Periodically, a fellow blogger will pose and answer random questions in the context of a “blog award nomination.” The most recent person to do so decided, with commendable egalitarianism, to threw open the question-answering door to any and all entrants, so I decided to consolidate a series of questions (and my own idiosyncratic answers) into a single post.
You are very welcome.
Questions and answers are in no particular order.
Let the games begin!
Do you have any pets?
We have a four-year-old golden retriever named Ruby, who has epic patience:
If you were a reality-TV show star, what would be the premise?
My life presented as a film noir.
What is the book you are currently reading?
By my count, I am currently in the middle of 14 books. Some ceased to interest me, some are bedside reading, some are research-related, and the rest are for fun. The book I will most likely finish first is Alan Rode’s biography of Charles McGraw.
Last month, I read and enjoyed Lawrence O’Donnell’s Playing With Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics and Chris Matthews’ Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit.
Share something we don’t know about you.
Not sure I can top that time I dressed as Oscar Wilde, but…
In four consecutive summers (1978-81), I was a day camp camper, an overnight camp camper, an overnight camp worker, and a day camp worker.
That, dear readers, is efficiency.
Michael Jordan or Lebron James? Wilt Chamberlain, because he went to high school with my mother and aunt.
OK, OK…Michael Jordan.
What is your favorite reality show?
The way I prefer to define “reality show:” the entire prime time (7pm – midnight) weeknight MSNBC lineup of Hardball with Chris Matthews, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell and The Eleventh Hour.
We tell time ‘round here by MSNBC. Generally speaking, the girls are in bed, or close to it, by the end of “Chris Matthews.” If I then do not yell “Tonight on All In!” we fear Mr. Hayes will not know how to open his show. Final snuggles (and lights out) are supposed to happen between “Thing 1/Thing 2” and the start of “Rachel.” Nell and Ruby generally go to bed around “first commercial, Lawrence.”
However, if you insist on the more conventional definition: Food Network Star.
What’s the most important thing in your room right now?
Our four most recent holiday cards, each featuring our daughters’ smiling faces, propped up just to my right as I type this.
Well, those…and my fedora, of course.
Does the sight of blood make you feel ill?
And yet…in early June 1991, my mother was opening a jar of cocktail sauce. Somehow the glass shattered in her hand and severely gashed her thumb. My friend and I had just walked out of the apartment when my mother, sounding shaky, called to us from the balcony.
The way she was pressing the towel to her hand, she clearly needed to get to an emergency room.
The problem was that she was wearing nothing but a short blue kimono and underwear–no bra or pants. Despite the hemorrhaging, she insisted on getting dressed—including wearing a bra.
Guess who had to help her put on that bra?
Did I mention my mother was a very buxom woman?
By that point, I had forgotten all about the blood.
What is your worst habit?
You mean, besides my inability to tell a story in a direct, concise and linear fashion without footnotes, irrelevant tangents and a dozen false starts?
I will say…biting my cuticles.
Are you named after anyone?
My Hebrew name is Moshe ben David Laib (“Moses,” son of “Lion David”). I was given the name because my father was David Laib ben Moshe (David Louis, son of Morris), and his father was Moshe ben David Laib (Morris, son of David Louis), whose father was…you get the idea.
My secular name came down to Matthew or Michael, neither of which is a family name, but my mother liked both.
Matthew was chosen, though I have no idea why my middle name is Darin.
When was the last time you cried?
I tend to get weepy at stories involving fathers and sons, or when I witness acts of simple kindness and generosity.
Last night, there was such an act at the end of Season 4, Episode 5 of the outstanding Investigation Discovery series A Crime to Remember. My cheeks may have become a bit damp.
If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?
If I were another person, than the “yourself” referenced in the question would not exist, so I cannot logically answer this question.
But do I like myself?
Do you use sarcasm a lot?
Noooo, not at all.
I am a Jewish-raised-atheist northeastern urban intellectual. What do you think, he asked with a wry smile.
What’s the first thing you notice about people?
Overall demeanor, as in “let a smile be your umbrella.”
What is your eye color?
Scary movie or happy endings?
There is more overlap in the two styles than the question implies, but given the forced choice, I would say happy endings.
Except that many films noir have no such happy endings (The Last Seduction comes to mind), so, you know…
Off the top of my head: bacon frying, coffee brewing, freshly-baked bread, lavender, pine needles, Laphroaig.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
By distance, that would be in July 2000 when I saw the US-Mexico border, just south of San Diego—a distance, on average, of 3,022 miles south and east of where I then lived.
Do you have any special talents?
Besides doing arithmetic in my head…I have a knack for sequencing tracks on mixes not by “title” or “theme” but by “musical flow.” Forget genre or artist, I want the chords, mood and tempo of the end of one track to flow seamlessly into the start of the next track.
Where were you born?
The long-since-closed Metropolitan Hospital in Philadelphia, PA.
What are your hobbies?
Other than crafting essays for this site, writing a book, all things film noir, following the Phillies and playing with Excel spreadsheets…
I used to have a pitching ritual. I would carry a bat (wooden—aluminum is for cans and recycling) and a bag of baseballs onto a baseball diamond. After tossing a few balls at the plate to loosen my arm, I would engage in the following warmup (using a ratty old red turtleneck as my strike zone): 10 four-seam fastballs from the windup, 10 from the stretch, then repeat the pattern with sinkers, sliders, curveballs (well, only five from each starting position) and circle change-ups. I might toss a few forkballs, as well, though I could never get the feel of them (or the knuckleball, for that matter).
I would then pitch a simulated game—or at least a few innings—alternating pitching and hitting (as in, throwing the ball up and whacking at it…so many ground balls to short)
I was no superstar (though I have a decent sinker), but it was a hell of a workout.
Now, it is mostly backyard Wiffle ball games with the girls, which are excellent.
What did you want to be when you grow up?
I went through a phase centering in 7th grade when I wanted to be an archaeologist.
But if you had told me then I would spend nearly 20 years as a health-related data analyst before beginning to write a book inspired by my love of film noir, I would have given you the blankest-of-all-possible blank look.
Who was your first best friend?
To protect privacy, let’s go with the boy in this tragic story.
How tall are you?
5’9¾”, but I freely admit to “just under 6 feet.”
How many countries have you visited?
United States and Canada, so far.
What was your favorite/worst subject in high school?
I generally loved them all…but let’s go with math (sorry, Mr. Leitham’s U.S. History and Mrs. Pertschuk’s AP English class), given my exceptional leadership of the Math Team senior year.
Excluding gym (except for gymnastics, at which I was surprisingly good), my freshman year biology was my least favorite class (though I did get to give a cool presentation on forensic evidence—blood stains, fingerprints, Bertillon measurements, etc.).
What is/are your favorite…
Non-alcoholic: lemon Polar Seltzer, hot black coffee, water, fresh-squeezed orange juice, POM Wonderful blueberry-pomegranate, chocolate strawberry banana frappe (my creation) from Cabot’s (seriously, if you are ever in the Boston area, do yourself a favor and visit this family-run ice cream parlor and restaurant), and those Lifeway kefir mixtures I drink every night.
Alcoholic: Barring a really good single malt Scotch whiskey (with a drop or two of water to bring out the aroma and taste), I will happily drink a Johnnie Walker Black, light on the rocks, with a side of club soda; a rye and ginger ale or Coke; red wine, especially in the burgundy or pinot noir families; an ice-cold lager or pilsner; a rye Manhattan; or a No Sleep ‘til Brookline. Bourbon will do, in a pinch.
Dogs, with horses a distant second.
Do soap, shampoo, mouthwash and/or antiperspirant count?
What sports do you play/have you played?
As much as I detested summer camp, I discovered a knack for archery. I was pretty good at gymnastics in high school.
Otherwise, there are those one-on-one games of baseball I have played with various friends over the years. One buddy and I actually started inventing unusual teams, ever since a day in November 1995 where he decided he was going to field a team of famous English bishops—who did not run the bases so much as move in a stately manner about them.
The best team I ever created was a “pre-punk/punk/new wave/alternative” All-Star team I devised in June 2000. The only time I ever faced off with my buddy “as” this team, David Bowie doubled home Ralf Hutter and Brian Eno in the first inning for the games only runs (we played a full nine innings that day).
Who are some of your favorite YouTubers?
When I crash late at night (not a creature stirring and all that), I flip on the big screen TV and open YouTube (our television is an internet-connected computer, apparently). The sites (channels?) I most frequently visit (strictly off the top of my head) are WatchMojo, WhatCulture, CineFix, Wow Lynch Wow, the VlogLady and TopTenz.
The single most wicked awesome thing I have seen on YouTube is Orkestra Obsolete’s jaw-dropping cover of New Order’s Blue Monday:
How many girlfriends/boyfriends have you had?
Based upon a three-month minimum, I count nine, including my current wife Nell, with two relationships lasting, on and off, more than 20 years combined.
Favorite memory from childhood?
Spending the summers of 1974 and 1975 at the long-gone Strand Motel in Atlantic City, NJ.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
The avert-your-eyes love child of L.L. Bean and Brooks Brothers.
Or maybe simply…
What phone do you have?
An iPhone 5, I think. I would love to have one of these, though…
And with that, I throw open the floor to other souls willing to answer this panoply of arcane queries.
Until next time…