Friday, July 21, 2006

I am profiled

Norm Geras, a British-based academic of the democratic left, has one of the most viewed and most controversial blogs around. Normblog not only has perceptive political commentary, but some great cultural stuff, like polls (e.g. Bob Dylans best-loved songs and the "Momma and Daddy Collection" of country lyrics). Another regular feature is a Friday blogger profile. I have the great honor of being featured this week.

It's a lot of fun to read the profiles especially of bloggers you read. But, for me at least, it was a real challenge to do the profile. Norm sends a list of about fifty entertaining and provactive questions form which he asks you to answer about thirty. Even the questions I decided not to answer caused me to do lots of thinking. In the end, it was a little easier to decide on my favorite movie than on the philosophical proposition I thought it most important to promote or combat.

Norm also does the extra work of adding some relevant links. (Apparently, Norm thinks that George Brett, is not a household word among the cricket-watching fans of his blog.)

Here's my profile.

Stuart Elliott was born in Winfield, Kansas. He moved to New York and worked with Bayard Rustin. Later he moved a little to the 'left'. He works at a US Postal Service facility and is active in his union (American Postal Workers Union). Stuart is webmaster for the Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation and a correspondent for LabourStart. He blogs at New Appeal to Reason, which is named after the great American radical newspaper published in Girard, Kansas in the early 20th century.

Why do you blog? > To change the world and express myself.

What has been your best blogging experience? > Being asked to do a normblog profile

What has been your worst blogging experience? > Actually writing my normblog profile.

What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Jump in, write on a regular schedule, but don't feel you have to write daily unless your schedule permits. Make a commitment to write at least ten posts before deciding to do it or not.

What are your favourite blogs? > My favourite labour blogs are the AFL-CIO Now blog, Confined Space and Nathan Newman. I would find it nearly impossible to select only three favourite political blogs.

Who are your intellectual heroes? > Irving Howe and Michael Harrington.

What are you reading at the moment? > Boris Souvarine, Stalin: A Critical Survey of Bolshevism, and Alexander Keyssar, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States.

Who are your cultural heroes? > Charlie Parker, Bob Wills, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk.

What is the best novel you've ever read? > Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - and not just because I was assigned it three times between 7th and 10th grades. When confronted with a choice between a developing friendship with a runaway slave and fealty to society's racism, Huck makes a fateful decision: 'I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself, "All right, then, I'll GO to hell."'

What is your favourite movie? > Chinatown or Fargo.

What is your favourite song? > B.B. King, 'How Blue Can You Get'.

Who is your favourite composer? > Duke Ellington.

Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Detente and the first neocon foreign policy project of the 1970s and 1980s. In the last year, I've come to a much more positive view of John Brown after reading David Reynolds' biography.

Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Michael Harrington, Toward a Democratic Left, which I read in the 10th or 11th grade. It showed me that there was a way to be radical without being crazy.

Who are your political heroes? > A. Philip Randolph (organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, both Marches on Washington, etc), George Orwell, Frank Walsh, Caroline Lowe.

If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > I would make the number of seats in the Senate proportional to population.

What would you do with the UN? > Reform it, not abolish it.

Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Either is possible. Barbarism or global social democracy.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Be wary of anyone who pretends to have all the answers.

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? > No.

What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Empathy.

In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > Like most people, probably in far more circumstances than I would admit. To save a life and to avoid needlessly hurting feelings are two instances.

Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Yes, I detest racists, bigots and hypocrites, and disdain postmodernists and cultural relativists.

What is your favourite proverb? > 'Anything worth doing is worth doing half-way.'

Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Kansas City.

What would your ideal holiday be? > A jazz or blues festival.

What do you like doing in your spare time? > Playing my guitar or doing computer graphics.

What is your most treasured possession? > My great grandfather's civil war army discharge papers. He came from Canada to serve in the Union Army, was discharged in Texas, became a citizen, and settled in Kansas. And a coffee table made by my father.

If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > Since my parents almost named me 'Rockwell', I've generally been satisfied with my name.

What talent would you most like to have? > Not so much a talent, but an ability - colour vision. I am red-green colour blind.

Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Matt Groening.

Who are your sporting heroes? > George Brett.

Which basketball team do you support? > Kansas University Jayhawks.

How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I would quit my job and become a political philanthropist.

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > My father, who died when I was five, and my two younger brothers.

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