Prioktan918 is a storyteller by nature and many will enjoy his interview for the sheer pleasure of reading a well-told story. He has broad knowledge, eclectic taste, and he specializes in the Middle East. Thanks to his attention, we now have organized categories for Middle Eastern History and related topics. He calls his sense of humor horrible, yet he is quite amusing. Though he is currently busy studying law, he still finds time to devote to Answers.com and we are lucky to have him! Since January of 2012, he has more than 120,000 contributions, making him a Platinum Contributor. He has already passed through the Special Project Assistant (SPA) Program and he is a Mentoring Program Graduate. Read more and get to know this intellectual and imaginative young man who will one day be a great lawyer and most likely, more than that!
What is your first name? Richard.
What is your occupation?
I used to be a paralegal working in defense of liability insurers and reinsurers. Currently, I am at law school, studying to become a lawyer.
What is your Answers.com username and how did it come about?
It is Prioktan918. The “918” is a personal thing. “Prioktan” comes from an exchange between my brother and me when we were younger. My brother used to have this imaginary friend “Johnny” who lived on Pluto and I would sit down and ask him very critical questions of Johnny and his surroundings. After asking all these questions, I began to imagine a world on Pluto populated with numerous different people. They were all led by a singularly gifted woman named Prioktan who made a valiant last stand against the invading and colonizing forces of Earth in the 2600s. In the “Internet Age” when every useful username is used, Prioktan has just the set of characters to avoid causing problems in making a username or email address. It has proven relatively successful. Perhaps, eventually, more people will learn about Prioktan, if I ever finish writing her story.
Where in the world do you hail from and what makes this place special?
I come from everywhere, really. I lived the majority of my life in New York City and its environs, but I have also lived in Washington DC, London, Seville, Fez, and Tel Aviv: four continents, six cities, bloody nightmare. Each of those cities is special in its own way, but the general effect was to make me a Post-American, as my friends like to say. I am American, but I do not let that define my personality or outlook.
How did you discover Answers.com?
I was eating lunch at work one day and I figured that I could contribute to the overall good of the world by clarifying a few issues or answering a few questions. So, I registered and answered. What was nice was that as opposed to Wikipedia, I did not have to cite my information, meaning that I could address issues without painstakingly writing a research essay. So, I just kept at it, especially when it came to categories that I knew well, such as the Middle East, and that had few major contributors.
If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
I was always enamored with the Pokémon “Ditto”, which is something like an animal. What I found interesting was that Ditto did not have a persona or identity, save when it stole one by copying another form. It was whatever it wished itself to be and had no remnant of itself when it copied. It creates this interesting question of whether a person’s will can truly exist outside of the manifest experience of living that life. I would find the experiment of being a Ditto to be a wonderful and exciting conundrum.
What is your favorite thing to do on Answers.com?
I enjoy answering a “why” question that seeks real analysis or exposes strongly held feelings. More often than not, people have serious questions that they cannot address with anyone in their life. This could be because communities are insular, or it could be because there is a stigma against asking certain questions of certain people. I feel that if I can clarify something that bothers or confuses someone, perhaps, that person might be able to pay it forward.
If you were inviting someone to join Answers.com, what reason(s) would you give that person to become a part of our community?
I am not a salesman. When I ask people to contribute, I ask them from the perspective that they have expertise in a subject and they should share it with those less knowledgeable. I have not been that successful as my friends are busier than I am.
What accomplishments on Answers.com are you proud of?
I am proud of having organized the Middle Eastern History Category, as well as submitting category requests for the Caliphate and Kurdistan categories that now exist. Prior to my arrival on Answers.com, the Middle East area was a mess; it is much tidier now.
What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you?
A friend from the UK was visiting me in Morocco (while I lived in Fez), so I told him to meet me at the Casablanca train station. It was around midnight, and he had not slept for nearly 36 hours as a result of finishing finals. He arrived, barely lucid and completely exasperated. We boarded a 0:45 train to Tangier which takes about six hours. We packed into a train car (like in the Harry Potter movies) and because the hour was so late, we had the car to ourselves. I took watch and my friend went to sleep. At around 2:30, we were in the Sidi Qasem Junction where the train had to hold for about twenty minutes while the track was switched. A man then came hobbling into our car and slurred out, “I…I…I…like…I don’t have a ticket. Is that OK?” I responded to him in French that I didn’t care and he should be fine. He proceeded to fall to the ground in a crumpled heap and clawed his way under the banquet. Just then a train conductor passed by the outside of the car and saw the drunken man’s legs peering out from under the banquet. He yanked the drunken man out from under the banquet, readjusted his grip so that he could haul the man upright, rotated the man 180 degrees and slammed him against the far side wall, before dragging the man out of the train altogether. The noise of the man colliding with the far side of the wall woke my good friend whose eyes widened immensely. I turned to him and said, “Welcome to Morocco, you should pay for your tickets here.”
What is your favorite type of music?
I like music from the eastern Mediterranean, such as modern Greek (Paparizou and similar), modern Turkish (Tarkan and similar), Arab Pop (Ajram, Diab, and similar), and Israeli (Haza and similar).
Who is your favorite poet? What is your favorite poem and why?
My favorite poem is Canción de Jinete (Song of the Rider) by Federico García Lorca. It’s the story of a patrolman who knows that he lacks the supplies to make it safely to Córdoba, which was his original destination. To me it represents the meaning of true heroism. In most films and literature, heroes die ceremonious deaths and are pined for, if they must die at all. In reality, many heroes give their lives without accolades, rotting namelessly in prison cells, dying without a hope that what little good they tried to achieve will progress to anything, and most importantly, they die without ceremony and without climactic cause. Lorca portrays this singular un-mourned loss in a way that makes us care about him, too. Additionally, it serves as a mirror to Lorca’s own life since he was killed by Fascist tyrants in 1936 for the crime of being gay. He was given no ceremony nor blessing in Spain for nearly forty years afterwards, dying as namelessly as the Rider.
What makes you unique?
I am absurdly honest and blunt.
If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?
Assuming that the wish-giver was not intentionally duplicitous and would grant the wishes as intended, as opposed to the common trope in literature where the wish granting agent grants the wish in a way that the wisher does not wish to receive the wish:
- World Peace – A realistic peace that allows people to actually embrace each other and realize their rights and freedoms to self-determination. This does not require that people cease to argue, but it does demand a mental shift across the world that violence and hatred are not viable ways to do this.
- Super-Teleport – I would like to be able to teleport myself, and anything I carry, to any point in the universe at any point in time. Additionally I would be able to teleport into works of both fiction and non-fiction with any “story” content in which I could acquire attributes of that world or even take over characters and play the story out differently. Any death caused by being outside of normal time would just revert me back to where I made the original jump from with the memories of everything that happened – like waking from a nightmare.
- Investment in Space Colonization – I would like governments around the world to invest in building a space elevator and start building space colonies to reduce the strain on our planet as well as colonizing the moon and Mars. I wouldn’t wish that these things already existed but that there was the will the world-over to see these missions through.
Do you view the glass ‘half full’ or ‘half empty’? Why?
I don’t waste my time with the glass. I evaluate the problem, pick the best viable solution and execute it by rationally evaluating all component parts and actors. Optimism and pessimism both distort a person’s ability to think critically.
What do you find most challenging as an Answers.com Supervisor?
It is most challenging to deal with irrational or problematic contributors who I need to reprimand for their conduct.
What do you find most challenging as an Answers.com contributor?
It can be a challenge to understand what the questions are that are being asked when people form their questions vaguely.
What is your favorite quote and why?
Context: In 1890 in southern Tanganyika (current Tanzania), the German commander Hermann von Wissman was fighting against the Yao People, ruled by Chief Macemba. When Wissman demanded subordination by Macemba, the African ruler replied by way of a letter written in Kiswahili:
Translation of the Quote: I have listened to your words but can find no reason why I should obey you—I would rather die first… I look for some reason why I should obey you and find not the smallest. If it should be friendship that you desire, then I am ready for it, today and always; but not to be your slave, that I cannot be. If it should be war you desire, then I am ready, but never to be your slave. I do not fall at your feet, for you are God’s creature just as I am. I am sultan here in my land. You are sultan there in yours. Yet listen, I do not say to you that you should obey me; for I know that you are a free man. As for me, I will not come to you, and if you are strong enough, then come and fetch me. ~ Macemba
Reason: It’s my favorite quote because it shows Macemba’s willingness not to capitulate merely because defeat is inevitable. A person should be willing to defend everything they hold dear instead of forfeiting it for mere survival. A mind without a heart would make us no different than computers or animals.
Where is one place in the world you would love to visit and why?
I would like to visit Iran and Iraq to see where my family came from.
Do you have any special talents?
I can speak in a voice resembling Alvin from Alvin and the Chipmunks completely naturally. (It is not my natural voice, though; that would be a curse, not a talent.)
What is one quirky or interesting random fact about you that most people may not know?
I have a horrible sense of humor. Some people get it, but most do not.