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Questions meme — questions from scholargipsy 
3rd-May-2005 11:51 pm
Me: profile in tree at BiCamp 2004
Been a while since I’ve posted anything terribly thoughtful, so I jumped on scholargipsy’s offer to ask me questions. Then, of course, I had a lovely but very busy weekend, so I’m just getting to them now.
1. If you had to change your voice so that it sounded like someone else's, whose voice would you choose and why?
When I first read this question, I had no idea. It’s hard for me even to think about, because my voice sounds so different to me than it does to anybody else, and I’m so used to it. (Incidentally, my father occasionally hinted that he didn’t like my voice, or that he thought it didn’t serve me well, or something. I guess it didn’t sound butch enough for him.)

But then during my date with cathijosephine on Friday, it became obvious: Eddie Izzard. Why? Because he’s funny and sexy.

I think I still might not sound butch enough for my father, though, even if I did sound like Eddie Izzard.

(Today at lunch when I was telling her about this post, cathijosephine mentioned Patrick Stewart, and yes, he’d be a good second choice.)

2. Which do you prefer in fiction? Happy endings, or tragic ones?
I don’t think I have a preference between these two, actually. I prefer true endings. Of course, now I have to go and define “true endings”, don’t I? As with obscenity, alas, I can’t define them, but I know them when I see them.
3. You're a pretty highbrow guy. Tell me one deeply, inarguably stupid comedy movie that reduces you to tears of laughter.
I’d have had a much easier time of this if you hadn’t put the word “inarguably” in there. I enjoyed Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure a lot, but is that inarguably stupid? I loved the South Park movie, but is it inarguably stupid? I mean, friends of mine have told me that it’s a perfectly-formed movie musical. I’d call both of those pretty stupid, but I’m not sure they reach the “inarguably” bar. If they count, I’ll go for them, though. (I enjoyed Scary Movie, but it didn’t reduce me to tears of laughter by a long shot.)

I’ll give an example of a stupid movie I didn’t like: American Pie. I rented it, and watched about twenty minutes of it before giving up. I almost never give up on a movie (or a book) once I’ve started it.

Actually, my guiltiest guilty pleasures are horror movies, rather than comedies. And I don’t mean the genre itself; I mean really bad horror movies. A horror movie can be pretty bad and still keep my attention.

4. How are you most like each of your parents?
Oooh, good question! “Most like” is a little tricky, but I can certainly pick out important things I got from each of them.

A good thing I got from my father is my love of books and learning. I grew up with several walls of the house completely covered with books, a few of them from the 1700s. (I don’t mean reprints, either.) His mother’s house was also full of books — she didn’t read books, but all his books from college were there, including German textbooks of an age to teach the “German alphabet” (meaning Fraktur). A bad thing I got from my father is my fear around money, and corresponding difficulty in managing it. He would take us out to eat fancy dinners towards the beginning of the month, and we’d be eating macaroni and cheese by the end of the month. And he had this strange mixture of a taste for material trappings of wealth and a conviction that he was poor, no matter how much he was making. I could see an argument for that when he was living with us, but towards the end of his life he was making well over 100k/year (and living by himself), and he was still always talking about how poor he was. I don’t have exactly the same issues with money he did, but I’m constantly worried about paying my bills, even if I have all the money in the bank to do it. Paying bills is a scary thing; I have this voice in my head that says “I can’t write this check, because they’ll find out I really don’t have the money”, even if I really do have the money.

From my mother I got a very thoughtful way of looking at the world around me. My mother taught me that there are reasons for things, even if you don’t happen to know what the reasons are. That it’s never wrong to ask “why?” And a lot of this was the sort of “why” questions you expect a child to ask a parent: Why is the sky blue? Why does water boil? Why do some things float and other things sink? But my mother also showed me that it made sense to ask “why” about people and their institutions, too — Why are these things illegal, and these other things legal? Why do most people like these things and not these other things? Why do governments fight wars? Why do people believe the things they do? And, just as with the physical world, sometimes the answers were simple and obvious, sometimes the answers were subtle and complex, and sometimes my mother didn’t have an answer, or wasn’t sure of it — but that didn’t mean there wasn’t one, or that it wasn’t a worthwhile question to ask. My mother didn’t so much teach me to question authority and conventional wisdom as just not teach me unquestioning obedience to them in the first place. And she taught me that it made sense to work things out for myself, and think about them, and wonder about them, and sometimes to look behind them or try to work them out from first principles. That’s one of many great debts I owe her.

5. Metaphorize yourself as one of the following classic monsters: Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein's monster, the Bride of Frankenstein, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, or the Invisible Man. Explain your choice.
This is a bit clumsy, since I’m not familiar with very many of these movie monsters. I’ve read one, count it, one of the books, seen a couple of the plays, and seen spoofs of a few of them, but most of this I’m only picking up indirectly via cultural osmosis. I haven’t even read Ralph Ellison. :-)

Still, I’ll stick my neck out, with the stitches and the bolts, and pick Frankenstein’s monster. As a child especially, I felt like an alien among villagers with pitchforks who didn’t understand me, and didn’t want to. (I know, I know, this is every geek’s story. I’m just answering the question, not trying to be original.) I was very very ill as a child with allergic asthma, and missed a lot of school and couldn’t play the way the other kids played, so there were huge social barriers between me and my peers — for which, really, I’m pretty grateful. Even as an adult, I feel like I’m not quite a part of society at large, but a visitor watching. I don’t feel the safety of belonging, as a general rule. Well, I’ve found my own community where I do feel like I belong, but I also feel like somewhere in the back of my head I’m trying to keep track of where the torches and the pitchforks are.

Needless to say, I feel much more this way since the last couple of presidential elections.

Who I’d like to be is the Invisible Man, and not just so I could sneak into the showers. (As a fantasy, that’s not so bad, but in reality it would be hideously creepy.) No, the big appeal of being the Invisible Man would just be to be left alone when I wanted to be. That’s going to seem strange to people who know me now; I seem (and am) so very outgoing and interested in people. And that’s definitely true and genuine. But I also have a strong need for solitude. As a child and young adult I spent huge amounts of time alone. Nowadays, it’s rare for me to have a day when I don’t have plans to see other people, and I love that about my life, but I also still need solitude sometimes. I like hosting parties at my house because I can sneak off into my bedroom or my office for 5 or 10 minutes of down-time if I need it. I love long drives with other people, but when I’m by myself in the car I love the solitude. The Invisible Man can be alone on a busy streetcorner if he wants to, and he can even still watch the people go by.

As is customary with this meme, comment if you’d like me to come up with five questions for you. No promises that I will get to it quickly.

4th-May-2005 04:10 am (UTC)
I'd like to play. . .if you don't mind. . .
4th-May-2005 09:58 pm (UTC)
  1. If you could invent a new gender for yourself, what would it be like?
  2. Speaking of liking to play, when did you first decide you were interested in BDSM? Why?
  3. What’s one way in which you wish you could snap your fingers and make most people more like you?
  4. What’s the most surprising situation in which you’ve encountered racism?
  5. What’s a little pleasure that you enjoy on a regular basis that most people don’t think of?
4th-May-2005 11:26 am (UTC)
Hit me!

Er, given whom I'm writing those words to, I should probably rephrase. I'd like five questions, please.
4th-May-2005 10:00 pm (UTC)
*Grin*. Here are your five questions. I wasn’t sure if it was OK to leave marks or not.
  1. Order these principles by descending importance: Honesty (and/or sincerity), loyalty, kindness (and/or gentleness), fairness. Why do you rank them the way you do? (Feel free to add other principles in if you feel like it.)
  2. You have to make a split-second decision (e.g., in some sort of accident) to save either a pleasant, promising high-school-aged student of yours or a close adult friend of yours. (Maybe they’re about to get hit by a truck, and they’re far enough apart that you can’t push both of them out of the way.) It’s clear to you that whoever you don’t save is going to die. Which one do you save?
  3. On a slightly related note, do you make better decisions under pressure, or when you have a lot of time to think about them?
  4. Imagine that either English culture or Japanese culture is going to be completely extinct 200 years from now. (No *people*, mind you, but the literature and art and film and customs and mores and cuisines.) Which loss would make you sadder, and why?
  5. If you were offered complete artistic success, and the knowledge that your writing would be affecting people for centuries after you were dead, like Shakespeare’s or Goethe’s or Aeschylus’, in exchange for never having a life partnership that lasted, would you take it? Why or why not?
4th-May-2005 11:55 am (UTC)
Those were amazingly good questions. I'm going to stick them in my questions file.

4th-May-2005 12:38 pm (UTC)
Hey, thanks!
4th-May-2005 02:44 pm (UTC)
"My mother didn’t so much teach me to question authority and conventional wisdom as just not teach me unquestioning obedience to them in the first place. And she taught me that it made sense to work things out for myself, and think about them, and wonder about them, and sometimes to look behind them or try to work them out from first principles. That’s one of many great debts I owe her."

Wow. What a wonderful thing to be able to say about a parent. I'm so glad you got that from your mother. (I got pretty much the exact opposite from mine; does yours want any really old daughters? :-))

"but I also feel like somewhere in the back of my head I’m trying to keep track of where the torches and the pitchforks are."

Yes, exactly. I've been trying to explain this feeling to relatives; yours is a good metaphor -- I think I'll steal it. :-)


4th-May-2005 03:58 pm (UTC)
Mind, y'all, that I mentioned Gregory Peck first, and when the 'Wabbit didn't recognize that reference I described Peck's voice as deeper and sexier than that of Patrick Stewart.

Important distinction, I say.
4th-May-2005 07:42 pm (UTC)
Jay's voice sounds light and sweet to me, and I can't think of anyone who sounds similar to him. (Of course, I'm very NOT tuned in to popular culture, so there could be a gazillion actors with similar voices, and I wouldn't know about them. :-))

4th-May-2005 08:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks! The question wasn't, who does my voice sound like; the question was, if I had to change my voice so it sounded like somebody else, who would I pick?

By the way, did you get my mail on Friday about possible dates to hang out? (I have a bit more concrete information now, if none of those times worked.)
5th-May-2005 02:17 pm (UTC)
I know it was about changing your voice, but I figured that it would be desirable for your new voice to sound a lot like the voice you have. :-)

Yup, I got your e-mail. I haven't been functioning all that well this week; I'll try to reply soon.


5th-May-2005 02:59 pm (UTC)
Ah! Now it all makes sense.
I'll try to reply soon.
Whenever’s convenient; I just wanted to make sure you weren’t waiting for a reply from me. Actually, I saw your post and thought ”Oh, $EXPLETIVE, I forgot to reply to her mail!“ and then looked back in my mail for your message in order to reply, and discovered quite to my surprise that I had already replied. :-)
4th-May-2005 08:34 pm (UTC)
Ah, but does Gregory Peck have an English accent? The only thing of his I've seen is The Omen, and if I'm remembering correctly, his character had the sort of erudite early-20th-century American accent that shades into English, but not really an English accent. And what do Eddie Izzard and Patrick Stewart have in common? English accents! And this thread demonstrates that English accents make one droolworthy.

Of course, I'm already droolworthy, so maybe an English accent would just be over the top. On the other hand, Eddie Izzard demonstrates that over the top is a good thing.
4th-May-2005 04:40 pm (UTC)
Hey, South Park is an extremely intelligent movie and one of the greatest musicals of the past 20-30 years!

And, I'm sure you know this, but he meant the H.G. Wells, not the Ralph Ellison.

You are one of the most thoughtful people I know, so I think it would be both a delight and a challenge to answer five questions from you.
4th-May-2005 10:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Here they are:
  1. Imagine you have some injury or illness and can no longer sing. Where do you channel that impulse?
  2. What have you learned about yourself since you’ve started playing rugby?
  3. How do you decide whether you’re dating somebody? What are the criteria you use to decide whether something is a "date" or not?
  4. What do you regularly notice about living in the US that people who’ve lived here all our lives probably miss?
  5. I know almost nothing about wine. Suppose (and this is not very far from the truth) that I only have enough brain cells to hold one wine in my head, and I need something reliable I can find and buy in any reasonably large liquor store that’s not going to embarrass me if I bring it to the house of somebody who knows wines. What should that be, and why?
4th-May-2005 10:15 pm (UTC)
please, please, please, please, please. :)

(one please per question, that is...)
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