Brian Micklethwait was born and raised in commuter-belt Surrey, and has lived in London for most of his adult life. He failed as an architecture student at Cambridge, and then did sociology more successfully at Essex University, but spending most of his time doing drama. He worked at the Alternative Bookshop for the first half of the 1980s and did the Libertarian Alliance's pamphlets - quite a few of which he also wrote - throughout the 1980s and 1990s. When the internet arrived Brian switched to blogging, for Samizdata, for various blogs that pay, for two specialist personal blogs and, when they fell to bits at the beginning of 2005, for his personal blog Brian Micklethwait.
Why do you blog? > Because I can.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > When my two specialist blogs (education and culture) blew up, irrevocably, in January 2005 I think it was.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Set a pace you can stick to. If you want to have fun, be sure to have it. If you want lots of traffic, specialize.
What are your favourite blogs? > It varies. At the moment I like Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale because I enjoy watching a government fall to bits. And I now like gadget blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo (see also Idiot Toys). I also like keeping up with personal friends who have blogs, such as Adriana Lukas, Jackie Danicki and Patrick Crozier.
What are you reading at the moment? > My favourite reading is history. I am just finishing, and will probably shortly review for Samizdata, John Lewis Gaddis's book on The Cold War. I just got Sebag Montefiore's Stalin, which looks promising. Plus I'm reading Nick Hornby's latest, about a bunch of people who meet while trying to commit suicide, which is a lot more fun than it sounds.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Great entrepreneurs, and the great classical composers.
What is your favourite poem? > The Shakespeare sonnet that begins 'When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past'.
What is your favourite movie? > No single one, but some of the top few are: Some Like It Hot, What's Up Doc? (Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neil), Into the Night (Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Goldblum), Whit Stillman's Metropolitan, Office Space, Dark Star, The Dam Busters, A Few Good Men, The Manchurian Candidate (not the remake), Get Carter (ditto), and on and on and on. If I spent more time, more would undoubtedly occur.
What is your favourite song? > 'An Die Musik' by Schubert.
Who is your favourite composer? > I hate having to choose, but I suspect that if I picked my thirty favourite pieces, the composer with the most hits would be Brahms. But if it was top five, it would more likely be Beethoven.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > My favourite bad idea, so to speak, is the belief that the truth is obvious. Believe that and you land in a heap of trouble. Just for starters, neither you nor anybody else have any excuse for not recognizing the truth at once, or for ever changing your mind about it. If you disagree with someone, you have to be right (because you have no excuse not to be) and they have to be evil (ditto). Mayhem.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Emmanuel Todd's The Explanation of Ideology. Because of it, I see ideological history differently from the way most other people seem to, apart from Emmanuel Todd. But I still think that many good ideological ideas can be spread and many bad ideological ideas contested successfully, as maybe Todd doesn't. There are plenty of such beliefs which are true, and others which are false. For instance, your country has to have something of a free market economy of some kind if you want it to get rich. Different cultures differ in their willingness to accept that, but for as long as they don't, they don't get rich.
Who are your political heroes? > The stand-out of my lifetime has definitely been Ronald Reagan. I also like what Henry II did to the legal system of England in the latter part of the twelfth century. He wasn't trying to do good, just trying to screw more money out of everyone, so far as I can tell. But he did good anyway.
What would you do with the UN? > Argue with it. If I could, starve it of tax money.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The UN getting seriously into its stride, the way the more dewy-eyed of its supporters would now like. That would result in a global civil war for control of the damn thing. Or else, and arguably even worse, permanent global stagnation. Our best defence against global disaster is to get cleverer and more knowledgeable.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > If you've not started already to make decisions about your life, start now. You have freedom. Use it. That applies to everyone, of all ages. If you want more advice, sign up for one of my cheap and cheerful career counselling sessions. I'm very good at this.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > I hope that death will be like going to sleep, but fear that it will be more like crucifixion.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I had a great boy treble voice. I wish I had done more singing with it.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > I love London with an irrational fervour, but if forced to choose somewhere else it would be somewhere with a perfect climate. I'm told that Southern California is very nice.
What would your ideal holiday be? > I have yet to visit the USA, and would especially like to see the towers of New York and Chicago, and the Grand Canyon. I would also like to see India before I die.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > At present, I like to wander around London taking photos, in particular of my fellow digital photographers. When at home, I like listening to classical CDs while surfing the net. And I like deep conversations and coffee with a friend of mine, who is glad to see me.
What is your most treasured possession? > Probably my classical CD collection. But losing it would not be a catastrophe. The point is the music, rather than the physical things it is stored in. So maybe that's not it. I guess if I lost all my computer data it would be my best photos that I'd most miss.
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > I was christened Brian Hugh. I've often wished it was Hugh Brian, and I could just be Hugh. Whenever the bloke in a story is a bit of a gink, they now call him Brian, as in Life of Brian. But changing your name is an order of magnitude more undignified than having an undignified name.
What talent would you most like to have? > It's a toss-up between piano playing and chatting up gorgeous women. Don't those often go together?
Who are your sporting heroes? > The cricketers of my youth, Surrey (all conquering in the 1950s), England (May, Cowdrey, Laker, Truman, Statham and more recently Gower and Botham). The 1970 Brazil world cup winning soccer team. The 1970s British Lions (Edwards, Barry John, Gerald Davies, David Duckham, etc.), the England Rugby World Cup winners, and yes, the recent England Ashes winners, who were lucky but did well. Just how lucky and just how well the Australians have recently made very clear.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > I support all the London Premiership teams. When looking at the Premiership I note with a mixture of pride and sadness that London is (as I now answer this) second, fourth, eleventh, fourteenth, eighteenth and nineteenth. Next in line for my support: Reading (sixth), and Watford (bottom). My favourite London team is Spurs, because I fixated on them in 1961 like a baby goose. But unlike 'real' football supporters (who often strike me as deranged and whom I enjoy teasing), I do not hate the other clubs, and in particular I do not, like a 'real' Spurs supporter, hate Arsenal.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > I would quite like to have a go at ruling the world. This would mean sitting in my kitchen acquiring, clarifying, arguing about, and cranking out opinions on the big issues in the world, and being heeded by the world. A greatly beefed up version of what I do now, in other words. Modern communications technology now makes this, if not exactly realistic, at least imaginable. That's a notion I certainly want to blog about in the future, even if I never get anywhere near to it myself.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > Very little. In a modified form, that happened. I keep meaning to make my home less cold and draughty, but that's not really a money thing.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? Shakespeare, definitely, just to hear what he sounded like. Ideally he'd recite something of his, maybe that sonnet I like so much, and I'd record it. Or perhaps he'd compose something else on the spot. I'd ask him all the regular Shakespeare questions. Did you do it? How did you do it? Did you know how big you were going to be? Do you care? Etc. In case Shakespeare and I did not hit it off, I'd also invite a modern lady movie star. She and Shakespeare would have plenty to talk about. Plus I think I'd invite one of my favourite female friends, just to balance it all out, and so that I could share Shakespeare and Ms Film Star with her. Three super-celebs and me might not actually be that much fun. No great composers, because they speak to me already, and more words from them would, I suspect, add rather little.
What animal would you most like to be? > A bird of some kind. All those aerial views.
[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.]