There’s always something to howl about

All roads lead to Rome, but where three roads converge, the trivia that is yet another meme game is to be found

Eight questions, eight mostly inadequate answers:

1. Who is your favorite musical artist? (post a youtube video)

I like so much stuff that this becomes completely unfair. If you watch my choices of videos on BHB, those doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of my tastes. The folks at Unchained got to hear songs from my iTunes library, which includes a lot of bootlegs and otherwise unobtainable stuff. All that notwithstanding, if I had to pick one first-among-equals favorite, it would be Bob Dylan. But just writing that feels like a betrayal, because everything I love in art comes from a kind of visceral honesty that Dylan almost never achieves — mostly studiously avoids. But take a look at this:

The real Blind Willie McTell was a fairly ordinary early blues musician. He was nothing compared to Skip James, in my opinion. And why is Dylan celebrating the blues in a ballad? I think McTell is a cypher for Dylan in this song, and I think this is as close to an auto-encomium as we can ever expect from the man. In any case, this is great art from the first note to the last, an Apollonian frenzy made more violent because it is so tightly constrained.

2. Who is your favorite artist (post a flicker photo)

I don’t have a favorite visual artist. Of everything I’ve seen, Rodin is the most interesting to me, this because he is truly in love with humanity. I’ve worked in photography most of my life, at one time very seriously. I hate almost everything associated with the visual arts.

3. Who is your favorite blogger?

Again I must disappoint. Everything I love in art is a form of literature — even the music I love best. Almost no one in the history of literature was able to write both very quickly and very well. Shakespeare could, as could Mencken, but they don’t update their blogs that often. There’s no one in the world of weblogs who makes me crazy like the great writers of the world’s literature. How could there be? That’s an unfair standard to judge by. To have even one great mind alive and writing at any particular moment in time is rare enough. To have that person writing a weblog would quite possibly be an obscene waste of an irreplaceable talent.

4. If you could meet anyone (alive or dead), who would it be and what is the most interesting thing about them?

I could name dozens of people I would like to talk to — and this is a vanity at best. There is no reason to think that I could gain access to Socrates, for example, nor any reason to suppose that he would not cut me to ribbons with half an incisive question. I believe a Harvard MBA and a pilot of military jets is probably a very smart man, despite his verbal infelicities, but I have so far been unable to obtain an interview with George Bush to determine to my own satisfaction if he is a tongue-tied genius or a very fortunate dunce. Why should I have any better results with dead people?

Even so, I would dearly love to spend half an hour with Gaius Julius Caesar. We live in the world we do — up to our ears in riches we don’t have the grace to appreciate — because of maybe ten or twelve true geniuses in human history. Without those dozen giants, the rest of us would never have risen from the mud and blood and shit that is the “natural” destiny of most human “civilizations.” Caesar was killed because he was a truly great man in what was by then an oligarchy of mediocrities. It seems plausible to me that, had he lived, he might well have brought the maths of India to the Western world centuries ahead of their slow transit across the Middle East. Had Caesar lived, the by-then decadent Roman empire might have been revitalized. The Dark Ages might have been avoided, and the age of wonders we live in now might have come to us a thousand years sooner. What a hugely consequential murder!

We are an implausibly lucky species — and an atrociously ungrateful one. The 300 was a thrilling action/adventure movie, but the real story is this one: If Leonidas had not held out at Thermopylae for that third day, everything that we take for granted would have been destroyed. We would live as virtually all of humanity has lived for virtually all of human history — as slaves to scheming despots. We are lucky enough to be what we are because of the strength and genius of a very few great men — whose names we never trouble ourselves to learn.

5. What did you want to be when you grew up?

Untouched. It’s a lot more work than you’d think.

6. What is the most interesting piece of trivia you know?

Apparently, that genu in Latin means “knee.” Seriously, I have a brain full of neat ideas that most people would call trivia, but nothing of humanity is boring to me. If people are listening to me, I can make anything fascinating. If they’re not listening to me, then everything I say is boring. I mainly don’t want to talk to people at all, but I can always tell if they’re not actually listening to the words I’m saying. That’s about as close as I get to sadness, to feel that I’m saying things that I know are novel and fun, and to watch the person I’m talking to try to respond to what they think they heard, rather to the actual sounds still ringing in the air. People who pay attention to real life, rather than to scripts in their minds, matter to me a great deal. Incidentally, tri via is the intersection of three roads. The Romans would post news there, so it would be carried off in all directions.

7. If you could live in any point in history what would it be and why?

Now. No other moment. I am fascinated by many key events in history, but there is no other world more perfectly suited to me than this one. I mean that without reservation. The world I grew up in was inadequate in many significant ways, but it seems like, year-by-year, the world is growing more and more like the one I would design for myself as an artifact of the imagination. I could wish that people were better educated or wiser or more thoughtful or more willing to rebel against authority. But hide and watch: The internet is inculcating humanity into the Liberal Arts in a way that no other civilization has done before ours. It’s plausible to me now that I could live to see the perfect freedom of Greek civilization spread to every corner of the earth — and to every corner of every human mind. This is the most amazingly beautiful time for anyone to be alive.

8. What is the most interesting job you have ever held?

Husband. If I live long enough, I might get good at it.

Now: Here’s the real truth: I don’t like these silly games. Jeff Belonger nominated me for this particular episode of memeification. (Colleen Kulikowski, too.) I am obliged, in my turn, to nominate eight more victims. Except I don’t wanna. This is really a link-baiting game, and the “right” way to link-bait is “up” — to try to get higher-ranked weblogs to link “down” to you. I don’t want to do that at all, obviously, but I don’t want to stick eight innocents with an unchosen burden in any case.

So: Let’s try things this way instead: If you want to have been nominated for this meme game, consider that you have been. I don’t care if that means eight people do this — or eighty — or none. But if you want to tell the world your answers to these questions, get busy. You can link back to me or not, your choice. Be honest. Be thoughtful. Have fun. Better yet: Do what you want. That’s what I’m doing.

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    5 Comments so far

    1. Bob May 28th, 2008 7:11 am

      That was classic, particularly #6. I disagree with you at times, most certainly when you torch my comments, but I enjoy reading you.

    2. Greg Swann May 28th, 2008 7:22 am

      > That was classic

      Bless you, sir. Thank you. Now you should do it. Tell us everything we don’t know about you.

    3. Colleen Kulikowski May 28th, 2008 7:42 am


      Silly but a great way to touch your local community… I chose to give some link love around Buffalo. I have to admit I like how you handled nominating others…

      Thanks for being a good sport… Now off to bury mine with some real important stuff — Market Reports!

    4. Jeff Belonger May 28th, 2008 11:25 am


      I found this very interesting, especially since you gave a different twist to a few things. I enjoyed your selection in regards to McTell. And I had Bob Dylan in the back of my mind when I was trying to think. So I got a little goofy in my selection. But there were a few good ones back in Dylan’s time that were instrumental to not just rock and roll.

      My original major was Landscape Architecture, so I can certainly relate to the Roman era and the Greek civilization. If anyone ever gets a chance to read the history of their governments, and especially anything about their architecture, it’s just amazing and fascinating.

      Overall, I will agree with Colleen, thanks for being a sport. And thanks for a good read. Hopefully we’ll be able to catch up in Orlando this November. jeff

    5. Real Estate Blog Girl May 28th, 2008 11:51 am

      Wow – I always love learning about people int his industry. Well thought out and interesting as usual. Thanks for playing along. I really like how you turned the meme around at the end. Very clever.