- 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.)
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.