1) If you were able, and the world was set up such that such an ability could exist, to unknowingly impell someone you know socially -- not impell them to perform an act, but to alter their desires such that they come to take your imposition as their free intent -- but you could do it only once, and no one would find out, would you do so? If so who and what?
It sounds from this like I'm only allowed to impel one person, which is a shame, because otherwise I'd probably go for something fluffy like making everybody like each other a bit more. Although... it's interesting to think what the implications of that would be. I suspect we don't always like to admit it, but sometimes we bond with other people by sharing what we don't like as well as what we do like. I don't think people's relationships would be anywhere near as meaningful if everybody liked each other equally.
So... one person. At the moment I'm tempted to use this magic power as an easy fix to a specific stress-point which is creating awkwardness between several people. (Some people know what I'm talking about, some don't; not my story to tell, sorry.) But basically I don't want to impel anybody to feel any differently in that situation; I just want people to sort out what they do feel.
I think what this comes down to is that I'm more concerned that people should think and act with personal integrity -- that they should be honest with themself and as far as possible with others; that they should act according to what they believe; that they should be aware of what they believe, what they assume, and why, and so on -- than that they should think or act in any specific way that I choose. "It's not what you do, it's how you do it."
So, er, I'm not sure I can answer this properly.
2) How do your feelings for Oxford, Loughborough and Cambridge compare?
Loughborough is strange: I never had any particular attachment to the place while I was there (anybody who's been there will understand this!), so what I feel for it now is almost entirely dictated by associative memory. Throughout most of my teenage years I wished I could have lived nearer to a big city (or had better transport, or parents who trusted me to use public transport and not get lost), mostly because I was sorting out my sexuality and desperately wanted to make contact with other people who might "understand".
I suppose Loughborough was where I first started to become independent, though -- where I first walked around town with my friends with no adults to look after us; where, I suppose, I first went on a "date", though I don't for the life of me remember my first Proper Date (I'd probably already had improper dates by that stage); where I first drank (underage, of course) in a pub.
I remember spending hundreds of sixth-form lunchtimes burrowing happily through Fennel Street Book Attic, with its haphazard heaps of musty mildewed books. I'd usually come back either with slightly damp-discoloured books of poetry, or with fragile turn-of-the-century piano music, valses romantiques and mawkish songs. I was as much drawn to the pictures on the front of these as to the music; and to the feeling of owning someone else's memories, invocations of a past that I didn't experience. A kind of vicarious nostalgia.
Similarly, foraging through the bric-à-brac market on Friday lunchtimes; I spent hours (and a small fortune, probably, cumulatively) there among the heaps of other people's discarded lives. I used to come back to school with weird clothes and costume jewellery and ornaments, and people would mock my taste and/or be impressed at the bargains I picked up. Either reaction was fine with me: I didn't want to conform, by then.
Or sorting through heaps of cheap vinyl in The Left-Legged Pineapple, our friendly local independent record shop -- where I bought all Suede's singles religiously as soon as they were released; where I met Kingmaker; where I wasted nine pounds on an unplayable picture-disc edition of The Cure's "Disintegration"; where I thought I was very hip and retro for buying things like "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Tales from Topographic Oceans" second-hand.
I could probably write an entire book on Loughborough's shops and what they mean to me. On the offchance that any other ex-Loughboroughians are reading this, I'll throw in a mention of Salamander and Grass Roots (both sadly missed).
I remember poetry readings at Loughborough University; sitting in smoky rooms with my mum, she listening with her best intelligent middle-class appreciating-poetry look, and me relishing the smokiness and the intenseness and devouring every word that fell from the poets' lips. I remember Carol Ann Duffy reading "Valentine", and "Warming Her Pearls", and I remember how much I wished I could find a girl, any girl, to be my girlfriend. I remember Fleur Adcock reading "Things", which I clipped out of the Independent when it came up as "Poem of the Day" and carried it around in my filofax for years.
And of course Loughborough High School, which I attended for 7 years... and all the memories associated with that; another whole book's worth of memories, easily. Too much to go into here.
I guess Loughborough is where I started to build myself. It has very little to do with the place per se, though. Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.
Oxford has even more memory associated with it, of course -- good memories and bad. I fell in love with the place when I first went to look round with some other prospective Oxbridge friends. We walked around in the rain and I just knew I wanted to be there. It just felt right.
For a while, it felt like home.
I feel like it would be a betrayal of the relationship I have with the place, to try to sum up everything that it means to me, all the memories, in as short an account as it would have to be here.
It's always felt to me as though there's an enormous accretion of memories there already, and that adding to them is adding to some kind of enormous collaborative work of art. Never mind dreaming spires, the very air there feels thick with dreams and regrets and hopes and fears.
I still feel a physical wrench of homesickness when I go there -- because I know it isn't home any more, and it can't be in quite the same way again, because what I miss about it is as much being-there-when-I-was-there as the actual place. I want to reclaim (and make better use of) the time I had there. On the other hand, I'd still love to live there again; I think it's a good place for building lives and memories around.
Is where I live now.
3) This filecontains the Linear B ideograms and their Linear B code points (ignore their names). Both you and a loved one you were unexpectedly separated from and who is in some emotional distress (who doesn't know any linear B but has this chart) can communicate only by sending a linear sequence of symbols off of that page (repititions okay). What sequence of symbols would you send, and why?
Yikes, this is terrifying. Do my loved one and I both know that these are the only symbols available to us? (I'm assuming we have no prearranged correspondence of ideogram to idea.)
I like the one which looks like an outstretched hand. 10090, for those who've got the symbol chart open.
This sort of situation would stress me out terribly, though, because I'd be trying to second-guess what the other person would interpret from the symbols, and I'd be paranoid that they'd misinterpret me. ("Why did you send me horse-up-tree and man-takes-biscuit-to-ocelot symbols when I desperately needed loved-one-sends-help-across-miles symbols?")
Also, there aren't any simple enough symbols. I'd want to send just parallel lines, or simple intersecting lines, or a circle. Something to say "Here I am. This is what we are. This is what life is. Hold on to it."
4) You get to change the ending of one work of literature, film, or play. Which and why?
I'd change the ending of Romeo and Juliet. I'm not sure what I'd change it to -- anything would feel like a cop-out given that we know what the ending is -- but it just frustrates me so much, that they love each other across what they (or society) perceive as insurmountable boundaries, and they're willing to go to enormous lengths for each other, and in the end they both die thinking that the other one's abandoned them, as a result of stupidity and bad timing. It just seems so utterly and miserably pointless. I know that's not really what it's all about, and their deaths make other people think about things, and I know this is a horribly naive attitude to the play as a whole, but I spent four years being sophisticated about lit crit and I've earned the right to be naive if I want to. :-P
Anyway, I think, though, changing the way that had been written would change fundamental things about the way the world works. I know other things have more pointlessness and arbitrariness in them, but that play is such a strong cultural presence, I think changing it would actually change The Way Things Are. Because if it hadn't been written like that, the world would have had to have been a different place. If you see what I mean. I think that's why I'd want to change it; perhaps if that had ended differently, it would mean that the world wasn't a place where noble feelings and human effort were foiled by arbitrary bad luck.
I'd never thought about this question before; it's an interesting one, & I suspect if I thought about it for longer I might come up with different answers; but I'm treating this like one of those personality tests where you're supposed to not think too hard about the "right" answer, just the first thing that feels right. If you see what I mean.
5) You can change anything in the outside world which is not inside anyone's head. What would you do to feel less disconnected?
If only I knew the answer to that question, I'd be working as hard as I could to change those things... Unfortunately I think all the disconnectedness is inside my head.
I think, actually (we're assuming magic powers here, right?) I'd make the internet disappear for a year. I think that would force me (and everybody else) to make meaningful connections, and not to overload ourselves with communication and information. Only for a year, because I think that'd be enough to break the habit, for me at least.
(Because I have magical powers, I'm also magically making provision for all the people whose jobs depend on the internet, and so on. So please, don't anybody get all offended that I'm making their job go away with my l33t magic powers.)
Thank you for the questions, kaet! Hope my answers weren't too lame.
I will make the offer to write questions for other people, but I can't promise to do it very quickly. So drop me a comment here if you want questions, but be warned that by doing so you're implicitly agreeing not to be offended if I don't get round to providing any immediately.