'Dr. Weevil' is an alumnus of St. John's College (Annapolis) and the University of Virginia, and teaches high school Latin in the Shenandoah Valley. He moved to Staunton, Virginia, two years ago mostly so he could go to the Blackfriars Playhouse every week. He blogs under his real name on classical topics, with some duplicate posts, but keeps Dr. Weevil pseudonymous, since he doesn't think his political opinions or occasional intemperate language are any of his students' business, and doesn't want them to be able to find the site by Googling his name.
Why do you blog? > Why not? I can do this as well as most bloggers, and far better than most journalists. I'm a teacher, and love to explain things. I have some specialized knowledge (mostly Latin) that may provide a different perspective.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Losing most of my readers by not posting enough.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > This advice is mostly still good, as far as it goes, though it was written when the blogosphere was far smaller.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Plato, Tacitus, Nicolás Gómez Dávila.
What are you reading at the moment? > I don't usually read systematically, but over the summer I finished the first 2-plus volumes of short stories in Hingley's Oxford Chekhov, plus Thomas Love Peacock's first three novels. School started this week, so I don't know how soon I'll be able to get back to either of them. In classical studies, I'm reading and editing Ovid's Heroides for my other website, also reading through his Metamorphoses for the first time since grad school.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Whoever wrote Prometheus Bound, Horace, Borges.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > I suppose Portrait of a Lady is the best I've read recently enough to judge. The novels I never tire of re-reading are not the very best ones: Antigua, Penny, Puce; The British Museum is Falling Down; Lucky Jim; Pictures from an Institution; Pnin.
What is your favourite poem? > Propertius 2. 29.
What is your favourite movie? > Hmmm... either Brazil or Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
What is your favourite song? > One favorite song? How can anyone have fewer than a dozen? The most-played songs on my iTunes, tied at 35 repetitions, are 'Arnold' by the Austin Lounge Lizards (about a near-sighted armadillo who falls in love with a concertina), and 'Long Black Limousine' by Ginny Hawker (less amusing but equally tragic).
Who is your favourite composer? > That changes from month to month. At the moment: Alkan.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Besides Wahabism and Salafism? I don't know that it qualifies as a philosophical thesis any more than they do, but there's a virulent combination of Nihilism, Cynicism, Moral Relativism, and maybe some other ingredients floating around, which is probably more dangerous than anything Islamic fanatics can devise. As may be obvious by now, I'm no philosopher, but whatever you call what's going on in most university humanities departments these days is certainly worth fighting.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > Lately I've been thinking a lot of the third motto on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Everyone knows the first two: 'Know yourself' and 'Nothing in excess', but Plutarch says that the third was the most followed: 'Make a pledge, and Destruction [Atê] stands by'. One obvious meaning, adjusted to modern customs, is 'never co-sign a loan', but it is much broader than that. Federal, state, and local governments, and not just in the US, are way past the point at which they can continue to underwrite increasingly-expensive pension plans, health care plans, housing subsidies, crop subsidies, student loans, auto companies, and so on. Other than bank accounts - checking only, and only up to a fairly low limit - I don't think the government can or should financially guarantee anything.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > It's going to take a lot more than one major policy change to avoid disaster. One simple - but not easy - thing that would help a lot is an end to gerrymandering. My idea is that the best districting of a state is the one with the most compact districts, and that would (I'm fairly certain) be the one with the shortest total length of boundaries between districts. A computer may not be able to calculate the best plan for an odd-shaped state, but it could certainly judge which one meets the very simple criterion. If a $10,000 prize were offered to whoever comes up with the winning plan for each state, gerrymandering could be entirely eliminated. Too bad legislators are unlikely to vote for such a sensible plan.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > Dick Cheney.
What would you do with the UN? > It's long past time to admit that the UN is a more pathetic failure than the famously pathetic League of Nations, which at least expelled members when they invaded other countries. The UN has only expelled Taiwan, and that was as shameful as not expelling various revolting tyrannies. The US should withdraw from the UN and cut off all subsidies immediately, urge other countries to do the same, and give it six months to relocate to some other country. The UN building should be turned into apartments or (better) imploded on live television (after letting the diplomats out, of course). It is often claimed that having the UN in New York brings wealth to the city, so it should be relocated to some city that really needs the wealth: perhaps Khartoum or Kinshasa.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > That depends on us, on decisions being made in the US and a few other countries right now and over the next few years. It could go either way, and I expect we will know which way it will go in the next 10 years, either to gradually-increasing worldwide peace and prosperity or to world-wide wars and economic ruin. Right now, the latter looks more likely.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Watching any sport whatsoever, unless my students are playing. Also, playing any sport whatsoever except croquet, and that only if I have a gin and tonic in my hand. Killer croquet, where the course leads over curbs, through hedges, up and down hills, and all around the neighbourhood, is the best kind, though I haven't played it in years.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > A lot of things: I can think of four jobs I would have been better off not taking, one school I should not have enrolled in, and two former friends and several acquaintances I would have been better off never having met. Positive things are much harder to define: should I have married X? Who knows how that would have worked out?
What would you call your autobiography? > I will never write an autobiography, but I picked out a title and subtitle years ago: Beastly, All Too Beastly: Memoirs of a Five-Toed Sloth.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Jean-Pierre Bacri has the right looks, but why would anyone want to see a movie of my life?
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > A nicer apartment in the same town would be good, specifically a factory loft with an elevator (I'm not getting any younger), brick walls, hardwood floors, modern kitchen and laundry facilities, and lots of built-in bookshelves to go with the standing ones I already own.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Reading, writing, blogging, listening to music, giving and hearing lectures on classical topics, eating and drinking with friends in restaurants or at home. Lately I've developed a taste for playgoing, particularly Shakespeare and his contemporaries. I don't really 'get' plays just by reading them - especially comedies.
What is your most treasured possession? > My books. Over the years, I've collected enough classical texts and commentaries to be mostly independent of libraries. Unlike most classicists, I've never been to Italy or Greece, since I spend all my money on books.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to learn living languages well, or even adequately. As a British classicist once put it, 'Classics is language study for people who aren't good at languages.' Embarrassing, but true. I would also like to play a musical instrument, perhaps the steel guitar, but am too old to start now.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Not much different from what I'm doing now, except that the pay and fringe benefits would be better and the students older: Professor of Latin at some university or other.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Does Mark Steyn qualify as a humorist?
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > A sufficiently long and healthy life to finish reading the books I want to read and writing the books and articles I need to write. Financial security and general equanimity would help with the latter.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I would travel a lot more, particularly to Europe, go to plays and operas in distant locales, and support select educational and cultural institutions. But I would keep teaching: I tend to stagnate in the summers, so retirement would not suit me at all.
[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.]