The Interrogative Mood: Questions with Lian-Hee Wee

The following questions are taken from Padgett Powell’s The Interrogative Mood.

LHCan you list the things you are afraid of, or is it easier to list the things you are not afraid of, or are you afraid of nothing, or are you essentially afraid of everything?

It’s hard to say. I can’t guarantee that I won’t fear what I think I do not fear now. Fear is such a “at-the-moment” thing, and can sometimes subside or intensify. I guess I have more worries than fears.

Was there ever enough time?

Yes, there was. Always on hindsight, what felt like not enough time before looked like plenty of time after the event. Hmm… alternatively, my life is spiralling downwards so that more and more is demanded of my time making the past feel like there once was ever enough time.

Would you like to send a love letter to anyone?

Sounds like fun. Not inspired lately. For reasons, see response to “Was there ever enough time”.

If you were now thirteen again, what would you do that you did not do when you were thirteen the first time, and what would you not do that you did?

I was a stupid teen at 13. This is going to be a very long list.

Do you want something said of you, or nothing said of you, when you go?

Let it be said that I tried, I hope.

What are three basic things you need to be content in life?

Beyond physical sustenance, I think I need inspiration, hope, the ability to materialise my creations.

If you could be instantly fluent in a language you do not now speak, what language would it be?

Klingon? Esperanto? Perhaps Axinica Campa or Diola Fogny? Maybe Malayalam or Mazatec? What thinks you of Gen, Kerewe, Kikuyu, Dschang, or Kinande? Oh wait!! I know, Kivunjo!! Steven Pinker said that Kivunjo has 17 genders!!

At what age would you say your character was set—that is, when do you think you were you?

I thought I understood the question. Ok, let’s say 13. (See response to “If you were now thirteen again, …”

What’s just about the worst thing you ever heard of?

That humans are selfish and will necessary exploit whatever they can.

Do you recall the last time that you really had fun?

Very frequently. I appreciate lots of things. The last time might be just five minutes ago.

Do you appreciate the color changes of leaves in the fall or is that spectacle a tad too popularly sentimental for you?

Yeah. I don’t like it in Hong Kong when leaves turn grey because of pollution though.

To be an anarchist, properly speaking, does one need to actively undo government or may one just passively not participate?

I am an anarchist. I think we do both depending on the needs of each issue.

Are you fond of country wisdom such as “All the snow in the world won’t change the color of the pine needles”?

Never heard of this one. Most country wisdom seem to sound witty and fun, but I probably won’t go to them for advice on important things. We’ve got a brain, please learn to distinguish the simple from the simplistic.

Do you regard yourself a connoisseur of anything?

Plenty, depending on my moment’s folly when I think I know a lot about anything. Sometimes, it’s beer, wine, tea, music, blah… You know, many boys think they know lots about girls (connoisseur perhaps?) and you know they’re being stupid. So if I tell you am a connoisseur of X at any time T with degree of conviction D, I must be in a foolish state F with regard to X. Expressible as F = (X^D) / T.

Of which lost or destroyed culture are you most fond?

Elephant, whale and other intelligent lifestyles humans are too stupid to recognise. Human culture on the other hand has been narrowly divided into Chinese, European and all that hullabaloo. Show me the differences!! All humans have roughly the same cultures, and focus on the differences is a great way to antagonise one another. Example? Try Islam and Christianity or Protestant and Catholic. Most people I know haven’t bothered to find out much. Many of my Christian friends are surprised when they learn about some of the passages from the Koran, which tells you how easily they commit their souls (if such things exist) to a religion of proximity rather than to careful study.

Should the imminent extinction of a plant or animal be fought against or should it be regarded as an evolutionary punch that must be rolled with?

Don’t know. I don’t see the problem from this angle. I need to work out how to distinguish the artificial from the natural first. It isn’t easy you know. Most think they can tell the difference. I suspect they might benefit from the formula F = (X^D) / T (see response to “Do you regard yourself as a connoisseur of anything?”)

Do you have trouble throwing things away? If so, do you ever retrieve them after a period of anxiety over the throwing away?

No. A wise old lady once thought me not to let my possessions possess me. I don’t throw away things often though. I try to find them new homes.

Does good leather comfort you or are you indifferent to it or do you in fact find leather morally offensive?

Generally, I prefer that the people who wear them are the people who made them. From scratch (not at the molecular level), but please skin your own snake, croc, cow and process the hide. If you still think it’s something you’d wear, I may have to respect that you know things I don’t understand. Otherwise, I find wearing leather objectionable at so many levels!! I still have leather shoes which I will wear (they are from a long time ago when I was stupid) and I will continue to wear them as carefully as I can. NEVER will I buy again.

What are the top three things in your life you wish you had not done, or done differently from the way you did them?

(1) Not to develop a taste for meat. (2) Not to have started some of the relationships I had but then again perhaps (3) to have had more relationships that I’ve had. Love, intimacy and sex are such great experiences and give such sweet memories and at the same time are such burdens at the same time. It feels yucky to have let some one down or to not have worked out what two people have tried so hard to work out, no?

Is there anything you’d like to ask me?

Do/Would you (like to) know about the things you put into and on your body? Clothes, perfume, cream, eggs, cucumbers, whatever? Why (not)?

Tammy Ho: Yes, I do. Since knowing and learning from you, I am much more conscious of animal rights and the source of our products.

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Lian-HeeLian-Hee Wee is Associate Professor at the Department of English Language and Literature. [Click here to read all entries by Lian-Hee.] [The “Interrogative” series]

One thought on “The Interrogative Mood: Questions with Lian-Hee Wee”

  1. Klingon! When I was watching Star Trek on TVB Pearl in my also stupid teenage I found Lieutenant Worf the most handsome among all the crew! And I still think so when I am now older but not necessarily wiser!

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