Alex Massie was born in 1974 in Perth (Scotland). He was educated in Perthshire and Dublin. Subsequently he's been a journalist writing for The Scotsman, The Daily Telegraph, Scotland on Sunday, The New Republic and a good number of other publications. After five happy years freelancing in Washington DC, he recently returned to Scotland and currently lurks in bleak-but-beautiful Selkirkshire where he ponders and plots future campaigns... Alex blogs at The Debatable Land.
Why do you blog? > I bowed to pressure from friends. Megan McArdle and Garance Franke-Ruta were among those who hectored me to start a blog of my own, but I'm also opinionated enough to feel the need to share my views with as many strangers as possible. Thank god I don't live anywhere near Speaker's Corner.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Discovering so many other great blogs to read.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Having too many things to blog about and not enough willpower or patience to actually blog about them all. Also writing posts that could have been sent to people who might have paid to publish them.
What are your favourite blogs? > Too many to mention, but here are three that come to mind: Brian Cook's Michigan football blog is a magnificent example of monomaniacal brilliance; Daniel Larison is extraordinary; and it's always worth visiting the polymaths at The American Scene.
What are you reading at the moment? > A Corner of a Foreign Field: the Indian History of a British Sport by Ramachandra Guha; Simon Sebag Montefiore's Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar and One Step Behind by Henning Mankell.
Who are your cultural heroes? > F. Scott Fitzgerald, Emmylou Harris, Dmitri Shostakovich, P.G. Wodehouse, H.L. Mencken, Neville Cardus, James Boswell, Anton Chekhov.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > A tie: War and Peace and The Code of the Woosters. Also, Scoop - if I could, I'd make having read it a condition of being hired as a journalist.
What is your favourite song? > Another tie: 'Fairytale of New York' by Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues; 'Pancho and Lefty' by Townes Van Zandt. In different circumstances, a skilled piper playing 'The Flowers of the Forest' leaves me in pieces.
Who is your favourite composer? > Shostakovich. My favourite opera is Berlioz's 'Les Troyens'.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I was rather vociferously in favour of the current war in Iraq. I took a view then that has been somewhat confounded by subsequent events.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > I like Reason magazine's motto: 'Free Minds and Free Markets'. The former leads to the latter and vice versa.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > The notion that government (and its attendant managerialism) knows best. Also, the ghastly sort of Scottish self-pity that can only express itself by referring to that awful movie Braveheart.
Who are your political heroes? > Barry Goldwater, Charles de Gaulle, Calvin Coolidge, Vaclav Havel, David Trimble.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Privatize education. Also put 'None of the above' on all election ballots.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Despite all the quotidian evidence to the contrary, the best is still to come. Most people have vastly better, more comfortable lives than did our ancestors.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Runner-up: Carpe diem. Third place: Don't kid yourself.
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? > Since I'm a) single and b) don't often meet people who agree with me, I have to say 'yes'. It wouldn't be a deal-breaker for me, though it might be for the lady in question.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Tolerance and an open mind.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Selfishness.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > For friends and family. Also, if politeness demanded it.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I spend too much time watching 24-hour TV news stations and admit to despising the people (e.g., Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity and Wolf Blitzer) who present programmes that so flagrantly insult the viewer's intelligence. Additionally, I think ill of students at Trinity College Dublin who hitched their dreams to the Historical Society when they could have joined us in the Philosophical Society.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > One-day cricket (at the professional, not village, level obviously). Night-clubbing. Voting for the Scottish Labour Party.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Death, money, failure, family and friends' health and well-being. Not necessarily in that order.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > John Cusack?
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Cooking, watching rugby, baseball, opera, theatre, cricket and cycling, smoking, day-dreaming, procrastinating.
What talent would you most like to have? > Bowl chinamen to a professional standard? More usefully perhaps, I'd love to be able to sing well or, in fact, have any musical ability at all.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Commentator for 'Test Match Special'. I'm also arrogant enough to think I'd do it well. I'd also love to be an actor (less confident about potential there, of course).
Who are your sporting heroes? > Andy Irvine, David Gower, Ian Botham, Fausto Coppi, Nigel Benn and, it must be said, Jocky Wilson.
Which teams do you support? > I am, alas, a Heart of Midlothian supporter. In England I have a soft spot for Tottenham Hotspur. In baseball I follow the San Francisco Giants (National League) and the New York Yankees (American League). Also: Selkirk RFC and Somerset County Cricket Club.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > How enormous is enormous? If, after giving to charity and friends, I still had £50m or so left I'd re-establish and make a success of a professional rugby team in the Scottish Borders. Otherwise I'd buy houses in Edinburgh, the Ettrick Valley and Paris (Latin Quarter) and divide my year between them. And, god help me, I'd blog more.
[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.]