Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
I would want to have Thom Yorke as a dinner guest. I would ask him about his songwriting process, how it has evolved and what he’s learned.
Would you like to be famous? In what way?
Yes, I want to be a performance artist/recording artist. I’d like to represent mystery, chaotic emotion, like Björk.
Before making a phone call, do you ever rehearse what you're going to say? Why?
Yes, because I want to be clear when I speak. I have trouble finding the right words to express what I feel and think. I think I have this difficulty because I am a detail-oriented skeptic who enjoys precision in speech. Most people think the world is simple and controlled by easily ascertained causal powers. People are quite liberal in making claims about the world, are over-confident in their abilities and are looking for others who are also this way. I would contend that people who are described as being good with people are some of the least rigorous in their thinking. These easy-going folk are the ones who have supported every form of injustice throughout history. They’ll be at the front of the mob to lynch you. They don’t rehearse because they don’t have complex thoughts, thoughts tempered by evidence and careful consideration. Ask yourself this: do most people rehearse what they’re about to say? Now, considering that speaking is an expression of thinking, ask yourself this: Is the world moving smoothly toward greater health, more consistently applied justice, greater objectivity? Being too thoughtful has never driven a society to commit atrocities.
What would constitute a(n) perfect amazing day for you?
I’ve just looked over all the questions in Arthur Aron’s 36 Questions lists, and this is the most difficult for me to answer.
I wake up at 10 am, which is not too early, but not so late that I feel lazy. Lying next to me is my soulmate, who has the same biorhythm as me (highly unlikely). I resume some creative project that I’ve been working on for weeks/months, something involving made-up people and interesting situations. I meet with other people working on the project, people who “get it”. (Just gave myself douche chills, but I will soldier through). Between long sessions of riffing ideas and analyzing reality, we beat out some great, usable work, and send it off to some other people. Later, I have some time to exercise, either hitting and kicking a heavy bag or running. I spend some time doing music stuff. I work on a music project, possibly with other people, or maybe solo because the shit I’m doing is too out there. I’m like Björk, if Björk were a Black dude with a bad voice. My soulmate and I make dinner and eat together, possibly with other people. We laugh stupidly and drink a moderate amount of alcohol. Late at night, I go to bed with my soulmate, or finish up a section of writing, or go for a walk, either alone or with someone. I have a dog, probably a standard poodle, who is well behaved. I am relaxed and present most of the time, and catch myself when I start to act stupid/toxic.
When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I sang and played guitar for four elderly women today, as a hospice volunteer. It was fun and we all (except one who was conked out on sedatives) laughed a lot.
If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you choose?
I would definitely chose to let my body stop aging at 30, while my mind continues to develop. The best people I know are well above 30 years old, some pushing seventy. If those people had young bodies, they would be GODS.
Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
Yes. When I reach advanced age and begin to deteriorate physically, I will probably take a cocktail of drugs, all of them inducing some form of euphoria except for the one among them that is lethal (phenobarbitol). I have seen how people die of old age and it’s nothing to look forward to.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Above all else, I am grateful for my intellect, because it has kept me safe. Where friendship, family and community should have protected me, it has always been focused application of my intellect that has kept warm and fed.
If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I would have given my mother a stronger maternal instinct. She had none, and was only ever superficially affectionate. Being raised by a woman with a low capacity for intimacy has stunted my emotional development and caused me great social difficulties, which I strive everyday to overcome. I feel cut off from the core experiences of life, and often feel inhuman. This is what I would change.
Take four minutes and tell you partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
I don’t have any memories of seeing my mother and father together, but what I’ve gleaned from being around the paternal and maternal sides of my family is this: what brought them together was common hatred of White people. I was born in Nashville, where I was raised on Voodoo and Black liberation ideology, neither of which took hold. My first sexual impulse, experienced at age six, was triggered by watching a little red-headed girl named Tabitha lift up the back of her skirt and scratch her ass. As insignificant as this sounds, it seems to be the basis of my sexuality. I am obsessed with White women and their white butts.
I guess I should include that my father died when I was one year old, leaving my mother and me nothing. She seems to have disliked him during their marriage, and completely hated him after he died. She told me as such quite often, but assured me that my daddy loved me. During those years soon after my father’s death, I remember being left alone a lot, wandering alone through our giant empty house on baby legs, staring up at paintings done by my Voodoo priest grandfather, of proud angry African gods, Shango god of thunder, Baba Lu god of the dead. I think my personality became calibrated for solitude, as now I have great difficulty socializing. I am also a decent actor, however.
To pursue her post-secondary education, my mother moved (along with me) to Bowling Green, Ohio, where she attended Bowling Green State University. While my mother off doing graduate student things, I spent a lot of time alone in our apartment watching horror movies, which I wasn’t really fond of then, and find inane now. If I liked any of them at all, my favorite was Shocker, about a serial killer who, after being electrocuted for his heinous crimes, could travel through electrical circuits and jump out of television screens to kill new victims.
Bowling Green is a very small town, mostly White, and mostly drunk. I was one of the handful of non-White kids in my school of about 300 kids. I acted out a lot. I punched a kid in the face on my first day of school, just because he looked at me funny. I also tried my hand at being class clown, doing impressions, asking inane questions to make the other kids laugh. In second grade, my teacher got so fed up I had to have class in the principal’s office everyday for a week.
My elementary school was full of cute little White girls, and I had crushes on many of them. My mother hated them and chased them away from home whenever they came around. At one point, she threatened to kill any white girl I fell in love with and then commit suicide. This did not deter me, and I often imagined elaborate ruses to trick my mother into killing herself, and rubbing out girls from school whom I found annoying. It was here I began my long career of fantasizing about epic adventure/romances with White females, which is also the basis of much of my early writing.
At one point late in my elementary school days, my mom went into congestive heart failure, and was given a year to live (she didn’t die!), unless she got a heart transplant, which she refused to do for reasons that are inherently mysterious. During that time, arrangements were made for me to live with my mom grad school friend Leona, who had a son one year my junior named Lord. Lord and I hit it off like gang busters, and I had so much fun having a playmate that I didn’t care that my mom was dying. Looking back, I think a lot of people found my reaction to my mother’s medical condition appalling. I just didn’t care that she might die, and besides, she didn’t seem that sick.
At Bowling Green Junior High, I had several intense but unstable friendships. I was fixated on X-Men and Marilyn Manson. My best friened was another screwed up kid named Bruce, who was really into Metallica, drumming, basketball and Michael Jordan. Bruce was an angry blond kid, who was fat in a strong kinda way. His mom was a verbally abusive alcoholic. She was pretty scary. What bonded us, it seems, was our fixation on the bizarre. We both liked strange comedy and disturbing music. We did Beavis and Butthead impressions, and talked about girls. People must have thought we were mentally ill.
To get me away from the White girls, my mom moved us to the ethnically diverse Ann Arbor, Michigan in the summer between eighth and ninth grade. I started high school in a new city, where there were Black people around whom I had to pretend to be blacker than I really was. I got beaten up on my first day of highschool, for calling a big Arab kid name Khalid a motherfucker. He interrupted this statement as an accusation that he literally has sex with his mother. I remember him saying, “Nobody talks about my mom” as he shoved me to the ground, and thinking, How does he not know this expression?
A combination of severe emotional abuse at home, bullying at school and general social awkwardness compelled me to withdraw socially. I was skinny, had bucked teeth and talked weird, so I was a daily target for physical assault from bigger guys. I began to develop stunningly elaborate inner worlds, lush fantasies where I was in intense, deeply intimate relationships with my favorite White girls at my school. At home, I was overwhelmed by my suicidal, narcissistic mother who seemed to radiate disapproval. She frequently called me gay and made fun of me for listening to White People Music (Radiohead and Björk).
Here’s a snapshot: I was seventeen years old, and during one of her episodes, when she taking out bottles of pills and talking about how she was going to overdose in front of me, I called the police. Paramedics came over and she laughed the whole situation away. When the paramedics left, she was furious with me and said I had humiliated her. She had no understanding of my perspective, of her child who was watching the first person I had ever loved try to end their life in front of me. I had been around enough parents of other kids that I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do. Throughout my childhood, she had often talked about killing herself and any White girl I tried to date in grandiose terms, but it was this incident that made me realize that she was not normal. I have always felt sad for my mother, since she was a widow, a single mother stuck with a kid from a relationship she resented, and a Black woman living in a racist, sexist society. But I don’t feel safe around her, and know that I cannot fix another person, no matter how much I care about them. This is just one of many such emotionally abusive incidents I experienced. I was a total freak and felt safe nowhere.
High school was also where I began to attract broken narcissists, as if it were my superpower. It comes down to my tendency to try to understand people and give them encouragement, which I think is rare in our hypercompetitive world where much human interaction is self-seeking and transactional. This is a problem I still have, but now I have special emotional radar that beeps when I feel like a person I just met is glomming on to me for toxic unidirectional validation (re: the vulnerable narcissist). I am genuinely interested in other people, and like having real conversations, but I have to avoid people with low empathy. I’m not saying that one neurological state is superior to others, but people who have low capacity for empathy are hard for me to relate to, and scare me a little, eventhough they can be fun sometimes. I have developed ways of detecting sociopathy in people (the easiest way is to just broach a topic in which a hypothetical person is in serious danger and needs help, then see if the person makes a face other than concern). If after several encounters, a person doesn’t ask about me or how my life is going, I make a mental note of it, and avoid them.
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?
To make people laugh.
If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
Why is there something instead of nothing?
Is there something that you've dreamt of doing for a long time? Why haven't you done it?
Doing a live performance of original music. I haven’t practiced enough.
Movies: I Heart Huckabees, Minority Report, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Grand Budapest Hotel, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Disney's Aladdin, Looper, There Will Be Blood, The Master, No Country for Old Men, The Tree of Life, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Departed, White Oleander
TV: Broad City.
Music: Radiohead, MGMT, The Sundays, Innocence Mission, Father John Misty, Björk, Autechre, CHVRCHES, MF DOOM, Grouper, Aphex Twin, Mars Volta, Animal Collective, Joanna Newsom, Sunn O))), Meredith Monk, Nadja, CLPPNG, Death Grips, Pantera, Saul Williams, Wild Nothing, Nightwish,
Freedom of the Press
The Internet (Reddit)