The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.
1. Speaking in terms of building blocks, the foundational pieces of American society in the 21st century, which would you say is most vital: Doritos, Pop Tarts, or Kool-Aid? Why?
Only one of the three has been mixed with cyanide and prescription drugs to kill 909 people. The phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid”—which originated with the Jonestown Massacre, and is often used to mean someone who is a firm believer without objectivity—has solidified Kool-Aid’s place in American culture.
2. If you could make up your own cartoon animal alter-ego, what species would they be, and what would they be named? Would they have any special abilities or attacks?
It would be a goat—with big, gnarly horns. Because that sounds pretty metal. In fact, let’s just do a cartoon version of Black Phillip from The Witch. His special ability would be to live deliciously. That’s a Saturday morning cartoon I’d watch.
Oh, for sure. Ideas for villains, or heroes, anti-villains, anti-heroes or whatever they’d be?
Black Phillip would be helping kids, teaching them occult life lessons. The villain would be a Gargamel-like pastor who tries to mislead the children down the spiritual path of the church. Luckily, Black Phillip is always there to thwart his righteous intentions.
3. What leading woman/man do you find most terrifying? Why?
Tom Cruise. In one of the Mission Impossible films, he fakes his own death and later surprises his wife and co-workers by returning from the dead. It should have been an emotional reunion, but Cruise played it for laughs. He was grinning the whole time. It’s almost as if he has no idea how human emotions work. Having said that, I’m a huge fan of his work. The grinning usually works on me.
They say most successful _____ are psychopaths or sociopaths or both, whatever the appropriate terms is, so I think you’re probably on to something here. I’m actually a big fan of Cruise, too. Fear aside, can you imagine costarring in a film with Cruise? Describe it. What would your role be and would you produce? Direct? Coproduce? Codirect? What do you think it would be like collaborating on a script with Cruise? Also, why are there two L’s in collaborate?
Tom Cruise is very collaborative, I hear. Or at least he’s very involved with his film scripts. I’m not an actor, so I have no frame of reference for what it would be like to co-star in a film with Tom Cruise, although I have done some work as an extra on TV shows like Grimm and The Librarians. I never got starstruck on set. Working with Tom Cruise would be different, though—how could you not stare at those pearly whites the entire time? The director would have to fit me with horse blinders.
4. Do you think you could drive someone insane simply by painting their entire house the same color, both inside and out?
If it were possible, I would be insane right now—our house is painted white, both inside and out. If we owned it, we would change the walls in a hot second. To prevent me from losing my mind, my wife tacked up some dark red curtains in my office to give it some character. It appears to be working.
What sort of character is it taking on? The cartoon goat from above?
It’s slowly turning into the Shining hotel. All work and no play makes Andrew a dull boy…
5. The more humane choice: Cat collars made of fish or dog muzzles made of meat?
What type of meat are the muzzles made of? Not that it matters. I used to have a white lab, and his favorite toy was a ball with peanut butter in the middle. No matter how long he chewed on the damned thing, he couldn’t reach the peanut butter. It was sadistic—on my part. But it kept him occupied.
Type of meat would depend on your socio-economic strata. Dogs owned by rich people: Kobe beef. Middle class dogs: Say, maybe cube steak. Poor dogs: Spam? Right now, I’m feeling a little low, for the poor dogs and their people. A simple example like this can really throw ideas of social justice into stark relief. Who the hell needs Kobe beef anyway?
You hear different words thrown around like “Kobe” and “Angus,” as if you can really tell the difference between one hamburger and the next. I’m a pescatarian, though, so what do I know?
6. What is best in life?
To forgive your enemies and to see them realize the error of their ways. Barring that, crushing your enemies and hearing the lamentations of their loved ones will work.
And what is the rule of steel? Also, what is the rule of steal? And is there a rule of former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele?
When I was a teenager, I followed a rule of steal: I only shoplifted from chain stores (no mom and pops). I was no Robin Hood, though; there was no redistribution of wealth involved. I saw the error of my criminal ways fairly quickly, when I was arrested. The only rule of steal I follow these days is “Thou shalt not steal.”
I don’t know anything about steel, but the rule of Michael Steele seems to be to stick to your convictions. While many in his party have fallen in line with President Trump, Steele has opposed him, going so far as to call Trump a “racist.” I can respect that.
Andrew Shaffer is the New York Times bestselling author of Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery, the parody Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, and numerous other humorous works of fiction and nonfiction. He has been nominated by readers for a Goodreads Choice Award for Humor. Shaffer attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and studied comedy writing at Chicago’s famed The Second City. An Iowa native, Shaffer lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with his wife, novelist Tiffany Reisz. He teaches and mentors writers at Lexington’s Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.
Kurt Baumeister has written for Salon, Electric Literature, Guernica, The Weeklings, Entropy, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, and others. His debut novel, a satirical thriller entitled Pax Americana, was published by Stalking Horse Press in 2017. He is currently at work on a novel, The Book of Loki, and a hybrid collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry entitled Superman, the Seven Gods of Death, and the Need for Clean, Romantic Poetry. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at www.kurtbaumeister.com.