Monday, March 1, 2010

Hamantash v. Latke

I participated in my first Latke-Hamantash Debate last night at the Buntport Theater in Denver.  I was one of four representatives for Team Hamantash, and I'm sorry to report that we lost on a very close audience vote, 43-41.  The competition was a ton of fun and very instructive.

Like most of my teammates, I played off the symbology of the triangular pastry.  My take was to liken it to the Holy Trinity of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.  While Kirk was the captain, he couldn't function properly without consulting with the passionate McCoy or the logical Spock.  The show consistently reminded us of the importance of balance.  I also mentioned the Realpolitik view of the "Star Trek" universe in which their are no permanent friends or enemies, just constantly shifting alliances.  I contrasted the Trek universe with the Manichean "Star Wars" one in which evil is ugly and good is pretty and there is no nuance.  I noted that the latke bears a resemblance to the Death Star.

From there, I pointed out the American trinity of the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches, noting the Madisonian ideals of checks and balances.  I contrasted this with the unitary theory of the executive propounded by the Bush administration, suggesting that the latke essentially represented George W. Bush.  If you believe in the need for nuance and balance, I offered, there really is only one choice.

Well, despite these efforts and some truly heroic histrionics by my teammates, we still lost.  I'm not sure how much actual persuasion occurred among the crowd, but one thing that stood out to me was that the latke team used our advantages against us.  We were the more technically advanced team -- most of us used Power Point with a laser pointer.  Team Latke, however, played up their Average Joe appeal by noting that their food consists of potatoes and oil, common working class fare.  They portrayed the hamantash as an elite pastry and our team as out of touch with the masses.  They turned us into John Kerry.  It was most impressive.

I think for next year, our strategy should be to immediately go negative on the potato.  We have to remove the positive connotations.  We should also maybe rebrand the hamantash as "poppy pockets" or something.


marc said...

The Hamantash filling is made of poppy seeds, right? There's your argument: we need them to subdue Afghanistan. Dozens -- really, lots -- of studies suggest that a vibrant market for legal poppy production will guy the Taliban arms fund. That means two things, both helpful to humans: 1) morphine, and 2) hamantashen. They're like our war bonds.

Marc's typo said...

gut. gut the arms fund. I was so excited I could barely type.

Seth Masket said...

Actually, during intermission, an audience member was suggesting that the opium trade was financing Al Qaeda, and that if Team Hamantash wins, so do the terrorists.

Unknown said...

There's a book on the debate if you really want to get into the weeds.