The Magic Word is “please,” but what’s the magic gesture? Well, hm, I think we can just let this one go without comment . . .
“Big D” is Dallas, but where is Big G? I guess as a Swede, I’m obligated to say Göteberg, but it seems a little odd to hype a city I haven’t visited (yet). I’m trying to think of places I’ve at least visited that begin with G, but I’m coming up blank.
Elvis Presley is the King of Rock and Roll, but who’s the king of your personal music collection? Here’s a question I can answer! I think Ben Folds is probably forever the king of my music library. Even when I don’t love every single one of his songs (I like the more pop-oriented ones than the ballad-y or story ones, because I am a basic bitch), the ones I do love are some of my favorites. He’s also a whip-smart lyricist, too, which I value in an artist.
The motherland is wherever you consider your family’s origins, but what’s the cousinland? Any language-adjacent country or one with a similar history. Given the reputation for drinking and recent history of being oppressed by a neighboring island, for example, I think Korea and Ireland could be considered cousinlands.
CBS calls itself the Tiffany Network, but what would you call the Walmart Network? I realize that calling itself “the Tiffany Network” is supposed to be a comment on their quality, but for me all I think about is Trump’s least-favorite child. (Poor Tiffany . . . )
But moving on to the actual question: CNN? It’s everywhere, it’s open 24 hours, it’s got the basics but nothing high-end or specialized.
What’s something sneaky you’ve recently done? I’m not really good at being sneaky. It’s hard to answer this one!
Who or what do you feel the need to tiptoe around? Facebook and politics has become an interesting place since the election. And by “interesting place,” I mean, “barren wasteland bereft of hope or goodwill.”
What’s the dirty secret about the field in which you work?
When it comes to editing, the truth is that none of us know everything. There are loads of words that I have to look up every. single. time. I see them. Some of my more elegant solutions in a project have been crowdsourced from the copyediting hivemind. We all do it!
As for teaching, I’d say that a lot of times the teacher is just as nervous as the student. When it comes to language study with native speaker tutors, students assume that we’re sitting there judging you, or that it’s at least a low-stakes environment for us. False! Even with students I’ve had for years, I still get nervous anytime I’m debuting a new lesson or I have to tackle a tricky concept. You never know if the lesson plan or explanation you thought up in theory will work out in practicality.
What was the subject of your last whispered conversation? I’m not much of a whisperer. When that happens, I’m usually just talking to myself. “Talking through a process,” I mean. Not “having a conversation.”
What’s recently snuck up on you? It’s tax season, y’all! In two countries!
What’s a memory you have of a nearby stream? At some point during my elementary school years, our church congregation (or maybe just us kids) realized that the church’s property didn’t extend to the edge of the parking lot, but all the way across a neighboring field. We took this as a license to immediately tear through the long grass and down to the tree line to see if we could find anything, and were pleasantly surprised to find a crick we didn’t know about. It was full of mint leaves and skunk cabbage and interesting rocks, and the whole thing felt distinctly magical. It left enough of an impression that I wrote about it for a school writing assignment later that school year.
We never went exploring there again, as far as I can remember. Something about it not being entirely church property. Or maybe parents told us that to keep us from running off and playing unattended.
The world is a lot bigger and has a lot more magic when you’re a child.
What’s a good film scene or song lyric involving a river? Hm. A two-fer first.
I have a great track by the indie band Brother called “River,” but it’s not on YouTube so that gem will just have to stay hidden for now.
What fond memory do you have of a lake? My family spent a week at a hunting cabin in Vermont for maybe a dozen summers, right on Tinmouth Pond (officially Lake Chapman). No TV, no Internet, just the woods and the water. We always spent a day or two at the nearby Emerald Lake state park as well. I LOVERMONT!
What’s the most fascinating sea creature? I was obsessed with dolphins for years, but as an adult I have to admit that they are . . . kind of assholes? The same goes for orcas (which apparently are technically dolphins, not whales?). So I don’t know what to think about sea animals anymore. How about octopuses? They’re cool.
What’s something that caused you to cry tears of laughter? The only times I end up crying with laughter are those times where I’m laughing at how much I/someone else is laughing, usually over something not that funny, which then makes it even funnier, and then I’m laughing at myself laughing at someone laughing at the unfunny joke, and it just keeps snowballing. Like, for example, one time it was a really cheesy Weekly World News cover image of a fish with . . . hands? a human face? Something like that.
Now I’m a week behind on Friday 5 posts, but that works out for me. The questions sometimes go up relatively late in the day (at least here in Stockholm), so it used to be a bit of a rush to get them out on time. Now I have a whole week to answer them!
First, some appropriate tunes:
What makes you unreasonably irritated?
I like to think that most of the things that irritate me are reasonable. 😉
What are you unreasonably particular about?
Punctuation! Spelling! Grammar! Language usage! But then, only if you pay me to be. Or if I think you’re someone who should know better. (A book I was otherwise enjoying from Kindle Press talked about a “heart-warming antidote.” I hope someone will fix that in an updated edition, because the author and the rest of the story deserve better!)
What’s something that’s unreasonably complicated?
Oh man, doing taxes. I don’t mind paying them, because I understand they’re a necessary part of a functioning society, but all of the surrounding paperwork is nightmarish, and I don’t think it needs to be. The US, compared to many other countries, has a nightmarish and needlessly complicated tax-paying process (as opposed to needless or oppressive taxes). In Sweden, for example, most people can just pay their taxes by SMS. It’s not quite that easy for me, as a freelancer, but it’s also not so bad. There are also multiple umbrella companies out there whose sole purpose is to make the whole tax process easier for freelancers; I just made life harder for myself for no good reason.
I think if we revamped the tax-filing and tax-paying system and made it easier and less of a hassle, more Americans wouldn’t be so incensed about paying taxes.
What are the best reasons for working in your field?
As far as teaching goes, it’s immensely satisfying to feel like you are immediately and concretely making someone’s life better. Your work isn’t useless or pointless. Unfortunately, this idealism is too often leveraged against teachers, effectively bullying them into working beyond their paygrade or the original scope of their work, because how dare they prioritize something like money above their students?
My feelings about copyediting are similar. You’re helping someone create the best product possible. You can see the results of your work immediately and you know that it matters (to the author, if no one else!). People at least seem to value copyeditors a little more than teachers—at least, their commitment to helping others isn’t used as a bargaining chip to deny copyeditors the pay or resources they deserve and need to do their job.
What are some good reasons for the most recent silly purchase you made?
I don’t typically make “silly” purchases. The closest thing to a silly purchase that I’ve made at all recently was some shredded cauliflower marketed as “cauliflower rice.” I know it’s a marketing tactic (“cauliflower rice” sounds more appealing than “shredded cauliflower”; people generally like rice more than they like cauliflower), but I just wanted some pre-shredded cauliflower. I knew it wasn’t going to taste like rice, and I wasn’t buying it because I thought it would, so I don’t know if that really counts.
Our license plates are uninspiring, too. When I was a kid, we had the gold on blue (or blue on gold) “Keystone State”/”You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania” tags. Now there’s no quip or state nickname, just an advertisement for the commonwealth’s official tourism web page. Ugly. You can look at them all here, if you want.
Our state slogan was mediocre for a while, too. I still think we should bring “You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania” out of retirement, but I’ll admit that “Pursue your happiness” (current slogan) beats out “State of independence” (previous slogan).
Google’s corporate headquarters is called the Googleplex. What would be a good name for the corporate headquarters of your life?
The Kitchen. Since that’s where I actually do most of my work. Stay humble, never forget your roots, etc.
Jimmies and crumbled Oreos, mostly. I don’t actually care for chocolate syrup on frozen yogurt or ice cream. I can’t explain what it is, but I don’t like it.
When patronizing those frozen yogurt establishments with an overwhelming buffet of possible toppings, I have been known to add Fruity Pebbles. I don’t consider that an essential frozen yogurt topping, though.
How do you feel about hot breakfast cereals?
In theory I like them a lot; in practice I can’t be bothered with the extra step of warming them up so I never have them. If I need something warm in the morning, I Just have extra tea.
What did you last put brown sugar in or on?
When was the last time I made chocolate chip cookies? Brown sugar is one of those items that I end up (shamefacedly!) wasting a lot of because I need it infrequently, but you can only buy it in relatively large quantities.
What’s a food item you willingly overpay for?
Pre-chopped frozen vegetables. Sure, I know how to cut a bell pepper, but it’s worth the time saved to just get them in little pieces already.
I also have an obsession with Celestial Seasonings brand tea. In the US this isn’t too much of a problem, but in Stockholm that can get a little ridiculous.
What did you last add vinegar to?
I only use vinegar (balsamic) sparingly on salads. My preferences lean heavily towards the “oil” part of “oil and vinegar.”
Oh, goodness. I’ve seen a respectable amount of off-brand monster movies, thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000, RiffTrax, and Cinematic Titanic. Can I pick a favorite? If I had to, I’d say The Horror of Party Beach and The Wasp Woman.
What’s your favorite social issues movie?
I’m not sure what would qualify as a social issues movie? It can be hard to tackle complex social issues elegantly in the space of (more or less) two hours. Off the top of my head, I’d say: P. K. (religious dogma and prejudice), Lilies of the Field (race relations in mid-century America), and Ship of Fools (anti-Semitism in the run-up to World War II).
What’s a movie you dislike in a genre you love?
There are too many bad comedies to name.
What’s a movie you like in a genre you dislike?
There aren’t too many film genres I outright dislike. I admit to not liking slasher movies a whole lot, but I didn’t mind the House of Waxreboot? remake? that came out a few years ago. (I still prefer the original Vincent Price version, of course.)
What’s a movie everyone else has seen but you have not seen?
Up until a couple of years ago, my first answer to this question was Bladerunner (extra shameful because my final project in philosophy was on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). Now, I’m not sure what that would be. The first one that comes to mind is Saving Private Ryan, but I’m sure there are others.
Which of the Winnie-the-Pooh characters do you most relate to?
Rabbit, I suppose? I like to read, I can be bossy, and I find real-life Tiggers to be very trying.
Which of the Winnie-the-Pooh characters has qualities you’d find most attractive in a romantic partner?
My own partner is very much a Piglet, if that’s any indication!
In what way have you “wandered much further” today than you should?
I’m only answering this in the morning, so the day has hardly begun, really. I’ll admit to sleeping in a little, but only a little. Of Winnie-the-Pooh stories you can remember (from the books, Disney cartoons, or other sources), which is your favorite?
To be honest, I don’t remember much from Winnie-the-Pooh. I know I liked the Disney adaptation of “Winnie-the-Pooh and the Blustery Day” when I was younger. I was also quite enamored with the word “blustery” and immediately set about using it in real life.
I also like the Russian animated adaptations. The art is so charming! The crayon backgrounds look just like a child’s drawing, which I think is very appropriate for Winnie-the-Pooh. Plus, this version of Piglet is absolutely adorable.
There are only three, but they’re all freely available on YouTube. Here is the first Винни Пух adaptation: В которой мы знакомимся с Винни-Пухом и несколькими подозрительными пчелами. (In which we meet Winnie the Pooh and a few suspicious bees.)
Which quote from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories would be good for the epigraph in the book about your life?
“I’ve got a sort of idea, but I don’t suppose it’s a very good one.”
One of my Swedish friends here was an exchange student in the US when he was younger, and somehow the question of kitchen implements came up often. It turned out that his host family didn’t really know what to call anything, either, so any unknown kitchen implement was just immediately labeled “spatula.” What did you last use your can opener for?
We don’t even have a can opener! What did you last pick up with a pair of tongs?
I don’t think we even have tongs? So probably a baked good at the store or Pressbyran.
What did you last use a ladle for?
Chili, I think. What did you last stir with a wooden spoon?
Some boiling pasta, to get it to settle down a little.
When did you last need a few days of complete rest and nothing else?
I feel like that every day, to be honest. I had a really gnarly chest cold for most of February that kept me relatively housebound. I’m better now, but the first two weeks were unpleasant, to say the least.
How do you keep yourself occupied when you have to be in bed all day and night?
Who do you most want to hear from when you have to withdraw to your bed for a few days of rest?
It depends. Whenever I have to go into self-imposed quarantine, it means I have a lot of time to just think; often, I’ll remember a story or a question I had for someone in particular. But usually I can just send them a message on Gchat or Facebook, so I don’t have to make immediate plans to see them when I’m feeling better.
What adverse effects have you experienced while staying in bed for a few days?
I don’t like the deconditioning and loss of stamina/energy I notice when I feel better enough to go running again.
When you first notice a few symptoms, are you more likely to shut everything down right away, or try to power through until you don’t have a choice anymore?
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I try to take it as easy as possible right from the beginning, including lots of garlic, zinc, and lemon tea.