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There was a time I fantasized that Dave Eggers and I could be friends. More: I think like many I wanted to be Dave Eggers. His first book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000) led the way for a literary career that includes both the hilarious and earnest; he founded 826, a group of nonprofit writing centers, McSweeney's, a hilarious quarterly journal and publishing imprint, Voice of Witness a human rights nonprofit, and a number of his books feature those that live invisibly at the margins in American society: Sudanese refugees, Syrian- and Yemeni-Americans, etc. Someday he'll win the MacArthur genius award, and we'll never had even had a chance to grab a beer.

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Dave Barry's dry wit made a big impression on me in high school. Later, in college, when preparing to move to Japan, I picked up Dave Barry Does Japan (1992). Turns out throughout all his zany humorizing, there was a lot for me to chew on. I wasn't the only one, in 1988 at the Miami Herald, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his "consistently effective use of humor as a device for presenting fresh insights into serious concerns."

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Daniel Ho is practically a one-man force in contemporary Hawaiian music. He won 4 Grammy awards in a row for the Best Hawaiian Music Album (2007-2010). My cousin, Loretta, caught up with him at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) in Los Angeles to ask him this question.

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With a huge, untamed beard and a deeply penetrating stare, Daniel Higgs cuts a very memorable portrait. He is an artist's artist: a mysterious, mystical sort who has been the lead singer of the seminal post-punk band Lungfish, a legendary tattoo artist, published poet, and has many books of his drawings and artworks. With such a wide-ranging curiosity as a theme in his work, I found it surprising he didn't have a question to share.

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Contacting Dr. Scott was a suggestion from my math-whiz friend Peter after I asked who he considered to be the Great Mathematicians of our times. Dana S. Scott has taught at Berkeley, Princeton, Stanford and Oxford. He won the Turing Award (1976). I cannot sum up well what he has accomplished, so I have had to resort to Wikipedia which describes Dr. Scott as: "Internationally recognized mathematical logician whose work has spanned computer science, mathematics, and philosophy. He made seminal contributions to automata theory, modal logic, model theory, set theory, and the theory of programming languages."

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In the 1970s, Danny Seemiller was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates to play Second Base. He declined to pursue his table tennis career, which may seem ridiculous to some, but he went on to win the US National Title five times, became the head coach of the US Olympic table tennis team, President of the United States Table Tennis Association, and has been inducted into the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame.

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Many have superseded his work, but it's important to remember that Craig Venter was the first to sequence the human genome. Not sure what that means? Look it up.

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Dan Hicks played guitar and was the leader for the 70s San Francisco band The Hot Licks and was proficient in both positions. Musically, he produced easy-on-the-ears gypsy-swing-jazz-country, served with a big dollop of wacky humor. What does that mean? Check it out for yourself! Start with the track: "How Can I Leave You if you Won't Go Away?" https://youtu.be/rW9-FOLG-iA

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For more than 25 years Corey Flintoff worked at National Public Radio, often featured on the daily evening news program All Things Considered. He retired in 2016 after four years as the Moscow Bureau Chief for NPR.

From politicians to heads of state, he interviewed hundreds of individuals with a modicum of impartiality. But in the back of his mind, I wonder if this question was the one he truly wanted to ask.

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"Love is the religion and the universe is the book." The line is by 13th century mystic poet Rumi, but translated by Coleman Barks, a former literature professor at the University of Georgia who neither speaks nor reads Persian. He rewrites the poems based on other English translations, and, as you can imagine, the resulting translations are controversial. Rumi experts consider Barks works fraudulent, but from bumper stickers to colorful coffee shop volumes, Coleman Barks is the most published translator of the works of Rumi in English.

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Do you want to know why there are 3,000 craft breweries in your town? Well, Charlie Papazian may be partially to blame. His 1984 book The Complete Guide to Home Brewing touched off a wave of home brewing experimenters, and every one of them, it seems went on to establish their own microbrewery. To pile on the hoppy-ness, he also founded the Association of Brewers to register them all, and the Great American Beer Festival to rate them all!

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Carl Mitcham is Professor Emeritus of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the Colorado School of Mines (though he has been taught at universities around the world) and his work on the ethics of science, technology, and engineering is fascinating. His first book was Philosophy and Technology: Technology as a Philosophical Problem (1972), and he was a founding member of Society for Philosophy and Technology (1976).

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#NPR

#NationalPublicRadio

#AllThingsConsidered

#MorningEdition

Contemporary Christian Musician. His album Matters of the Heart, was selected as 1982's Album of the Year, and later ranked it 25th on its list of Best Contemporary Christian albums of all time by Contemporary Christian Music magazine. This postcard from Bob Bennett arrived in the mail out of the blue. Turns out my cousin Loretta was busy on my behalf. Thanks, Loretta!

"Palling around with a terrorist," was how right-wing pundits described Barack Obama's friendship with Bill Ayers. They skipped past the part where Ayers apologized for his actions of the late 60s, became a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, and was named Citizen of the Year in 1997 by the City of Chicago. It's fair to say that none of this was taught to him in school.

Though he founded one of the most influential avant-garde jazz labels of the 20th century, Bernard Stollman was a lawyer, not a musician. This may have accounted for the numerous complaints by the recording artists on his ESP label: He didn't do a great job of it. In fact, the operating funds for the label ran out after ten years, and by 1974 Stollman went right back to being a lawyer full time. But the music he released over that decade, from Albert Ayler, to Pharoh Sanders, to Sun Ra, to Paul Bley, was the earliest explorations of experimental jazz. It was so out there, the music was released before there was an audience for it. Many ESP albums were pressed in small runs so original copies of some of the seminal works are rare and extremely valuable.

It's a hunch, but I bet Avi's answer to his own question would be: "I wrote." Avi is the pen name for young adult author, Edward Irving Wortis. He's written over 70 books for children, often with unique characters in novel settings. He is one of only a few writers to have won more than one Newbery Award, the most prestigious in children's literature. He won the gold medal for Crispin, the Cross of Lead (2003), and runners-up for both The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991), and Nothing but the Truth (1992).

There's a scene that in Atom Egoyan's 1997 Cannes Grand Prix winner The Sweet Hereafter where a camera soars into the sky to watch as a bus glides down a windy, remote highway in Canada filled with children. The bus is about to crash and kill many of them, an unimaginable tragedy. But in the moment, the viewer is transported; it's a beautiful shot, one of many in the film, and one that in simple lyric imagery conveys the context for the rest of the film.

In the 80s I moved from Kalamazoo, MI to Santa Barbara, CA where I came across Ashleigh Brilliant Pot Shots, a daily humorous single-panel comic in the local paper. "I'm not perfect but parts of me are excellent" became my first favorite, followed by "All I want is a warm bed, a kind word, and unlimited power." Mr. Brilliant was right there in the middle of the Haight Ashbury scene in the 60s and his kooky sense of humor is prevalent throughout. Since it's beginning in 1975, there are now more than 10,000 of these copyrighted comedic epigrams, all clocking in at 17 words or less. I can't do them justice, you've got to check them out for yourself: www.ashleighbrilliant.com

I was honored to hear back from Arnold Palmer. Considered by many to be one of the greatest to have ever played the game, it was surprising that he took the time to write me back. He typed, printed, cut out, and then taped his question to a postcard. Palmer's response to his own question may, on its face, clearly be about golf, for which he was a tireless advocate. He was a, however, a well-traveled pilot, logging more than 20,000 hours in various aircraft. I wonder if a quieter Arnold Palmer might offer a different answer than sport.

Human beings express themselves in multiple ways: We think, feel, act, sense, imagine, and interact. Arnold Lazarus felt that any psychological treatment should address these modalities, often in combination. His theory, known as Multimodal Therapy, is illuminated in the seminal work, Multimodal Behavioral Therapy (1976). His therapeutic process was developed with the individual in mind; I wonder how the use of Multimodal therapy could be employed throughout society to eradicate the evils Dr. Lazarus mentions?

They've released 50 albums and you've still never heard of them?! That's because the Sun City Girls are challenging, abrasive, experimental and, outside a devoted fan group, unknown. Alan Bishop and his brother Rick formed the band with drummer Charles Gocher in Arizona in 1979. They weren't the first noise-rock-improv band, but they were relentless, influential, and mysterious. There was nothing like them in Arizona, that's for sure. Almost every album takes on a different theme with focus on; spoken-word, jazz, world music, etc. Plus, they're pretty funny. Torch of the Mystics is their most well-known album, give it a whirl and see what you think!

Al Franken resigned from his role as a US senator in 2018 in controversy. Prior to that he was a writer and performer on SNL, penning some of the great sketches of the 80s (Stuart Smiley, anyone?). When he penned his question in 2016, it was in far sunnier times for him politically. He's alluded to the darkness that followed all the accusations, and I wonder how he would respond to his own question now?

An NFL cheerleader who has gone on to fame as a comedian featured on MADtv? Anjelah Johnson-Reyes is definitely the only person I've ever heard of to make such a huge professional leap. She's cheered at a Superbowl, become a YouTube sensation and wears her religious convictions on her sleeve. Interestingly, her postcard arrived in the mail out of the blue; turns out my cousin met Anjelha Johnson in LA, posed this question to her and handed her a postcard to respond.

Albert Bandura researched how it is we learn to act the ways we do and came away with a head-scratchingly simple conclusion: by observation. It seems common sense now, but it wasn't in 1961 when he conducted the now-famous "Bobo Doll" experiment where adults exhibited violent behavior toward a doll. Watching children then mimicked this violence. Observation, modeling, imitation: these acts became the basis of Social Learning Theory, and Observational Learning. Bandura's work has been quietly revolutionary, he's the fourth most cited psychologist in research (after Sigmund Freud, B.F. Skinner, and Jean Piaget), and is described as one of the most influential psychologists of all time.

I wonder how much Bandura would say our observations of others inform what it is we think we truly want in life?

Most people know Bob Saget from his role as Danny Tanner on the 80s sitcom Full House. He hosted America's Funniest Home Videos for a number of years in the 90's. But he cemented his legacy with his joke-telling in the documentary The Aristocrats. Bob Saget had a dirty, dirty mind and he loved it. Rest in Peace America's Most Perverted Dad. And yes, it is best not to ask "Happy New Year?" as a question.

Aaron Cometbus started putting out his seminal 'zine Cometbus back in 1981. He was there at the epicenter of the pop punk explosion in the Bay Area in the late 80s and early 90s. He was a roadie and fill-in drummer for Green Day at the beginning of their meteoric rise, helped start famed punk venue 924 Gilman, and self-published achingly beautiful stories of wanderlust, friendship and love while living on the edges of society in his hand-lettered 'zine Cometbus.

"A central figure in the postwar American crafts movement," according to the New York Times. Maloof was the first craftsman to be awarded the MacArthur "genius" grant, and it is easy to see why; the quality of the woodwork on his self-built house made it almost a museum to the craft (it's now on the National Historic Register) and one of his elegant rocking chairs recently sold for $80,000. Of the dozens of rockers he produced, most are in museums, including the Smithsonian. Even with all the fame, throughout his life Maloof would respond with one word to his own question: "Woodworker."

In 1994 I took a college course called Women in Literature. It was an upper-level course and in it we read The Woman Warrior. Like for many, Maxine Hong Kingston's book opened my eyes to systemic racism, first through the lens of Chinese-Americans, then to American society in general. Kingston’s powerful prose forced me to ask:

How am I perpetuating these systems of oppression?

How can we stop?

For years I thought this postcard said, "Check, OK," but after a friend encouraged me to look up Manson's signature, I found that it says, "Chuck," with a strange symbol he used often, after. Does it say, "OK"? Or is that a creepy eyeball? The hair stood up on the back of my neck when I realized he had actually written me back. There was no other accompanying material, so there is no insight into his thoughts or question.

I still love Steven Colbert, even though just after his postcard response arrived in the mail a new feature appeared on The Late Show: Just One Question. And featuring a logo that looks suspiciously like mine… I admit, it's an honor, even though I think they should do me a solid and have the actual Question Project on the show. Yes, let's get some water and talk about all these fascinating questions, Stephen!

“What is your name?” seems an innocent question, but as I looked into the history of the Dear Abby column, I found her own answer is surprisingly complex. First, I thought that I was smart learning that her real name was Abigal Van Buren, but it turns out that is a pseudonym as well. She was born Pauline Esther Friedman, identical twin to Esther Pauline Friedman. Why is that important? Because twin Esther went on to become Ann Landers! And in a final twist, since the year 2000 it has been Pauline’s daughter Jeanne Phillips penning the nationally syndicated advice. Dear Abby is truly a woman of mystery.

From the 2020 Greenway Glow festival, Minneapolis, MN

How is your day?

-Deo, Minneapolis, MN

Now that you are on the cliff of ambition, do you still have goals for your future? -Michael, Minneapolis

Now that you are on the cliff of ambition, do you still have goals for your future? -Michael, Minneapolis

Is the universe infinite?

-Bobby Kimball, lead singer of Toto

Are you aware that there is an actual black hole out there sucking everything toward it, consuming everything in destruction?

-Oscar, San Francisco, California

-Amy, Madison, Wisconsin

What did you do for someone else today?

-Avi, author of three Newbery-winning children's books (Newbery Honor for The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle 1991, Nothing But the Truth 1992. And his fiftieth book, Crispin: The Cross of Lead, awarded the Newbery Gold Medal in 2003.)

What's your favorite restraint?

-Mark, Santa Barbara

How's your civic life?

-Ralph Nader, politician, activist, environmentalist, consumer advocate

What is your personal revolution?

-Ro, Minneapolis, Minnesota

What's not to like?

-Cindy, St. Paul, Minnesota

Just One Question hits the road next month for a Midwestern Book Tour!

Come on out to support the book, enjoy a reading and a whole bunch of interesting questions from celebrities. Bring your own question to share!

Website: www.justonequestion.org

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What's for lunch?

-Dan Hicks (and his Hot Licks). Check out some classic Dan Hicks Here!

 

Would Gilligan have had more fun as a blonde?

-Matt, Minneapolis

       Order your own copy of the Gold Medal-winning book through Amazon here!

Barnes + Nobles online here!

Signed copies available from the author using the form here!

What is Infinity?

-Angus, Santa Barbara

Are you going to eat that?

-Jen Smith, artist, musician, zine editor, and activist. She is credited with being the inspiration behind the term Riot Grrrl and being one of the architects of the movement.

Anjehla Johnson

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he built his church, the Church of Christ in A.D. 33?

-Anjehla Johnson, Comedian

See one of her best known routine's HERE!

What gets you through life's challenges?

-Tess, Hibbing, Minnesota

Why does this generation have no discipline?

-Michael, Minneapolis, Minnesota

What are the ways in which systems of binary discernment up/down, good/evil, man/woman, etc.  impact your life and how do you deal with it personally?

-Sean, Santa Barbara, California

It would absolutely depend on who the person was. Adult or child, nationality, background. At a cocktail party we ask what people do - best to try to find out WHO they really are inside.

-Jane Goodall, British primatologist and anthropologist. Considered to be the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees.

 

Jane, the documentary premiere's Monday, March 12th at 8/7 Central. Click here to check it out!

Is it you?!

-Anonymous, St. Paul, Minnesota

Can I have a moment to think?

-Nicole, Michigan

-Kate DiCamillo, author, one of six people to win two Newbery Medals for her novels The Tale of Despereaux (2003) and Flora and Ulysses (2013).

If you died and were born again as one of your friends, which friend would it be and why?

-Graham, Santa Barbara, California

What did you learn?

-John, Minneapolis, MN

Will you be my Valentine?

-Will Oldham aka Bonny 'Prince' Billy, Indy

What are you?

-Jerry Spinelli, author of Maniac Magee, Wringer, Stargirl

Why must we die?

-Russell, Minneapolis, MN

What question can I ask that will make you say Peanut Butter?

-Beth, Oakland, CA

What made you?

-Neurosis, metal band.

Check them out here: https://youtu.be/4Ek945pg6v0

Do you feel alone right now?

-Ben, Oakland, CA

If you could have lunch with Jesus and could ask just one question, what would that be?

-Kat, Minneapolis

How do you defend the hypocrisies in your life?

-Cabral, Oakland, California

What gives you meaning in life?

-Temple Grandin, groundbreaking animal researcher and autism spokesperson

What helps you sleep at night?

-Jasmine, London, England

Am I real?

-A Unicorn, St. Paul

Will you buy me a beer?

-Tom Robbins, Author Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, Jitterbug Perfume

If you could make any movie, what movie would you make?

-Sarah Rose, Black Rock City, Nevada

What made you happy when you were a child?

-Vivian Gussin Paley, Pre-K and Kindergarten teacher, educational researcher, and MacArthur Fellow.

What's your favorite mistake?

Kim, Bellingham

Do you feel uncomfortable around people with disabilities?

-Elizabeth, Minneapolis

Why is money so important to you?

-Yuuki, Burnsville, MN

I have no question for everyone I meet.

-Wendell Berry, American novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer.

Where are you originally from? (Why did you move here?)

-Kelly, Kalamazoo, MI

 

If you could live your real life in the set of any movie, what would you choose?

-Tony, Ely, MN

What decision in life have you made that you're most confident about?

-Jess, Albany, CA

-Aaron, Maine

What is missing?

-Maya Lin, Artist + Designer (Vietnam Memorial, D.C.)

What are we, as a species, so destructive to ourselves and our environment?

-Sue, New York

Where's the bathroom?

-Leon Redbone

What are the ways in which systems of binary discernment up/down, good/evil, man/woman, etc.  impact your life and how do you deal with it personally?

-Sean, Santa Barbara, CA

Have you earned the privilege of being alive?

-Frank Oz

What is infinity?

-Angus, Santa Barbara, CA

Are you happy?

-David Lynch, Filmmaker

What's a secret you've never told anyone?

-Phil, Kalamazoo

Who are you really?

Corey Flintoff, NPR

What movie do you think everyone should watch?

-Kate, Portland, Oregon

 

What is your name?

-Dear Abby

How do you decipher between truth and lies?

-Robert, Minneapolis

What is going to be the next most fun thing you will do?

-Charlie Papazian, Founder of the American Homebrewing Association and the Great American Beer Festival

What is this life? (Often it is kind of rhetorical, but the world does baffle me constantly)

-Carl, Berkeley, CA

What are you most thankful for?

-Tonder, Madison, WI

Are your pets spayed or neutered?

-Bob Barker, Price is Right host

What is your favorite sandwich?

-Sarah, Nevada

Happier?

-Atom Egoyan, Filmmaker

Can I trust you?

-Joe, Massachusetts

What would you do if you could do anything you wanted for the day? You have a free day, nothing planned, what would you do?

-Scott, Cedarburg, WI

 

What is your goal in life?

-Arnold Palmer

DSC_0195

Do you believe in God? (Why?)

-Sam, Kalamazoo, MI

When did you get laid the last time?

-Anonymous

What is one thing that you love?

-Toby, Santa Barbara, CA

Arnold Lazarus

How can we eradicate violence, hatred, and prejudice?

-Arnold Lazarus, Psychologist responsible for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Learn more about his work HERE!

 

What's your favorite breakfast food?

-Mark, Santa Barbara, CA

Did you not forget to bring your hang-glider?

-Cos, Santa Barbara, CA

Christmas Green Gulch 2009 032

Is happiness something that you realize looking back on it, or is it something you experience in the moment?

-Marcie, Santa Barbara, CA

 

Who are you?

-Sean, Santa Barbara, CA

What are you thinking?

-Rosie, Oakland, CA

What would you do with your time Right Now to create the change that you want to see in the future?

-Mick, Oakland, CA

Boston Spring Break 2010 118

What's the closest we've been (geographically), before we actually met?

-Lucas, Providence, RI

What's your passion?

-Nicole, Oakland, CA

What is it you do that makes you dynamic?

-Brett, Oakland, CA

Albert Bandura

What do you want in life?

-Albert Bandura, Psychologist

Learn more about Albert Bandura's work HERE!

Do you know how to water ski?

-Anonymous

_TJP3682

Is there hope for humanity?

-David, Bigelow, MN

What's your first memory?

-Anonymous

How's it goin'?

-Ben, Oakland, CA

Alan Bishop

Where does the term "Six Million" originally come from?

-Alan Bishop, vocalist/bassist, Sun City Girls

Learn more about the Sun City Girls HERE!

What is this life? (Kind of rhetorical, but it does baffle me constantly)

-Carl, Oakland, CA

1 (9)

What the fuck?

-Matt, Kalamazoo, MI

If you could write a book, what book would you write?

Leslie, Bainbridge Island, WA

What's your ultimate goal for happiness?

-Hayden, Black Rock Desert, NV

Aaron Ptown Higgins

What did you think of "The Blair Witch Project?"

-Aaron, Provincetown, MA

What helps you get to sleep at night?

-Jasmine, Black Rock Desert, NV

What's your favorite sandwich?

-Anna Rose, Block Rock Desert, NV

_TJP1431

Can I have a dollar?

-Anthony, Staten Island, NY

What did you want to be when you grew up? (And what happened to that dream?)

-Jill, Ely, MN

Do you think you are on your right path in life?

-Debby, Ely, MN

Aaron Cometbus

What excites you? What's news? What's new?

-Aaron Cometbus

Learn more about Aaron Cometbus HERE!

Is the world round?

-Frank, Kalamazoo, MI

_TJP0048

What do you think is the role of the courts in our democracy?

-Meg, Seattle, WA

BACK TO THE HOME PAGE!

What's the highlight of your life?

-Joe, Cambria, CA

BACK TO THE HOME PAGE!

What are you doing here?

-Anonymous

BACK TO THE HOME PAGE!

Are we going to have sex later?

-Anonymous

Back to the Home Page!

How's my hair?

-Johanna, Kalamazoo, MI

Albert Bandura

What do you want in life?

-Albert Bandura, the most cited living psychologist

 

How do you differentiate between Right and Wrong?

—Johanna, Germany

 

If I was a worse man, I would ask for your PIN #. If I was a better man, I would ask you how I could be of service.

-Jay, Burning Man

How are you?

—Al Franken, US Senator