Questions, answered

The late, great Norman Geras had this ongoing feature on his blog where he asked various bloggers to describe themselves, based on a questionnaire. Now, I am not sure if the questions were always the same, and I am sure that I will never be asked to answer them – but that should not stop me from putting my answers to such a questionnaire up here.

We will skip the intro and head straight for the juicy parts:

Why do you blog? > Vanity? To make some kind of mark out there? Also, I do believer that the web was a better place when it was much more of a read-write thing, and not the passive entertainment that so much of it has sunk into these days. So I try, in my own, small and insignificant way. And I like writing, anyway.

What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? I have almost no idea. Do people still blog? And do new bloggers actually have any audience?

Who are your intellectual heroes? > Carl Sagan, Steven Jay Gould, Marshall Berman, Richard Feynman, Murray Bookchin. There seems to be a pattern there.

What are you reading at the moment? > Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. And The horse, the wheel, and language: how Bronze-Age riders from the Eurasian steppes shaped the modern world by David W. Anthony.

Who are your cultural heroes? > John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Hunter S. Thompson, Jon Stewart, Wes Anderson.

What is the best novel you’ve ever read? > War and Peace.

What is your favourite poem? > Oh. Perhaps Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night.

What is your favourite movie? > Great Expectations (David Lean version).

What is your favourite song? > Shipbuilding.

Who is your favourite composer? > Shostakovich.

Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you’ve ever changed your mind? > Freedom of speech, and more generally the Enlightenment values. I used to think like your garden-variety, well-meaning Guardianista type that we should not offend, etc, etc, and also that the other stuff – such as universal human rights – were bourgeois values. I am quite fundamentalist about it all these days.

What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Moral relativism.

Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Brian Barry’s Culture & Equality.

Who are your political heroes? > Rose Luxemburg, Nelson Mandela, Abdullah Öcalan.

What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > My enemy’s enemy is not necessarily my friend.

If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Only one, then. Hmmm. Stop the application of “new public management” across the board.

What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Anti-Enlightenment and anti-science populist doctrines.

Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I would like to think that we will, eventually, not choose barbarism but the alternative – I am, however, not entirely sure.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Not sure I have any – except Be Yourself. Pityful, that.

Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > No.

What do you consider the most important personal quality? > The ability to change your opinion when facts become known and circumstances change.

Do you have any prejudices you’re willing to acknowledge? > I despise new age mumbo-jumbo and anti-scientific attitudes profoundly.

What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Computer games, motor sports, reality TV. And curling, obviously.

Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Bryan Cranston.

What do you like doing in your spare time? > Reading, eating and imbibing various alcoholic substances.

What talent would you most like to have? > Play some instrument.

Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Ricky Gervais.

Who are your sporting heroes? > Michael Laudrup, John McEnroe, Anja Andersen.

How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > Travel. Secure the economical future of my kids.

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Christopher Hitchens, Ophelia Benson, Norman Geras.