Tuesday questions, Damian Kulash edition

So I believe I’ve mentioned that the Critter loves music videos.  Whenever I’m at my laptop, he will stand beside me and ask to watch them over and over until I relent.  (Since his way of asking now is to say “Daddy, will you watch videos with me?” and it’s one of the few times he will sit on my lap without squirming to be released, I’m kind of a sucker for it.)

Anyhow, the other day we were watching the video for “Shiny Happy People” (a song I know I’m supposed to hate but unapologetically love) and I thought to myself “I would love to meet Kate Pierson.”  And that gave me the idea for this week’s question, which is somewhat more straightforward than most.

Which five celebrities or notable personages would you most like to meet, and why?

Now, it used to be that Madonna would be at the top of my list.  I found her incredibly fascinating and compelling and awesome for years and years and years.  (Yes, I know that’s impossibly cliche.  Sue me.)  But the bloom has come off that rose, and I’m just not all that interested in her any longer.  Plus, I’m not sure she’s all that nice.  Would I like to meet her, given the chance?  Sure.  But she’s not in my top five.

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

1)  Kate Pierson, of the B-52s — because “Cosmic Thing” and “Bouncing Off the Satellites” were my personal soundtrack throughout junior high.  Because I love her voice.  Because I once got into an argument with my friend Audrey because she though the Cure was a cooler band.  (We made peace by agreeing that both groups were infinitely cooler than the New Kids on the Block.)  Because she seems like she would be a total gas in person.

2)  Lily Tomlin — because “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” is a work of genius, which I mean sincerely.  Because every time I see her interviewed she is utterly hilarious.  Because she seems like she would be incredibly nice in person.

3)  The guys from OK Go — because I love their music.  Because my son loves their videos.  Because I might possibly love their videos even more than he does.  Because during a recent period of sadness and disappointment, watching their videos for “This Too Shall Pass” (both of them) and “All Is Not Lost” with my son proved strangely comforting.  It is totally not because I might possibly have a ridiculous crush on several members of the band.

4)  Sheryl Crow — because “The Globe Sessions” is the perfect album to listen to in the dark with a bottle of wine after a break-up, which I might have done over and over and over again once upon a time. Because I know people from her hometown.  Because I actually once came thisclose to really meeting her, and it’s bummed me out ever since.

5)  The women who write GoFugYourself — because they consistently make me cry with laughter.  Because I once won one of their “Freaky Fug Friday” contests.  Because as much as their blog pretends to be nothing but gossip about cracked out celebrities and what they wear, it is sometimes about being a decent human being.  Because they seem like exactly the kind of people I would be friends with.

5a)  If he were still alive, right at the very top of the list would be David Foster Wallace — because even when I didn’t like his writing, I found it challenging and insightful.  Because I almost always liked his writing.  Because I frequently loved his writing. Because Infinite Jest is my favorite novel of the past fifty years.  Because in that book one character speaks a two-word phrase that chokes me up every time I read it.  Because, had I met him, I would have offered one month’s salary (at least) to be donated to the charity of his choice for a reliable clue about a few of the unresolved questions in that novel. Because his non-fiction was unparalleled in its brilliance and humanity.  Because, insofar as one can miss someone one never met, I miss him.

Anyhow, that’s my list.  What’s yours?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. You cheated with OK Go. I mean, that’s a band, dude!

    What’s the definition of “meet”? Are they coming over to hang out for a Saturday BBQ? In a time and place appropriate to the individual or group? Altogether? Dinner and quiet jazz on a New York rooftop? Am I overthinking?

    • I feel like my responses depend heavily on the answers to this. Is this a handshake and a short conversation? A few hours where they’re subjected to mind-numbing fawning?

    • “Meet” means talking for long enough for you to say what you’d want to say, ask the questions you’d want to ask, and stick around long enough for the other person to get to know you a little bit, too. Hanging out for a Saturday BBQ would be a fine frame to put it in, but you can vary time and place as you wish.

  2. 1- Any of the main cast of MST3k, joel, mike, trace, frank, bill, kevin, mary jo, any one of them. Hell they could be my entire list. All are solid genius.
    2- I’ll offer an eccentric choice for the sake of conversation. I’d like to meet, if he were alive, John Carradine. He made a billion movies, a few great ones and a ton of crappy ones, and must have some great stories.
    3- Richard Ford, best known for the novel Independence Day, would be great. His work really hit me and classic stuff. His depth of vision into his characters lives is stunning.
    4- I love Walter Mosley. His serious fiction and hard boiled PI books are tops. Writing well in two genres is impressive. He’s also experimented with other genres which takes courage.

  3. 1. Isaac Asimov (if he were alive, of course.) A man who could be brilliant and entertaining talking about damned near anything.
    2. Tina Fey, because I have a weakness for women that are funny, intelligent, and beautiful.
    3. Walter Jon Williams, who’s a science fiction writer that DD and I both admire. He’s another polymath, and the brief conversations I’ve had with him on Usenet were amazing.
    4. Willie McCovey. In addition to being Willie fishing McCovey, he’s by all accounts one of the nicest men who ever lived. (Buck O’Neil in this slot, if he were still alive.)
    5. Dick Cheney, assuming I had a time machine and could go back to 1999.

    • If I could add another ten, your #2 would probably be on it. Because she is awesome.

      And I’ve only read the Drake Maijstral novels, but they’re some of my favorite books, so it would be cool to meet your #3, too.

  4. That one is sort of hard.
    I’ve met quite a few celebrities.
    I didn’t like Tommy Shaw when I met him, because I thought he was a dick. It took me years to realize that he was just down to business.
    I made fun of two of the guys from the Mighty Mighty Boss Tones until I thought that one of them was going to cry. The other refused to speak to me.
    I had a good talk with Doug Pinnick. I really like Doug. I just wish I hadn’t been drinking so much that day.
    I’ve met Ashton Kutcher. He’s really a cool guy. His jokes were kind of lame, but I wasn’t around him that much. Maybe it was just a slow day for him.

    So my list:
    Brian May– I’ve got a lot I want to talk to that guy about. I know I’m going to bore the living fish out of him, but I want to do it anyway.
    Doug Pinnick– I know I’ve already met him, but I want to again. I like Doug.
    Paul McCartney– He seems like a cool guy to hang out with. I just hope we wouldn’t run in to the Mighty Mighty Boss Tones when he’s with me, or it could sour his opinion of me fairly quickly.
    These two might not be allowed but:
    Jimi Hendrix
    Isaac Asimov

  5. I think I need to stick to people that are alive for my fanstasy BBQ guest list.

    1&2.. John Linell and John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants – I think they’d be an interesting bunch to be around and sure to liven up any gathering of famous folks.

    3. Iain Banks – Easily my favorite living sci-fi writer and his stuff outside the genre is also impressive.

    4. George Clooney – My favorite big-time movie actor, though I can’t imagine how I could hold up an interesting conversation with him.

    5. Tyler Cowen – He’s not really a celebrity but I’d put him first on my list of people to have dinner with.

    • ” Iain Banks – Easily my favorite living sci-fi writer and his stuff outside the genre is also impressive”

      Complicity and The Wasp Factory, those are two of the most unflinching books I have ever read.

  6. John McPhee – Greatest living non-fiction writer
    Patrick Leigh Fermer – passed away, but I don’t think anyone saw 20th century Europe with more clarity
    James May – I can’t imagine a better person to have a beer with
    Michelle Mouton- because she was and is fast
    Tim Gunn- simply because I think he would listen, and I would look better just sitting next to him

    • As I was mulling my list on the drive home last night, Tim Gunn was a strong contender. Part of the reason I ended up leaving him off is that I fear I would have nothing to say to him except variations on “you are so, so awesome,” which I imagine might get tiresome after a while, even for a celebrity.

  7. So, I can’t put any comics on here — because they wouldn’t want to hang out with me, and if someone doesn’t want to be there, what’s the point?

    Neil Gaiman — he’s supposed to be a really nice guy.

    David Brin — because I think it would be amusing.

    You can’t put the quiet ones on the list… they’d just sit there, and then what’s the point?


    Maaya Sakamoto

    Yoko Kanno (just to listen)

    … and one more, just for the lulz

    Tori Amos (I’m not a fan)

    I gotta say, when you know someone who has met all these people, your perspective on “who I want to meet” changes… a lot.

  8. Operating under the assumption that they need to be alive…
    1.) Donovan McNabb: My first “favorite athlete” whom I was old enough to remember and appreciate his whole career. Plus, I think we’d get along. He’s sort of nerdy in a cool way. Or cool in a nerdy way. I bet he’d like me.
    2.) Neil deGrasse Tyson: Watching him on TV is captivating enough, so I can only imagine what talking to him in person would be like. And while I understand very little of it, space fascinates me.
    3.) Adam Carolla: One of the secretly funniest guys out there right now. I’d like to see if I could keep up with him.
    4.) Jay-Z: I’d just want to follow him around for the night. That guy can operate within any social circle I do or hope to like he invented it.
    5.) Mila Kunis: Just to see if those eyes are as alluring in person as they are on TV and film. Plus, to see if I had a chance…

    I’ll confess that I feel a bit guilty and skeevy that the only woman on my list is primarily there as eye candy. I’d like to attribute this to not being much of a pop culture or political junky and instead focusing almost exclusively on sports. But it is probably more (and worse) than just that…

    I also reserve the right to change this list 500 times.

  9. Dead list is Jane Austen, David Hume, Abraham Lincoln, Edouard Seguin, Mary Wollstonecraft. But here’s alive, which is much harder than dead:

    1. Barack Obama. You know. I’d like to hear what he has to say on some stuff.
    2. Hilary Mantel. Loooooooved Wolf Hall – she took my favorite schlocky genre and turned it into something amazing. Also does historical theorizing within a novel. Neat!
    3. Barney Frank. Entertaining and honest. Doesn’t get better than that.
    4. Fug girls. Because though the best friends transitive property, if they are Russell’s best friends, they’re mine too.
    5. Daniel Craig. Eye candy. See Kazzy on Mila Kunis, except I am oddly guiltless.

    • “5. Daniel Craig. Eye candy. See Kazzy on Mila Kunis, except I am oddly guiltless.”
      Well, you don’t have that whole “entirety of human history subjugating and objectifying the gender in question” thing hanging over your head.

    • And he wasn’t your ONLY guy. My list broke down into dudes I think are smart/funny/cool and a woman I fap to.

          • Duly noted. Because my teenage patients think I’m the “da bomb” because I’m down with all their rad slang, and it would be most righteous to know the right term for said activity. Shwing!

          • By “kids”, I mean “half the free porn sites I frequent have it either in their name or referenced frequently in the comment section”.

          • I believe you’ve correctly dated the relevance of the term to today’s teens quite well, Doc. It will fit right in with the rest of those! 🙂

      • heh. you’d have more fun deconstructing my list.
        you fail, actually. you do not deserve the “enemy of all women” plaque (surprisingly, not handed out by the Japanese).

        • I’m just somewhat uncomfortable that I couldn’t come up with a woman I found compelling enough in a non-physical way to add to my list. It’s checks like this that remind me of the work I have left to do.

          • Actually Kaz, there was an initial thing that attracted me to my husband. For background (as Russell, who has known him for years, will attest), he is probably the least likely person in my social circle (generally bluer-than-thou) to go about addressing his lack of race/class/gender/orientation sensitivity. Not that he is a sexist/racist/classist/homophobic, just seems to have missed being hit with the liberal guilt wand.

            When he told me he had studied poetry, and had an MFA in it, I asked him whom he most admired. He said without hesitating, “Elizabeth Bishop. She’s a master.” I had never, in my life, heard a male say that their most admired practitioner of an interest of theirs was a female.

          • Very interesting. I will say that, despite the fact that I used the word “guilt”, I was really thinking more about what it said about me that I didn’t have a female on the list. Is it really just about my sole focus on sports? If so, I’m not really bothered by it. If it’s more than that… if it’s because consciously or subconsciously I tend not to see women as worthy of my admiration, well, that’s a bit more problematic. I’m not one for tokenism or quotas or any of that crap. But I do hope to become at least aware of what my biases, prejudices, or assumptions are, if only so I can own them when they do pop up. As I mentioned when discussing the cats, I was genuinely dismayed when my opinion of the cat’s actions suddenly changed when I learned he was really a she. Why did I think her being headstrong was badass when she was a boy but suddenly bitchy when she was a girl, despite the behavior itself not changing? I can’t say that I don’t still think she’s a bitch but… at least I know I’m probably wrong about that.

            In my field, most of the practitioners I’d mention would be female, but that is because I work in a female dominated field.

          • Rose,
            really?… I mean, really?
            That seems -really- unbelievable.

            You don’t know any guy who likes Katherine Hepburn or Liz Taylor better than the male leads??

          • Russ-

            You have one of those? Did you buy it at the same store where they sell the deck of cards that has the race card in it?

          • Kimmi, I meant practitioner of a certain interest of theirs solely in virtue of their mastery. Not in virtue of their being a hot practitioner, or girlfriend=attractive practitioner.

          • I got it the same time as my toaster oven when I recruited my first gay. The prize package is really nice, and comes with a pass to say “you look great in those pants!” to female coworkers without getting slapped with a lawsuit.

          • Rose,
            no. but seriously, you don’t know any man who doesn’t want to f those women, who thinks that they’re better than their male counterparts?
            I admire the HELL out of Hillary Clinton — and I’d still do so if I was a guy, I think.

            throwing open the floor here — you guys got any interests that you consider a woman the best/favorite practitioner of?

          • > I had never, in my life, heard a male say that their
            > most admired practitioner of an interest of theirs
            > was a female.

            Emmy Noether! Now you’ve heard another.

          • I have met people say such since (I was 25 when I met my husband). But actually, very very few.

          • Kaz,
            Okay, how about Amy Poehler? One crazy bitch (compliment, dears!)… but a HELL of a lotta fun to be around.

          • IMHO, the very best blogger in all the world was hilzoy.

          • Kim-

            There are no doubt a multitude of women I would have a fantastic time around. Believe it or not, many of my closest friends are women. My point was that none sprang to mind.

          • Kimmi-

            Please know that I am NOT saying there aren’t impressive women out there. My point is that I struggled to come up with any for my list. That says something about me and little to nothing about the female gender.

          • Actually, Ana Vidovic is probably the best classical guitarist out there these days.
            Not to say that she’s the best that ever lived, but the best one going.

  10. Kate Pierson is, I believe, running a bed and breakfast somewhere in the Northeast with her partner.

    Meeting her just might be achievable.

    • You’re right. I can’t remember exactly where it is offhand, but I know I’ve contemplated heading there for a long weekend. If I do go, and she’s there, I hope she’d be patient with all the ridiculous gushing I will be helpless to prevent.

      But I imagine she’s probably used to that sort of thing by now.

  11. The dead list and the live list are two different lists.

    For the dead list:

    Emmy Noether
    John Lennon
    Grace Hopper
    Cary Grant

    For the live list… gah. Must ponder longer.

    • “Cicero was a nice fellow, Not stuck up, like you’d think” — Titus Pullo

    • I saw Cap’n Grace at a talk once. She told us about getting by in Japan by using COBOL. Very cool person.

    • Oooo, forgot movie peeps. Billy Wilder is a strong contender.

  12. … so, three black guys, a buncha women. A couple Japanese (guilty!)….
    How’d we do on the “so white it’s glowing” scale?
    (extra special bonus: who’s the person listed above who fits the “one drop” rule?)

  13. Since choosing from folks who are dead would make my list exponentially more difficult, I will stay with living only. (Totally random, but one reason I love being a vegetarian is that it limits my choices) I don’t want to give this too much thought, so here goes:
    1. Kevin Smith – we have little in common, but he would be fun at my BBQ. I just love people who make me laugh and have fun working with their friends. He doesn’t care what other people think about his work as long as he and his friends have fun. I admire that.
    2. Stephen Hawking – My dad and I have little in common, but we are both interested in space. I would just love to watch the two of them talk for hours.
    3. Ellen Degeneres – I want to go shopping with her and she would be a great addition to the BBQ. She can bring the music and people can’t help but dance when she does.
    4. J.K. Rowling – Mostly because I want her to read Harry Potter to my son and I after the BBQ and before we go to bed. Is that weird?
    5. I won’t pick a 5th because once I do I will want to change it. It’s just something I do when I have a limited number. I can’t commit.

  14. Due to go going to some major SF conventions, I got to meet some very nice authors: Ted Sturgeon, Larry Niven, CJ Cherryh (as well as a few a**holes like Pournelle). I’ve met Poul Anderson twice, once at a mini-convention in Denamrk. He answered my questions in English and theirs in Danish (and they may have been the same questions).

    As I mentioned above, I got to meet with Grace Hopper. That was fun.

    June Foray (voice of Rocky the Squirrel) gave a chat in San Diego that I was lucky enough to attend. Very nice person. (I met Jay Ward at his store a few times.)

    Top 5:
    Whoopi Goldberg — smart and funny. I’d love to ask her about her one-woman show, about doing Live Aid with Crystal and Williams, about all sorts of stuff.

    Suzanne Collins (of the Hunger Games)

    “Barry” — I’d have a few words about some of his more distasteful policies, but we could jam on the good stuff he’s doing.

    Tim Burton — How the heck does he put out so many movies a year (3 right now, I think)

    I’m going to save a spot for further thought.

  15. Henry Fielding. Because 200+ year later he can still make me laugh my ass off (seriously, if you haven’ read Tom Jones yet, you must).

    Ben Franklin. I have this recurring fantasy of taking him on a flight on an airliner and discussing all of the technologies involved. I think he’d really get it.

    I’m not really very interested in modern celebrities. Maybe Gene Tierney, even though I’d be gibbering like a rhesus monkey in her presence.

    • Ben Franklin would dive into this century like a duck into water. Truly a man before his time.

  16. On the assumption that they need to be alive and not a celebrity zombie, I’ll go with:

    1. Wynton Marsalis – I would love to talk music and jazz history with him for an evening,

    2. Kazou Ishiguro – to talk writing

    3. Stephen Colbert – just to see how much of the real Colbert is like the pho-Colbert

    4. Glenn Beck – because I think an evening with him would lead to the greatest post I would ever write

    5. Andrew Sullivan – parly to say thanks, and partly to hit him up for a job.

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