My Tribute to My Latest Literary Hero: Chuck Klosterman
These 23 questions were found within the pages of Chuck’s “Sex, Drugs and Cocopuffs: A Cultural Manifesto” Here are my answers:
1. Let us assume you met a rudimentary magician. Let us assume he can do five simple tricks — he can pull a rabbit out of his hat, he can make a coin disappear, he can turn the ace of spades into the Joker card, and two others in a similar vein. These are his only tricks and he can’t learn any more; he can only do these five. However, it turns out he’s doing these five tricks with real magic. It’s not an illusion; he can actually conjure the bunny out of the ether and he can move the coin through space. He’s legitimately magical, but extremely limited in scope and influence. Would this person be more impressive than Albert Einstein?
ANSWER: Although he’s not applying his talents in a more expansive way to make more money, expand his audience or help the world, I still have to say that the magician is more impressive for the sheer fact that he has REAL magic. I have always been fascinated by illusion being reality. Granted, Einstein spent a lot of time and cognitive energy, which displays motivation, tenacity and drive, all of which this magician clearly lacks, rendering Einstein the better PERSON. However, I definitely more fascinated and impressed by the fact that real magic really exists. It opens up the possibility that us humans have more capacities that thought before. That is, the magician represents something bigger about humans that I would enjoy pondering and writing about much more than I would about Einstein.
2. Let us assume a fully grown, completely healthy Clydesdale horse has his hooves shackled to the ground while his head is held in place with thick rope. He is conscious and standing upright, but completely immobile. And let us assume that–for some reason–every political prisoner on earth (as cited by Amnesty International) will be released from captivity if you can kick this horse to death in less than twenty minutes. You are allowed to wear steel-toed boots.
Although I’ve realized in my life that I, too, have the capability to harm another being even till death, I would not kick this horse to death. I could do the political prisoners more service by signing petitions and being a voice for them via grassroots and community organizations, meetings with Amnesty International, etc. Furthermore, they should be released on their own recognizance.
3. Let us assume there are two boxes on a table. In one box, there is a relatively normal turtle; in the other, Adolf Hitler’s skull. You have to select one of these items for your home. If you select the turtle, you can’t give it away and you have to keep it alive for two years; if either of these parameters are not met, you will be fined $999 by the state. If you select Hitler’s skull, you are required to display it in a semi-prominent location in your living room for the same amount of time, although you will be paid a stipend of $120 per month for doing so. Display of the skull must be apolitical. Which option do you select?
Aside from the sheer fact that I would enjoy caring for a turtle, and if I’m fined so be it, I would NOT put any skull, much less Hitler’s, in my living room or anywhere in my house for that matter, for any amount of money! (Although we can talk if I’m really really broke). Therefore, I would go for the turtle.
4. Genetic engineers at Johns Hopkins University announce that they have developed a so-called “super gorilla.” Though the animal cannot speak, it has a sign language lexicon of over twelve thousand words, an I.Q. of almost 85, and –most notably– a vague sense of self-awareness. Oddly, the creature (who weighs seven hundred pounds) becomes fascinated by football. The gorilla aspires to play the game at its highest level and quickly develops the rudimentary skills of a defensive end. ESPN analyst Tom Jackson speculates that this gorilla would be “borderline unblockable” and would likely average six sacks a game (although Jackson concedes the beast might be susceptible to counters and misdirection plays). Meanwhile, the gorilla has made it clear he would never intentionally injure any opponent. You are commissioner of the NFL: Would you allow this gorilla to sign with the Oakland Raiders?
ANSWER: Ok, as little as I know about sports, I feel I do have a say in this since I am a human being that respects healthy and fair competition among human beings. Furthermore, aside from the fact that I strongly oppose GMO anything, especially bipedal mammals, if this really actually became a reality, I would have to say NO. I would not want to allow the gorilla to be a part of any competitive sports team because it would not only be dangerous to the players, but it would simultaneously give an unfair advantage to any opposing team, while giving a disadvantage to its own team from its counters and misdirection plays. Above all, having these unfair advantages and disadvantages would be extremely dangerous to the ethos of the game, and competition in general, in the first place. We just wouldn’t want to open that can of worms.
5. You meet your soul mate. However, there is a catch: Every three years, someone will break both of your soul mate’s collarbones with a Crescent wrench, and there is only one way you can stop this from happening: You must swallow a pill that will make every song you hear — for the rest of your life — sound as if it’s being performed by the band Alice in Chains. When you hear Creedence Clearwater Revival on the radio, it will sound (to your ears) like it’s being played by Alice in Chains. If you see Radiohead live, every one of their tunes will sound like it’s being covered by Alice in Chains. When you hear a commercial jingle on TV, it will sound like Alice in Chains; if you sing to yourself in the shower, your voice will sound like deceased Alice vocalist Layne Staley performing a capella (but it will only sound this way to you). Would you swallow the pill?
ANSWER: I would not swallow the pill. I would better be able to help this soul mate by letting him free. I would be doing the soul mate a disservice anyway by not being able to diversify my listening and always be bitching and complaining about Alice in Chains until he finally exclaims “I would rather have my collarbone beaten by a clavicle once every three years than listen to YOU caterwaul about Alice in Chains!”
6. At long last, someone invents “the dream VCR.” This machine allows you to tape an entire evening’s worth of your own dreams, which you can then watch at your leisure. However, the inventor of the dream VCR will only allow you to use this device of you agree to a strange caveat: When you watch your dreams, you must do so with your family and your closest friends in the same room. They get to watch your dreams along with you. And if you don’t agree to this, you can’t use the dream VCR. Would you still do this?
ANSWER: No question! Get out the jigsaw puzzles, my family and I would thoroughly enjoy watching my dreams for days on end and analyzing and discussing all the possible meanings and symbolisms therein. Nobody would be offended; after all, you can’t control what you dream, and there are SO many possible interpretations that it would be fun!
7. Defying all expectation, a group of Scottish marine biologists capture a live Loch Ness Monster. In an almost unbelievable coincidence, a bear hunter in the Pacific Northwest shoots a Sasquatch in the thigh, thereby allowing zoologists to take the furry monster into captivity. These events happen on the same afternoon. That evening, the president announces he may have thyroid cancer and will undergo a biopsy later that week. You are the front page editor of The New York Times: What do you play as the biggest story?
ANSWER: The president story, obviously. You gotta give people what you think they want. The typical “American” has very little interest in the lives and lore of other people and cultures.
8. You meet the perfect person. Romantically, this person is ideal: You find them physically attractive, intellectually stimulating, consistently funny, and deeply compassionate. However, they have one quirk: This individual is obsessed with Jim Henson’s gothic puppet fantasy The Dark Crystal. Beyond watching it on DVD at least once a month, he/she peppers casual conversation with Dark Crystal references, uses Dark Crystal analogies to explain everyday events, and occasionally likes to talk intensely about the film’s “deeper philosophy.” Would this be enough to stop you from marrying this individual?
ANSWER: Obviously this individual is NOT intellectually stimulating nor consistently funny if they are constantly referencing that inane movie and doesn’t have any “ganas” in expanding their universe beyond it. Therefore, he would consequently start looking less attractive, too. It all points to not having the longevity that a married couple needs to have in order to be successful.
9. A novel titled Interior Mirror is released to mammoth commercial success (despite middling reviews). However, a curious social trend emerges: Though no one can prove a direct scientific link, it appears that almost 30 percent of the people who read this book immediately become homosexual. Many of these newfound homosexuals credit the book for helping them reach this conclusion about their orientation, despite the fact that Interior Mirror is ostensibly a crime novel with no homoerotic content (and was written by a straight man). Would this phenomenon increase (or decrease) the likelihood of you reading this book?
ANSWER: Ok, this book sounds interesting, but once anything becomes a mammoth commercial success, I am MUCH less likely to read anything, regardless of the phenomenon it involves or its genre. However, the fact that it has middling reviews may entice me enough to peruse the first five pages to see if I like the language, style, tone, etc, since reviews tend to stray from my own opinions at times. That is, if it only had middling reviews, I would be much more likely to check it out. However, the mammoth commercial success turns me off to it.
10. This is the opening line of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City: “You are not the kind of guy who would be in a place like this at this time of the morning.” Think about that line in the context of the novel (assuming you’ve read it). Now go to your CD collection and find Heart’s Little Queen album (assuming you own it). Listen to the opening riff to “Barracuda.” Which of these two introductions is a higher form of art?
ANSWER: The Barracuda riff is no questionably the higher form of art. It has passion and intensity under which is influenced by the title, genre and emotion of the song. It has spawned dozens, and maybe even hundreds of ripoffs and knockoffs, heard on today’s tv shows and movies to punctuate them and tell us how to feel. It’s like some of Shakespeare’s lines; so over-emulated that they have become cliché. McInerney’s line, on the other hand, is inorganically trying to pull you in by starting the book with—essentially—its thesis sentence.
11. You are watching a movie in a crowded theater. Though the plot is mediocre, you find yourself dazzled by the special effects. But with twenty minutes left in the film, you are struck with an undeniable feeling of doom: You are suddenly certain your mother has just died. There is no logical reason for this to be true, but you are certain of it. You are overtaken with the irrational metaphysical sense that — somewhere — your mom has just perished. But this is only an intuitive, amorphous feeling; there is no evidence for this, and your mother has not been ill. Would you immediately exit the theater, or would you finish watching the movie?
ANSWER: I would not be voluntarily watching this sort of movie in the first place. However, if I were held hostage by some date or someone, I would probably welcome any excuse whatsoever to leave the theater, primarily because I would be bored out of my skull. However, what a horrible, dreadful feeling!! If something happened to my mom….!!! I can’t deal with that kind of reality. It’s emotionally safer for me to hide my head in the proverbial sand to not have to face that kind of information, so no, I would not leave the theater. I would ensconce myself in the darkness and empty plotline and the big noises.
12. You meet a wizard in downtown Chicago. The wizard tells you he can make you more attractive if you pay him money. When you ask how this process works, the wizard points to a random person on the street. You look at this random stranger. The wizard says, “I will now make them a dollar more attractive.” He waves his magic wand. Ostensibly, this person does not change at all; as far as you can tell, nothing is different. But–somehow–this person is suddenly a little more appealing. The tangible difference is invisible to the naked eye, but you can’t deny that this person is vaguely sexier. This wizard has a weird rule, though–you can only pay him once. You can’t keep giving him money until you’re satisfied. You can only pay him one lump sum up front. How much cash do you give the wizard?
ANSWER: I give the wizard $3: one for my nose, one for my fat, and one for my gray hair.
13. Every person you have ever slept with is invited to a banquet where you are the guest of honor. No one will be in attendance except you, the collection of your former lovers, and the catering service. After the meal, you are asked to give a fifteen-minute speech to the assembly. What do you talk about?
ANSWER: Ok, my outline would go as follows:
A: Thank them for coming, glad they all could make it
B: take a verbal opinion poll of all on the food: good/bad/excellent in taste, texture, freshness
C: take a verbal opinion poll comparing my cooking with that of the catering co; same criteria
D: verbal survey: how would you change the dishes? Can you guess how I would rate them?
Obviously this would take more than 15 minutes, but that’s ok. This is the one instance that I would NOT want to respect the time; after all, this is about me!!
Furthermore, I value all these guys and their opinions; otherwise I would have never slept with them in the first place (except for those with which I had less of a choice. Do they count, too?) This sentiment would also be shared in the intro.
14. For reasons that cannot be explained, cats can suddenly read at a twelfth-grade level. They can’t talk and they can’t write, but they can read silently and understand the text. Many cats love this new skill, because they now have something to do all day while they lay around the house; however, a few cats become depressed, because reading forces them to realize the limitations of their existence (not to mention the utter frustration of being unable to express themselves). This being the case, do you think the average cat would enjoy Garfield, or would cats find this cartoon to be an insulting caricature?
ANSWER: The cat would definitely be insulted by Garfield, just as any person would be insulted by someone trying to make a joke of; and generalities of human behavior. It would think “how dare them? I’m not Garfield and it’s unfair to assume that just as he’s a “cat” that he has nything in common with me?! I eat spiders, I hate lasagna, and Garfield is fat and lazy… and I definitely have never seen a female cat with a space between her teeth with breath clean enough that I would want to get close enough to to hold a conversation with.
15. You have a brain tumor. Though there is no discomfort at the moment, this tumor would unquestionably kill you in six months. However, your life can (and will) be saved by an operation; the only downside is that there will be a brutal incision to your frontal lobe. After the surgery, you will be significantly less intelligent. You will still be a fully functioning adult, but you will be less logical, you will have a terrible memory, and you will have little ability to understand complex concepts or difficult ideas. The surgery is in two weeks. How do you spend the next fourteen days?
ANSWER: I’d rather die! But I guess I will not get bored if my cognitive capabilities are significantly reduced, although a lot of meaning of life will be stripped down and I will thereby be an official member of the average U.S. culture! Therefore I will spend those two weeks celebrating all my cognitive abilities by observing, critically analyzing and writing about every social interaction with people, animals and nature; every movie, tv show and text I see and hear. Process and synthesize all my notes into a cohesive and coherent text. Can I do all that in 14 days?!
16. Someone builds an optical portal that allows you to see a vision of your own life in the future (it’s essentially a crystal ball that shows a randomly selected image of what your life will be like in twenty years). You can only see into this portal for thirty seconds. When you finally peer into the crystal, you see yourself in a living room, two decades older than you are today. You are watching a Canadian football game, and you are extremely happy. You are wearing a CFL jersey. Your chair is surrounded by books and magazines that promote the Canadian Football League, and there are CFL pennants covering your walls. You are alone in the room, but you are gleefully muttering about historical moments in Canadian football history. It becomes clear that—for some unknown reason—you have become obsessed with Canadian football. And this future is static and absolute; no matter what you do, this future will happen. The optical portal is never wrong. This destiny cannot be changed. The next day, you are flipping through television channels and randomly come across a pre-season CFL game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Knowing your inevitable future, do you now watch it?
ANSWER: Ugh. I’ll put that off as long as I possibly can! I hate sports, especially football, and especially watching it. And all that memorabilia is just tacky and ugly!!
17. You are sitting in an empty bar (in a town you’ve never before visited), drinking Bacardi with a soft-spoken acquaintance you barely know. After an hour, a third individual walks into the tavern and sits by himself, and you ask your acquaintance who the new man is. “Be careful of that guy,” you are told. “He is a man with a past.” A few minutes later, a fourth person enters the bar; he also sits alone. You ask your acquaintance who this new individual is. “Be careful of that guy, too,” he says. “He is a man with no past.” Which of these two people do you trust less?
ANSWER: The no past guy: it is evident that there are plenty of resources regarding the man with the past to inform, thus protect me from possible emotional or financial harm.
18. You have won a prize. The prize has two options, and you can choose either (but not both). The first option is a year in Europe with a monthly stipend of $2,000. The second option is ten minutes on the moon. Which option do you select?
ANSWER: I would choose going to the moon because it is obvious this prize is worth more; I could sell the prize and buy a new car AND a nice Crate and Barrel furniture set.
19. Your best friend is taking a nap on the floor of your living room. Suddenly, you are faced with a bizarre existential problem: This friend is going to die unless you kick them (as hard as you can) in the rib cage. If you don’t kick them while they slumber, they will never wake up. However, you can never explain this to your friend; if you later inform them that you did this to save their life, they will also die from that. So you have to kick a sleeping friend in the ribs, and you can’t tell them why. Since you cannot tell your friend the truth, what excuse will you fabricate to explain this (seemingly inexplicable) attack?
ANSWER: Well if s/he never wakes up it means eternal peace that person WON’T have if s/he wakes up with broken ribs. However, I would be loathe to having their dead corpse laying on my living room floor, so I probably would kick ‘em hard to wake their sorry ass up and go home, no explanation necessary!
20. For whatever the reason, two unauthorized movies are made about your life. The first is an independently released documentary, primarily comprised of interviews with people who know you and bootleg footage from your actual life. Critics are describing the documentary as “brutally honest and relentlessly fair.” Meanwhile, Columbia Tri-Star has produced a big-budget biopic of your life, casting major Hollywood stars as you and all your acquaintances; though the movie is based on actual events, screenwriters have taken some liberties with the facts. Critics are split on the artistic merits of this fictionalized account, but audiences love it. Which film would you be most interested in seeing?
ANSWER: I would definitely be more interested in seeing the Hollywood version. Even though it’s kind of predictable as to which caricatures I would be pigeonholed into (naif slut with Homerian adventures), I would be entertained watching a brunette Reese Witherspoon (again) with fuzzier eyebrows getting into these comical situations with sex, drugs and dead car batteries. The documentary wouldn’t be accurate anyway because there is no one person (much less my family and friends) that REALLY knows me; they only THINK they know me. Therefore the documentary would be just as inaccurate—if not even more so—than a fictionalized account of my life written by people who read my own works. Obviously the best movie about me would star Parker Posey in an under-budgeted movie, because under-budgeting is the backbone to my life story.
21. Imagine you could go back to the age of five and relive the rest of your life, knowing everything that you know now. You will reexperience your entire adolescence with both the cognitive ability of an adult and the memories of everything you’ve learned form having lived your life previously. Would you lose your virginity earlier or later than you did the first time around (and by how many years)?
ANSWER: I would definitely lose my virginity at the age of 15. Then I would know what it was all about and the taunts of others would more easily roll off my back and I would be able to put more energies to the things that REALLY matter (music, writing, etc.). Also, it would definitely give me inspiration to write much earlier, and with more focus. I would also feel more “normal” as in a typical member of teenage society, and thus feel more socially accepted and have that comfortable feeling of belonging.
23. Consider this possibility:
a. Think about deceased TV star John Ritter.
b. Now, pretend Ritter had never become famous. Pretend he was never affected by the trappings of fame, and try to imagine what his personality would have been like.
c. Now, imagine that this person—the unfamous John Ritter—is a character in a situation comedy.
d. Now, you are also a character in this sitcom, and the unfamous John Ritter character is your sitcom father.
e. However, this sitcom is actually your real life. In other words, you are living inside a sitcom: Everything about our life is a construction, featuring the unfamous John Ritter playing himself (in the role of your TV father). But this is not a sitcom. This is your real life.
How would you feel about this?
ANSWER: Ok, I cannot express in words what I feel about John Ritter. After studying him as a comic and actor for many years, I feel I know him as a person and would be completely honored to share the same space with him no matter WHAT purpose , content, or genre. Furthermore, this wouldn’t be so much outside of reality since MANY times I have felt that I am living inside my own sitcom or the body of a sitcom star and soap star at respective points of my days.
Please feel free to share your OWN answers…and pass them on!