Afternoon Inquisition

AI: What Was the Question?

Damn! Every time I think of a question for today’s Inquisition, I’m struck with the idea that we’ve already asked it here before. Jeez, have we asked every question there is to ask already? Have we emptied out the question bowl, and sopped up every last drop of Inquisition soup with a piece of bread? Have we exhausted every possible combination of words that would elicit information?

Impossible.

Maybe it’s just time for a mind refresh, or a brain de-frag, or something. Let me see if that’ll energize the old inquisitor. . . .

Okay, well that didn’t help with a question. But at least my sense of dread isn’t locked up any more, and my imagination is loading quicker.

Umm . . . Well, so why don’t we just make today’s questions about questions. Feel free to comment on any interrogative statement (mundane or philosophical) that comes to mind. I’ll help you along:

What is the most intriguing question ever asked of you? The most profound? The silliest (don’t say this one, or I’ll punch you in the throat)? Are you immediately aware when someone asks a rhetorical question, or do you find yourself answering before you realize it? Wouldn’t it be cool if every language had an upside-down question mark at the beginning of an interrogative sentence and a regular question mark at the end of an interrogative sentence, like Spanish? Why don’t they? Are you all growing weary of the Afternoon Inquisitions? Any suggestions on how to keep the questions fresh? 

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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30 Comments

  1. I wasn’t asked these directly, but forced to ponder them anyhow:

    “Who are you?”
    “What do you want?”

    The geeky among us should be able to spot the source. Regardless, at the time, they were profound questions and resulted in a meaningful impact on my life.
    BGC

  2. Long ago in a land far away, I worked at a coffee shop with an… interesting cast of characters. In some sort of weird version of taking a fox, a chicken, and a bag of corn across a river, I wound up working one day with the 35 year old whose mommy still cleaned her room for her and the born again woman who liked to rail against our gay coworker whilst making overpriced coffee.

    I digress. They were chatting about Boys one day, and I was doing my damndest to find Something Else To Do. When they addressed me directly, however, I kinda had to respond.

    “We have a question for you.”
    “Um… okay.”
    “Well… would you ever let a boy kiss you on the first date?”

    …and I proceeded to drown myself in the mop bucket.

  3. Nearly every day when I was a teenager my dear Stepfather would greet me with the same question: “So kid, what do you know?”

    The question is so open-ended and vague that it made me squirm with David-Hume-type doubt and awkward silence. I almost never had an answer for him.

  4. I spent some time as an ‘English Teacher in Foreign Lands’. When meeting other English teachers the usual who/what/where questions would be repeated endlessly. So the objective bacame to ask the most random questions to start a decent discussion. My fav was: If you could change the sky to any colour, what would it be AND why? – go on, justify that one.

  5. @bgclo:
    …Iroh?

    Anyway, the question that keeps coming back to me is The Interview Question: “Where do you see yourself in X years?”
    I always try to give the “right” answer for the person asking, but I can never figure out what the real answer is.
    Also, from Catch-22: “Who is Spain?” “Why is Hitler?” “When is right?”

  6. @Demosthenes:

    I once answered that interview question (after a night when I’d hardly slept and was in a pretty bad mood) with “I’d like to be on that side of the desk asking some other poor sod the same crap you’re asking me.”

    I got the job, so maybe that’s the answer.

    Note: I take no responsibility if you fail to get a job by answering in this way.

  7. The most inane question I have ever been asked is “Why do you want to teach a X High School?” Every time I applied for a teaching position, I would get asked this same stupid question. It wasn’t the far more sensible question of “Why do you want to teach high school?” That’s a good question to anyone wanting to teach high school. No, it was “Why do you want to teach at this particular school.”

    Why is it a stupid question? Because I’m getting asked this in a public school. Not a private, “we have something special about us” school, but a public “If you are in this area we have to take you” school.

    Why do I want to work at your school? Because you have a job available that I can do. If Z High School had a job, I would be talking to them. But you have the job, so I’m asking you.

    This question was usually followed by “What sport can you coach”, because I’m male, a history teacher, and this is Texas.

  8. @Non Believer: My parents asked all four of us that very question every night at dinner growing up, and I still ask myself that same question at the end of every day. As long as the answer is anything other than “nothing”, I tell myself it was a good day.

  9. I worked for a number of years in AVID, an educational program that encourages people to ask questions. It’s an amazing program, should your children get the chance to be a part of it. I bring this up because they have adopted Costa’s research into ways to formulate questions.

    My favorite question of all time, bar none, I did not hear in AVID – I made it up. It goes like this:

    A person is driving a truck down a dark forest road. Out of seemingly nowhere a deer darts out into the road. The driver strikes the deer, mortally wounding it. Pulling over, the driver watches as the deer takes it’s last, painful breaths.

    Now here is the question(s): Which would you rather be: the driver or the deer? Why?

  10. I hate being asked questions which assume false premises, and which the questioner *knows* assume false premises, such as “Where are the missing links?” or “Why was it cold last week if global warming is correct?” and I know they’ve already been told the answer, because they asked the exact same question last week and the week before that.

  11. @Sam
    Who’s Tony Robbins? (no seriously. Should I know?)

    @Demosthenes
    Good guess. Avatar (not the movie) incorporated some of the same lessons — and in much the same ways. I like that series as well.

  12. @Sam
    Foolish me, I googled him.. and gagged. So, thanks for that.

    Fortunately, the writer I was thinking of is NOT of the self-help variety in any meaningful fashion. To the contrary, he’s admitted to surprise at having touched people as deeply as they profess; not expecting that a simple SciFi story would be so widely received.

  13. I was tired of students in a certain section asking off-topic questions at the end of a class on kinematics (such as what is the speed of dark). One day, a student with an under-developed sense of self-preservation asked why the sky was blue.

    So I told him all about Rayleigh scattering…

    His good buddy them piped up with my most-detested question: “Is this going to on the exam?”

    It is NOW!

  14. Maybe instead of the Afternoon Inquisition, we could just play Would You Rather?

    So: would you rather swim down snot river with your mouth open, or slide down a razor blade into a pool of alcohol?

  15. I thought of a couple of questions just now, the ones in “Consciousness: An introduction” by Susan Blackmore, meant to make you more aware of your own awareness, or lack of such. Like:
    Where you conscious just now? Were you consciously aware of that choice/action? How bout now?
    Mindboggling stuff.

  16. A woman at work once asked me if I was one of those that stuck up or stuck out.

    She was, to use her charmingly vulgar turn of phrase, “a confirmed goober looker”.

    I answered truthfully and wondered what a connoisseur might glean from that information later on.

  17. One time someone asked me “Are you?”

    He thought I wasn’t paying attention and thought he would trick me into saying something like “sorry, what?” thinking I had missed the part of the conversation that had been directed at me. Except I had been listening and his question had nothing to do with the conversation.

    So I answered promptly: “Yes, I am.”

    After a little though, that struck me as a pretty profound question, even if it was spawned from a lame trick. I sometimes use my answer as an email sig. I ask people “Are you?” every once in a while, but everyone just says “Am I what?” Boring.

    I’m waiting for someone to say “Sometimes” :)

  18. @JamesK and Solitas

    Clearly, my geek cred is becoming dated…

    The “why”-theme in B5 never moved me as much as the other two. Particularly since, as Sam indirectly points out, “because” is often the whole of the answer.

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