from the guy holding a plate of cocktail wienies.

Slip away and mingle with the folks talking about celebrities, which brings about the next topic.

Famous dead people

The Eurozone crisis and the U.S. Republican party leadership race are inevitable conversations if you’re talking to your dad over the holidays. But when you’re hanging with pals, someone is bound to bring up the latest gossip from the world of entertainment.

Assuming you’re not debating the authenticity of MIA (is she really a tigress fighting for fellow Tamils or a pop princess cashing in on her parents’ heritage?), celebrities made news for many reasons in 2011.

If you’re not equipped to opine on who made the best guest appearance on Glee, drop a few names to show you were paying attention.

Among the more notable passings, such as Amy Winehouse, Steve Jobs and Christopher Hitchens, 2011 was the final year for Col. Potter of M.A.S.H. (Harry Morgan) and the guy who penned Family Circus (Bill Keane).

Others who died include Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Rooney, Joe Frazier, Jack LaLanne, Betty Ford, Macho Man Randy Savage and Peter Falk.

The full list is too big to include everyone but there should be enough names here to add something to the mix.

Also, worth noting on a local level, 2011 marked the death of Alex Campbell the founder of homegrown grocer Thrifty Foods.

Drinking and driving

There were a few curve balls in December regarding provincial laws on impaired driving.

In 2010, the government introduced some of the country’s toughest laws against drinking and driving. Then, on Nov. 30, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jon Sigurdson ruled that those laws were unconstitutional.

That led to a fair amount of confusion about what level of alcohol consumption was acceptable before someone could get behind the wheel.

But, if someone at a party you’re at thinks they can now push the limit, please remind them that Justice Sigurdson changed his mind two days before Christmas.

The tough rules are back in place, at least until next June. Which is why, if you plan on having a few drinks while you’re out, one of the most important conversations will happen before the party starts.

Make sure you have a safe way to get home so it’s not something you have to think about when you’re just hitting your stride defending the ethics of unfriending someone on Facebook.

Have a Happy New year!

Jim Zeeben is the editor of the Saanich News.