Mister Furious just hit me up, so here goes:
1. Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies: Lady With A Spear by Dr. Eugenie Clark. Dr. Clark (imagine a mix of Indiana Jones and Jacques Cousteau) started her career exploring the remote coral atolls of post-WWII South Pacific and moved on to lab work, world travel and a dazzling stint as the world’s first serious shark researcher. Amazingly enough she hasn’t stopped yet. I found her long out-of-print autobiography in the library when I was twelve, and it left me with the singular goal of following Dr. Clark’s example and studying sharks when I grew up. That lasted until college when I heard that shark researchers have the most miserable grad students on Earth. Oh well. Because of her writing as much as anything I stayed science-bound, and while my field hasn’t fixed itself yet (so far I’ve published six papers on four wildly different topics) the journey has been a blast. I dig up copies on Abebooks for friends’ kids who show the slightest interest in science or the ocean.
2. Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music: Hm. At the risk of sounding like a dork, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd pulled me out of the classic-rock rut in high school. Now I listen to pretty much anything. Thanks, Sondheim.
3. Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue: I would say Raiders or Airplane! for pure popcorn fun, Rififi to burnish my cineaste credentials, Contact and Real Genius for capturing of what science feels like. Also Spirited Away by Hiyao Miyazaki. Miyazaki basically makes the same film over and over again, but at least it’s a pretty fun film. IMO he got it best with this one.
4. Name a performer for whom you suspend of all disbelief: Angela Lansbury in Sweeney Todd. I get shivers.
5. Name a work of art you’d like to live with: When it comes to painting, in my view John Singer Sargent stands out among the Americans. Something to do with the way that he straddles the boundary between realism and impressionism. Not sure exactly. As for photography, which is more my thing, out of dozens of excellent artists Galen Rowell (RIP, sadly) consistently leaves me speechless. It almost seemed like he could bend light to his will. Choosing one, a print like this in a living room designed around it would make me a very happy camper. Plan B would be a grand bedroom overlooking a southwest desertscape, adobe walls and Ansel Adams’s Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.
6. Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life: Speaking as a lifelong eco-head who has run several organizations, The Monkey Wrench Gang by Ed Abbey finally helped me realize why I detest a sizable subset of environmentalists. Don’t ask me to put up with self-righteous ideologues who only care about tearing things down which displease them, even if they’re supposedly on my “side.” That sort of attitude is a gift to the other team.
7. Name a punch line that always makes you laugh: More of a subtle guffaw line than a real punchline, I would pick he moment in Firefly when a local mob boss struggles to come up with a word to describe Mal. After a long pause Mal’s sidekick Jayne pipes in, “Pretentious?” Not a big deal but I always chuckle.
John also got tagged, so he can update with his own answers when the class burden lightens up a bit.