And now for something completely different…

Yes, I am committed to longwinded expository and digression. Yes. But I’ve been too busy to get any serious writing done, so just for shoots and groans, and even though I think it was designed as a ladies’ thing, I’m going to copy a blogger I admire who took this questionnaire on her own blog, Pop Culture Librarian. What I learned from filling this out is two things: 1) I’m a rubbish Decider, can’t choose a favorite anything, 2) my life is a riot of enjoyable things I enjoy (so much so that I can’t choose a favorite, as noted) and 3) I’m no good at counting. The great thing about the quiz iz, some of these are not questions I would have thought to ask or answer, which means…what does it mean? Say it with me now—discovery awaits!!!

1. How tall are you?
I was 6 foot 1 inch at my peak, but I don’t measure anymore because I’m sure that some settling has occurred.

2. Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what?
I believe with all my heart that there is “more, yet more” within me, but who has time to find out? At my last job as a tech writer it was discovered to the surprise of many including myself that I am a natural scrum master and facilitator. I guess that counts, but it’s sort of worky. I think I’m also a natural at drystack masonry, accordion, and subsistence farming, but these are just untested theories.

3. What’s your biggest blog-related pet peeve?
No peeves. I like it when people read my blog, and I like to read others’ when I have time. I don’t go places where peevage is likely to get up in my grill.

4. What’s your biggest non-blog related pet peeve?

5. What’s your favorite song?
Today I’ll say “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago, but ask me tomorrow and I might say “All Those in Favor” by the Owls (the Owls of Minneapolis, not the Owls of Chicago or the band Owl) or “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac or “Blue Diamond Mines” by the Heartbeats Rhythm Quartet or “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips, or something from Voice of the Beehive’s Let it Bee album or the Bangles’ Different Light album or the album Half Mad Moon by the Damnations (TX).

My secret fantasy is to be a Pip on "Midnight Train". I know the vocal part, just need to learn the moves.

My secret fantasy is to be a Pip on “Midnight Train”. I have the vocal part down, still working on the moves.

For the record, even though I don’t really need to hear it any more, I believe Elliott Randall’s guitar solo on Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years” has never been bested by nobody nohow (and axeman Jimmy Page agrees with me).

6. What’s your favourite Etsy shop that isn’t yours?
It’s kind of long odds that I would even know what Etsy is. But as it happens:

7. What’s your favorite way to spend your free time when you’re alone?
It was a lot easier for me to be alone when I was younger. Nowadays when my wife and daughters are not around I’m fidgety and unfocused, not good for much. My friend Dave’s quote, “so many books…so few chairs” comes to mind. There are always scores of books I’m meaning to get to. Plus, I’m trying to read my way through Wikipedia. So. Reading.

But look, I’ve been meaning to get back to model railroading since I was 14, and if you want to know the truth, if I get a bit of alone time and it’s not hailing out, I’m usually outside beating back the ivy and morning glory and blackberry canes from the edges of what I optimistically call a garden.

8. What’s your favorite junk food?
Favorite is not the word. I hate junk food. My mind hates the idea of it and my body implores me not to ingest it. But my tongue loves certain things, like chocolate, and snack chips, and mint chocolate chip ice cream, and if I run out of food at work I’ll hit the machine for a Snickers, or peanut M&Ms or Milky Way or Twix or Kit Kat or Three Musketeers. Or even Pop Tarts (Strawberry only). These are desperate measures, though.

9. Do you have a pet or pets?
We have two loopy cats that are each the loudest cat in the world. We are convinced that Togy sees himself as the Guardian of Those Crossing into Sleep. When he senses someone dropping into sleep he starts yowling like a siren. Then when they’re fully crossed over, he stops. Fool. I don’t know what his problem is. The other one, Tilly, she’s just daffy. I like ’em okay. I had a Manx tabby named Coriander who was my forever cat, and these clowns don’t even hold a candle. She’s buried outside, next to Angela’s forever cat, Tiger. I’ve always intended to blog about Cori, just haven’t got to it.

From left to right: Togy, Tilly.

Clockwise rom left: Togy, Tilly.

10. What are your number one favorite fiction and non-fiction books?
We are all in agreement, right, that the word favorite in this context has no binding authority? It’s just a tickler to make us think of a selection that we enjoyed that we can also recall to mind at the moment. That said, I had two great fiction loves, Mark Helprin and John Barth. I read Helprin’s “Winter’s Tale” (1983) when I was just out of my teens and it really touched something of mystery and wonder deep down in me. Stay away from the movie they just made from it, even if it does have J. Connelly in it. For Barth, let’s go with “The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor“, a sweet tale and at the same time, structurally, something of a marvel. More recently, Karen Russell’s short story collection, “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” (Knopf. 2006), starting with the title track and including “Children’s Reminiscences on the Westward Migration”, in which a pioneer child on a wagon train has to deal with the scorn of other families because his dad is a Minotaur and pulls their family’s Conestoga wagon himself.

Some folks thought the stories didn't end completely, but I think they're about the journey.

Some folks thought the stories didn’t end completely, but I think they’re about the journey.

For non-fiction it would be impossible to name a number one favorite because I am all about non-fiction; that’s mostly all I read now. History and how stuff becomes what stuff is, that sort of thing. “Rats” by Robert Sullivan is a perfect example right off my scalp. It also occurs to me how rewarding was Rebecca Skloot’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” (2010), an unpredictably successful balance of steely-eyed reporting and very emotional storytelling. I had to go looking for my socks after finishing that book.

11. What’s your favorite beauty product? 
Do skin-colored band-aids count?

12. When were you last embarrassed? What happened?
Embarrassment is so debilitating for me that it actually causes me embarrassment amnesia, so it may be years before my last embarrassment comes to mind. One event that has bubbled up to torment me is the time when I was a greenhorn journalist and a well-known local radio news personality read my cover story in a local paper and wanted to call me and interview me about it on the radio. I worried out loud to my editor that I didn’t know what to do, and she said don’t worry, he’ll just ask you some questions and it will be over in three minutes. She assumed that I knew the statistics and other numbers off-hand that were in my story, but I didn’t, and I also didn’t have any practice summarizing a 5,000-word piece of my writing out loud. I bombed horribly, froze up, and when the radio personality tried to recover the segment by asking me some direct questions about numbers, I didn’t have them, and I think I even got snarky because I was so nervous. He thanked me and cut me off early. My friend Marni had come over to my house to be supportive while I was doing the interview, because she shines that way, and we put a cassette in the tape deck and recorded it. Marni heard my half of the phone conversation, but because it was live I couldn’t have the radio volume up. I don’t even remember if I played it back so she could hear the whole thing. I died that day. Marni assured me I did fine, but she was lying, bless her. I was never invited to be interviewed live again.  

13. If you could only drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life what would it be?
Coffee. Not Starbucks.

14. What’s your favorite movie?
You’ve got to be kidding. Singin’ in the Rain, Appaloosa, O Brother Where Art Thou, Groundhog Day, The Station Agent, Big, Hanna and Her Sisters, Unforgiven (“I bet that didn’t scare Little Bill much, did it”), Shrek, Shrek II, The Truman Show, Indescribable Cruelty, About a Boy, Silverado, Meet Me in St. Louis, MP&tHG, Gallipoli, Meet the Fokkers, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Great Escape, The Way Way Back, Stranger than Fiction, The Railway Children (1970), Four Eyes and Six Guns, Just Friends, Ghostbusters, The Searchers, Demolition Man, No Such Thing, The Secret of Roan Inish, Marley & Me

Viggo: "That happened fast!" Ed: "Everybody could shoot!"

Viggo: “That was quick!” Ed: “Yeah, everybody could shoot!”

15. What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, etc.
Prom queen. Actually, I had like three friends (have them still, to greater or lesser degree) and the rest of it was like living in an aquarium; my classmates seemed to float and drift around me like fish. I was there but I wasn’t really there. My loss.

16. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
In the Hundred Acre Wood, of course. Or Missoula, Montana or the coast of Maine.

17. PC or Mac?
Born and raised Mac, but forced into PC exile over the course of my work life.

18. Last romantic gesture from your man?
What a slanted questionnaire. I got no man. My woman took a picture of a piece of artwork from my daughter Mara’s Middle Felt Pen period and made a mug out of it, and made me a cuppa in it when I came home tired yesterday. It was a triple gift: the mug, the coffee in the mug, and me not having to make it myself.

Best mug ever.

The best romantic gestures come with a handle.

19. Favorite celebrity?
Garrison Keillor, but I feel kinda sheepish about that because it’s so easy. I really admire Simon Cowell, off the top of my head. And what’s not to love about Brandi Carlile? I realize these are all entertainers, but the authors I read aren’t often celebrities (anymore), and these days I don’t see anyone in politics behaving with much integr— oh! Fred Rogers. That’s my answer. Fred Rogers, yeah.

20. What blogger do you secretly want to be best friends with?
Geoff Manaugh, BLDGBLOG. He’s real busy, though, so I don’t see us hanging out.


22 Responses to “And now for something completely different…”

  1. 1 hboswell September 23, 2014 at 19:47

    This post takes me back to the glory days of blogging, when we had what Google+ calls “circles”; back then, we just had groups of blogs that we frequented and they in exchange frequented our blogs. And we would swap these kinds of questionnaires back and forth. I enjoyed those days far more than the Facebook age, even though my blog never generated much traffic.

    • 2 Matt September 23, 2014 at 22:11

      Thanks for stopping by. Because you didn’t link to your own blog, it took me a bit of sleuthing to figure out who you were (I knew you were not new here because you were able to comment without moderation). I will preserve your anonymity, and say only that I enjoyed your recent post about the abandoned gas station.

  2. 3 marni September 23, 2014 at 21:44

    So…. I’m just going to address the ones that matter (to me, of course).
    #5. Frankly, should always be Saturday In the Park. But, because of this and #s 10 & 14, it’s all relative. And…I see you as a Pip. Totally.
    #6. REALLY???? You have an Etsy favorite. Okay then.
    #7. Reading your way thru Wikipedia. I did not anticipate that!
    #8. Just own it. I recently ate my way thru a box of Strawberry Pop Tarts, being the only things I could taste during a cold. It serves a purpose.
    #10. It’s just a wrong and bad question.
    #12. I love you, you were wonderful, and everyone else is stupid.
    #13. I remember when it was Pepsi.
    #14. Another wrong and bad question.
    #15. You were who you needed to be to get to here which is wonderful. That is all.
    #16. Not Narnia?

  3. 11 angela September 23, 2014 at 22:31

    Matthew – #2??? A cartoonist, of course. Or maybe just being the best husband/friend/dad…..

  4. 13 Harry September 24, 2014 at 03:08

    Hi Matt,

    Not trying to be anonymous – I log in with my WordPress account because (a) I don’t like logging in to anything using Facebook, (b) I use my G+ account so rarely I sometimes forget I have it, and (c) the WordPress account had, I thought, my blog details along with it. Very few blogs seem to let you log in using the old name/email/blog URL scheme now. Maybe I need to log in differently?


    • 14 Matt September 24, 2014 at 06:53

      Hi Harry,
      No worries, I just like to steer traffic back to commentors who have blogs. Mine is still the old fashioned kind of login. I left facebook and never login therethrough, so pretty soon maybe I won’t be able to comment on anything. Gagged by fb. That strikes me as humorous.

  5. 15 PCL September 25, 2014 at 18:47

    I almost said Henrietta Lacks for my nonfiction pick, but as you say, picking just one is ridiculous. Also, at least once a month the lines “Saturday! In the Park!” are yelled/sung during a Saturday in my family. Whoever yells it looks to the other person to punctuate with “perb!” trumpet sounds in between.

    • 16 Matt September 26, 2014 at 06:27

      I love your Saturday “perb”s! I’ve been using those very perbs in my daughters’ Mobile Pop-Music Education curriculum when we’re out driving. I’ve taught Mara and Millie to listen for the brass to identify Chicago songs. Mara can already tell John from Paul in Beatles songs. (Millie guesses Fleetwood Mac for everything, but she’s just little.)

  6. 17 Harry September 26, 2014 at 03:27

    For non-fiction, it’s often the little, out-of-the-way books that I remember most. For instance, “The Monk In The Garden”. I blogged about it in 2007:

  7. 18 seattlecityofliterature September 29, 2014 at 11:32

    What is it about your posts that makes me want to respond in kind? Not going point by point through your favorite songs, books, and embarrassments is like kicking a physical addiction.

    • 19 Matt September 29, 2014 at 11:39

      But by all means, mon frer, respond in kind away! Incidentally, since I had to dig your comment out of moderation I knew you must be using a new email address, so your city o’ lit initiative caught my attention. How cool! I think the reader of Peniakoff did it about as well as it could be done.

  8. 20 Cheryl C October 13, 2014 at 18:09

    ~ It’s October 13 and I’ve finally have the time to spend time with your post, I always save your posts for when I have time to give them thought.
    ~ Therefore: I extremely dislike being asked about ‘favorites’, ‘best’, ‘worst’, etc. Life isn’t static. Not even second from second. I choose to be free and unfettered, taking upon myself to harm none and live in reality and be honestly responsible. Come on, I gotta make a living so I can eat and have shelter. So there are boundaries on my free and unfettered ideology. Life, right?
    ~ My contribution: I love chocolate. I can still read ‘The Secret Garden’. I was embarrassed once defending myself. Alone, I read and take pictures, dig in the dirt. My cat is named Spot. If a talent is hidden, I’d really like to know what it is. Avatar, skin colored concealer. Or is it Lord of the Rings and Channel #5? Or Tremors and Q-tips? See?
    ~ Well, I’m just an ordinary person, living a rather ordinary life, with a mind that travels the world and dreams and flies. I observe what’s going on in my mind; all my dreams and hopes and try to be positive, to see things not as what I haven’t done, but what I’ll try for. Those ‘someday things’ I keep on a special ‘look at this shelf’ This keeps them always front and forward. Sometimes I get that special ‘spark’ and something from that special shelf plops into my lap, ideas and plans on how to accomplish that part of a dream whirling in my mind. That! is special. A piece of a dream becomes physical.
    ~ So I’ve babbled enough. Maybe I need a blog myself.

    • 21 Matt October 18, 2014 at 10:05

      Hi Cheryl,
      I agree, life isn’t static, even when we wish it was. That’s why I put in my disclaimers about what “favorite” means to me in this context. How could I have forgotten Tremors? It’s one of my “absolute” favorites, whatever that means. I guess it means I usually include it in lists like this. Your statement “Alone, I read and take pictures, dig in the dirt” is anthemic. For a second I thought you were quoting ME. 🙂

      I’m honored that you save my blog posts for quality time. Gosh, that’s up there in the gallery of nice things people have ever said to me. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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