Michael Brooke was born in London in 1967, educated at Sussex and North London Universities, and has worked right across the production-distribution-exhibition spectrum of the film industry, including managing Hampstead's venerable Everyman Cinema (1989-95) and co-producing the feature film Paradise Grove (2002). He now works at the British Film Institute, developing content for the recently-launched Screenonline website, an ambitious multimedia celebration of British film and television history. He has also written freelance film articles for magazines such as Sight & Sound and Vertigo. He lives in Worthing with his wife Jane and baby son Alexei, and blogs at Mischievous Constructions.
Why do you blog? > I've been posting opinions online for nine years, four on unmoderated Usenet, four on overzealously moderated private forums, so it's just a continuation of that, albeit in a more congenial environment that allows me to write what I like without ever being accused of going off-topic, corrupting innocent minds and so forth.
What have been your best and worst blogging experiences? > The same answer to both: when my brother Chris gave my then 24-hour old blog a prominent but entirely unsolicited plug, leading to a sudden rush of visitors and much blind panic at my end as I tried to generate enough original content to keep them interested. In retrospect, though, it probably ensured its future by giving me a much-needed kick up the arse.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Don't feel self-conscious about recycling other people's ideas, but try and come up with something original every third post or so.
What are your favourite blogs? > Shameless nepotism, I know, but my brother's The Virtual Stoa got me into this blogging lark in the first place and is still a daily must-read. Other than that, Harry's Place is the most reliably stimulating and The Charlock's Shade the most beguilingly eccentric.
What are you reading at the moment? > Various books on Jan Svankmajer, Ken Russell and Roman Polanski, all for ongoing work-related projects. And I might get round to finishing Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled one of these days.
Who are your cultural heroes? > In addition to those mentioned elsewhere, Luis Buñuel, Jean Renoir, Béla Bartók, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Oliver Postgate.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole - would that more people had expressed that opinion when he was still alive.
What is your favourite poem? > Either the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf or Hilaire Belloc's 'The Yak', which concludes with the immortal 'So tell your papa where the yak may be got/And if he is awfully rich/He will buy you the creature/Or else, he will not/(I cannot be positive which)'.
What is your favourite movie? > La notte di San Lorenzo by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, a wonderful and still criminally underrated Italian film about a small Tuscan town shortly after Italy switched sides in World War II.
What is your favourite song? > 'Happy Together' as performed by flamboyantly bequiffed Finnish rock'n'roll band the Leningrad Cowboys and the Alexandrov Red Army Chorus: impossible to listen to without cracking a grin, it brought my wedding to a suitably joyous conclusion, and it's also oddly moving, symbolising as it does Finnish-Russian solidarity at a time of great political uncertainty.
Who is your favourite composer? > Dead: Franz Schubert. Living: György Ligeti.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I've significantly shifted towards the Israeli viewpoint since the most recent intifada started, not least thanks to the inconsistency, intellectual dishonesty and in some cases outright racism expressed by people and publications I used to admire.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > A voting system that ensures that everyone's vote counts, and that Surrey-based Labour voters and Glaswegian Tories are no longer effectively disenfranchised. I'm not keen on straightforward proportional representation, but Billy Bragg's suggestions for the House of Lords look intriguing.
What would you do with the UN? > Reform it so that the level of clout a nation has is directly linked to its human rights record, reassessed on a regular basis. The scoring system proposed by Charles Humana seems as good as any, not least because we'd end up giving New Zealand and Denmark significantly more power than the likes of the US.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Fundamentalism and fanaticism, be it religious or political.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I would very much hope the latter.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > It's always better to risk falling flat on your face than to never risk anything at all.
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? > I've tried this more than once, and it's certainly fun for the first few weeks - but they never lasted much longer. So I'd guess not.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Honesty, if only to oneself.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Wilful ignorance.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To protect my family (without cosseting them unnecessarily).
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Despite one of the brightest people I know being severely dyslexic, I still instinctively assume that those who can't spell or punctuate properly have an IQ at least fifty points lower than is actually the case. Which is horribly unfair, but there you go.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Computer games. I own hardly any myself, not out of wrinkled-nose snobbery but because I can easily spend days and weeks playing something like Civilisation, and I just don't have the time any more.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Loads of little things, but as I'm supremely happy with my life right now I'd leave the big things well alone. If I hadn't let a clearly disastrous relationship run a couple of months longer than it should have done, I would never have met my wife and my son wouldn't exist.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > I've never actually been anywhere I'd prefer to live, but I've always fancied the idea of Canada. Otherwise, my native London, but with the same standard of living that I moved to Worthing to enjoy.
What would your ideal holiday be? > An exact repeat of the November 2001 trip to Prague during which I proposed to my wife, though I'd skip the tourist-trap restaurant we went to on the second night and try to rent a flat with curtains in the bedroom window the second time round.
What is your most treasured possession? > All my worldly goods are entirely replaceable apart from my son.
What talent would you most like to have? > Being able to play the piano properly, though at the moment I'd settle for re-attaining the just about adequate level I reached twenty years ago.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > A toss-up between Tex Avery, Buster Keaton, P.G. Wodehouse, my wife and Adam Yoshida.
What animal would you most like to be? > One of those surfing penguins in Blue Planet trying to get to the warm slopes of an active volcano. I know there's a basic survival motive operating here, but it looked like one hell of a lot of fun.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of the 25 previous profiles, and the links to them, can be found here.]