John Carter Wood is a researcher at the Open University. Raised outside Chicago, he studied at Northern Illinois University and the University of Maryland, which left him well informed but heavily in debt. He moved to Germany in 2001 to marry The Wife, with whom he lives in a delightfully sleepy town on the Rhine. Together, they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make sense of the world. The author of Violence and Crime in Nineteenth-Century England: The Shadow of Our Refinement, John is almost finished with a second book and seeking a publisher. He blogs at Obscene Desserts.
Why do you blog? > I suppose out of a combination of generosity (giving the world my ideas) and vanity (imagining that the world gives a damn).
What has been your best blogging experience? > Having one of my posts re-published at Butterflies and Wheels and seeing the many positive reactions that generated.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > I've been fortunate in that I've really not experienced anything all that negative so far.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Charles Darwin, Norbert Elias, Karl Marx, George Orwell, Richard Dawkins.
What are you reading at the moment? > As usual, several things at once: Human Nature in Rural Tuscany: An Early Modern History (Gregory Hanlon), Deadkidsongs (Toby Litt), Titus Groan (Mervyn Peake), and The Cornelius Chronicles (Michael Moorcock).
Who are your cultural heroes? > Douglas Adams, Hunter S. Thompson, J. G. Ballard, David Cronenberg, The Grateful Dead, Monty Python, Joel and Ethan Coen, Woody Allen.
What is your favourite movie? > The Big Lebowski.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > The existence of human nature.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > To promote both the use of rational thought and the awareness that people are not fundamentally rational.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Fanatical utopianism, particularly, but not exclusively, of the religious variety.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Martin Daly and Margo Wilson's Homicide (1988). Their careful and subtle application of evolutionary psychology to a topic that I have thought a great deal about was one of the major stepping stones on the way to the change of mind noted above. I struggled with it at first but now re-read it periodically and always find it inspiring.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'Si vis pacem, para bellum.'
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > For Germany to accept dual citizenship. (This is for purely selfish reasons.)
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Environmental degradation and nuclear proliferation.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I hope for the latter but tend to believe the former.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Things rarely go according to plan.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > It's a tie: curiosity and loyalty.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Hypocrisy.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To help a friend, to gain an advantage over an enemy or to avoid being hypocritical.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > The very rich, the very poor, the very religious, the very dumb.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Most everything, really. At the moment, the potential collapse of civilized society is probably taking precedence.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I'd pay more attention in all those subjects in school that I hated (particularly maths and science), take more risks, win more fights and go camping more often.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > On the Normandy coast.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Being with The Wife, playing guitar, going for walks in the vineyards near our house, reading, watching films, target practice.
What is your most treasured possession? > My health and (relative) sanity.
What talent would you most like to have? > Playing the piano. Or maybe carpentry.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > The one I currently have, only with more success. Alternatively: rock musician.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > The renovations on our house would be finished and I'd worry a lot less.
What animal would you most like to be? > An axolotl, so I’d never have to grow up.
[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.]