Fist Full of Grace: Five – Hypertheticals

The Halloween Party Weekend is full in swing, and plenty of costumed coeds are
cozying up to one another. But whether you’re attempting to strike up conversation with
the Sexy Lady Astronaut or the hot nerd in the Wilfred costume, remember the following
words of wisdom from pop-culture aficionado Chuck Klosterman:

“Some people are insanely good at making small talk. These people are better known
as ‘idiots’.”

So lest you find yourself talking about the weather or what major they are, I’ve included
for you Klosterman’s list of hyperthetical questions to ask someone in order to know if
you can love them called ‘Hypothetical Questions to Ask Someone In Order to Know If I
Can Love Them’, from his book Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs.

It’s long, but infinitely valuable to your everyday quality of life/conversation. Enjoy.

Hypothetical Questions to Ask Someone In Order to Know If I Can Love Them

1. Let us assume you met a rudimentary magician. Let us assume he can do five simple
tricks--he can pull a rabbit out of his hat, he can make a coin disappear, he can turn the
ace of spades into the Joker card, and two others in a similar vein. These are his only
tricks and he can't learn any more; he can only do these five. HOWEVER, it turns out
he's doing these five tricks with real magic. It's not an illusion; he can actually conjure
the bunny out of the ether and he can move the coin through space. He's legitimately
magical, but extremely limited in scope and influence.

Would this person be more impressive than Albert Einstein?

2. Let us assume a fully grown, completely healthy Clydesdale horse has his hooves
shackled to the ground while his head is held in place with thick rope. He is conscious
and standing upright, but completely immobile. And let us assume that--for some reason-
-every political prisoner on earth (as cited by Amnesty International) will be released
from captivity if you can kick this horse to death in less than twenty minutes. You are
allowed to wear steel-toed boots.

Would you attempt to do this?

3. Let us assume there are two boxes on a table. In one box, there is a relatively normal
turtle; in the other, Adolf Hitler's skull. You have to select one of these items for your
home. If you select the turtle, you can't give it away and you have to keep it alive for two
years; if either of these parameters are not met, you will be fined $999 by the state. If you
select Hitler's skull, you are required to display it in a semi-prominent location in your

living room for the same amount of time, although you will be paid a stipend of $120 per
month for doing so. Display of the skull must be apolitical.

Which option do you select?

4. Genetic engineers at Johns Hopkins University announce that they have developed
a so-called "super gorilla." Though the animal cannot speak, it has a sign language
lexicon of over twelve thousand words, an I.Q. of almost 85, and--most notably--a
vague sense of self-awareness. Oddly, the creature (who weighs seven hundred pounds)
becomes fascinated by football. The gorilla aspires to play the game at its highest level
and quickly develops the rudimentary skills of a defensive end. ESPN analyst Tom
Jackson speculates that this gorilla would be "borderline unblockable" and would likely
average six sacks a game (although Jackson concedes the beast might be susceptible
to counters and misdirection plays). Meanwhile, the gorilla has made it clear he would
never intentionally injure any opponent.

You are commissioner of the NFL: Would you allow this gorilla to sign with the
Oakland Raiders?

5. You meet your soul mate. However, there is a catch: Every three years, someone will
break both of your soul mate's collarbones with a Crescent wrench, and there is only one
way you can stop this from happening: You must swallow a pill that will make every
song you hear--for the rest of your life--sound as if it's being performed by the band Alice
in Chains. When you hear Creedence Clearwater Revival on the radio, it will sound (to
your ears) like it's being played by Alice in Chains. If you see Radiohead live, every
one of their tunes will sound like it's being covered by Alice in Chains. When you hear
a commercial jingle on TV, it will sound like Alice in Chains; if you sing to yourself in
the shower, your voice will sound like deceased Alice vocalist Layne Staley performing a
capella (but it will only sound this way to you).

Would you swallow the pill?

6. At long last, someone invents "the dream VCR." This machine allows you to tape an
entire evening's worth of your own dreams, which you can then watch at your leisure.
However, the inventor of the dream VCR will only allow you to use this device of you
agree to a strange caveat: When you watch your dreams, you must do so with your family
and your closest friends in the same room. They get to watch your dreams along with
you. And if you don't agree to this, you can't use the dream VCR.

Would you still do this?

7. Defying all expectation, a group of Scottish marine biologists capture a live Loch Ness
Monster. In an almost unbelievable coincidence, a bear hunter in the Pacific Northwest
shoots a Sasquatch in the thigh, thereby allowing zoologists to take the furry monster
into captivity. These events happen on the same afternoon. That evening, the president
announces he may have thyroid cancer and will undergo a biopsy later that week.

You are the front page editor of The New York Times: What do you play as the
biggest story?

8. You meet the perfect person. Romantically, this person is ideal: You find them
physically attractive, intellectually stimulating, consistently funny, and deeply
compassionate. However, they have one quirk: This individual is obsessed with Jim
Henson's gothic puppet fantasy The Dark Crystal. Beyond watching it on DVD at
least once a month, he/she peppers casual conversation with Dark Crystal references,
uses Dark Crystal analogies to explain everyday events, and occasionally likes to talk
intensely about the film's "deeper philosophy."

Would this be enough to stop you from marrying this individual?

9. A novel titled Interior Mirror is released to mammoth commerical success (despite
middling reviews). However, a curious social trend emerges: Though no one can prove
a direct scientific link, it appears that almost 30 percent of the people who read this book
immediately become homosexual. Many of these newfound homosexuals credit the
book for helping them reach this conclusion about their orientation, despite the fact that
Interior Mirror is ostensibly a crime novel with no homoerotic content (and was written
by a straight man).

Would this phenomenon increase (or decrease) the likliehood of you reading this

10. This is the opening line of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City: "You are not
the kind of guy who would be in a place like this at this time of the morning." Think
about that line in the context of the novel (assuming you've read it). Now go to your
CD collection and find Heart's Little Queen album (assuming you own it). Listen to the
opening riff to "Barracuda."

Which of these two introductions is a higher form of art?

11. You are watching a movie in a crowded theater. Though the plot is mediocre, you
find yourself dazzled by the special effects. But with twenty minutes left in the film, you
are struck with an undeniable feeling of doom: You are suddenly certain your mother has
just died. There is no logical reason for this to be true, but you are certain of it. You are
overtaken with the irrational metaphysical sense that--somewhere--your mom has just
perished. But this is only an intuitive, amorphous feeling; there is no evidence for this,
and your mother has not been ill.

Would you immediately exit the theater, or would you finish watching the movie?

12. You meet a wizard in downtown Chicago. The wizard tells you he can make you
more attractive if you pay him money. When you ask how this process works, the
wizard points to a random person on the street. You look at this random stranger. The
wizard says, "I will now make them a dollar more attractive." He waves his magic wand.
Ostensibly, this person does not change at all; as far as you can tell, nothing is different.
But--somehow--this person is suddenly a little more appealing. The tangible difference
is invisible to the naked eye, but you can't deny that this person is vaguely sexier. This
wizard has a weird rule, though--you can only pay him once. You can't keep giving him
money until you're satisfied. You can only pay him one lump sum up front.

How much cash do you give the wizard?

13. Every person you have ever slept with is invited to a banquet where you are the guest
of honor. No one will be in attendance except you, the collection of your former lovers,
and the catering service. After the meal, you are asked to give a fifteen-minute speech to
the assembly.

What do you talk about?

14. For reasons that cannot be explained, cats can suddenly read at a twelfth-grade level.
They can't talk and they can't write, but they can read silently and understand the text.
Many cats love this new skill, because they now have something to do all day while they
lay around the house; however, a few cats become depressed, because reading forces
them to realize the limitations of their existence (not to mention the utter frustration of
being unable to express themselves).

This being the case, do you think the average cat would enjoy Garfield, or would
cats find this cartoon to be an insulting caricature?

15. You have a brain tumor. Though there is no discomfort at the moment, this tumor
would unquestionably kill you in six months. However, your life can (and will) be saved
by an operation; the only downside is that there will be a brutal incision to your frontal
lobe. After the surgery, you will be significantly less intelligent. You will still be a fully
functioning adult, but you will be less logical, you will have a terrible memory, and you
will have little ability to understand complex concepts or difficult ideas. The surgery is in
two weeks.

How do you spend the next fourteen days?

16. Someone builds and optical portal that allows you to see a vision of your own life
in the future (it’s essentially a crystal ball that shows a randomly selected image of
what your life will be like in twenty years). You can only see into this portal for thirty
seconds. When you finally peer into the crystal, you see yourself in a living room, two
decades older than you are today. You are watching a Canadian football game, and
you are extremely happy. You are wearing a CFL jersey. Your chair is surrounded by
books and magazines that promote the Canadian Football League, and there are CFL
pennants covering your walls. You are alone in the room, but you are gleefully muttering
about historical moments in Canadian football history. It becomes clear that—for some
unknown reason—you have become obsessed with Canadian football. And this future is
static and absolute; no matter what you do, this future will happen. The optical portal is
never wrong. This destiny cannot be changed.

The next day, you are flipping through television channels and randomly
come across a pre-season CFL game between the Toronto Argonauts and the
Saskatchewan Roughriders. Knowing your inevitable future, do you now watch it?

17. You are sitting in an empty bar (in a town you’ve never before visited), drinking
Bacardi with a soft-spoken acquaintance you barely know. After an hour, a third
individual walks into the tavern and sits by himself, and you ask your acquaintance
who the new man is. “Be careful of that guy,” you are told. “He is a man with a past.”
A few minutes later, a fourth person enters the bar; he also sits alone. You ask your
acquaintance who this new individual is. “Be careful of that guy, too,” he says. “He is a
man with no past.”

Which of these two people do you trust less?

18. You have won a prize. The prize has two options, and you can choose either (but not
both). The first option is a year in Europe with a monthly stipend of $2,000. The second
option is ten minutes on the moon.

Which option do you select?

19. Your best friend is taking a nap on the floor of your living room. Suddenly, you are
faced with a bizarre existential problem: This friend is going to die unless you kick them
(as hard as you can) in the rib cage. If you don’t kick them while they slumber, they will
never wake up. However, you can never explain this to your friend; if you later inform
them that you did this to save their life, they will also die from that. So you have to kick a
sleeping friend in the ribs, and you can’t tell them why.

Since you cannot tell your friend the truth, what excuse will you fabricate to explain
this (seemingly inexplicable) attack?

20. For whatever the reason, two unauthorized movies are made about your life. The first
is an independently released documentary, primarily comprised of interviews with people
who know you and bootleg footage from your actual life. Critics are describing the
documentary as “brutally honest and relentlessly fair.” Meanwhile, Columbia Tri-Star has
produced a big-budget biopic of your life, casting major Hollywood stars as you and all
your acquaintances; though the movie is based on actual events, screenwriters have taken
some liberties with the facts. Critics are split on the artistic merits of this fictionalized
account, but audiences love it.

Which film would you be most interested in seeing?

21. Imagine you could go back to the age of five and relive the rest of your life, knowing
everything that you know now. You will reexperience your entire adolescence with both
the cognitive ability of an adult and the memories of everything you’ve learned form
having lived your life previously.

Would you lose your virginity earlier or later than you did the first time around
(and by how many years)?

22. You work in an office. Generally, you are popular with your coworkers. However,
you discover that there are currently two rumors circulating the office gossip mill, and
both involve you. The first rumor is that you got drunk at the office holiday party and
had sex with one of your married coworkers. This rumor is completely true, but most
people don’t believe it. The second rumor is that you have been stealing hundreds of
dollars of office supplies (and then selling them to cover a gambling debt). This rumor is
completely false, but virtually everyone assumes it is factual.

Which of these two rumors is most troubling to you?

23. Consider this possibility:

a. Think about deceased TV star John Ritter.

b. Now, pretend Ritter had never become famous. Pretend he was never affected by the
trappings of fame, and try to imagine what his personality would have been like.

c. Now, imagine that this person—the unfamous John Ritter—is a character in a situation

d. Now, you are also a character in this sitcom, and the unfamous John Ritter character is
your sitcom father.

e. However, this sitcom is actually your real life. In other words, you are living inside a
sitcom: Everything about our life is a construction, featuring the unfamous John Ritter
playing himself (in the role of your TV father). But this is not a sitcom. This is your real

How would you feel about this?

24. You are offered a brain pill. If you swallow this pill you will become 10 percent more
intelligent than you currently are; you will be more adept at reading comprehension,
logic, and critical thinking. However, to all other people you know (and to all future
people you meet), you will seem 20 percent less intelligent. In other words, you will
immediately become smarter, but the rest of the world will perceive you as dumber (and
there is no way you can ever alter the universality of that perception).

Do you take this pill?

25. You have been wrongfully accused of a horrific crime: Due to a bizarre collision of
unfortunate circumstances and insane coincidences, it appears that you have murdered a
prominent US senator, his beautiful young wife, and both of their infant children. Now,
you did not do this, but you are indicted and brought to trial.
Predictably, the criminal proceedings are a national sensation (no par with the 1994 OJ
Simpson trial). It’s on television constantly, and it’s the lead story in most newspapers
for almost a year. The prosecuting attorney is a charming genius; sadly, your defense
team lacks creativity and panache. To make matters worse, the jury is a collection of
easily confused sheep. You are found guilty and sentenced to four consecutive life
terms with virtually no hope for parole (and- since there were no procedural mistakes
during the proceedings-an appeal is hopeless). This being the case, you are (obviously)

However, as you leave the courtroom (and in the days immediately following the
verdict), something becomes clear: the “court of public opinion” has overwhelmingly
found you innocent. Over 95 percent of the country believes you are not guilty. Noted
media personalities have declared this scenario “the ultimate legal tragedy.” So you are
going to spend the rest of your life amidst the general population of a maximum-security
prison…but you are innocent, and everyone seems to know this.

Does this knowledge make you feel (a) better, (b) no different, or (c) worse?

26. You are to be the Best Man at your best friend's wedding. So, you do the right thing,
and get him a hot blonde stripper with massive (fake) boobs for his Bachelor Party.
Problem: She snorts a couple lines from her own personal stash of coke before doing her
thing, and immediately begins acting bizarre. Sure, she's giving lap-dances and showing
off her bought-and-paid-for goods to the group, but she's just acting odd. Like, unhinged.
At some point she goes into the bathroom with some other guy you barely know, who is
also in the wedding party.
Ten minutes later, he rushes out, highly-agitated, pulls you aside, and babbles something
about needing help. You go into the bathroom, and see what is clearly the stripper's dead
body lying on the floor. Her head has been brutally smashed in numerous places, and her
blood runs from these wounds.
He claims they were having sex when she suddenly went bananas and began clawing at
his face. His face does indeed show fresh, open wounds. According to him, in order to
stop her, he grabbed her by the throat and banged her head against the wall a few times.
Next thing he knew, she was motionless and not breathing.
Of course, such an incident, if it were to become public, would put a massive damper on
your buddy's wedding the next day, as well as possibly lead to this other fellow winding
up in a prison cell for a few years.
He begs you to help him throw the body out the bathroom window, and then dismember
it and bury it in a nearby park. While he is asking you this "favor" he is also all coked up
himself, and wildly waving around a straight-razor that he found in the bathroom.

Do you:
A) Tell him he's nuts, and that the police should be called
B) Agree to help him mutilate and dispose of the body

What do you think?

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