1. What are the best and worst things about being short?
Best: dancing. As far as I can tell, it's easier to look graceful if you're short. The limbs just don't have to move as far to get where I want them to be.
Worst: respect. Whether it's genetic or cultural, a short guy just has a harder time getting taken seriously. It can be done, but it takes more work.
2. What skill or accomplishment are you proud of?
I'll take that as singular, and looking for particular pride. Not an easy question. There are a lot of possible answers: my dance (which twenty years ago I wouldn't have expected to be a skill), my writing (good, and improving), even my programming (which I tend to ignore simply because it's so boringly mundane, but I sincerely consider myself a wizard, and can support that belief).
But I think I'll say my teaching. When I put my mind to it (and I'll admit that I sometimes don't), I'm a very good teacher -- I can not only impart the facts, but keep the students interested and get my points across. I can concisely teach students in ways that make them learn. When that goes well, I get a lot of satisfaction out of it...
3. What's the appeal of comic books?
Hard to say, actually. (Which is odd, given that I read more comics than anyone I know.)
There are a lot of elements I like about the form. I appreciate the granularity, and the variation in that granularity -- at any given moment, I can choose a story that will distract me for five minutes, or a series of issues that will involve me for a couple of hours. Similarly, I like the fact that my broad tastes let me satisfy any mood, from the most serious and deep reportage of history to the fluffiest brain candy. I'm fascinated by the mythological tone of a good comic universe, and the long but limited story scope that has become commonplace over the years.
Mostly, though, I think I'm just fascinated watching a medium that is still in the process of discovering itself. Folks talk about "the golden age", and "the silver age", with the implication that it's all been going steadily downhill since then. That's complete and utter crap: on average, comics today are better than they've ever been before. There's more variation, and more exploration of what you can do with the form. There's a growing recognition that good writing is what makes a good comic. (Even Marvel appears to have discovered this, which is surely a sign of the Apocalypse.)
I'm not going to say that comics are in any sense the best medium -- I've enough of a mediaphile in general to recognize that each has its strengths and weaknesses. But more often than any other, comics happen to float my boat...
4. If you could sit down and have dinner with any character, real or fictional, whom would it be?
Actually, there aren't many who I really would like to have dinner with. Having dinner with most fictional characters strikes me as oddly pointless -- I have too much visibility into their internal life to have a pleasant conversation. Most of the great geniuses of history would simply be intimidating. Most of the people whose works (of whatever sort) I really love would bring out the annoying fanboy in me, a side that makes me deeply uncomfortable. And most political figures would make dreadful dinner guests, because I would wind up in loud arguments with them.
But msmemory and I actually decided this one a year or two ago -- the person we're most curious about as a dinner guest is Neil Gaiman. The man comes up with such curious concepts and intriguing ideas so readily and easily that I suspect he would provide an endless fount of things to talk about. And he's a gentle enough soul that I suspect he wouldn't completely dominate the conversation.
This decision came as the result of the triple-bill at MIT last year, of Neil Gaiman, Peter David and Harlan Ellison. Peter, I know -- having had him at a party (which you were at), I know that he's endlessly fun, but tends to sort of take over the discussion. And Harlan demonstrated that he's way too much of an asshole: once he gets started on a rant, he's incapable of letting go, or even acknowledging that others may have reasonable viewpoints. But the few words that Neil managed to wedge in were more intriguing than all the multi-hour monologue from Harlan, and left us with a strong desire to get to know him. He simply seems like a good person to talk with...
5. What do you really want out of life that you don't have?
There are a bunch of possible answers, from the most crassly material to the most elevated and spiritual, some of them true goals and some simply fantasies.
But I'll choose an honest and reasonable one: a measure of satisfaction, specifically from completing the works that I've chosen to pursue. I have many projects that I have set before myself, but there are two I see as possible masterpieces: the play I've set out to write (a comedy by the title of The Players), and The Mysteries project. One is a deeply solitary project, the other an intensely social one. The former can be truly completed, the latter really can't (in the sense that, if I can pull it off, it will never be "finished", at least in my lifetime). Together, they represent a principle to me: that I can achieve anything I sincerely set my mind to, no matter how insanely ambitious. At this point, that's a hypothesis; I'd like to see it supported by these two grand experiments.
The question is, do I have both the talent and focus to bring them to fruition? The next five years should answer that question, one way or another...