Von was born in Providence, Rhode Island. He works as an attorney in the US Midwest. Most of his 'real' work involves disputes over patent rights, and he has represented companies in disputes involving patents on pharmaceuticals, medical devices, telephony and television systems, and Scuncis®. Yes, you read that last word right: he's been involved in a dispute that involves those ubiquitous hair-band thingies. Von also maintains a deep and abiding love for the RICO act and other complex commercial litigation, although such frivolities now encompass only about a quarter of his practice. He blogs quasi-anonymously at Obsidian Wings. Should you discover his (unexciting) secret identity, he trusts you to distinguish between his views and the views of his firm and clients.
Why do you blog? > Officially, because I seek to advance peace and understanding. Unofficially, because I'm a frustrated little man who frequently finds himself drunk and in front of a computer.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Joining ObWi. Moe Lane, who founded ObWi (and who is now at RedState), had a great vision of an internet community where all sorts of political views are represented. Although Moe's gone and we've drifted somewhat to the left, I like to think that we're still trying to meet Moe's standards.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > I can't think of any.
What are your favourite blogs? > The Volokh Conspiracy, The Belgravia Dispatch, and Yglesias. Bainbridge, InstaPundit, and CalPundit (now, Political Animal) also rank up there, although I'm starting to wonder if Professor Reynolds might be better served by less 'insta' and more 'reflecta'.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > The first two names that came to mind were Adam Smith and Hugo Black (a US Supreme Court Justice).
What are you reading at the moment? > Martin Amis's House of Meetings. So far it's better than his recent crap, but not quite as good as his earlier crap.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Hmm. If I answer truthfully, you'll get a series of obscure bands and writers who will mark me as a deeply unserious and unschooled dude. So I'll lie: Proust. He totally kicks ass.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > I don't know if there's a 'best' – and there's certainly not a favourite - but two novels that I regard as near-perfect are The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles. The Great Gatsby is the quintessential American story; the template for a thousand imitators, including everything that Bret Easton Ellis ever wrote. The Sheltering Sky is just damn good and, like all of Bowles's work, is simultaneously traditional and unlike anything else.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Several. I was a deficit hawk, but have become less worried about deficit spending. My views on the Iraq war have shifted - although I favoured the war, I always was a critic of the execution. Now I doubt that even a perfectly-executed invasion would have been (on net) a success. I used to be a lot more pro-choice than I am now; my current mantra regarding abortion is safe, rare, and legislated to make it so. I went from a view in law school that the American legal system's way of grouping plaintiffs into a 'class' (the so-called 'Class Action') was generally positive to a view now that it probably does more harm than good - although recent reforms may tip the balance back. I could go on, but I'll spare you and your readers.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > 'Philosophical theses can do more harm than good.'
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That a philosophical thesis is something to be imposed on reality rather than something that should account for reality. This isn't to say that a philosophical thesis shouldn't propose societal change, but beware those who would sell your real bread today for two theoretical loaves tomorrow - leaving you starving. (Marx is the good example of that.)
Who are your political heroes? > LBJ, for enforcing desegregation, which was critical to the moral future and economic prosperity of the US. Martin Luther King, for making LBJ do it. Nixon, for going to China and splitting the (admittedly, already fracturing) Sino-USSR axis. Disraeli, for being, well, Disraeli. And Pericles of Athens, as will become obvious in a few questions.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > When I was at university, I used to come up with whole bunches of adages, saws, proverbs, and assorted bits of wisdom. With one exception, all of them turned out to be complete and total junk. The only one that even partially held up was the following, so I hereby adopt it as my favourite piece of wisdom, political or otherwise: 'You always become what you hate.'
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > It's an obvious one, but the continuing proliferation of nuclear weapons. More fingers on the triggers means more opportunities for stupidity and mistakes. A less obvious threat is the internet. The internet is probably, on balance, a good thing, but it also can be an exchange house for terrorists and a destabilizing influence on the nation-state.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > There is no 'best point'; there are only different kinds of bad points - although, admittedly, some bad points are worse than others. (How's that for a non-answer?)
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Always do the right thing or, if you can't, do the wrong thing well. (And avoid doing it to me!)
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.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Pericles said it best in his funeral oration to the Athenians: 'For we have the peculiar power of thinking before we act, and of acting, too, whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate upon reflection.' To be able to think something through, and then act with knowledge of the consequences - and that you may fail - is a lot tougher than it sounds.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Pride. It's the original sin for a reason. Naturally, I have tons of it.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To protect or defend my country, or to avoid hurting the feelings of another regarding an inconsequential matter. Like everyone, however, I have also somehow managed to lie for less noble reasons.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > I don't get Bingo. I find carrying around small dogs to be somewhat of a waste of energy, unless the dog in question is very, very light. I am continually tempted to strangle folks who play Sudoku. You know, the usual.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Dropping the ball, screwing up, how I'm considered by others, whether I'm a good father to my son, whether my shirt matches my tie, whether I'm working too hard, whether I'm working hard enough, whether I'm getting enough sleep, has that strangely-shaped mole changed shape again? why is she looking at me like that?... i.e., everything.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I would have worked harder when I was in university. I really wasted my time (and my parents' money).
What would you call your autobiography? > Today Wasn't Bad, But Tomorrow Will Probably Suck.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > I used to look a bit like Henry Rollins - sans tattoos - so maybe he should do it. (Henry Rollins is a former lead singer for Black Flag, a US punk band, and has had some minor acting bits.)
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > I have three favourite places: Chicago, San Francisco and just northeast of Bar Harbour, Maine, along the coast. Any one of those places would be fine.
What is your most treasured possession? > My wife gave me a Tiffany watch as a wedding present. It's now out-of-production, and I just think it looks cool.
What talent would you most like to have? > I am a terrible singer, and I would like to sing well. The terribleness of my singing becomes very evident when I'm in the shower, and is unfortunate for those in the vicinity at the time. Indeed, if I ever get divorced, my inability to sing may be the primary grounds for it.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Easy. Astronaut-cowboy-firefighter-architect-lawyer-Vice President (the last is critical: I need to be able to cast the deciding vote in the US Senate).
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > This will sound trite, but my paternal grandfather, grandmother, and uncle. I didn't get to spend the time with them I wanted to when they were alive - which is a shame because the company of any one of them was a rare treat.
[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.]