1. You can relive the day of your choice from last week, having any or all of the aspects of the life of a badger. (You could completely be, to all intents and purposes, your favourite badger in your favourite badger sanctuary, if you like.) Without worrying about universe-changing temporal consequences, which aspects would you choose and how would badger-you like to spend the day? Would you prefer to be a real badger or one of your own cuddly badgers?
Hmmm. If I was actually a real badger, I suspect I'd spend the day sleeping, since they're mostly nocturnal. Then at night-time I'd go out for a wander in the woods, looking for berries and insects and interesting crunchy things in the undergrowth. There'd probably be some fighting and shagging in there, too. ... All of this sounds like an excellent way to spend a day, actually. :-)
I'm not sure I'd want just some aspects of badgerness along with my humanness. I think it'd end up being a bit weird. Although it might be cool to have a badger's head for a day, just to freak people out. I already have a big arse like a badger, but it's not currently furry or stripy or with a tail attached to it. Perhaps if I actually had a badger's arse I wouldn't mind it being big and fat, because badgers never seem to mind. 's one of the things I love about them -- big pearshaped bodies and they don't give a damn.
I wouldn't mind being one of my cuddly badgers, although if I relived a day from last week, I'd probably feel horribly neglected. (We're assuming sentience, right?) I've not been looking after them terribly well at the moment. But I wouldn't mind being one of them normally. Lots of cuddles, and lots of other cuddly badgers to snuggle up to. (Awww.) ... If I knew in advance that I was going to become one of my cuddly badgers for a day, I'd probably lend the cuddly badger in question to somebody who I wanted to snuggle up with, though. ;-)
2. You are going a-wandering along the mountain track. Ignoring practicalities and safety issues, assuming the presence or absence of company of your choice, what would you like to find in the knapsack on your back?
You have: a bird-cage, a black wand, an apple...
No, wait. Wrong knapsack.
My answer to this would rather depend on the presence or absence of company. If I was wandering along the mountain track on my own, I'd want the knapsack to contain some good books, my camera, a bottle of water, and a map (otherwise I would get lost along the mountain track).
If I was wandering along with the companion(s) of my choice, it wouldn't matter what I had in my knapsack. I'd probably still have my camera, and the water, and the map -- my companion(s) would be better at pathfinding than me (it's not actually possible to have less sense of direction than I do and still be able to stand up unaided), but I'd feel happier having the map anyway.
Hmmm. I feel like I haven't answered this very satisfactorily, but I can't think of anything else to say. Sorry!
3. What makes someone or something humorous to you? Either as a list of desirable properties, if you've ever been able to identify them, or - if you don't think it is possible to identify commonality - just in terms of a few things you've found that amuse you in the past?
Words make things funny. And they're so versatile!
I find childish insults an endless source of amusement. (This site has possibly the most comprehensive collection of playground insults available on the web.) They were, of course, devastating at the time; I think now it's the incongruity of twenty-somethings using them that makes them funny. The juxtaposition of the intellectual and the puerile is always funny -- Monty Python used it to great effect all the time, Baddiel and Newman's "History Today" is another great example of the genre. There's just something hysterically funny about the transition from the erudite to the "Yeah, but you smell" level of insult.
Innuendo is another (possibly related) source of humour, particularly really lame innuendo. It's one of those cumulative humour things -- you smirk at some slightly rude-sounding phrase, and then everything starts sounding "slightly rude", until any phrase with the word "do" or "it" can be turned into innuendo, and seems to become exponentially funnier every time, to the irritation of everyone else. "Look, will you stop doing that?" "Hurr hurr. 'Doing that'."
Some words are just inherently funny, for no reason at all. "Owl". "Jam". "Clangy". "Smock". And the more you say them, the funnier they get.
Sometimes mere repetition creates humour, particularly repeating things in a variety of different contexts. That sounds terribly po-faced, but truecatachresis will testify to the comedy value of the words "You wish!" as a response to practically anything. Obviously it's partly an innuendo thing, and partly something to do with the fact that every time you think you've exhausted the possibilities of the phrase, it comes back again in response to something that hadn't even occurred to you as an innuendo. It's something to do with being surprised even while you're expecting it. I don't know why that's funny, but it is (to me, at least).
I love jokes that refer to themselves, or to other jokes, or to the whole genre (moo!) of the joke. "An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar, and the barman says 'is this some kind of joke?'" I think I've always found this kind of thing funny -- my favourite joke when I was tiny was the one where you ask "Will you remember me in a day? ... a week? ... a month? ... a year?" etc., and of course the person says "Yes" to all of these; you then say "Knock knock", and the person instinctively replies "Who's there?", to which you reply "See, you've forgotten me already!" -- Hilarious. I didn't know why I loved it at the age of 4 or 5, but now I could probably moo something about how the constraints of genre are used to trip the listener up. It's an expectations thing again, though. So many of the jokes I like are about deferring, displacing, frustrating or fulfilling expectations. Usually multiple layers of all of the above.
My current favourite super-condensed meta-joke is just the word "Tequila?" uttered in a questioning tone of voice. It is its own (lack of) punchline. (I'll explain it if anybody wants it explained.)
Then there's Eddie Izzard. I don't know if I can adequately explain how or why he's so funny, but he's about the only comedian who can routinely have me crying with laughter. A lot of it's about the way he says things; just saying words in a funny tone of voice or with a strange emphasis. ("Covered-in-BEEEEEES!" is funnier than "Covered in bees".) The self-referentiality is a big part of it too. ("[makes note on imaginary bit of paper] 'Never ... do... that joke again.'") Suddenly collapsing the context of the joke -- see, it's context-shifts again -- so that it can refer to itself, or so that the "joke" is Izzard trying to construct the joke and failing. Some of the humour, of course, is just pure silliness -- cats drilling behind sofas, underpants deliberately infiltrating white washes, Achilles encasing his heel in a block of concrete to protect it and having to drag it around on wheels.
He makes great use of incongruous lists, too; "God created LIGHT! and heat, and air, and sky, and jam, and toasters, and grandmothers, and small things, and radiators, and BELGIUM." Lists of completely unrelated objects always amuse me... "A loaf of milk; a brought mug; a piece of blue paper; Cardinal Basil Hume; a kilometre of cheese; a gross of dolphin-friendly socks; something Colin will never remember; my headmaster." I could probably find good examples in Swift, and Sterne, if I could be bothered to go and chase them down, but I'd get distracted and this answer would never get posted. :)
4. You work in Waterstone's, Blackwell's, the Fennel Street Book Attic or the bookshop of your choice. You love books and you love your job. Someone asks you if you will make recommendations for books to give as gifts, and suggests that the recipient of the book is interested in... and then presents a list of j4's 103 registered interests. What would you recommend? How would you go about buying a book as a gift for someone like you? (Would you rather buy a book and worry that you might've got an inappropriate one or buy book tokens and worry because you didn't try to make a choice at all?)
Cripes. Well, for a start, I'd probably say to ignore the list of interests; anybody with such a ridiculously long list of (reasonably diverse) interests will probably be willing to try new stuff, and will probably already have books on the things that they profess to be interested in, so you'll risk duplicating their existing collection. Although if I had new-ish or obscure-ish books in which seemed to match those interests, particularly ones which combined some of the interests in unusual ways, I'd suggest those.
If I'm buying books for other people, I try to find books which I think they'll like, obviously, but they also tend to be books that I would like, or at least find interesting. I find it very hard to buy books that I just wouldn't be remotely interested in, unless of course I've got a lists of Books This Person Wants. This is roughly what my mum does -- gives the family a list of books she wants for Christmas/birthday/etc. I don't like buying to order like that so I tend to buy things that she wouldn't buy otherwise but might like. With success, so far. :-)
I guess what I'm looking for is a point of intersection between my interests and their own, something that they might not have bought otherwise, that might give them a new angle on something they're already interested in. (It's all about intersections, connections between things.) This is probably a very egocentric way to buy gifts for people, but mostly people seem happy with what I give them.
I'd always go for a book rather than book-tokens, though. A gift of a book tells me something about the giver, and in a way that's a more valuable gift than the actual book. Also, I like getting books I've never seen/heard of before, books I wouldn't have bought for myself. I like finding new things. It's fun.
5. What, for you, encapsulates pornography at its most arousing, most fun and most positive? (Treat the three separately if necessary; reply in terms of "making" or "consuming" as you see fit.)
You saved the hardest question till last! That's not fair!
I'm not sure about making pornography. I don't really create the stuff (having photos taken doesn't count -- in those I'm an object rather than a creator), I just consume it. So I'll talk about it from the porn-user's point of view, if that's okay.
I'm also not sure about "fun" and "positive". I'm not sure what that means in the context of porn. If it's "fun", it's probably not porn. Sex is fun with other people; pornography is (for me, at least) about getting aroused. ...
I'll come back to "positive" later.
First of all I should point out that I have a word fetish. Words are what turn me on. Purely visual porn really doesn't do very much for me; I can look at it and say "Mmm, pretty" but it really is a purely aesthetic response. In real life, the people who really push all my buttons are the ones who know what to say and when to say it. (Of course, it helps if they're physically attractive and all that as well...)
Second, I should point out (as if you didn't know) that I'm an incurable pedant; I get far too irritated to get aroused if I try to read porn which is badly written, badly punctuated, and generally gives the impression that it's been WRITTEN BY MONKEYS ON CRACK like so much of the shite on the web. That just pisses me off. It doesn't matter how interesting the scenarios described are, I can't get past the "Arghhhhh POSSESSIVE ITS HAS NO APOSTROPHE!" response. Just goes to show just how important the words are to me, I guess. Or how much of a sad-case I am. 8-)
Thinking about it, and thinking about stories I've read and enjoyed, I'm more likely to get aroused by well-written porn even if it describes things I wouldn't normally be interested in, than I am by badly-written porn which describes things I would normally like. This is weird, because it means I sometimes find myself getting, ah, interested in stories about things which would normally make me go "um, no thanks" and back away in a hurry, just because they're written well. Good dialogue (not too much dialogue), good progression of events, a hint of a plot -- I like to have a little bit of context, rather than just n3kk1d bodies in a vacuum. But there also has to be LOTS OF SEX.
See, this is the problem, pr0n which is "written for women" tends not to have much sex in it. Because women want feelings, and tenderness, and nice fluffy things like that. They apparently don't want RED HOT SWEATY SEX. (This may be connected to the far-too-common belief -- held by a lot of women, as well as a lot of men -- that women don't masturbate.) I tend to find most gay male porn better than anything that's supposedly written "for lesbians", with the possible exception of Pat Califia (if she can stop banging on about politics for long enough to get on with, well, just banging). It's difficult to find porn for women which concentrates more on the actual putting-things-in-other-things business than it does on the "do you really love me?" stuff. That kind of angst over feelings is what real life is for, dammit.
Which brings me back to the question of porn at its most "positive". One of the things I like about porn is that it doesn't have to be "positive". It doesn't have to worry too much about consent and respect and safety and all those other terribly positive things. It doesn't have to care whether they really love you, or whether you really love them, or whether you're both really happy with this. It's a safe space, essentially, where you can explore your darker side. (I'm leaving aside the debate about whether porn makes people go out and rape people. See also: video nasties; space invaders breeding warlike tendencies in the younger generation; Thomas the Tank Engine giving children a negative image of train travel; etc.) To take an extreme and not-pornographic-honest-because-it's-in-t
I'm not saying I only want to read porn about things I can't do in real life, though; I also like reading about things I can do, have done, and fully intend to do again. I like it when somebody else can take a scenario I'd like to be in and make it work, make the characters say the right things at the right times, make everything happen at the right pace, without anybody getting cramp in their leg at an inopportune moment. :) Of course, the "right pace" for good writing isn't necessarily the same as the "right pace" for my body; but that's the good thing, I can go back and read and re-read the same passage again and again, as often as necessary. (I do the same with things that real people have said to me that have had that kind of effect -- store them up in my head, play them and replay them as necessary. It's all about words.)
Not sure if that answers your question, but I've run out of things to say...
Thank you -- these were really interesting and thought-provoking! I only hope the answers are as interesting to you as the questions were to me.