Monday, March 30, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LXXXVI: Charles Kuffner

Charles Kuffner is a got-here-as-fast-as-I-could Texan who thought he wanted to write about sports when he started up Off the Kuff. So much for that. He likes his politics progressive, his pizza thin-crusted, and his bios brief.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I wanted an outlet to write - I'd written a sports column for my college newspaper, and missed the experience of regular writing since graduation. One day, I stumbled across a blog written by a friend of mine, and after reading the whole thing, I asked her how I could do something like that. That was over seven years ago, and I'm still going strong. I didn't expect to write about politics when I started, but that's what I do, with a focus on Texas.

What is your best blogging experience?

Having someone tell me they read and enjoy what I write.

And your worst?

Getting harassed by a local crank who apparently objected to something I wrote about him. He seems to have crawled back under his rock for the time being, thankfully.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

It's hard to pick one out from the thousands of entries I've written. Generally speaking, I'm proudest of the work I do after elections sifting through the numbers to figure out what happened. I was a math major, so any time I can crunch numbers I enjoy it, and I think I do it as well as anyone.

Favourite blogs?

My fellow Texas political bloggers are on heaviest rotation for me: Burnt Orange Report (, Capitol Annex (, Muse Musings (, Eye on Williamson (, Dos Centavos (, Greg's Opinion (, and many others. Various Texas media outlets have fine blogs for us political junkies as well. You get fuller coverage of the campaigns and of the Legislature through them than you do in their regular spheres.
When I want a break from politics, I go to Baseball Musings (, Tubular ( and Lost...And Gone Forever ( to keep up with my favorite TV show, and The Bloggess ( for laughs.

With the recent election of Barack Obama, the growing concerns over how there is a lack of regulation in the financial world, are we seeing a change in political philosophy and attitudes in the US?
I think so, though I think it's important to remember that any kind of change doesn't come easy. There's fear of the unknown, there's defense of turf by those who like things as they are, there's the usual political push and pull - you get the idea. Opinion polls as well as electoral results show that there's a willingness to try something different, but putting that into practice is hard and messy work.

How would you define the American blogosphere?

Huge, varied, noisy, provocative, annoying, compelling. There's something to like and something to dislike for everyone.

Just how dangerous do you regard the Republican right at the moment?
In some ways, as dangerous as ever - they still have their infrastructure, they still have their commitment to their goals, they still have the kind of unity Democrats only dream of. Yet they're as unpopular now as they've ever been, they've driven a lot of their coalition partners, the libertarian and business-oriented and fiscally-conservative-but-socially-moderate types that used to fuel their election victories away - even in Texas, this is the case, though they still have a lock on the state government - and they can't do much at the federal level to push legislation, though they can still block it to some extent. They can still make a lot of noise, demand a lot of attention, and drive a lot of the debate, but they don't have the power to do much more than that right now.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

I've always wanted to visit Australia. And Ireland, so I can experience a true Irish pub before they all disappear.

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

I had the chance a few years ago to visit Seoul, South Korea for a couple of days while my wife was on a business trip there. I'd love to see more of that city and that country. And if I do go again, this time I will make sure I get to see a baseball game there.

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

Not really. I'm drawn more to events than to individuals.

Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?
I don't really have one, for the same reason as above.

Favourite Bond movie?

Goldfinger. "No, Mister Bond, I expect you to die."

Favourite Doctor Who?

Never was a Dr. Who fan. If it helps, my favorite Star Trek episode is "Mirror, Mirror".

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?
Mint chocolate. Specifically, mint chocolate chip ice cream. Mmmmmmm...

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?
I'd love to see the classic jazz bands of the swing era. Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman. I played in jazz bands as a student and developed an affection for that music that persists to this day.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, New York, Harvard, or Chicago?
I'm from New York, so that would be my first choice. But Chicago is a close second - I always have a great time there when I visit.

Favourite national newspaper?

The NY Times.

What would you say your hobbies were?

I still do have hobbies, I just don't have as much time for them as before. I still play the saxophone, and I still occasionally play bridge. For the most part, whatever free time I have these days is spent with the family - we have two girls under the age of five, and they take a lot of time and energy. Fortunately, they're a lot of fun to spend that time with.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

"Thunder Road" - Bruce Springsteen
"A String of Pearls" - Glenn Miller
"Romeo and Juliet" - Dire Straits
"The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" - Agatha Christie
"To Kill A Mockingbird" - Harper Lee
"Good Omens" - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

(What can I say, I was a math major - never was into literature.)

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