Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ask Me Anything

A few years ago I did something here that was kind of fun and interesting, and thought I'd try again: Ask Me Anything.

For those not familiar, it's an Internet thing in which everyone is encouraged to ask me anything and I promise to answer as best I can, no matter how stupid, personal, insulting, trivial or outlandish. I do reserve the right to deflect or refuse. But try me; we'll see what happens. Leave a question in the Comments and I'll reply there when I see it. Keep it cleanish.

As before, my great fear is that no one will ask me anything. Rather than be horrified and embarrassed that no one reads or cares, I will take that as confirmation that my blog has already been so amazingly informative and forthcoming that I've already answered all potential questions. Self-delusion is a powerful ally.

And if it's too pathetic, I can delete the whole thing.

Ready? Go!



Jim O'Kane said...

I'll start with a softball: a list of firsts.

First book you ever read,
first VHS tape you ever rented or purchased,
last thing you watched on Netflix?

Marion said...

In your opinion what is the best location to view the comet that might be visible at the end of this month? I am sure you will have an idea.

Jim O'Kane said...

Assume you wanted to hide something (let's say the size and weight of a bowling ball) so that it wouldn't be discovered for 100 years. How would you go about hiding it, and how would you leave instructions for its discovery in 100 years?

You did say "ask me anything."

Brian Fies said...

"A question! Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Thanks for playing! Hmmmm . . .

First book? Of course I have no idea. I was an early and voracious reader. However, you and I have already talked about a "young reader" book very important to both of us, "You Will Go To the Moon" by Ira and Mae Freeman, which told me the biggest best lie of my life and made you into an Internet meme. That one was important.

First VHS tape? I'd half-expect to remember that but don't. I first encountered video casettes at my school (back when VCRs were too expensive for homes) and, in high school, at the cable TV station I worked at. Have I not told stories about working my way through high school as a TV cameraman and director? I should. See, that's the value of AMA: fodder.

Last thing I watched on Netflix was Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom." I liked it quite a bit: weird but charming.

Comet viewing: I take it you mean Pan-STARRS? It'll be LOW in the west, just behind the setting Sun. So anywhere with a clear horizon to the west should do. Binoculars might help. The best info I could find about it is at the link below, which points out it'll be near the crescent Moon on March 12. See:

Brian Fies said...

I would hide something the size and weight of a bowling ball in my office, but could not leave instructions for its recovery because that would be impossible. It would be lost forever.

I like this question a lot, will mull it over and post a more serious reply if one comes to me. Thanks again!

Brian Fies said...

Just re-read my comet reply and don't want to be misunderstood: by "behind the setting Sun" I don't mean literally on the other side of the Sun but rather setting after it, following it down toward the horizon after sunset.

D. Daniel said...

Best and Worst graphic novels you have ever read?

Linda Wilhelm said...

What would the world be like if Firefly wasn't cancelled after only 12 episodes?

Jim O'Kane said...

What is the longest oration (a speech, script from a play, a poem, etc) that you still have memorized and can recite?

How far do you live from the nearest escalator?

Describe the perfect sandwich.

Name your favorite font.

If you were on LOST, what nickname would Sawyer use for you?

Someone cracks open a Monopoly board. What playing piece do you reach for?

In this age of iPads, iPods, iTunes and other personal music delivery devices, what song are you playing to death right now on the way to work, etc?

What is the last thing you microwaved?

Do you think you could have convinced Endora to like and respect you as a son-in-law?

What branch of the military was your first G.I. Joe?

You've been assigned to the TOS Enterprise. What crew assignment do you immediately picture yourself in?

What's the largest vehicle you've ever caused to move?

What's the last thing you've repaired with your own hands?

Clasp your hands together with your fingers interlaced. Which thumb is on top of the stack?

Brian Fies said...

D. Daniel: Best graphic novel, I think I'd have to be boring and say "Maus," both for its inherent quality and its status as a pioneering work. However, the first book that honestly popped into my head was "Epileptic" by David B., which tells a compelling story and is graphically sophisticated and fascinating. It's a beautiful work, though not for everyone.

Worst Graphic Novel: I've seen some bad comics, but I think to be fair I need to differentiate between work that's bad because it's amateurish and work that's bad because it's by a pro who should know better (or needed a stronger editor). I think an inexperienced creator starting out and making mistakes deserves some breaks. Also, although I have some strong personal opinions, I try not to write ill of anything. But I'll say (and I know this opinion is an outlier that'll surprise some) that Alison Bechdel's "Are You My Mother" was an enormous disappointment that didn't work for me on any level. My reaction to it was almost violently negative and soured my respect for her earlier work.

Linda: Firefly! I saw two episodes and, alas, didn't get into it. So from my POV, a world with a longer-running Firefly would look just like ours except nobody would have asked me what the world would be like if it hadn't been cancelled too soon. Sorry!

Jim: I don't know whether to thank you or delete you! But I do appreciate you playing along. I'll take a run at your most excellent questions in the morning. Spoiler: I play the Monopoly shoe, because when I was a kid I was a mythology nerd and the little loop on the back reminded me of Mercury's winged sandals.

Brian Fies said...

OK, Jim, let's rumble . . .

Longest oration I have memorized: I used to have more to brag about. "Richard III" is my favorite Shakespeare play and at one time I could recite vast swaths of it, but not anymore. I memorized an epic Pushkin poem while studying Russian in college but that's long gone. Aside from song lyrics ("American Pie," "Bohemian Rhapsody") that everybody knows, the piece that's stuck with me is "Ozymandias" by Shelley. It's not long, but it's mine for life.

Nearest escalator is at a shopping mall 4.7 miles from my house.

The perfect sandwich is easy: classic Reuben on toasted rye. Do not presume to debate me. Runner up is a good French dip but the au jus can't be too salty, a common error.

My favorite font is a little ditty called "Brian Comix New" that I made up myself. I sampled hand-written letters from "Mom's Cancer" and turned it into a font I used for "WHTTWOT." Otherwise, Futura because it captures a time and design sensibility I like.

Never watched "Lost." In general, I think my nickname should be "Adonis Von Einstein." Nobody else does.

To be continued . . .

Brian Fies said...

My Monopoly token: Asked and answerd, the shoe. Unless the race car's available, but everybody wants the race car.

I have an iPod but don't play it much. My commute to work is extremely short--walking downstairs. Music is too distracting when I'm writing or penciling. I do put it on shuffle when I'm inking, so I hear whatever comes up. However, I confess that there's a short list of songs I like to start with. Right now it's typically "Baba O'Reilly" by The Who, "Cornflake Girl" by Tori Amos, "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + the Machine," or "Into the Wild" by LP.

Last thing I microwaved: Hmmm. I'll go with "Defrosting Pesto" for $100, Alex.

Could I have won Endora's respect as a son-in-law?: It would've been tough but I'm sure Elizabeth Montgomery would've been worth it. I think Darrin's big mistake was trying to force Sam into a mortal life, which Endora--quite rightly, I think--saw as crushing her daughter's gifts. Had I been married to a witch (and who says I'm not, amIright honey ;-) ) I would've encouraged her to do all the transmogrifying and time traveling she wanted. Why force her to do dishes by hand when she could be whisking you both away to holiday in Renaissance Florence? Although I don't think any mortal would've ever been good enough for Endora's little girl, letting Sam spread her witch wings might've softened Endora's desiccated husk of a heart.

My G.I. Joe (the real 12-inch Joe, natch) arrived in Army fatigues but quickly became a cross-disciplined frogman-Marine-astronaut. Of all the lost toys of my youth, my G.I. Joe footlocker is the one I really regret losing, even more than the comic books Mom made me unload at a garage sale.

To be continued . . .

Brian Fies said...

I'm on Kirk's Enterprise, what's my post?: Navigation. Sorry, Chekov. Why there? I don't know; that's the first seat I pictured myself in when I read the question.

The largest vehicle I've ever caused to move: Interestingly phrased. Of course I've been on big ships, trains and planes but had nothing to do with moving them. I think the biggest vehicle I've personally piloted was a 42-foot GMC bus, when I worked my way through college as a transit driver. That thing was a monster--tough to shift and, IIRC, no power steering. We didn't use it much. I also routinely drove London double-decker buses, which were about 14 feet tall but short (27 feetish?) and a LOT of fun to run.

Last thing I repaired with my own hands: Hm. I'm having a hard time remembering the last time something needed fixing around here. I'm blanking. However, I'm generally pretty handy and willing to dive into anything, even imprudently. I'll say "Interactive lunar gravity exhibit on the USS Hornet" which is kind of cheating because I built it in the first place.

Left thumb's on top.

Still thinking about the 100-year bowling ball question.

Michael A. Burstein said...

You may have answered this already, but how did you come to be interested in the 1939 World's Fair? (I picked up your book because that fair was a pivotal moment in my father's childhood. I wish I could have shared your book with him.)

Brian Fies said...

Michael, that's an interesting question I don't have a solid answer to. I think the '39 World's Fair slowly percolated into my consciousness because the history of so many things I grew up interested in--technology, robotics, futurism, even Disneyland--kept coming back to the Fair as a common denominator. You see it mentioned once, you file it in the back of your brain; mentioned twice, it gets your attention; mentioned thrice, it grows into something that maybe you should check out. The Fair didn't invent TV, computers, robots, fax machines, googie architecture, mass transit, planned communities, spaceflight, etc., but they all passed through there and were introduced to millions in the process. I really believe the 20th Century can be divided into pre- and post-Fair America, which to me made it the ideal place to start a story about not just the tech of the World of Tomorrow, but the very idea of it.

I wish your father could've read it. I've met a few people who attended the Fair who told me I got it right (including MAD Magazine's great Al Jaffee, which is a lifetime mind-blower). Of course, they always go on to share wonderful stories I wish I'd heard before I wrote the book!

Brian Fies said...

Just thinking through the conditions of hiding a bowling-ball-like object for a century. I take it you mean exactly 100 years, so burying it in the forest where it might be found someday wouldn't do.

You couldn't leave it with family, because who knows what shape your descendants will be in. You could place it in a new skyscraper's cornerstone beside your singing frog, but no 100-year guarantee. You could go the time capsule route but, again, those can be lost or forgotten.

BTW, do you know about the Crypt of Civilization? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crypt_of_Civilization

If you had some money, you could erect a statue or monument in the town square with the object inside and explicit instructions carved into the base: "On March 6, 2113, break this panel." That doesn't seem to fit the spirit of "hidden," though; everybody knows where it is, they just can't get to it.

You could go the Marty McFly route: pay someone like Western Union to take possession of a treasure map and release/publish its contents in exactly 100 years. The problem would be picking a trustworthy company likely to stick around; Marty and Doc had the time-traveling benefit of knowing Western Union would, but we wouldn't have similar assurances.

You could post a treasure map to your blog and set the publish date for 100 years later. Nah.

For me the problem seems to be coming around to dealing with a map to the object rather than the object itself, which I'd think would be relatively easy to stash (deep inside a cave, bottom of a lake, etc.)

I shall continue to mull . . .

Jim O'Kane said...

The "betting on a company" thing is difficult, yes. Remember the Pan Am Clipper and the Howard Johnson's Earthlight Room in "2001?" Difficult to forecast. Can't even enroll in a 100-year down payment on a safety deposit box, because who knows if the bank would fail before then? It's a true puzzler.

I'll let you know my possible solutions later. You seem to be running down the same paths I've used while talking to my windshield about this during evening commutes.

Jim O'Kane said...

And yes, the Crypt of Civilization is one of my all-time favorite time capsule ideas - - much better than that sad Oklahoma Centennial capsule with the rusty Plymouth from a few years back. Link here.

Andie Hinds said...

Speaking of time capsules, if you could only pick one of your books to go in to the time capsule of your life, which one?

Brian Fies said...

Andie: It's a cliche but nevertheless true: my books are like my children. I love them both and am proud of them both (and I'd also include my "Adventures of Time-Traveling Brian" zine in that list). But, no question, the one book that goes into the time capsule of my life is "Mom's Cancer," and I suspect that'll be my answer if I do 10 more books. That one mattered and made a difference.

Please do not infer that I have similarly strong feelings differentiating my actual children. They're still 50/50. At least until they read the will.

Brian Fies said...

Re: the 100-year bowling-ball-like snipe hunt: 1) Hide the object appropriately. Bury it in a wilderness area, national park, desert, or elsewhere likely to remain undisturbed for a century (which isn't that long, really; I've been around for half of one). Determine its precise coordinates via GPS. 2) Construct a tombstone as vandal-proof as possible (steel plate set into bedrock?) upon which are engraved your vital statistics and the note "Disassemble this tombstone on March 7, 2113." Inside, recorded in a suitable long-lived medium, are a map and coordinates. 3) Die and be buried in as well-established and historical cemetery as possible so they won't build a shopping mall on you.

The problem becomes significantly harder if you take a 1000- or 10,000-year view and have to wonder if anyone will still understand English, dates, or coordinates.