Akaky Akakyevich Bashmachkin was born in the fertile mind of Nikolai Gogol in 1842 and came complete with a fairly shoddy overcoat that needed replacing. The new overcoat, from whose pockets all of Russian literature fell, if we are to believe Dostoevsky, as well as several sets of car keys, a roll of peppermint Lifesavers, a lottery ticket, and a small jar of slightly rancid marmalade, was stolen from Akaky, who promptly died of the shock and now haunts the Kalinkin Bridge in St. Petersburg, forcibly removing the overcoats of very important people; whether or not Akaky now works for PETA is unknown, but the possibility exists. I, on the other hand, am a male New Yorker born on the fifth anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, Stanley Kubrick's thirtieth birthday, and exactly one year before Kevin Spacey, not that I am responsible in any way for the egregious excesses of the Cuban Revolution, Stanley Kubrick's more unintelligible films (Eyes Wide Shut just went right by me), or Kevin Spacey's career. I am a graduate of the State University of New York at New Paltz with a BA in history, a degree with the social cachet of rotting crabgrass, and I have a master's in library science from the State University of New York at Albany, a degree that permits me to earn my keep answering the deeper questions of life, like where is the bathroom? No one wants to ask me how long was the Thirty Years War anymore; I was very fond of that question. I blog at The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind.
Why do you blog? > I enjoy writing the essays, which I try to keep between 500 and 1,500 words; I don't think you can keep the sort of light humorous mood going for much longer than that; I think it annoys most readers.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Putting in a site meter and finding out that people actually stop and look at my blog. Before that I was under the impression that I was talking to myself.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Trying to figure out html back when you had to do that stuff yourself.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Post pictures of naked women.
What are your favourite blogs? > Inside Europe: Iberian Notes, Beautiful Horizons and Eternity Road. This list could go on and on; I actually try to check everyone on my blogroll every couple of days.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > George Orwell, Albert Camus and Curly from the Three Stooges.
What are you reading at the moment? > The End of the Affair, The Periodic Table, and something else about the French and Indian War whose title escapes me at the moment.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > The Great Gatsby.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Kubla Khan'.
What is your favourite movie? > Casablanca.
Who is your favourite composer? > Bach, Handel, Gershwin, Spike Jones.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. - Jefferson.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > The notion that people are faceless, nameless masses waiting for an enlightened elite to deliver them from their ignorance.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > The Dream and the Nightmare by Myron Magnet. I was a Democratic blue state liberal before that, although I was starting to have my doubts about some of the orthodoxies. Magnet's book pointed out the holes in my old arguments and led me to read and eventually to move over to the centre-right.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, whom would you choose? > Halle Berry. I could turn the sound down during the State of the Union address and just look at her for an hour.
What would you do with the UN? > Send the organization to Geneva; sell the building to Donald Trump.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Romaine lettuce.
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? > If she looks like Cindy Crawford, yes. I'm shallow.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I dislike asparagus, eggs, and liver. Other than that I'm pretty tolerant.
What is your favourite proverb? > Shit happens.
What would you call your autobiography? > The history of the decline and fall of the Foamin' Empire, by Edward Gibbon's doctor's best friend's aunt, completely illustrated by a homicidal left-handed dyslexic dwarf and with special material provided by the Flat Earth Society of Edison, New Jersey.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Charo.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Bora Bora.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Going to Key West for a week with an attractive divorcee, which isn't likely to happen because she just got back from a week in Key West and her boyfriend can kick my ass.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Filling out questionnaires.
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > Xylophagous.
What talent would you most like to have? > To be able to paint or play an instrument.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > This is a toss-up between Robert Benchley and Groucho Marx. I think Tina Fey is pretty good, too, although there are those who would argue that point.
Which football (soccer) team do you support and which baseball team? > The New York Yankees; I am originally from Highbridge, the section of the Bronx where the Stadium is located (and you can tell true New Yorkers from the numerous faux ones because they don't need to be told which stadium the Stadium is); and so Yankee worship is genetically encoded in my DNA. As for soccer, has it ever occurred to anyone over there that soccer is really a clever way of getting Europeans to engage in track and field events under the cover of a ball game?
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > It would turn me into a complete asshole.