The holidays are for three things: eating, sleeping, and one-upping your relatives. We at TIME never eat or sleep, but we can help you with that last one.
If the news is good for anything, it’s for changing the subject. Cousin Tara telling you all the reasons she went vegan? We’ve got your back. Uncle Ronald asking you when you’ll get a “real job?” You’ll be armed and ready. Your sister saying she’ll “start dating boys who have good personalities instead of good looks, just like you?” Actually, not much we can do there.
Here are six things to say that can get you out of awkward situations and make you sound smarter than your brother with the law degree.
1. I kind of thought our politicians were on drugs. Now, we know they are.
Please accept my condolences for missing this gem of a story. Rob Ford, mayor of the great city of Toronto, was caught smoking crack earlier this year when a video surfaced showing the illegal drug use in action. At first Ford denied the crack-smoking, but he later admitted he had smoked crack that one time but was not going to resign. The man cannot stop making scandals.
Ford’s not the only public servant who hasn’t been keeping his nose clean. Freshman Republican Congressman Trey Radel recently got busted for buying cocaine from an undercover cop in Washington, D.C., and is taking a leave of absence from the House to seek treatment.
Read: Don’t Count Rob Ford Out
2. Obama’s legacy is now in the hands of the I.T. department.
If you’ve slept through the near-constant health care coverage over the last year, you’re not alone. The world’s two biggest headaches, health insurance and computer issues, weren’t careful during their one-night stand and accidentally produced an even bigger headache called the Obamacare website. But here’s what you need to know: Earlier this year, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas staged a filibuster to defund Obamacare, but the funding went through anyway. Since the Obamacare enrollment website launched on October 1st, everyone’s just been getting the spinning wheel of death when they try to sign up for health care coverage. Obama’s administration was on the defensive anyway because they built such a dodgy website. Things got even worse when some Americans learned they might lose their current coverage, even though Obama repeatedly said “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”
Read This: Launches and Legacies
3. Well, maybe, Obama doesn’t need the I.T. department after all.
Now we’re bringing out the big guns, Smartypants. Last week, the G5+1 (China, France, Russia, Britain, the United States, plus Germany) reached a deal with Iran that means they will halt and roll back their nuclear program in exchanged for loosened economic sanctions. It’s only temporary– the deal is intended to buy time to come up with a more permanent solution–but it could represent real progress in negotiating with Iran to prevent their developing nuclear weapons. Iran stands to gain over $5 billion in revenue from released oil and trade sanctions, and the rest of the world is one step closer to sleeping easy at night.
Read This: The Stars are Aligned on Iran
4. Nothing gets past the Internet.
Earlier this year, one of the greatest love stories in sports was revealed to be a total hoax. Manti Te’o, a linebacker at Notre Dame, was totally in love with his girlfriend Lennay Kekua, who was both a cancer patient and a car accident survivor. The day after she died, Te’o led his team to victory because that’s what she would have wanted. So we thought. It turns out Lennay Kekua didn’t die a tragic death, because Lennay Kekua didn’t exist. The whole thing was an elaborate hoax, as TIME’s Jack Dickey helped uncover during his salad days at sports blog Deadspin.
Read This: Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, the Most Heartbreaking and Inspirational Story of the College Football Season, Is A Hoax
5. Hollywood is finally paying attention to television. Here’s how I’ll spoil it for you.
The best show on TV ended this year, and if you didn’t watch it, you missed out. It ended like this: Walter White, the megalomaniac chemistry teacher turned meth dealer played by Bryan Cranston, returned from exile to avenge the death of his brother-in-law, DEA Agent Hank, and to get revenge for all the money a White Power gang stole from him. He sets up a ruse to make sure his family is provided for, then kills the gang and himself with a jerry-rigged machine gun. His sidekick, the unlucky Jesse Pinkman, is the only one who escapes the bloodbath. The show is important not just because it was the biggest entertainment story of the year, but because it shepherded in a new, TV-centric Hollywood. Sony Pictures, one of Hollywood’s biggest studios, recently announced they would be focusing more on TV development than moviemaking.
Read This: Is There Too Much Great TV or Too Little?
6. Commoners rule.
Will and Kate welcomed a healthy baby boy this year, and if you don’t want to dig into any of the thornier topics listed here, this one’s a fairly innocuous bet. The baby is adorable! Kate wore blue! He’s named George and one day he’ll be king! You could crow about it with your female relatives (how did Kate lose all that baby weight?) or, if you want to get provocative, you make it into a conversation about feminism. What is a woman’s role in the 21st century, anyway? Or, even better, you can get into a discussion about the role of the monarchy in modern British life (goody!) George, thanks to mum Kate, is the first person in line for Britain’s throne with common blood, a source of inspiration for us all.
Read This: The Half-Blood Prince