Michael Weiss was born in New York in 1980. He graduated not too long ago from Dartmouth College with a BA in History. He is currently the Associate Editor of Jewcy magazine, as well as a regular contributor to Slate, The Weekly Standard, The New Criterion, and The New York Post. Michael blogs at Snarksmith, Drink-Soaked Trotsykite Popinjays for War and The Cabal.
Why do you blog? > I began because I wanted to hone my writing skills and I couldn't get published anywhere. Now it's a very debilitating compulsion, I must say. Though I have managed to land every job I've had in the past three years from it, so I suppose it's been a good thing, overall.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Organizing a 'Solidarity with Denmark' rally - after the flap about the Mohammed cartoons - in New York City. It was attended by over a hundred people, most of whom had interesting things to say.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Turn off your comments section. The Internet can be a forum for intelligent debate, but not there. Wait until readers start emailing you.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Spinoza, Einstein, Kurt Gödel, Lionel Trilling, Edmund Wilson.
What are you reading at the moment? > The Stillborn God by Mark Lilla; The Great Terror by Robert Conquest; Defending the West by Ibn Warraq; Silas Marner by George Eliot.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Shakespeare, Nabokov, Kingsley Amis.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Toss-up between two women: Lolita and Romola.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Spain 1937' (the original version) by W.H. Auden.
What is your favourite movie? > The Godfather Part II.
What is your favourite song? > 'That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore' by The Smiths.
Who is your favourite composer? > Bach.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Capital punishment (used to be for, now I'm against).
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Secular humanism.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Does moral equivalence count as 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? > Unacknowledged Legislation, Christopher Hitchens's collected literary criticism, may actually be his best political work. It teaches you to seek out the ironies and contradictions of ideologically complicated figures, and it contains two of the best essays I've ever read. One is a critical look at the liberal intelligentsia's favourite philosopher, Isaiah Berlin. The other is a defence of England's greatest (and most conservative) post-war poet, Philip Larkin. Anyone who wants to understand the Hitch should read those two essays - both originally written for New Left Review, by the way.
Who are your political heroes? > Thomas Paine, Karl Marx, Alexander Herzen, George Orwell, William Bullitt, Max Shachtman, Irving Howe, Robert Conquest.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > Orwell's famous line about the Spanish Civil War can and should be applied to any historical circumstance or news organization: 'The raping and butchering in Chinese cities, the tortures in the cellars of the Gestapo, the elderly Jewish professors flung into cesspools, the machine-gunning of refugees along the Spanish roads - they all happened, and they did not happen any the less because the Daily Telegraph has suddenly found out about them when it is five years too late.'
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Socialize healthcare.
What would you do with the UN? > Get it to uphold its own resolutions.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The fusion of religion and technology.
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 am, but I never have to sleep on the couch because of it.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > 'I absolutely loved your interpretative dance sequence.'
What would you call your autobiography? > Why Should You Care?
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > London or Prague.
What would your ideal holiday be? > After my over-insured yacht sinks off the Italian Riviera, I'm invited to stay with Monica Bellucci at her villa while Vincent Cassel is away shooting Ocean's Fourteen.
What is your most treasured possession? > My books.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Bill Murray.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > See above re: Italian Riviera, Monica Bellucci.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Kingsley Amis, Vladimir Nabokov and Tom Stoppard (to write it all down).
What animal would you most like to be? > A Cocker Spaniel.
[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.]