Tim Dunlop was born on the beach in Sydney, at midday on the first day of autumn 1960. His family moved to Canberra when he was nine, and he moved back to Sydney after he left school. He was offered a chance to open a business in Melbourne a year later, and he and two partners opened one of the first video libraries in that city. Later he owned another couple of shops, but eventually left retail and went to university. He has lived in London and Washington DC, and currently lives in Adelaide with his wife and nine-year-old son. He has blogged at The Road to Surfdom since May 2002.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Discovering that blogs existed. I'd just finished my PhD, which was about citizenship and public debate, and suddenly, within weeks of submitting, I discovered these things, these websites, that gave an unprecedented number of people the chance to mix it in the (or a) public sphere. For the previous three years I'd been thinking about exactly that, if only there was some way 'ordinary' people could have better access to public debate and could engage with experts across a range of topics. And then suddenly, boom!
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Figure out a way to make a quid out of it. Then tell me.
What are you reading at the moment? > Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook; a book on urban development in Australia called Australian Heartlands; and A Lester Bangs Reader.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Probably Cotter's England by Christina Stead. The description of the family trying to cook a chicken is about as good as it gets. Angela Carter got it right: 'To open a book, any book, by Christina Stead and read a few pages, is to be at once aware that one is in the presence of greatness.'
What is your favourite poem? > Les Murray's Fredy Neptune, which is really a novel in verse. Please, just give the guy a Nobel Prize.
What is your favourite movie? > Godfather I and Godfather II. Or Zoolander.
What is your favourite song? > Australia's national anthem, 'Friday On My Mind', by The Easybeats. But you can't narrow it to just one, can you? So I'll add Time (The Revelator) by Gillian Welch, though not the song, the whole album, which I tend to hear as a single piece anyway. 'Amelia' by Joni Mitchell. Oh, and 'Flame Trees' by Cold Chisel, which may be the emblematic song of Australian masculinity. 'Summertime' from Porgy and Bess. 'I'm A Believer' by the Monkees. 'America' from West Side Story.
Who is your favourite composer? > George Gershwin. Daylight is second. I used to work in a music store and we sold pianos and we used to hire this kid who came in and played them, by way of demonstration for customers, and he used to play 'Rhapsody In Blue' and it was mesmerizing. I still only have a vague grasp of musical theory but this kid used to talk about the way it worked as a piece of music and I used to lap it up.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I used to think the philosophy of Ayn Rand was stupid. Now I think it's really stupid. I was against compulsory voting before I was for it (one of those eminently sensible Australian electoral innovations, like the secret ballot). I was pretty much a conservative until I owned my first business.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Be the change you want to see, which is Gandhi, I think. The Golden Rule is worth bearing in mind. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not a bad trio, though we might want to have a discussion about that last term in particular. Separation of church and state.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Is 'certainty' a philosophical thesis?
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Cliché alert: George Orwell's essays. My first exposure to big thoughts in a way that I understood.
Who are your political heroes? > Well, since I opposed the invasion of Iraq I've been told pretty often that I'm a big supporter of Saddam Hussein. More seriously, I wouldn't use the word 'hero'. Immense respect for Nelson Mandela or John Curtin. Most of the American founding fathers would rank, particularly Jefferson. And Lincoln. All too flawed to be called heroes, but hey.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > Well, if wisdom equals results over time, then I'd say Australia. Surely a nation that successful counts as political wisdom?
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > I don't know if you'd describe it as a policy change, but it would certainly be to solve the situation we Australians find ourselves in with regard to our relationship with Aboriginal people.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > I don't know about PM, but I'd make a really good Governor General. I'd give good fete.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > I think it's pretty clearly the possibility of some group full of passionate intensity getting hold of a nuke or some bioagent and using it to externalize the miserableness that lurks in their own pathetic souls. Terrorists with suitcase nukes, in other words.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Yet to come. I'm still hanging out for hover cars and being beamed up and having the kind of bio-adaptations Iain M. Banks writes about in his books about The Culture.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Well for me it's: have kids.
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? > Yes, but she'd have to be really, really good-looking. Which just goes to show, I have the best of both worlds.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Good faith and a sense of humour.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > You know, when I read this, I thought it said, What commonly enjoyed adjectives do you regard as a waste of time? I couldn't think of any that particularly offended me.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > My son. Just his personal safety.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Lots of places, all cities. Prague, New York, Sydney, Melbourne. London again. DC for a while. Florence.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Family and friends at the beach. An Australian beach. Cooking, reading, swimming, talking. Not all at once.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Cook, read, swim, my son's homework. I like listening to music and strumming on my guitar. Watching cooking shows on telly. Going to the movies. Drinking. Eating. Gassing on late into the night with friends while doing some combination of the above.
What talent would you most like to have? > I'd really love to be able to speak a bunch of languages. But I'd have trouble choosing between that - if a the good fairy arrived and offered me a wish - and having a brilliant singing voice or being a great guitarist.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > These days I'd probably say being a cook in a decent restaurant, not head chef, but just a cook in a good kitchen. I used to love working in the record shops I've worked in and could honestly imagine doing that again. Especially as these days you could combine it with a book shop and a coffee shop. I could even keep on blogging under those circumstances.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Sean Hannity.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Okay, I'll dispute the word hero again, but there are two: Ken Rosewall and Yvonne Cawley Goolagong. I only saw Muscles play live once and that was in a seniors game at Wimbledon in 1992 (ish). He was a joy to watch. Cawley I saw once, but I actually got to ball-boy an exhibition match she played in Canberra when I was about 14. She had a hit-up with us afterwards too. Chris Evert once said the hardest thing about playing Yvonne was that you just wanted to stop and watch her. I can see what she meant.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > To see my son grown up and happy in his life.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]