1. You're a big anime fan; we've all seen your reviews. What do you pay special attention to in terms of what you label your personal favourites? Do you have specific requirements of narrative structure, visuals, production values etcetera? Or do you focus on conceptual elements?
For one, I dislike plotholes. Maybe I overthink things, but if there's a plothole in a narrative (either anime or movie or book), I'll find it and it'll irritate me. (One of the main reasons why I still haven't seen Episode III of Star Wars -- Episodes I and II had plot holes that were large enough to drive a truck through, and I haven't yet mustered the courage to inflict Episode III on myself). So, narrative is important: it has to flow smoothly.
Second, I have to care about the characters. For me to care about a character, I have to get a feel for the character's motivations. Most anime is pretty good in this respect, for two reasons. First, there are, as you call it, grey areas where the 'bad guys' and the 'good guys' are almost indistinguishable from each other. Bad guys tend to change sides and the reverse happens too, because the two sides aren't as far apart as they would like to be. Second is that there are often episodes that have nothing to do with the plot, but shows the characters shopping or something mundane like that. This gives the writers the means to show the characters in everyday situations which allow us to identify with them.
Third, I want to be surprised. Sure, it's all been done before -- but show it to me with a twist. Last Exile is a mecha show, but it features Steampunk which adds a new dimension. Mahoraba is a harem anime, but the multiple personality disorder of the main character adds a new dimension. Soukyuu no Fafner is an Evangelion clone, but the nature of the enemies and the determination of the survivors adds a new dimension. Narrative twists help a lot in this respect too: the first season of Mai HIME shows the girls all getting friendly and discovering their powers, the second season has them duel to the death to preserve the most important thing in their lives.
Other areas are less important, but need a certain minimal level of competence. If my eyes start to bleed because of the bad artwork, I'm not going to enjoy the series. :)
I think that those three points make or break a series for me. That means there is no one genre that does it for me every time: I really like Kokoro Library, which is all characterisation and almost no plot. But I also like Escaflowne which is mainly driven by the plot. But I also like Kenran Butoh Sai for the sheer fun and action. But I also liked Princess Tutu, which is based on ballet of all things!
2. What influence have the media had on your perception? Is there anything specific that you feel has steered you in a particular direction?
Of course the media has made a big impression on how I perceive the world. I grew up during the 70s, and the television and books of that time have made me a soft-hearted liberal. :)
I think the biggest influence has been discovering the (pre-web) internet in 1991. Suddenly, I could (and did) communicate with people in the US, Sweden, Iceland... It really changed my perspective on the world, and made me realise that there are connections everywhere, even though they are not immediately apparent.
As for something specific... Well, there's the story of how Robotech/Macross got me into anime, but I can't recall a specific thing that made me stand up and say: "Now I will do things differently!"
We haven't watched any television (apart from downloaded fansub episodes) for more than a year now. I am happier and more productive than before, because I don't spend so much time in a vegetative state. I guess you could say that the absence of media has made me happier.
3. What factors into your political choices? What's your political paradigm?
I'm really big on personal freedom and on making your own choices, but I'm also big on taking care of those who can't care for themselves.
This makes me a soft-hearted liberal, but also a bit of an odd beast in the Dutch political landscape. I have little sympathy for the VVD and the CDA, but I don't always agree with the soft-handed approach of GroenLinks or the SP -- sometimes people need a kick in the ass to get them moving again.
I also am a globalist. I don't believe in borders. I believe in a global economy: once you benefit from doing business with your neighbours, you have nothing to gain from attacking them. Sure, China is kicking everybody's ass right now, but they can't sustain that growth without messing up their environment or their political system.
I believe in capitalism. Capitalism motivates people to create value, to create progress. Also, I like how increased wealth always comes with increased civil liberties and democracy.
I believe in taking care of those who are less fortunate. I enjoy the thought that my tax money pays for education and for the necessities of life for people who, for whatever reason, do not possess the marketable skills I have and/or the ability to exploit those skills -- but I don't believe in pampering people. I don't believe in entitlement.
I believe in scientific progress and reasoned debate. I don't believe in dogma.
As you can see, I have a tough time figuring out what to vote when the elections come around. Luckily we have the Stemwijzer.
4. What is your personal definition of freedom? And how does it match up against security?
Freedom, to me, is the ability to make your own conscious choices, and allowing other people the freedom to make theirs. Freedom is being able to travel as you want. Freedom is being able to design your own life, without a certain lifestyle being imposed on you by others. Freedom is not being judged on your life's choices if those choices don't concern others (such as being homosexual or not having kids). Freedom is not having all of your private data routinely scrutinised by the government or businesses.
Unfortunately, my concept of freedom measures up quite poorly against security. A free, open society is easy to bomb. However, it also takes away the motivation of those who would want to set those bombs. If there is no inequality, if your own situation is only the result of your choices, then you have no reason to run around throwing bombs -- all you need is the determination to change your own situation. That determination is easier mustered than the determination to blow yourself up.
5. You've recently moved. Has your life changed in any qualitative way because of living in a house, rather than an apartment?
'Recently'? We've been living here for over a year now. :)
I really like the added space. We have more open space in our house than in the apartment. I can't explain it, but having to walk more than ten meters from my desk to the couch gives me an immense sense of luxury.
Another thing is that we are in charge ourselves. The apartment was rented, so we couldn't really change that. But the house is bought, and we can do anything we want with it. This has its drawbacks (we couldn't blame anyone but ourselves when the stuff with the ground switch breaker went on), but on the other hand we could put in the bathroom we wanted.
Of course, that is not a feature that an apartment could never posses -- it's just that our personal situations have improved that way.