Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ken Do

Who is Bram Stoker?
(I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.)

That’s how Ken Jennings answered final Jeopardy last night – correctly, and with panache. Let’s see you have panache, Watson. Naturally process the language of my finger.

Ken was on his winning streak during 2004, the year I lived at home after college and commuted two hours and fifteen minutes each way to and from work. I left at 5:45 in the morning in order to get home at 6:30, leaving enough time to eat dinner before my mother and I sat down to watch Ken. We were Team Ken. We were members of the Kenadian House of Commons.

It was hard not to root for him. He was unassuming and self-deprecating. He was funny. He wrote his name a different way every night. He was a dorkatron, for sure, but he also knew about music and pop culture. Picture Ken at a wedding reception. He’s definitely the dude who could talk to the old guys intelligently about World War II, but I wager a thousand that he would also know all the words to “Baby Got Back.” Perhaps most importantly, he was clever in a way that delighted, not annoyed. There are those people you know whose intelligence is a challenge—I need to have read what they’ve read, I need to know more about the politics of the Middle East than they do, I need to add more Godard to my Netflix queue because they can fucking quote Breathless in French, I can’t believe they heard the new Robyn eight months before it came out. The Ken Jenningses of the world, though, are the kind of people who can make a cigarette disappear or predict the weather or know a funny story about a thing that happened in 1815 on this corner or can fix your watch at the dinner table with a paperclip and it’s no big deal.

Watching Ken, a software engineer, win each day was a balm for personal bruises. I was just out of college, temping, then working my first assistant job, and interviewing the whole time for something better. Rejection letters, endless commutes, few friends, and a growing realization that I needed to have at least four years of internships AND prolific author parents in order to get the kind of job I was hoping for were all pressure systems combining into a hurricane of glumness. Ken, though, was a daily reminder that my job wasn’t a closed caption under my name broadcasting the entirety of my meaning. Sometimes a software engineer is secretly magnificent. An assistant could secretly be, at the very least, TK.

I, for one, thank our old human overachievers.


Blogger Chris said...

Well done. Well said. What separates us from the machines our unique ability to connect Star Trek to Shakespeare (...or, even better, the WWE with Greek tragedies. From the perspective of a sci-fi fan, it's how we Grok that sets us apart, and ahead, of the toasters.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Melissa Threadgill said...

Glad to see you blogging again, Kathy. I think you're a fantastic writer, and I've missed reading your stuff.

12:59 PM  

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