Anne Ulanov was born in New York City's Greenwich Village during its artistic heyday. She was educated at an uptown Catholic prep school and later went to a Seven-Sister college in the last gasp before their ivy-covered brothers accepted women. She studied and loved philosophy; her ambition to teach Kant, Spinoza and Wittgenstein in elementary school was frustrated by inflexible graduate school programmes and unwelcome school licensing. Anne works with many computer software applications and documentation at a top-of-the-line corporate law firm and sometimes feels alarm that her life is getting away from her as she's long wanted to do and be things she's never quite pulled off. She's a grandmother and her three grandchildren are the most engaging people she has ever met. Anne blogs at Still Muttering By Myself.
Why do you blog? > It began out of mere curiosity - to see how a website was put together. Then I found it might be a way to put words to my saying I wanted to write. My children were grown and I was feeling bereft of a captive audience for anything I thought or said. It's turned out to be far more than I imagined - sometimes more demanding and challenging but always satisfying and fun. Plus I've found (met?) so many surprisingly expressive and perceptive people - people I would never have had even a remote chance of meeting, and certainly not with such depth or seriousness.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Two things. One was when I contributed to a blogger's continuing to write through his illness; he specifically said my words were part of why he decided both not to stop and to write about the experience, too. The sense of 'real' influence was astonishing. The other was finding that I had actual readers/friends/audience for my words and thoughts when I almost quit (see worst blogging experience below).
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Being excoriated for some questions and thoughts I wrote during the last presidential campaign. The attacks surprised and upset me far more than I expected.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Do it! If the goal is to become world-renowned, have a focus and keep the posts/essays on point. If the goal is self-expression or simply to have a good time and get out there in the cyberworld, then don't worry about the one-subject-one-blog kind of thing. Some of my favourite blogs are simply wonderful verbal excursions.
What are your favourite blogs? > These are three OF my favorite blogs (I'll hyperventilate trying to choose just three): normblog (no, I'm not apple-polishing), Fresh Bilge (although I disagree and argue with him often), Frenchless in France.
Who are you reading at the moment? > Ian McEwan. Because several book blogs raved about On Chesil Beach. I listened to the audio book and loved his quiet intoning voice and found myself stunned by the accuracy of his description of the era's held-in-ness. It's so hard to explain and yet was such a dominating clamp on so many lives.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Covenant With Death. More accurately, it probably isn't the best but it's the one I enjoyed so much that it informed much of my life. It combines philosophical reasoning, a delicious plot, interesting characters and good writing. For my real 'best' I would have to say War and Peace which I read in 8th grade. The scope, the visual drama, the individual lives and people. What a magnificent book. I read a lovely thin-paper, two-volume edition in 8th grade and wrote a long book report... for which I got an F because my nun teacher (Mother Christopher) did not believe I could possibly have read it. My father intervened, my reputation was saved and I got an A+ in the end.
Who is your favourite composer? > Schubert, I think. Maybe Schumann. Sometimes Liszt. Sometimes Mozart or Beethoven. And on alternate Thursdays, Gilbert and Sullivan – particularly the last few minutes of the first act of The Mikado, when the crystal clear soprano soars through and above the rich choral voices.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > Speak softly and carry a big stick. Never use it, just carry it.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Eliminate personal income tax and institute major giving programmes in its stead.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Ignoring emotional needs and desires of individuals.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I do think the best is yet to come, believe it or not. We are nasty and loud and difficult, but we're so much better than we used to be that I think that's the only logical conclusion.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Listen to other people. Sometimes you may have to scream and yell first, maybe even just in your own head, but listening will get you many things: other points of view (some of which you may adopt yourself, eventually), trust of others, understanding of many things, and (sometimes) the clear understanding of how utterly insane some people are!
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? > Absolutely. As long as my partner shared my feeling that there are two zillion ways to get from point A to point Z.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Smugness.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To protect my grandchildren's or children's safety or lives. Sounds clichéd but it's unequivocally true.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Yes but I'm not sure how or if to say. I loathe the blind, unquestioning taking on of any belief or idea, be it religious or anything else. I used to think I was prejudiced against uneducated people but as I meet more people from all kinds of backgrounds I realize that it isn't the education, it's the curiosity. I am passionately frustrated by stultifying dullness.
What is your favourite proverb? > I like most of the ones I hear. My English professor father banished clichés and trite language so I thought it was simply brilliant the first time I heard 'the grass felt like a carpet'. Similarly, most proverbs amaze me with their simplicity and clarity. It's a personal failing in some ways.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Going to bars and knocking back lots of alcohol. It's just never seemed interesting to me.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Getting older and/or mentally feeble and not getting to see my grandchildren throughout their lives (their spouses, their children, their interests, etc).
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I would try to find out how to drive myself more deliberately in a creative and expressive way, sooner and more thoroughly.
What would you call your autobiography? > Funny you should ask. In college we saw a movie in anthropology class called 'Eastward into the sunset'. It was about south of the Equator and how literally and physically different things can be, elsewhere. I thought that was an awesome phrase and truly have always thought that if I wrote an autobiography I would call it Eastward into the sunset.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > England. The coast of Maine or Cornwall. Paris.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Assuming time travel and no need to return to work or home, a week on various fabulous beaches interspersed with weeks in London, Paris, Istanbul, Moscow, Hong Kong, Tokyo, San Francisco and the North Pole. Adventure plus culture plus beauty plus calm. Ah, if only...
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Visiting and playing with my grandchildren (they are awesome people, not just my progeny), reading, writing, watching old movies, driving in the country, visiting museums, going to plays, talking with friends, knitting, making jewelery.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Writing full time and teaching philosophy in 2nd grade.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > I don't. I just read Nick Hornby novels.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > The ability to turn events and facts into fiction – easily and well – verbally, whether oral or written, and laced with enormous humour throughout.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > Mundane but true: first I would pay all my bills. Then I'd buy or build a house by the ocean equidistant between my children, with many bedrooms so they could and would visit with my grandchildren. Then I'd hire a tutor to help me learn to write how and what I want. Then I'd fly to Kiev and Paris and London for weekend visits. Then I'd develop curricula and programs like Geoffrey Canada's so all children would learn quiet self-confidence and utter delight in the world.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Three is so impossible! Kant, Alan Turing, Jane Austen. I'd have liked to include Larousse in order to guarantee awesome dining and Victoria de los Angeles or one of the Bachs for conversation as well as soothing sounds.
[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.]