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. What is the most annoying thing in the world? Why? Now, make a convincing case for why it’s not annoying at all.
People who cut in line. Maybe it’s just the Japanese in me, but I think people should be helped in the order they arrived. It’s intensely but impersonally democratic. Come early, get helped early! This issue really annoys me because for one thing, I don’t think that aggression, impatience, entitlement, or solipsism should be rewarded at all. For another, people who cut in line know exactly what they’re doing, but they do it anyway because they don’t respect other people and they’re selfish AF and they’re hoping no one will call them out. Here’s why it’s not annoying: people who cut in line are assholes, and assholes always get what they deserve. I don’t have to be there to know it’s true. I’d love to watch though.
2. For the sake of debate, assume for a moment that squirrels are a highly developed alien life form sent to Earth millions of years ago to keep an eye on us. What do the wisest philosophers of this hitherto-unkenned race of superbeings make of the Chip and Dale cartoons?
I feel like squirrel philosophers probably wouldn’t have an opinion on our primitive, violent, anthropomorphic cartoon universe, you know what I mean? They’ve probably got better things to do like save their own galaxy and/or stay away from the shit show taking place on planet earth. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think other species and other civilizations center human beings the way that we center ourselves. So, my vote is for squirrel philosophers not having an opinion whatsoever on such low-brow entertainment because they’re probably arguing about the meaning of squirrel existence. As they should!
3. Why can’t we all just get along?
I don’t know Rodney King, but I have a feeling it has something to do with the fact that as a species we are simply not spiritually evolved enough from our primordial ancestry. As long as we still glorify violence, selfishness, greed, consumption, and domination over conflict resolution, altruism, compassion, sustainability, and collaboration, we’re fucked. The problem is, most humans don’t live long enough to understand that history is dynamic and circular, so hopefully our increasing life expectancies will help humans learn from their histories and avoid the death spiral we’re always performing whenever the universe is watching us.
4. You live in a grimdark version of our very reality. What would a day in your life look like? What percentage of your/our current reality would have to change to make this so?
I think my life would look and feel exactly like London in the wintertime: I’d drink too many pints, take too many baths, eat too many spicy noodles, get a new tat every month, eat Split Pea soup obsessively, pull out the Elliott Smith vinyl, and write all the time for consolation, creation, and community. IOW, I’d do the exact same thing I did in the Pacific Northwest for four years. But I live in LA to avoid all that. I live here because of the weather, the food, the people, the cafés, the mountains, and the proximity to Asia and Mexico, not despite it, so I’d say my life would have to change drastically to be dark and grim. That’s not to say I mind the darkness though. Sometimes, one of my fave things to do is sit in the living room and watch the room get completely dark. I enjoy the transition of light embedded in that experience. But I always turn the lights on eventually and I feel a real warmth in my body when I do. So, the light sustains me. I literally returned to the light when I returned to LA and that’s where I’ll stay too.
5. Obsidian toast: Please discuss.
America’s next TikTok trend. I can already see the headline: Obsidian Toast Challenge.
—Hijo, what are you doing?
—Mom, it’s the Obsdian Toast Challenge.
—Basically, you take a piece of volcanic rock, lather it in butter, and eat it. If you don’t die, you win!
6. “For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows
I took the blows
And did it my way”
Listen, Blue Eyes, you’re not gonna make me cry. OTOH, this lyric could be a cool poetica. I mean, at the end of the day, I want every writer to write their own way, to not compromise their vision, style, voice, or energy for anything or anyone in the world. Not profits. Not popularity. Not mass appeal. Not fear. Not self-loathing. Not impostor syndrome. Not vanity. Not delusion. Just write the book that only you can write and write it in the way that only you can write it, and Frankie baby will croon his anthem just for you when the time is right.
Jackson Bliss is the winner of the 2020 Noemi Book Award in Prose and the mixed-race/hapa author of Counterfactual Love Stories & Other Experiments (Noemi Press, 2021), Amnesia of June Bugs, (7.13 Books, 2022), Dream Pop Origami (Unsolicited Press, 2022), and the speculative hypertext, Dukkha, My Love. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, Ploughshares, Guernica, Antioch Review, ZYZZYVA, Columbia Journal, The Offing, Longreads, Fiction, and Adroit, among others. He lives in LA with his wife and their two fashionably dressed dogs.
Kurt Baumeister has written for Salon, Electric Literature, Guernica, and others. His debut novel, a satirical thriller entitled Pax Americana, was published by Stalking Horse Press. He is currently at work on a novel, The Book of Loki. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at www.kurtbaumeister.com.