Pavlos (pavlos) wrote,

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Old but well thought-out interview, questions by sibelian

1. You have been ordained as a High Priest of the God of Abstract Concepts. In a dream he comes to you to tell you that you may wish for one old idea that has never been properly understood by anyone to be understood properly by everyone from now on. Which one?

Where do I start? Loyalty - a dangerous concept used to justify tribalism? Social justice - misunderstood by most to mean reshuffling the class hierarchy? Actually these are not single concepts, I should start with something simple.

I would like the concept of a present to be properly understood. A present is not something that you give because the recipient needs it (that's called assistance), or because it's their birthday (that's a social obligation). It's not something you merely give for free because you have it spare (a freebie), or out of general goodwill or reciprocity (that is called a gift, at best as in shop and at worst as in Greeks bearing).

A present is something that you give to show someone that you love them or care for them and you're close to them in some way. As such, something in the present itself or the act of giving it must demonstrate intimate knowledge, affection, approval, or some such connection to the recipient. There's no point giving a present that you really like, or that you think everyone would like. It has to be something that the recipient especially would like. It follows that strangers cannot generally give presents, and under no circumstances as the first step in trying to acquire intimacy.

Conventional wisdom holds that a present must be expensive, conspicuous, and inoffensive. Like a crystal coffee table ornament, if such a thing could be considered inoffensive. Bollocks! The best present I ever received by a large margin consisted of a small spanner soldered onto a safety pin so that you could wear it as a brooch. Clue: The giver was a close friend but not an out pervert, and that heightened the value of the present.

2. Your entire wardrobe has been stolen! And all the shops that sell clothes will now only sell many copies of one personally tailored outfit per person, to aid CCTV camera software in recognising people. But you can wear anything. What does your outfit look like?

Baggy, very dark earth (nearly black) crumpled linen trousers, with deep pockets and tied waist cord. Loose, very light cream linen (nearly white) shirt with no collar, neck opening with cross-tied cord, baggy sleeves that can be rolled up. Very supple, low, black leather shoes that form an elegant sheath around the feet and have no visible fastenings or other features.

For formal occasions: Black heavy silk waistcoat with elaborate abstract pattern embroidered in silvery threads. Flamboyant bowtie in red, orange, purple, etc. colours.

For when it's cold: Dark grey jacket made of high-tech synthetic materials. Slightly stiff form, vaguely like anime light armor. Wear over head, collapsible collar and hood, huge pockets. Small front screen, larger back screen for display of stylized messages.

3. You are in the future and win the chance to spend as much time as you like on a planet somewhere in the universe that is cosmologically mostly Earthlike apart from 3 things that are VERY different. What 3 things?

The planet rotates every 36 hours, giving the inhabitants a pleasantly relaxed attitude to life. Days are long, and so are the nights.

Its axis of rotation is almost perfectly perpendicular to is orbital plane, and the orbit is very close to a circle, so there is no notion of seasons. As a result the indigenous civilizations never developed any cyclic notions such as birthdays, anniversaries, special days or annual holidays, etc. Life is enjoyed day after day, as it comes. Also, because there was no need to organize early agriculture on a seasonal basis, there is almost no mysticism or religion.

There is either a great deal of plate tectonic activity, or none of it and the planet is young. Either way, instead of having large oceans and continents it has smaller scale arrangements of land and sea, like the Mediterranean or Indonesia. There is also a more pronounced variation in altitude and terrain type, no one terrain type covering a contiguous area larger than, say, France. Firstly, this avoids the extreme climate that would otherwise result from 36-hour rotation. Secondly, the landscape is more interesting. But most importantly, it has allowed smallish communities to develop in relative isolation, as they did in Europe, but without the great continental gulfs of isolation that allowed colonialism. This gives the indigenous culture immense richness and variety, but also a tradition of respect and relative equality.

4. If all techy jobs disappeared tomorrow and you had to get the sort of job that would only bring in around 13-15K, what would it be?

Something that gives pleasure to people more or less directly. If I were a woman I'd seriously consider doing porn or whoring. As a man (who doesn't fancy men that much) the options for this are limited. I might still try the sex industry in some other role (e.g. photographer) or go for some other pleasure-giving job, like being a masseur.

5. It is discovered that you have been born (according to arcane horoscope rules) under the mysterious 13th sign of the Zodiac (there supposedly IS one but we'll ignore that for the moment). What's it called? What is its symbol? What are the characteristics of people born under this sign, assuming it turns out you are a typical example? What are the commonly held false beliefs about people born under this sign?

Solterus (which I hope means something like "lone"). Its sign shows a lone human figure holding and looking at an object like a crystal.

Solteri are typically loners in the sense that they don't form very intimate relationships with partners, or like having families. They do instead invest their loyalty and affection in their friends, whom they regard as their closest kin. Intellectually, solteri tend to be analytical-synthetic types who seek to interpret everything in the world from first principles (figuring out the principles where necessary). Solteri make great visionaries, and terrible shoppers, because they first conceive of how something ought to be and then criticise the way it actually is.

It's a common misconception that solteri are selfish or don't like people, when in fact they just reject certain traditional forms of loyalty or relationship. They're also seen as cold and uninspired, which is a misperception of their rationalist attitude (in fact intensity of emotion, imagination, and artistic ability are perfectly compatible with the sign and not correlated with it either way). Solteri are variously perceived as being incredibly sorted and successful or at the other extreme depressed whiny malcontents, when in fact they're as likely to be happy or unhappy with their lives as everyone else.

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