The Questionnaire

At the end of the program "Inside the Actor's Studio" the guests are asked a series of questions that originated with French television host Bernard Pivot. Some of the actors answer the questions genuinely while some find cute answers rather than deep ones. Some of the actors have obviously prepared for the questions and thought of their questions in advance and some are in the moment.

"What is your favorite word?" Like so many of the other questions, I don't have a clue how to answer. I love words and perseverate on different ones at different times. Kim brought "perseverate" home from work one day to describe a patient she was working with. I tend to like shorter words. Common words. Words like "bald" and "smooth". Most of the actors choose a word based on its meaning like "love" rather than on its sound like "matriculate".

"What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?" That's easy. Being a dad. Hanging out and talking to people. Hanging out and not talking to people – just sitting quietly alone or with someone else. As to "What turns you off?", it's probably having someone interrupt that perfect quiet moment by asking "what are you thinking?" Go ahead and interrupt with something as inconsequential as "can you tie my shoe for me" but don't ask what I was thinking.

"What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?" That is a question I've come back to again and again lately. Because, so far, every time I've identified a new profession to try, I've tried it and it's been wonderful. I remember reading the obituaries for Julia Child and marveling at how late in life she began the profession we know her best for. She was in her fifties before she made her television debut in the cooking series "The French Chef".

When she died I was writing a very different sort of daily blog. I was writing the editor's blog for the java.net web site and wrote:

Child made her television debut at 51. She lived and worked another forty years. Are you thinking in terms of that time frame? What is your passion? What is it you would really like to be doing? For me, there are three apps and two books that I really want to write. I look up at the end of each day and think, "wow, that went by really quickly". Child reminded me that there's no rush. I can continue to enjoy what I'm doing now and that there will be time to do more later on.

But what I really learned from Julia Child was to show wrong turns and mistakes and how to fix things. She was an excellent teacher. She would show you what a dish looked like if it wasn't quite right and how to tell. I recently wrote a Java tech tip on threading where I showed how to ensure that the GUI remained responsive. Child taught me to motivate the solution with an example that showed how the GUI can easily be locked up. There is a move to teach Design Patterns earlier in the curriculum. I wonder about teaching students how to use these patterns to avoid problem areas that they have not yet encountered.

I never watched much Martha Stewart. I may be remembering wrong, but it seems to me that everything she did on her show came out right in ways that made me think "I could never do that". With Julia Child, if a cake didn't come out quite right she would show how to mask the problem with frosting. If that didn't quite cover it, then she had some other technique like sprinkling cake crumbs. Like the best developers Child believed in keeping things simple. She would freely show her techniques. She worked with others and acknowledged their contributions. If Stewart made a cake, the implication seemed to be that it was from wheat that she had grown, harvested, and milled herself.

Bernard Pivot's final question was the one for which actors seem to work the hardest to get a funny or deep answer. It's the one they seem to prepare for. I used to wonder how I'd answer it.

"If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?"

If I'm not taken to see Elena immediately, I'll know that something is very wrong.

Published in: on May 2, 2006 at 6:53 am  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Not that I know for sure, but I believe she’ll be there waiting for you when you arrive.

  2. Daniel-
    Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I have a feeling that she may just be busy visiting with others! I know that I’m going to ask to see her. She probably won’t be top of my list, but she’ll definitely be on it. If I’m the one delaying her when you get there, just let me know and I’ll gladly step aside. She’s your angel, first, foremost, and always!

  3. Daniel, (or Mr. Steinberg as I once knew you)
    I started reading your blog a few days after you lost Elena. It occured to me, after about a week of entries, that you were my math teacher at Laurel School. It is a strange sensation to feel you have an understanding of someone through their writing and then realize that you actually know that person. Your writing is as intriguing as it is insightful. It has led me to the conclusion that the success of the finite amount of time we have is determined by how we choose to spend it and with whom. It has led me to the conclusion that laughter is almost always recommended. It has led me to the conclusion that memories trigger so much-especially when they are shared. It has led me to the conlusion that you cannot ever appreciate enough what God has given you.
    I am so sorry for your loss and tragedy. I cannot imagine what your family is going through. I think of your family often and hope you find some comfort in knowing how many lives you impact through your honesty and sharing. Thanks, Marian

  4. Daniel, (or Mr. Steinberg as I once knew you)
    I started reading your blog a few days after you lost Elena. It occured to me, after about a week of entries, that you were my math teacher at Laurel School. It is a strange sensation to feel you have an understanding of someone through their writing and then realize that you actually know that person. Your writing is as intriguing as it is insightful. It has led me to the conclusion that the success of the finite amount of time we have is determined by how we choose to spend it and with whom. It has led me to the conclusion that laughter is almost always recommended. It has led me to the conclusion that memories trigger so much-especially when they are shared. It has led me to the conclusion that you cannot ever appreciate enough what God has given you.
    I am so sorry for your loss and tragedy. I cannot imagine what your family is going through. I think of your family often and hope you find some comfort in knowing how many lives you impact through your honesty and sharing. Thanks, Marian

  5. Considering myself to be a PGB (Pretty Good Baker) I’ve always been annoyed with Martha Stewart recipes because they never seem to come out right. Its almost as if she’s leaving out something or messing with the ingredient proportions. Leaves one with a general sense of failure (which is probably good for my conceited soul, but not for my guests at a fancy dinner party).

    I agree that Julia was much more real in her approach to cooking. I love the story about how she dropped a raw chicken she was tying for roasting on the floor accidentally while on camera and she blithely picked it up…rinsed it off…and continued preparation, saying, “What happens in your kitchen is nobody’s business but yours”.

    That’s advice I can use.

    -Danese

  6. cooking

    Dearelena has blogged about french cooking.


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