Gail M Feldman [genessa]
What is your profession? What is your title printed on your business card?
I have no business cards. I spent my early adulthood in a series of clerical/secretarial positions and came into my own as a writer/magazine editor while continuing to dabble (in an extremely limited way) in theatre and film, the subjects in which I had majored. When I went to Japan I continued to write and edit, while working as an instructor, usually at university level; I did direct a tiny bit of community theatre as well. I still write but my chronic illness gets in the way of my continuing anything that could be called a career.
On the other hand, I did once have a motto (and I don't even believe in mottos!) printed on a business card: "Life is oops."
What did you study and why did you choose to study that field?
I studied theatre, then film, because, having begun a theatrical education as a teenager, courtesy the now-defunct Washington Theatre Club, I wanted to be an actor. After a couple years at university, studying acting, which I love to this day, I decided that directing was even better, but I was already becoming ill, and had to interrupt my studies. When they resumed, after a few false starts, my major was, and my degree is in, theatrical filmmaking.
I tried three times, in my youth, to enter the DGA (Directors Guild of America) Assistant Director Training Program. I qualified (and showed up) for the test all three times; I understand that about 900-1000 did so each time, out of many, many more applicants. I was always one of the 60 or so chosen for the next step, the interview; I have it on good authority that my test score was always one of the top ten, and that one year I was number six. I never made it past the interview. In retrospect I observe that I always overthought the questions, was too shy, and did not display leadership abilities. I have long since gotten over the latter two problems, and am working on the first, but now I am too old and too ill to do anything about it, not to mention not having lived in Los Angeles or New York for some time. However, despite that disappointment, I've been a writer since long before anyone acknowledged that as my "profession" and I always will be a writer.
Are you satisfied with the education that you received?
I had some good times but no, never. It will never be enough. I want more.
In which areas have you thought of building upon your education?
I have thought of going after an MFA in creative writing, just for the hell of it, and despite the fact that so many people have called me "Doctor Gail" that I developed a hankering to make that a reality (MFA is a terminal degree and does not lead to a doctorate). I have also long wanted an MA and doctorate in ethnomusicology.
In which tasks are you good at, and in which could you better yourself?
I am brilliant at analogical thinking. I would have to work hard to improve to the point of being rotten at deadline-keeping.
Which languages do you speak, and how have you learned them?
English is my native language and it is not so much that I am extraordinarily good at it as that so many people, even people who should know better, are not good at it at all. I speak Japanese like a clever child because I lived in Japan for a decade. I speak miserable French because when I studied it in school, I actually did NOT study it. When I am in France it improves somewhat.
Do you have a website or blog? How was the process in making it? Does it accomplish the purpose for which it was created?
I have a website AND a blog. The blog I did not have to create; it's on Blogspot. All I had to do was configure it as I wished and start blogging. On the other hand, I built my site from scratch. When I first got online in 1994, I was by no means a computer virgin but I was a Windows virgin and an internet virgin; my sister was on AOL so I joined AOL too, and for a time that was my only exposure... I can't even say "to the internet" since there was no direct connection yet. AOL didn't even have a browser. One could access the AOL shell and its unique content, and selected newsgroups. When actual internet access became possible within the shell, AOL offered its members a chance to make their own websites by filling out a short questionnaire (what are your hobbies? what's your favorite color?) that seemed inane and useless to me. I acquired a program called Hot Dog Pro and began to use it to design my own site, but soon realized that the codes it was using were easy to remember, and typing them directly was less troublesome than clicking the buttons. I began to write HTML directly into Notepad, and only went back to Hot Dog Pro to perform a bulk edit or to look up some less simple code. I finally just forgot about Hot Dog Pro altogether. I have a small program for bulk edits and do everything else by hand.
My first site was an online magazine called IMAGINE, but I was nearly its only contributor; it is hard to ask people to write for free; I don't want to write for free! In 1997, when my mother died, I decided to try to sell, online, the kinds of products she had sold at flea markets: jewelry, scarves, other accessories. I made a new site for this, and quickly found that sponsorships were easier to deal with than merchandise. To gain hits, I exchanged lots of links, and made links pages. This was a design disaster; who wants to visit 100 links pages? Even today, I encounter sites with page after page of links. I just shake my head. I totally redesigned my sign, eliminating links pages and incorporating links only where they fit; I was already a WebRing member but only years later became active in WebRing, and as a manager, I do not accept links pages as member pages in my many rings. I am especially amused when erstwhile members try to disguise their links pages as "affiliate" pages.
My site, in its current form, was designed to help me sell things and make money, and it does not accomplish that purpose very well at all. However, it has the additional, now major, purpose of being a repository of much of my writing, and functioning as a library thereof, and thanks largely to Facebook, this second purpose is being fulfilled to an extent -- although I also want readers to find me on Helium and Yahoo Contributor Network so I can make the pitiful few cents I am paid per view in each location. My site does lead folks there as well.
My feelings are never hurt when people shop with my sponsors!
How do you feel about speaking in front of an audience? What experience have you had in this arena?
I adore speaking in front of an audience. I know I can make people laugh and I can usually also make them say, "Ah, aHA!" I've spoken and led workshops at teachers' conferences, read my stories and poetry at open mic events, even done a bit of stand-up comedy, and (the most difficult) sung at auditions. Although speaking as oneself is different from speaking as a character, in the context of a play, I have never had stage fright in either situation. (And no, I don't imagine the audience naked; that would be somewhat distracting!)
How is the Interent changing the way you work?
The internet is broadening my readership. Now I need to work on its broadening my income. Income would be nice.
Do you feel your hobbies serve to elevate your career?
I don't have hobbies. I have stuff I do. If I do it, I do it to the best of my ability, whether it's an article, a poem, an online game or a ripped seam I'm repairing. That doesn't mean the best of my ability, pertaining to any given activity, is any good. (I believe when it comes to writing, it IS good, but I don't sew ripped seams very well.) It just means I always do my best and try not to be dismissive of any activity in which I engage.
Would you relenquish some of your income in exchange for more free time?
It's "relinquish." Pardon me. I have all the free time in the world. I have no income to relinquish. I would give up most of my free time for some good health. If I had good health I would be able to dedicate some of my free time to making an income.
Besides your current profession, what other things would you have liked to have been?
An actor, a theatre director, a film director, an ethnomusicologist, something political/activist.
What is the most important thing you have learned from experience?
That I can learn anything. I have since unlearned this. I need a refresher course.
How and why did you begin to be creative?
I have no idea. It might be genetic.
Your mind is your work tool. How do you take care of it?
Miserably. I feed it too much coffee and too little sleep. I do exercise it regularly, which is more than I can say for my body. I like learning. It tickles.
How do you avoid repeating yourself, or falling into formula? How do you stay fresh?
I get bored with the same old same old; I don't have to make any special efforts to stay fresh.
What cultural sources do you draw from the most?
As many as I can find.
"To give birth to ideas." Is this only an expression, or are there really parallels between giving birth and creativity?
I have never physically given birth but I do feel that my characters, when I write fiction, come out of my body and live their own lives, to some extent regardless of the lives I would want for them. The best I can do is follow them around and nag them.
Does spirituality contribute to your creativity?
I am not religious. I am even antireligious. I hold no gods. (I rather like a certain Titan.) On the other hand I adore the culture of the religion into which I was born and with which I still identify: Judaism. That adoration and identification color my work immensely. However, I don't think of myself as a spiritual person, and I don't think that makes me a material person. I try to stay (or get) grounded. I tend to grind my teeth when people say stuff like "It was meant to be" or "It's in God's hands." I'm a bit more proactive than that!
It is possible to fall in love with a bad idea simply because it is yours. How do you avoid this?
I suppose it's possible. I think taking a step or three back would help. Get a second opinion. If you don't know it's a bad idea I guess there is no way to avoid it. You either do or don't have some sense about this. I think I have some sense. Then again, of COURSE I think my ideas are good. Do I really know?
Fortunately I am not shy about sharing my work.
The only time I was ever told I had a bad idea was when I requested of a publisher permission to interview a certain film composer, of whom she had never heard, so she said no. A couple years later, not remembering my request, she asked me to interview him.
It was one of the best interviews I ever had.
I tend to trust myself in this regard, so I don't take any special steps. If you don't trust yourself, you've got a bigger problem than this one!
Must someone be the leader or boss in order for a creative team to function well?
Yes no maybe?
It depends on the situation, and who's in the team, and who's leading or bossing, and what you're trying to accomplish.
Declaration: With what person or business would you like to work?
I would love to work with any number of film directors, some of them no longer living, so I guess I would love to HAVE worked with them, in the capacity of screenwriter. I'd love to be on set to see/help someone really good bring my script to life.
I'd love to be Lanford Wilson. Can I be Lanford Wilson, please? Yeah, I know, Lanford Wilson is already being Lanford Wilson.
UPDATE 10/2011: Lanford Wilson, alas, is no longer being Lanford Wilson. However, no one else ever will be.
The armchair psychologist: Is creativity an act of rebellion for you?
What is the best advertisement you've seen recently?
I am very critical of advertisements. Some of the Geico TV ads are clever. Most, to put it in the vernacular, suck. Bigtime.
Do you work well under pressure?
What city in the world currently attracts you due to its creative environment?
Blackdog, near Aberdeen, Scotland. I don't know about its creative environment, but it's a beautiful place to work. Paris would certainly be more stimulating and I can never say no to Paris. New York has enough energy to bolster anyone's creative spirit, but at my age I'd need a WHOLE lot of money to live there.
What do you feel when, after two or three years, you see an idea of yours again?
Oddly enough, more often than not, I say, "Damn, I'm good!" No, seriously! I am rarely horrified. I occasionally don't recognize myself in the writing and am rather impressed. I don't think it's ego; I think it's recognition. My writing is so much a part of me that encountering it unexpectedly is like turning a corner and running smack into a mirror, except the mirror shows me younger and prettier. That's what happens when I revisit old writing of mine. Old ideas... I don't think I have had to revisit that way. If I have not acted upon them, they're always rattling around in my head so they don't have a chance to surprise me, and if I have acted on them, they're stories already.
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I began to read at age four, and I remember lots of Little Golden Books, as well as a hardback children's volume called How Your Were Born -- very informative! -- and the Danny Kaye Around the World Story Book, which remains one of my favorites to this day. Later, when at the age of perhaps nine I was reading books about Greek and Norse mythology, my father's college psychology textbooks and such classic fiction as Lorna Doone, my mother got so worried about me that she bought me some Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew books, as well as one about Lassie. I read them too but they were not my staple diet. It wasn't until the fifth or sixth grade that I discovered Albert Payson Terhune.
I wrote music before I wrote words, because I was studying, at an early age, both piano and music theory and composition at the Settlement School of Music in Philadelphia. I guess I was eight already when I wrote a poem about and for Ogden Nash, but my mother (my first reader) didn't discover it and send it to him on my behalf until I was about 11; his response, which he typed himself, said my poem was better than any he had written at my age (which I didn't, even then, believe) and that I should continue to write (this I did take to heart). Unfortunately, my dog later ate that letter. No, really!
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I don't have a favorite genre and I tend to dislike genre writing unless it's genre-transcendent. I went through a science-fiction phase; I do tend to like biographies and autobiographies, and right now I am going through a political and scientific/cosmological phase, but truly, I like anything that makes me think and feel.
As for my own works, I link to as much of them as can be found on the net on my own page, http://genessa.webring.com/writingslist.htm.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
That's a tough one. I don't think I have one method. I think my mind has to be tuned just right and then either things fall out of it or I am at least ready to work. This depends on whether I am writing an article on assignment or whether I am releasing some characters I've inadvertently created who are then going to write their story using my typing and directing skills. It does get harder as I get older because I am ill, and my energy levels are often down; it's not yet impossible and I hope it never will be.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
Anything that makes me feel and think. It's not always reading either. It can be a film or even a TV show; it can be an experience outside of the arts. It can be my cat Sammy's golden eyes. He's an artist too, you know. He chews shapes into cardboard boxes. He likes symmetry. My dreams influence my writing, especially my poetry. I am affected by anything outside the box. I credit John Lennon with being a much bigger influence and inspiration on my writing than even I imagined (pun intended).
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
Something to say.
Then, words. Grammar. Syntax. Know the rules and then break them if you will, but know what you're breaking, and have a darned good reason.
No, really. Just tell it, or let it tell itself. But tell it by SHOWING it (or letting it show itself).
Beyond that it's no longer basic. I don't care if it has a beginning, middle or end, or if it uses more than one language, or what point of view it uses. Make me see it, and leave room for me to feel it.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I don't have a favorite. Different voices work for different stories; I am working (endlessly) on a novel that uses more than one voice (not at once). Okay, maybe I have a sneaking love of first person, but when a different voice works, that's what I use.
What well known writers do you admire most?
Why would you assume I admired only well known writers, or maybe I am assuming that's what you assume. Why do you want me to name only well known writers? I admire Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy immensely but also Reinaldo Areinas and Joanna Russ.
This is at any rate an awfully hard question to answer. Let me put it this way: someone once asked me what my ten favorite movies were (and I like more books than movies). I stopped when I got to the 138th movie on my top ten list.
If I give you a list of my most-admired authors, even among the well known, you will not have room to print any interviews with other worthy artists. Please forgive me for bowing out. (But I should mention I once made Harlan Ellison blush, and he's on the list!)
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
What is required for a character to be believable is twofold: the author must believe in the character, and the character must not be forced to do or be anything other than him/herself. I don't create characters. They pop out of my head and I follow them around.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
I am told that I am.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
I have never been able to keep a diary. I attribute my ability to maintain the one i kept the longest to the fact that I pretended I was writing to my late best friend Erik. I could not imagine writing something that would not be read by someone else.
This doesn't mean I write what I think will please you. I please myself. But I do it for you.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
Sure, and sure. That's not ALL it is, that's not ALL they are, and those are neither my only form of personal therapy nor my only source of creative force. I don't believe that if by some miracle I became a totally stable and happy person tomorrow it would destroy my writing.
Does reader feed-back help you?
It certainly flatters me!
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
I can't remember what I've won; obviously none of it was all that prestigious or I'd probably remember. Well, I did win a recipe contest in recent years. I won a trip to Jamaica. That I remember! I won a minor photography honor in Japan about two decades ago. These days competitions want entry fees that I can't afford so I don't enter them; I might, otherwise. I won a minor prize at Helium.com.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
I share them with my fiancé, whose feelings I trust. His literary acumen leaves something to be desired and he has a maddening habit of proofreading when what I want is a report about what he FELT. I keep trying, though!
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
I never did search for it, and I have more than one, which I do not find inconsistent with being alive. We all, writers, other artists, nonartists, even animals, have more than one voice. Go read Steppenwolf.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
None at all. Help me.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
Music. Cats. My computer of course, though I can write poetry on a napkin in a crowded catless restaurant, or on public transportation. I began my aforementioned perpetually unfinished novel with two separate portions without realizing they were the same novel, and one of those portions was begun (and continued quite a ways) on a subway, writing in a notebook on my lap, or was it the corner of an envelope?
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
These days yes I write directly on a computer. Its operating system, the dread Vista, is not compatible with the printer that was bundled with the computer, so these days I don't print at all, but I tended even when I had a functioning printer to correct on screen. I am always revising so I tend to correct as I go along unless I actually make a major change that requires going back and methodically replacing one thing with another (no, find and replace won't do it all in every case). That hasn't happened often. I think I had given one character two names by mistake once and had to make a choice, then go back and honor the choice, but that kind of thing find and replace can handle. Changing someone's birthdate, for example, requires one to remember all the things that might be affected by that, and sometimes rewrite. It's dangerous business.
I reread my novel a lot in order to know what I am going to write next, and eventually that missing chapter becomes clear, and I write it. Along the way I correct what needs correction; it's more likely, at this point, to be an edit than a proof -- in other words, I've probably found every typo I've made, but might suddenly think of a better word, or word order.
When I write on paper, I correct on paper. I cross a lot of stuff out. My paperwork is mostly lines.
UPDATE 10/2011: I now use a laptop with Windows 7 and still have no printer.
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
I have a Facebook page, plus another for my writing and another for the shopping portion of my immense, rambling website. I also am looking forward to reentering the virtual world, There, from which all Thereians have been exiled since March 2010.
What has been your experience with publishers?
You wouldn't ask a plumber to work on your pipes for free, and you wouldn't ask him to work on spec, and you wouldn't ask him to work for a free piece of the pipe he fixed. You certainly wouldn't ask him to work in exchange for the publicity; that's why he's in the phone book. So why do publishers think it's okay for writers to work for "exposure" or "love"? Don't be a wuss; get paid for your work, and not just in copies!
That doesn't mean publishers are bad people. I know a very nice publisher. Maybe more than one. Thinking.
What are you working on now?
Well okay, I am putting together a collection of my short stories, called From the Ridiculous to the Supremes. If I can figure out how to make a good cover without using layers and without exporting in PDF format, I will soon be good to go.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
Bring yourself to show them to someone.
First read them. If you are not a sociopath or a psychopath and you do not throw up while reading them, chances are there is at least one other person in the universe who also will not throw up while reading them.
Please list any awards for your work.
I won an honorable mention in a Japanese photo contest, decades ago, for a picture of a praying mantis I found on a large manila envelope protruding from my mailbox.
Have you ever awoken with a melody created from your dreams?
I awoke once, at the age of seven, having fallen asleep in my parents' bed and been carried, unconscious, to my own, from a dream that I was sitting at the piano, playing a movement of a sonatina I had just written, to find that I really WAS sitting at the piano, playing that sonatina. I'm not saying it was any good, or that I was Mozart, and my parents did not appreciate being awakened to hear my news.
What type of music do you detest?
Easy listening music is very difficult to listen to.
Your definition of "glamour"?
My definition of "glamour" is "false excitement stirred up by an unworthy ideal promoted by people who want to make money off of consumers who not only have no hope of achieving it but who would suffer from achieving it."
What is your specialty? What subjects do you deal with?
Everything, whether I know anything about it or not.
No, really! I am a very quick study and my curiosity has led me hither and yon.
In which media do you presently work or have you worked?
I have been a magazine editor but mostly I freelance, on paper and on the net. I've always wanted to be a DJ, actually.
What is "news"?
I quote Phil Ochs in his song, "Crucifixion": "And do you have a picture of the pain?"
That's not what news should be, but that's what it is, it seems.
To you, what is objectivity?
Not making assumptions, getting your facts right, and including or withholding them based on relevance, not on personal preference.
Does freedom of expression end where the editorial line begins?
Freedom of expression isn't actually in the Constitution (and not everyone lives in a country that has a constitution) so it's a rather nebulous term to start with; who knows where it begins or ends, once we've defined it? Let me instead tell you what my late mother always said: "Your freedom to swing your arm ends where my nose begins."
Having said this, I grant that anyone who owns a newspaper can, and may, control what does or does not go into it. The important thing is that the readership recognize this and express itself on the topic. Keep your newsfolk honest.
Do you feel that analytical and investigative journalism is being lost?
It's out there somewhere but don't ask me where. There is, in its place, an awful lot of mud being slung, and it's not even good, honest mud.
With a camera on every mobile phone, is every citizen becoming a correspondent?
I mostly take pictures of my cats doing stupid and adorable stuff. I have never sent those pictures to any news media. I can't say what others may do. I won't judge by what makes it onto the Tv screen; I don't think that's representative.
How would you explain the boom of the tabloid press?
People like gossip, always have. It's been booming for millennia; why stop now?
What is your position regarding the right to privacy of famous people?
My position is that a person's private life is private. If you work in a very public position, then your work may not be so private. A politician must justify her vote; she doesn't have to justify her sex life. An actor may be seen naked on screen; he isn't obligated to bare all upon a fan's demand. I don't think it's as complex as folks make it out to be.
What can you teach us about the art of the interview?
LISTEN TO THE ANSWERS!
I once taught journalism in a (women's) junior college in Nagoya, Japan. I had my students think of questions to ask me and then I would give shocking or ridiculous answers to see how they responded.
One might ask me "What do you like to eat for lunch?"
The startled student would write my answer down, then move on to the next planned question: "What is your favorite book?"
The good interviewer will, at the moment I say I eat dead babies, scrap the book question, at least for the moment, and ASK me about those dead babies.
LISTEN TO THE ANSWERS!
(You will note that in an interview format such as this one, in which I am responding to pretyped questions rather than a human being, there is no one to listen to my answers.)
Please list well-known people you have interviewed.
A partial list, off the top of my head:
Joan Micklin Silver
Paco de Lucia
That should give you an idea. Working for a film magazine, naturally I tended to interview people involved in some way in the film industry. I have interviewed countless less-famous folks in the course of researching articles on other topics; veterinarians tend not to achieve a whole lot of international fame, but I interviewed some wonderful ones for a story on animal rights.
What are your thoughts of the free papers distributed in cities?
I wish they'd ask first before delivering to my door. My house is pretty cluttered as it is. On the other hand, City Pages, here in the Twin Cities, or the Los Angeles Free Press, and all the gazillions of local equivalents... those are fabulous.
What is the book you would like to write?
I'm writing it.
Oh yes, I'd also like to write a fictionalized account of my great-grandmother's life, what little I know of it. It might as easily be a screenplay as a novel. I have no book-length nonfiction in mind, although I am planning to gather my essays into one volume.
Is there a motto or ethical principle that clarifies your decisions in moments of confusion?
MOMENTS of confusion? Mere MOMENTS?
Tell me if this helps: When I was 15 I decided to examine all my beliefs periodically to make sure the foundation hadn't fallen out from under them. I've tried to be true to this decision. I don't know whether it clarifies other decisions or dispels/creates confusion. I can't see any way, though, of avoiding these periodic examinations and maintaining any confidence in my objectivity.
What advice would you give to someone who has just left university and wishes to start in the profession?
In addition, go get yourself an internship. If you have to get a real job too, that's fine. Wait table, assemble auto parts. You are young. You can do it. Do it now before you're no longer young, and can't, or, due to obligations, wouldn't.
Where can we see some of your work online?
What was your first computer, and which is your current?
My first PC was a no-name monster my sister dumped on me, conning me into financing a newer one for her. My PC at the time I began to answer these questions was an Acer Aspire, unfortunately operating on Vista and sporting a dead sound card. As of October 2011, I work on a Toshiba laptop with crappy internal sound and decent speakers, and not quite enough memory, sort of like me.
Do you consider yourself a geek?
I think technically I'm a nerd.
How do creativity and methodology combine to resolve technological problems?
They don't. That's why they so rarely get resolved.
What advice do you have for those reluctant to try new technologies?
You're afraid of the new stuff because you don't know how it works? Then unless you can explain your bedroom lamp, your car, your lawnmower, your television, your refrigerator and your microwave, you can't use them. Sit quietly in the dark.
Is there some area of knowledge that is morally unacceptable to you?
Pish tush. Feh. Morally Shmorally.
Why do two or more scientists often come up simultaneously with the same discovery?
Because the things they discover are not hiding. More than one scientist can look in the right place in the right way at the right time. Eventually, everyone with the standard number of fingers is going to come up with some form of basic mathematics. Why should two scientists not figure out the truth about how something works? That's what science is: the study of how things work.
What is the meaning of life? Is there a scientific answer to this question?
Quite honestly, I think the question is ridiculous. It's like asking "what is the meaning of potatoes" or "what is the meaning of blue." There are, nonetheless, lots and lots of scientific answers to this question. Most of those answers consist of further questions (which is how it should be). We can't help being curious, and that's fine. It's when we think we've found "the" answer that we get into trouble... except for 42. Forty-two was a really good answer. Of course, the late, great Douglas Adams, whose answer it was, also noted that it's the question, not the answer, that no one has yet figured out.
What do you expect of your bank? Does it respond to your needs?
I expect my bank to rip me off without hesitation, and it has not let me down in this regard.
Conventional medicine and alternative medicine: what is real and what is superstition?
Conventional medicine is real; I've seen it. The superstition regarding it lies in two areas: 1. the belief of the patient that doctors are omnipotent and 2. the belief of the doctor that doctors are omnipotent. Alternative medicine is also real, but it's buried beneath a bunch of phony balogny crap. "It's natural" is not sufficient reason to trust a substance. Dog poop is natural too; that doesn't mean eating it will cure cancer. A little research -- make that a LOT of research -- on the part of the patient is in order, and a demand by the patient that the doctor also indulge in such research is ALSO in order.
How do patient beliefs or superstitions effect recovery?
They do not effect recovery. They may well affect recovery, generally negatively. I can imagine someone's belief that s/he is going to die causing that person to die more clearly than I can imagine a tumor's receding strictly due to the patient's believing there is no cancer. NOTE: if you actually meant "affect" you should change the question.
How should one deal with a friend who "psychoanalyzes" without having been asked to do so?
If the erstwhile analyst is actually a friend, "Stop that" should be sufficient. If s/he is an acquaintance, "your toe is in my private pond; please withdraw it" is in order. If the toe is not withdrawn, perhaps the acquaintanceship should be.
Give us a simple prescription for happiness
Anyone who claims to be able to do that is a fraud.
What is happiness, and the main obstacle to reaching it?
I have no idea what happiness is, but I can see lots of obstacles. One prevalent one is not knowing when to mind one's own business and when to mind someone else's. If I see a dog tied up in someone's yard in the hot summer sun, with no water bowl around, you can bet I'm going to knock on that someone's door and say "give your dog some water!" because that dog cannot speak for itself. On the other hand, a four-week-old fetus is a speck of cellular matter, and is only a baby, a human being, to those who planned and want it. It is none of anyone else's business. People who want to tell you how to have sex, or what religion to believe, or that you're going to hell if you don't do it their way, must be profoundly unhappy.
Do we think too much? Why is it so difficult to feel here and now?
I am sorry to say that my observations lead me to believe that most people don't think ENOUGH. They may fret over an idea to excess but that's not thinking.
How do you deal with discouragement, despair, a sense of setback, etc.?
I cry, get cranky, procrastinate, deny.
Is it wise to believe in things that do not exist if it helps you to be happy?
You appear to be asking whether it is better to be happily insane than otherwise. Is ignorance bliss? Not for everyone else. Being around an ignorant person is anything but blissful.
How do you distinguish between spirituality and religion?
Religion is organized superstition. Spirituality is personal superstition. You can (and should) have empathy for other living beings without thinking the clouds are talking to you.
Is God an idea? Is God in the brain?
God is thunder and lightning personified by a culture that is too embarrassed to admit that it's afraid of thunder and lightning.
What is your concept of free will Vs destiny, fate, karma?
Free will, like everything else, is limited by circumstance. You can't fly, even if you will yourself to fly. That doesn't mean there is no such thing as free will; it just means everyone has to get real. Destiny and fate are pretty words for predicting what will happen or making note, after the fact, of what happened, as if it were predictable. Karma is an interesting and much-misunderstood concept, and I may misunderstand it as well, but my take on it is not that what goes around comes around in the sense that good or bad deeds are boomerangs. You don't necessarily get your just desserts. Rather, everything that happens affects everything else that happens, not always in predictable ways, or even perceptible ways, and rarely in ways that jive with the human concept of justice (which is what folks seem erroneously to believe karma means).
What happens when you die?
Ask a worm.
What is your short list of healthy habits?
I breathe whenever possible.
What subjects do you teach? What types of students do you have?
When I was finishing up my degree, I took a part-time job teaching drama to Montessori school kids, aged four and five. Many years later, in Japan, I taught, mostly (although not exclusively) at university level: English, and other subjects IN English, ranging from acting to American literature, from simple conversational skills to Cambodian history. My brightest students were in a special program at their high school. My worst were junior high school boys who had a penchant for throwing desks at each other during class, and drawing rather optimistic genitalia on the walls and on said desks. I also taught very young students, and adults, at various cultural centers in central Japan, as well as at two language schools whose Nagoya branches I managed (consecutively). When I returned to the United States, I taught a little bit at some rather sleazy language schools in New York, but by that time the chronic illnesses that had been toying with me began to play in earnest, and I slowly found myself unable to work. I have not set foot in a classroom since then.
Who was your most influential teacher and why?
Perhaps my most influential teacher was Miss Elizabeth Patricia May (I hope I have not reversed her first and middle names), whom I had for one year: the sixth grade. She did not forbid me to bark in class (I was a practicing collie at the time) and she taught me not to make unfounded assumptions: we received extra credit of some kind if we could use the word of the day in a sentence. I remarked to her, "You are not ambidextrous," which I thought used the new word fairly cleverly, but she was, as it turned out, ambidextrous, so although I knew what the word meant and had used it correctly, I had not used it factually and did not receive the credit.
What is your educational philosophy?
"I don't know" is a good answer but "I don't know; let's find out" is a better answer.
What issues in education are of greatest concern to you?
That it should continue to be free to every child in my country, and that it should begin to concentrate on teaching kids HOW to think instead of WHAT to think. Toward the latter end, literacy is crucial. Toward the former end, getting the Tea Party out of power is crucial.
Is there something you hate to see when you go to a restaurant as a customer?
Someone preparing a burrito without gloves, sneezing into her hand, then continuing to prepare the burrito without first washing her hands. I SAW this.
Do you sometimes find yourself eating junk-food?
Very rarely. I do crave oil (I believe this is due to some enzymic deficiency) and sometimes salt, so I like nuts, and pretzels, but I rarely snack, and most junk food doesn't taste good or feel satisfying to me. My idea of a fabulous snack is sauteed brussels sprouts.
Who cooks in your home?
What would you say to a novice in the kitchen to help them get over their fear of cooking?
Pretend you're making mud pies, but remember you have to eat them.
What is your blog address? What subjects do you deal with?
My topics are multifarious but since I write articles and essays elsewhere, my blog tends to concentrate on things that strike me and to which I respond on the fly; this often involves television.
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to begin a blog?
Oddly enough I have written about that already so I will just refer you to that article: http://www.helium.com/items/2238659-how-to-become-a-prolific-blogger
Which actor would you like to be?
Myself, if only I were so employed.
If you were sent to a deserted island, which book, CD and film would you take with you?
The contents of the New York City Public Library, main branch, for starters.
A simple pleasure that for you is quite big or important.
Snuggling with felines.
What is the greatest loss you have had in your life?
My parents, my Grandpop Jack, my Uncle Irv, my Aunt Mollie, my best friend, every pet who has ever died. Francois Truffaut, Alan Bates, George Harrison. My health.
How do you respond to telemarketing calls?
Rudely. I'm a bad girl.
Are you an ex-smoker? How did you quit?
No. I have never smoked. I am not even tempted to smoke.
I have, however, advised people to quit and proposed that they could do so by forcing themselves to smoke on a schedule based on how many cigarettes they currently smoke daily. I have heard reports that my method works.
It is 5 pm on a typical Sunday: what are you doing?
I'm online or I'm cooking.
Something in which you are completely incompetent.
Any sport. Swimming. Higher math.
You have nine wins in a row in a game of roulette: do you continue because you are on a good run, or abandon the game because statistically, it is your turn to lose?
Neither. I abandon the game because I am not greedy.
What toy gave you the best moments of your childhood?
What was your favourite primary/secondary school teacher like?
She was ambidextrous and could bounce a soccer ball off the top of her head.
What was your first vehicle?
My first and only vehicle was a Mazda RX4 which I first named Sneaky Pete, based on my having purchased it for a nominal sum from my friend Peter and the fact that, as it was white with a red stripe, he called it "The Ked" (a brand of sneaker). However, I renamed it Death Trap.
Is there any superstition that makes you change your behaviour?
I believe it is terribly unlucky to have superstitions. I try to avoid stepping on them or walking under them, and I cross the street whenever I see one.
Please list something you have not yet done, but that you would definitely like to do someday.
See my screenplay made into a film.
Visit Firenze, Prague, the Ukraine and that portion of Austria in which my Bubby Jenny was born -- which turns out to be in Romania.
Marry my fiancé.
Find out that my cats can speak English.
A word or expression that you love.
Malheureusement. It has an unfortunate definition but it feels so good to say! Also nama mugi nama gome nama tamago, because I CAN say it, and fast, too!
A word or expression that you detest.
Shigata ga nai.
It can TOO be helped! TRY to help it!
Which animal do you prefer for company?
I am an avid ailurophile and this affection appears to be mutual.
What do you imagine yourself doing for your retirement?
Starving to death.
If you were to return reincarnated, which real-life person would you like to be?
Me. But different.
Did God create the world in seven days, or do you believe in the theory of evolution?
Are they mutually exclusive?
I don't hold any gods, myself, and evolution is not a theory. The only thing theoretical about evolution is some of the small details about how it works. THAT it works is being proven all around us at every moment.
But then again, the question should be did God etc. or do I believe in the big BANG. Evolution isn't the process of forming the world.
Only someone who didn't know squat about evolution would ask such a question. Sorry.
To what percentage do you believe in statistics?
Wouldn't I have to believe in statistics to a certain extent to give any credence to the question itself? You can bend statistics to "prove" anything (mostly because people tend not to read or listen carefully, and also because they mistake facts for truth, and evidence for proof). For example, recently I read the of the California welfare cases suspected of being fraudulent (in a certain year), 20 percent seemed to have enough validity to warrant further investigation. No information was given about what percentage of welfare cases were suspected to begin with, or what percentage of those warranting further investigation actually turned out to be fraudulent. Yet I have seen people conclude from this that 20 percent of welfare recipients are perpetrating fraud! That is NOT what these statistics said at ALL! If (I'm going to make up some numbers here just as an example) 20 percent of the welfare cases in California was suspected of being fraudulent and 20 percent of those warranted further investigation, then that means that no more than four percent of the total cases warranted further investigation. If then 20 percent of those cases turned out truly to be fraudulent, that means less than one percent of the welfare recipient population is perpetrating fraud. LESS THAN ONE PERCENT. Worst case scenario: every single one of the cases investigated fully turned out to be fraudulent. That would STILL be only four percent (given my numbers, chosen based on what people erroneously believe). In addition, apparently some of those cases that would be considered fraudulent due to recipient misrepresentation actually were not denied or discontinued because the bits that were misrepresented had no bearing on eligibility! (Example: someone asks your weight and you fudge by ten pounds; it has nothing to do with your eligibility for food stamps.) So yeah, statistics exist; I believe they exist. Are they significant? That depends on 1. whether they're accurate, 2. whether they're relevant to the question at hand and 3. how they're presented and used. In other words, no, not usually.
Do you believe it is true that humans only use 10% of their brain capacity?
That depends on the human, but yes, I think we are not working up to speed.
Using the subway without paying, shoplifting: is there excessive tolerance to these small offenses?
That depends on what color your skin is and how nicely you might be dressed.
Does brand name influence your buying habits?
Yes. I avoid certain brand names because I don't like their advertising. Brand names very, very rarely influence my buying habits positively; I either like the item in question or I don't.
Do you think tipping is a good custom?
I think employers should pay their employees enough for tipping to be unnecessary. I lived for a decade in Japan, where tipping is not customary, but I did once tip a cabbie, who would not have allowed me to give him a monetary gratuity but happily accepted a baseball bat for his child.
Do you think the catastrophism about climate change has been exaggerated?
I think it has been underplayed.
Do you boycott brands if you learn they employ children in third-world countries or harm the environment?
Do you defend animal experimentation for the development of medicine that can save human lives?
No, largely because it has been proven that animal experimentation does NOT save human lives, and there are other ways to develop and test lifesaving medicines. I've researched and written about this.
There is, of course, also the issue of whether a nonhuman animal's life is less valuable than a human's. Perhaps in some cases, it is, but there is no such thing as intrinsic value. It's always a matter of valuable TO WHOM. Naturally a human life tends to be more valuable TO A HUMAN. We can't be blamed too much for this prejudice, but we can be blamed for acting universally upon it without choosing to take a larger view.
What is your opinion of the rise in popularity of plastic surgery and implants?
There is, so far, a five percent increase in plastic surgery in 2012 over 2011. I have no idea how much of it is elective. I don't think that's a terribly significant statistic at any rate.
Should more limits be established for cars within downtown areas?
Yes, cars should be entirely, or almost entirely, banned from downtown areas. This of course means that better public transportation needs to be developed and maintained.
Do extraterrestrials exist?
How should I know?
What do you currently have in your MP3 player?
I don't have one, except for Windows Media Player, and my computer's sound card recently died. Before that tragedy, I was listening to a lot of Klezmer music.
UPDATE 10/2011: My laptop has sound, and pretty nifty speakers, and I make YouTube playlists; here is my channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/genesssa?feature=mhee, which also has videos of me reading some of my own works.
What books are you currently reading?
Books by Jimmy Carter, Carl Sagan and Al Franken.
UPDATE 11/2011: I am eagerly awaiting a biography of Martin Shaw, enroute to me from some eBay seller. I hope my eyes hold out long enough to read it.
What is that special film you never tire of watching?
La Nuit Americaine.
What do you use: Mac or PC and why?
I use a PC because Macs are designed to deny access to its users, on the double theory that Macs can't break and that its users are too stupid to fix anything anyway. Unfortunately my current PC came loaded with Windows Vista, which emulated Mac. Oddly, the Mac TV commercials are blasting away at Vista, and Vista's biggest problem is that it too closely resembles Mac!
What is to come after consumist society?
Oh, is it ending?
Do you find the saturation of advertising in the media excessive?
Yes, excessive... but not surprising.
Do you believe there is excessive sex and violence in the media?
No. I believe there is excessive INAPPROPRIATE sex and violance in the media, and not ENOUGH appropriate sex and violence in the media. Appropriate, to me, means not existing for its own sake (i.e., gratuitous) but serving the story or character(s); being realistic or satirical as opposed to inflated and satyrical; and showing consequences, by which I don't mean simply zooming in on blood and guts.
What were your favourite subjects when you were in primary/secondary school?
English, English and English.
Do you think video games, chat rooms, etc. have a dangerous addictive
effect on teenagers?
They can, but more because they serve as substitutes for parental attention than because of any inherently dangerous qualities they possess.
Has there been a personal-growth book that has transformed your life?
There never has been and there never will be.
Have you ever bought works of art? What type of art? What compels you to purchase art?
I can't afford original art. I like prints and posters by the artists I admire, who are numerous, and many of whom were Jewish and lived in Paris in the first half of the 20th century.
What magazines do you frequently read?
Psychology Today, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Harpers.
What sports do you play and how often?
How do you explain the rise in "fame" culture?
Has it risen? I think access has risen; I think this phenomenon is much older than we think.
What do you have in your wallet right now?
I don't carry one.
In the wintertime I fill my coat pockets with all sorts of trash. In warmer seasons I may fill my jeans or skirt pockets, or carry a little bag just big enough to hold my cell phone and a couple debit cards, maybe some change, and a pen and scrap of paper.
How do you kill time?
Why would I want to kill time? I want all my time to be alive.
In which city do you live? What are your favourite and least favourite things about it?
I live in a suburb of Minneapolis. I like some of the cultural venues, especially the Cedar Cultural Club. I dislike the fact that it is not New York City. I despise the climate.
How do you define your political position? What is the ideology that inspires it?
I don't like labels but if I must have one, I suppose I am a social free enterprisist. Since there is no such thing, I guess I'd better explain. A social free enterprisist believes that things that an individual and a society need in order to survive and flourish -- shelter, food, clothing, sanitation, medical care, education, essential transportation, connectivity, safety -- should be provided at no charge, and that luxuries and enhancements -- a big car, fancy duds, caviar, a larger than standard home, or a second home, elective surgery -- should be purchased by individuals who can afford them and desire them. Capitalism is fine in theory, but people ARE greedy, and careless of each other's welfare, and no one should die in order for someone else to have an extra million bucks. There is plenty of room for commerce and enterprise in this philosophy but greedy folk will object, of course... especially to education. Our free education system, sorely in need of revision and in danger of being dismantled instead of improved, created the middle class as surely as any industrial revolution, and those with money and power rightly fear the upwardly mobile; they'd rather see the middle class slide down the chute and vanish into darkness and poverty. Keeping them uneducated is a dandy way to do that. I object, but who am I to object? Oh, yeah: a social free enterprisist. Maybe some day there will actually be such a thing.
What matters more in deciding your vote: the party, the candidate, or the ideas?
The ideas, and how badly I despise the opposing candidate.
Do you think religion has a place in politics?
Only to the extent that people should be permitted to exclaim "Thank God!" when a particularly moronic politician finally shuts up. Other than that, absolutely not.
Why does hunger continue to exist in the world? Is this the result of a deliberate policy?
Yes, it is the result of a deliberate policy. Without the poor, wealth would be meaningless. It is not in the best interest of the wealthy for anyone but themselves to be educated, healthy, satisfied or in any way free.
What political figures in recent history do you admire most?
Jimmy Carter, Golda Meir, Harvey Milk, Bella Abzug.
What is nationalism?
Nationalism is belief in one's own country's superiority in everything to the point that it becomes belief in everyone else's inferiority, and to the exclusion of any inkling that a country does not exist in a vacuum, but is part of a larger community. Nationalism is often this belief, disguised as patriotism.
Do you believe in any of the conspiracy theories regarding 9-11?
I have my own.
Are there too many taxes?
There are not enough taxes, and the wrong people are being taxed at the wrong rates. Gazillionnaires should pay their fair share. There is no trickle-down and corporations are not people. Far from creating jobs, most of the elite exempt outsource, simultaneously supporting slave labor and laying off American workers. Tax the rich; they can take it and there is no reason not to do so.
Should a maximum limit of permissible personal fortune exist; and thereby, place limits on individual wealth?
Now there's an idea. I'm not sure. I think we could at least limit permissible methods of amassing personal wealth. It's not offensive that some folks have a lot of money. It's offensive that they're allowed to screw people to get it. It's also offensive that they're allowed to purchase power over other people with it. Lobbying should be outlawed; other forms of bribery are already illegal, so why not lobbying? Let people buy summer homes and winter homes and pay for their grandchildren's education and buy a couple hundred cars if they like (if they wouldn't actually prefer to set up a charitable foundation for those who can't do likewise); why should wealth carry political power?
Should consensual offenses such as drug use or prostitution be legalized?
Prostitution should be legalized so it can be taxed, and so that health and safety can be regulated, not to mention the reduction of physical and mental abuse. Marijuana should be legalized and tobacco should be criminalized, because marijuana use may not harm the user and for sure doesn't harm anyone else, and tobacco harms not only the user but everyone around the user. In addition, tobacco is highly addictive and marijuana is not addictive at all.
Are you pro-choice or pro-life?
I don't consider anti-choice people to be pro-life; it's a deceptive term. People who call themselves pro-life are often anti-life, if said life has already been born and is living on death row, or if it sets foot, unbidden, on one's property and one happens to own a shotgun.
Are you in favor of or against the death penalty?
I am against the death penalty for many reasons, not least of which is the preponderance of innocent (of the crime in question anyway) folks on (or recently on and now deceased) death row, but my main reason is this:
There are certain people I would love to see dead. Had I been alive during Hitler's lifetime, I would have personally lusted after his death. I don't like living in a world that includes a surviving Charles Manson. It is because I feel justified in having these strong feelings that I am against the death penalty. I don't have a right to act upon those feelings, and I don't think governments should, either.
Should homosexual couples have the same right to adopt as heterosexual couples?
Yes. They should have the same rights in every regard as heterosexual couples.
What significant changes do you think Obama can bring about along his presidential term?
None whatsoever if the Tea Party continues to wield any power whatsoever, since their STATED priority is to oust Obama at any cost, and that means sacrificing the American people to their incomprehensible cause. Obama wants to do good things, knows how to do them and it attempting to get them done, and the Tea Party is filibustering, lying, cheating, doing everything it can to stop him... and, alas, it's working.
What is the secret to happiness?
It won't be a secret anymore if I tell you. That doesn't mean I know....
Does the soul exist?
"Soul" is too loaded a word, just as "God" is. Some people see "God" in the flowers and trees -- as if flowers and trees were not wonderful enough! It just confuses others, who see God as a big guy with a beard. "Soul" to me is a quality of being, "neshuma," the quality of having a lot of empathy for others. As for "soul" in the context of a consciousness beyond the physical, no; as I understand it, that consciousness is, among other things, electricity. Again, that doesn't undermine its wonderfulness, but I wouldn't want to confuse it with something that migrates from one body, or incarnation, into another, or that goes to a mythical place called "heaven" or "hell," or that needs some kind of saving (like Green Stamps). I just don't buy all that.
Where does science end and ideology begin?
Hopefully science doesn't end. Science is a study. When we stop studying, we start making stuff up. That's where ideology begins.
Your own definition for beauty
It's a cliché but it's true. Beauty is as beauty does. Stupidity is unattractive even on a symmetrical face. In addition, "It ain't the meat, it's the mooo-tion!"
What is God?
God is a fictional character, a composite actually. Sometimes I feel sorry for him, but I feel sorry, on occasion, for Oliver Twist, too. That doesn't mean I believe either exists in real life.
If you were a millionaire, what would be your charitable work?
I might have more than one idea but it would involve helping (providing shelter, other help) abused humans (probably women and children) and other animals.
Your sins and virtues.
I do not buy the concept of sin. We all have flaws; who has the authority to tell me that any of my flaws are sins, or even define my flaws for me other than in a legal or physical context?
Among my flaws are impatience and selfishness. Among my virtues are a talent for analogical thinking and a generosity that I try to allow to override my selfishness. Perhaps I am fooling myself and what I think and hope is generosity is really just an eagerness to share, not for altruistic reasons, but simply because I long to be understood, which would explain why I am taking the time to answer all these questions.
On your death bed, what do you think you will regret not having done more of in life?
What will your epitaph be?
It will probably be a URL, something linking to my writing. Has anyone ever clicked on a headstone before?
What was your first crush like?
I had a simultaneous crush on Gene Autry and Jimmy Dodd, from the time I was, say, three, until I was about six.
Is love a creative challenge?
Love is a challenge not to be creative. We always want to create the love of our lives out of the object of our love, and that lends itself to objectification. Only in creation-based religion is man made of clay; real men are made out of some very stubborn amalgam that doesn't even dent when you bang nails into it. It is very difficult to be forgiving of flaws, and yes, people can help each other work on flaws, but you can't (and shouldn't) change the essence of who a person is. You can help someone quit smoking. You can't make someone be a person s/he isn't. Pygmalian is a play, not a game plan.
Of course it takes a lot of creativity not to try to recreate your partner. It's so tempting! How do you cope with your lover's otherness without, at best, tweaking it to suit yourself? Complicating this problem is the fact that so many parents try to mold their children instead of nourishing them. It sets a bad precedent.
Should we accept being alone or seek a way out as soon as possible?
We are all alone. It doesn't matter if you have a thousand lovers... you're alone. There is only one way out and it comes soon enough. Find love for reasons other than not being alone.
Which kind of loyalty is more important, physical or emotional?
I don't understand why one must choose. If there is emotional loyalty, doesn't the physical loyalty follow?
What three questions would you ask a person to see whether or not they could be considered a potential mate?
1. Do you believe that the Beach Boys have signed a legal contract with the Devil?
2. Would you applaud a speaker who declared that if a sick person happened to be uninsured, that person deserved to die?
3. Are you able to mention Sarah Palin without bursting into hysterical laughter?
If the answer to any of these questions, which may change at any time, is yes, it is time to move on and look elsewhere for love.
What advice would you give to anyone trying to flirt with you?
Have fun. Compliment me realistically so I don't laugh in your face. Be interesting. Find me interesting. Then don't expect the flirtation to escalate; flirting is fun but I'm spoken for.
Do you pay by credit usually, occasionally, or never? What justifies that?
I have no credit. I don't expect ever to be given credit. I use my debit card a lot.
Are you in the habit of reading product labels? What type of information do you look for?
I read labels to see the order of the ingredients, whether a product contains guar gum or xanthan gum (not because I think they're harmful but because they generally contribute to a texture I find unpleasant) and to determine the presence of chemicals whose names I can't spell or pronounce (always a bad sign).
When a product does not live up to its promises, do you make a complaint, or do you think that is just a waste of time?
I always complain, but I try to complain to the right party instead of just qvetching. I do also qvetch in a blog, so that others may be warned.
If you inherited the equivalent of 10 years worth of your annual income, what would you invest in?
It would have to be ten years' worth of someone else's annual income; one has to have income for this question to work. But let's say I had a bundle of money; would that do? I'd buy acreage in a rural setting not far from an urban hub, somewhere politically liberal, build a mansion, cottages and stables, set aside a large portion for gardening, hire equine therapists and psychologists specializing in recovery from abuse, acquire horses suitable for the purpose, and equipment and materials for their care and wellbeing, and set up a shelter and therapy center for abused women, children and animals, also offering outpatient equine therapy for anyone who could benefit from it. So I guess I'd be investing, really, in some kind of fund that paid enough interest or dividends to support such an endeavor, and/or investing in the acquisition of donated funds for that purpose.
What is your earliest memory?
Being in the crib and having another baby held up over me by way of introduction. When, as an adult, I told my mother about this memory, she denied it ever could have happened, as that would have been "unsanitary," but I trust my memory.
What toys do you recall most fondly?
My baseball cards from the late 1950s/early 1960s, my immense marble collection (particularly two cracked yellow shooters, one of which I still possess), my stuffed animals and my books. There was a white birch on my elementary school grounds whom I considered a friend.
How complicated was your transition to adulthood?
I'll let you know if I ever get there.
What can you tell us about your discovery of sex?
Well, if I were the one to discover sex, surely the rest of you would not be here, right? I don't think it was lost.
Did you always know what you wanted to be? How did you discover your calling?
My first career goal was "Indian," as Amerinds were then called. When I discovered that I could not grow up to be an Indian, I decided to be a cowgirl. This was my goal until I was seven. Not long after that I decided to be a dog but it took me a year to settle upon a breed. I was, for a time, a part-time golden retriever, and a part-time collie. I then became a full-time collie. This was my childhood vocation. My third-grade teacher had told me I would grow up to be a teacher myself but I didn't believe it.
When I was eleven I quit being a dog and again looked to the future: I would be either an animal psychologist or a spy. In high school a mysterious teacher (not one of my own) addressed me as "Emily Dickinson" but it still didn't occur to me that writing was something I could do for a living. I didn't have the confidence to pursue such a career. I knew my writing was good but could not figure out what to do about it. I decided to be an actor. (If selling one's writing is hard, try selling oneself!) Halfway through college I decided to be a director instead. I completed my degree in filmmaking.
I've had lots of jobs, not all of which added up to, or contributed to, a career, but the two things I have done most consistently are to write and to teach. In terms of employment, I fell into each quite by accident, so although my callings had always called me, it was never a matter of answering the call; it was, rather, a matter of finding myself in the oddest places at even odder times.
What was the best time in your life?
One day in 1976 when I had access to the then-cutting-edge Steenbeck editing machine at the American University, where I was finishing up my B.A. My father dropped me off at nine in the morning with my strips of film and picked me up ten minutes later, at five in the afternoon. I had been totally absorbed in editing. Nothing has ever beat that.
If you write your memoirs someday, what will be the title?
Learning to Sleep.
What are the things that you definitely want to do before dying?
Revisit France, Ireland, Britain. Visit Firenze, Prague, whatever part of Romania constitutes the birthplace of my then-Austrian Bubby Jenny, and the Ukraine, not to mention Mongolia and Portugal.
Finish and sell my novel.
Gail M Feldman
The Twin Cities, Minnesota
|| ||Takaki Ishida|| |
|| ||Lawrence Lulz|| |