kottke.org posts about interviews

How the Colbert Report is madeOct 17 2014

For the first episode of podcast called Working, David Plotz talks to Stephen Colbert about how he and his staff construct The Colbert Report. This is fascinating.

My show is a shadow of the news, so I have to know what shadow it's casting right now, so I can distort it in my own way.

At the 13 minute mark, he talks about how the team communicates with each other about how the show is shaping up, changes, concerns, etc. They do it all by what sounds like text messaging. Paging Stewart Butterfield, you should get those folks on Slack. (via digg)

You're My Favorite ClientOct 01 2014

After writing Design is a Job and noticing no one had written a book for clients who hired designers, Mike Monteiro of Mule Design decided to write one: You're My Favorite Client.

Whether you're a designer or not, you make design decisions every day.

Successful design projects require equal participation from both the client and the design team. Yet, for most people who buy design, the process remains a mystery.

In his follow-up to Design Is a Job, Mike Monteiro demystifies the design process and helps you prepare for your role. Ensure you're asking the right questions, giving effective feedback, and hiring designers who will challenge you to make your product the best it can be.

Monteiro recently wrote 13 Ways Designers Screw Up Client Presentations and gave an interview to fellow designer Khoi Vinh.

I've been doing the primary research for this book for 20 years. I deal with clients every day and I see what works and doesn't work and I've screwed up more times than I'd like to think about. But every lesson in that book is field tested. This book has zero percent theory in it. It was written on a factory floor.

The Game of Thrones title sequenceAug 27 2014

From the excellent Art of the Title, an interview with Angus Wall, the creative director responsible for the opening titles of Game of Thrones.

Basically, we had an existing map of Westeros and a xeroxed hand drawn map of Essos - both done by George R. R. Martin - and I took those into Photoshop and played with their scale until they lined up perfectly. The actual dimensions, the locations and their placement, and the different terrains are all based strictly on George R. R. Martin's maps. It was really important that we stay as absolutely true to the books as possible because of the ardent fans out there.

Wall also works as an editor, often on David Fincher films. He won two Oscars for editing The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Running the lungs out of your bodyAug 08 2014

A wonderful interview with Werner Herzog on soccer, his wonderful fatherless upbringing, the nature of reality, and, of course, Mel Brooks.

I told Mel, "Mel, you know what, I have seen an extraordinary film. Something you must see. You must see. It's only at midnight screenings at the Nuart Theater. And it's a film by -- I don't know his name, I think it's Lynch. And he made a film Eraserhead and you must see the film." And Mel keeps grinning and grinning and lets me talk about the movie and he says, "Yes, his name is really David Lynch, do you like to meet him?" I said, "In principle, yes." He says, "Come with me," and two doors down the corridor is David Lynch in pre-production on The Elephant Man! Which Mel Brooks produced! And the bastard sits there and lets me talk and talk and talk and grins and chuckles. And I had no idea [and kept thinking], Why does he chuckle all the time when I talk about the film? But that was how I love Mel Brooks.

DFW, on the cusp of literary stardomJul 01 2014

Just after Infinite Jest was published, David Foster Wallace came to Boston and did a radio interview with Chris Lydon. Radio Open Source recently unearthed that interview, probably unheard for the past 18 years, and published it on their site.

When I started the book the only idea I had is I wanted to do something about America that was sad but wasn't just making fun of America. Most of my friends are extremely bright, privileged, well-educated Americans who are sad on some level, and it has something, I think, to do with loneliness. I'm talking out of my ear a little bit, this is just my opinion, but I think somehow the culture has taught us or we've allowed the culture to teach us that the point of living is to get as much as you can and experience as much pleasure as you can, and that the implicit promise is that will make you happy. I know that's almost offensively simplistic, but the effects of it aren't simplistic at all.

Some sort of a new media onionJun 11 2014

Felix Salmon, who used to blog for Reuters but now works for a new cable TV network, interviews Jonah Peretti of Buzzfeed, a site best known for its lists and snackable meme content, for a site called Matter which is in turn published by Medium. Medium tells us the interview will take 91 minutes to read. Also, I am writing this from the Buzzfeed office and Jonah is a friend of mine.

Jonah is not your typical media mogul, however. He's smarter than most, and more accessible, and also much happier than many to share his thoughts. Which is why I asked Jonah if he'd be interested in talking to me over an extended period. To my delight, he said yes, and we ended up having four interviews spanning more than six hours.

The resulting Q&A is long, for which I make no apologies. You'll learn a lot about Jonah Peretti and how he thinks - but you'll also learn a great deal about the modern media world, the way the Internet has evolved, and the way that Jonah has evolved with it.

If you want to learn the secret of how Jonah managed to build two of the world's most important online media properties, you'll find that here, too. Which brings me to another way in which Jonah differs from most other moguls. If you succeed in building something similarly successful as a result, he will be cheering you all the way.

I am looking forward to someone publishing the highlights of this. (via @choire)

Update: Here's an attempt at some crib notes. (via @tgeorgakopoulos)

Louis C.K. on testing the limitsJun 06 2014

Louis C.K. sat down with Jonah Weiner for an extended interview where he discusses learning how to fix cars, tell jokes, fry chicken, and more. (Seriously, Medium is milking that whole time spent reading thing now.) He also gives some clues as to what he seems to be up to in the current season of Louie:

JW: You've talked about how you've had to explain moral lessons to your daughters, but do it in a catchy way. It's almost as though you're writing material for them. What's the place of morality and ethics in your comedy?

I think those are questions people live with all the time, and I think there's a lazy not answering of them now, everyone sheepishly goes, "Oh, I'm just not doing it, I'm not doing the right thing." There are people that really live by doing the right thing, but I don't know what that is, I'm really curious about that. I'm really curious about what people think they're doing when they're doing something evil, casually. I think it's really interesting, that we benefit from suffering so much, and we excuse ourselves from it. I think that's really interesting, I think it's a profound human question...

I think it's really interesting to test what people think is right or wrong, and I can do that in both directions, so sometimes it's in defense of the common person against the rich that think they're entitled to this shit, but also the idea that everybody has to get handouts and do whatever they want so that there's not supposed to be any struggle in life is also a lot of horseshit. Everything that people say is testable.

At the LA Review of Books, Lili Loofbourow has a good essay about Louie's abrupt shifts in perspective, in the context of its recent rape-y episodes. There's Louie the dad, who garners sympathy and acts as a cover/hedge/foil to Louie's darker impulses. There's standup Louie, who acts as a commentary and counterpoint to dramedy Louie... except when he doesn't, and the two characters blur and flip.

Louie is -- despite its dick-joke dressing -- a profoundly ethical show... Louie is sketching out the psychology of an abuser by making us recognize abuse in someone we love. Someone thoughtful and shy, raising daughters of his own, doing his best. Someone totally cognizant of the issues that make him susceptible to the misogyny monster. Someone who thinks hard about women and men and still gets it badly wrong.

I had to stop watching Louie after Season 1. I raced greedily through those episodes, enjoying the dumb jokes and the sophisticated storytelling, and telling my friends, "this is like looking at my life in ten years." Then my wife and I separated and that joke wasn't funny any more, if it ever was. The things in Louie that are supposed to indicate the cracks in the fourth wall -- the African-American ex-wife and the seemingly white children -- are actually true in my life. His character is more like me than his creator is (except Louie has more money). No haha, you're both redheads with beards. It's an honest-to-goodness uncanny valley. I had to walk away.

At the same time, I feel like I understand Louis C.K., the comedian/filmmaker, better now than I did three years ago. If you read that interview, you see someone who's more successful now than he's ever been, who knows he's good at what he does, but who's never been certain that anyone's ever loved him or if he's ever been worthy of love.

Now America loves Louis C.K. and hangs on his every word: on gadgets, on tests in school, on what's worth caring about. How can he not want to test those limits? How can he not want to punish his audience for caring about a character based on him that he doesn't even like very much?

The need not to know yourselfJun 04 2014

Adam Phillips is a writer and psychoanalyst, working on (among other things) a digressive, deflationary biography of Freud. He recently gave an "Art of Nonfiction" interview to The Paris Review which is one of those great Paris Review interviews about writing and life and approaching the universe.

PHILLIPS: Analysis should do two things that are linked together. It should be about the recovery of appetite, and the need not to know yourself. And these two things--

INTERVIEWER: The need not to know yourself?

PHILLIPS: The need not to know yourself. Symptoms are forms of self-knowledge. When you think, I'm agoraphobic, I'm a shy person, whatever it may be, these are forms of self-knowledge. What psychoanalysis, at its best, does is cure you of your self-knowledge. And of your wish to know yourself in that coherent, narrative way...

I was a child psychotherapist for most of my professional life. One of the things that is interesting about children is how much appetite they have. How much appetite they have--but also how conflicted they can be about their appetites. Anybody who's got young children, or has had them, or was once a young child, will remember that children are incredibly picky about their food. They can go through periods where they will only have an orange peeled in a certain way. Or milk in a certain cup.

INTERVIEWER: And what does that mean?

PHILLIPS: Well, it means different things for different children. One of the things it means is there's something very frightening about one's appetite. So that one is trying to contain a voraciousness in a very specific, limiting, narrowed way. It's as though, were the child not to have the milk in that cup, it would be a catastrophe. And the child is right. It would be a catastrophe, because that specific way, that habit, contains what is felt to be a very fearful appetite. An appetite is fearful because it connects you with the world in very unpredictable ways. Winnicott says somewhere that health is much more difficult to deal with than disease. And he's right, I think, in the sense that everybody is dealing with how much of their own aliveness they can bear and how much they need to anesthetize themselves.

We all have self-cures for strong feeling. Then the self-cure becomes a problem, in the obvious sense that the problem of the alcoholic is not alcohol but sobriety. Drinking becomes a problem, but actually the problem is what's being cured by the alcohol. By the time we're adults, we've all become alcoholics. That's to say, we've all evolved ways of deadening certain feelings and thoughts. One of the reasons we admire or like art, if we do, is that it reopens us in some sense--as Kafka wrote in a letter, art breaks the sea that's frozen inside us. It reminds us of sensitivities that we might have lost at some cost.

Good Morning MinnesotaMay 27 2014

Photographer Alec Soth is interviewed by his young son Gus about his job, art, and leaving his family for work.

This is completely charming and awesome and heartbreaking. (via @polan)

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crownApr 30 2014

I really liked this bit from Rolling Stone's interview with Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin:

Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it's not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn't ask the question: What was Aragorn's tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren't gone -- they're in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?

(via mr)

H.G. Wells interviews Joseph StalinApr 21 2014

In 1934, H.G. Wells interviewed Joseph Stalin. This is how the interview began:

Wells: I am very much obliged to you, Mr Stalin, for agreeing to see me. I was in the United States recently. I had a long conversation with President Roosevelt and tried to ascertain what his leading ideas were. Now I have come to ask you what you are doing to change the world . . .

Stalin: Not so very much.

Wells: I wander around the world as a common man and, as a common man, observe what is going on around me.

Stalin: Important public men like yourself are not "common men". Of course, history alone can show how important this or that public man has been; at all events, you do not look at the world as a "common man".

Wells: I am not pretending humility. What I mean is that I try to see the world through the eyes of the common man, and not as a party politician or a responsible administrator. My visit to the United States excited my mind. The old financial world is collapsing; the economic life of the country is being reorganised on new lines.

Lenin said: "We must learn to do business," learn this from the capitalists. Today the capitalists have to learn from you, to grasp the spirit of Socialism. It seems to me that what is taking place in the United States is a profound reorganisation, the creation of planned, that is, Socialist, economy. You and Roosevelt begin from two different starting points. But is there not a relation in ideas, a kinship of ideas, between Moscow and Washington?

In Washington I was struck by the same thing I see going on here; they are building offices, they are creating a number of state regulation bodies, they are organising a long-needed civil service. Their need, like yours, is directive ability.

Rare interview with Jony IveMar 17 2014

John Arlidge scores a very rare sit-down interview with Apple design chief Jony Ive for Time magazine.

He spent "months and months and months" working out the exact shape of the stand of the desktop iMac computer because "it's very hard to design something that you almost do not see because it just seems so obvious, natural and inevitable". When he has finished a product, even one as fresh and iconic as the white headphones that came with the first iPod, he is haunted by the idea: could I have done it better? "It's an affliction designers are cursed with," Ive frowns.

It was an affliction he shared with Jobs, although he seemed to apply it to everything, with -- almost -- funny consequences. Ive recalls traveling with Jobs. "We'd get to the hotel where we were going, we'd check in and I'd go up to my room. I'd leave my bags by the door. I wouldn't unpack. I'd go and sit on the bed and wait for the inevitable call from Steve: 'Hey Jony, this hotel sucks. let's go.'"

Would have preferred more of the actual interview -- lots of biographical filler in this to make it accessible for the general public -- but there are good bits here and there.

InterviewlyMar 14 2014

Interviewly presents interesting Reddit AMAs in a more readable format. Compare Bill Murray's thread on Reddit to the one on Interviewly.

Bill Murray on Charlie RoseMar 07 2014

If you're reading this site, you'll probably like watching Charlie Rose interview Bill Murray for nearly an hour. The whole thing is available on Hulu (US only):

The video is recent too: Feb 9, 2014. A clip is available on YouTube...check out that leather vest!

And from a different interview with Murray, we learn that everyone has been drinking champagne incorrectly. Here's the Murray method:

I learned how to drink champagne a while ago. But the way I like to drink champagne is I like to make what we call a Montana Cooler, where you buy a case of champagne and you take all the bottles out, and you take all the cardboard out, and you put a garbage bag inside of it, then you put all the bottles back in and then you cover it with ice, and then you wrap it up and you close it. And that will keep it all cold for a weekend and you can drink every single bottle. And the way I like to drink it in a big pint glass with ice. I fill it with ice and I pour the champagne in it, because champagne can never be too cold. And the problem people have with champagne is they drink it and they crash with it, because the sugar content is so high and you get really dehydrated. But if you can get the ice in it, you can drink it supremely cold and at the same time you're getting the melting ice, so it's like a hydration level, and you can stay at this great level for a whole weekend. You don't want to crash. You want to keep that buzz, that bling, that smile.

Buzz on, you crazy diamond!

The sixth extinctionFeb 12 2014

About 250 million years ago, Earth suffered its fifth (and worst) mass extinction event. Nearly seventy percent of land species disappeared. And they got off easy compared to marine species. Are we headed for another mass extinction on Earth? I'm not ready to break that news. But something unusual is definitely going on and extinction rates seem to be speeding up. Here's an interesting chat with Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction.

The worst mass extinction of all time came about 250 million years ago [the Permian-Triassic extinction event]. There's a pretty good consensus there that this was caused by a huge volcanic event that went on for a long time and released a lot of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere. That is pretty ominous considering that we are releasing a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere and people increasingly are drawing parallels between the two events.

Steve McQueen interviews Kanye WestJan 24 2014

I always forget about Interview magazine but I really shouldn't because a) Warhol and b) they consistently pair interesting people together for interviews. Case in point: director Steve McQueen (Shame, 12 Years a Slave, not Bullitt) interviews Kanye West for the Feb 2014 issue.

MCQUEEN: You've been on the scene as an artist now for 10 years, which is impressive, given the level of interest and artistry that you've managed to sustain in your work. In the process, you've become incredibly influential. So you talk about doing all of these other things, which is great, but there's really no amount of money that could make you more influential than you are now. So my question is: What are you going to do with all of the influence that you have right now?

WEST: Well, influence isn't my definition of success-it's a by-product of my creativity. I just want to create more. I would be fine with making less money. I actually spend the majority of my money attempting to create more things. Not buying things or solidifying myself or trying to make my house bigger, or trying to show people how many Louis Vuitton bags I can get, or buying my way to a good seat at the table. My definition of success, again, is getting my ideas out there.

Thanks to Jonathan at The Candler Blog for the pointer; he also notes Glenn Kenny's super-apt comment:

Clearly the problem with most Kanye West interviews up until now has been the interviewer.

What do we know about Bob Dylan?Jan 23 2014

Tom Junod writes about Bob Dylan and what we know and don't know about him and what that says about our ability to know anything about anyone. Maaaaan. *toke*

Bob Dylan is either the most public private man in the world or the most private public one. He has a reputation for being silent and reclusive; he is neither. He has been giving interviews-albeit contentious ones-for as long as he's been making music, and he's been making music for more than fifty years. He's seventy-two years old. He's written one volume of an autobiography and is under contract to write two more. He's hosted his own radio show. He exhibits his paintings and his sculpture in galleries and museums around the world. Ten years ago, he cowrote and starred in a movie, Masked and Anonymous, that was about his own masked anonymity. He is reportedly working on another studio recording, his thirty-sixth, and year after year and night after night he still gets on stage to sing songs unequaled in both their candor and circumspection. Though famous as a man who won't talk, Dylan is and always has been a man who won't shut up.

Studs Terkel interviews Bob DylanJan 08 2014

In 1963, Studs Terkel interviewed a 21-year-old Bob Dylan, before he was famous.

In the spring of 1963 Studs Terkel introduced Chicago radio listeners to an up-and-coming musician, not yet 22 years old, "a young folk poet who you might say looks like Huckleberry Finn, if he lived in the 20th century. His name is Bob Dylan."

Dylan had just finished recording the songs for his second album, "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan", when he traveled from New York to Chicago to play a gig at a little place partly owned by his manager, Albert Grossman, called "The Bear Club". The next day he went to the WFMT studios for the hour-long appearance on "The Studs Terkel Program".

Dangerous Minds has more detail about the interview.

Bob Dylan is a notoriously tough person to interview and that's definitely the case here, even this early in his life as a public persona. On the other hand, Terkel is a veteran interviewer, one of the best ever, and he seems genuinely impressed with the young man who was just 21 at the time and had but one record of mainly covers under his belt. Terkel does a good job of keeping things on track as he expertly gets out of the way and listens while gleaning what he can from his subject. It's an interesting match-up.

Dylan seems at least fairly straightforward about his musical influences. He talks about seeing Woody Guthrie with his uncle when he was ten years old (Is this just mythology? Who knows?), and he mentions Big Joe Williams and Pete Seeger a few times.

Much of the rest is a little trickier. Terkel has to almost beg Dylan to play what turns out to be an earnest, driving version of "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall." Dylan tells Terkel that he'd rather the interviewer "take it off the disc," but relents and does the tune anyways.

(via @mkonnikova)

Tavi interviews LordeJan 03 2014

We may not have our jetpacks and hover cars, but our future-now has given us Tavi Gevinson interviewing Lorde and that's just as good.

Tavi: On that note, you have a very unique way of looking at the suburb where you live, which I think you've called "the Bubble." When did you realize the suburbs could be a source of inspiration?

Lorde: Well...this sounds so lame, but I grew up reading your blog, man! [Laughs]

Tavi: Oh no! "Ugh, that's so LAME, shut up!"

Lorde: [Laughs] But no, I think there is something really cool about that whole Virgin Suicides vibe of making even the bad parts bearable. I hate high school so much, but there's something kind of cool about walking around on the coldest day listening to "Lindisfarne" by James Blake or something and feeling like something has happened, even though it's the worst thing ever. The album The Suburbs by Arcade Fire was influential to me in that as way well. I just think that record is really beautiful and nostalgic and so well-written. It's a super-direct way of talking about what it's like to grow up [in the suburbs], and I think that's quite lovely.

You're asking about stuff I'm not used to talking about in interviews, so I don't have a stock way of driving the question.

Tavi: OK, then: "Do you feel 17?"

Lorde: AGHHHH! What do you even say to that, honestly?

Tavi: It's kind of a trap, because if you say yes you're shitting on their question by making it seem obvious, but if you say no you seem like you think you're older and better.

Lorde: I always get these weird people being like, "Oh, she's growing up way too fast, she looks 30." Oh, god.

Tavi: People always say that. I remember -- not to be all Mother Hen --

Lorde: No, go for it!

Tavi: I remember when people started paying attention to what I was doing, and it was like, "She should be getting knocked up like all the other kids her age!" It's like, you complain when you think teenagers are stupid, and then when they try to do something, you're all, "Oh, they're growing up too fast, they don't know what's good for them."

Lorde: It seems like a double standard to me. And there's another part of it which I find really strange, which is that so many interviewers, even ones that I consider really intelligent and good writers, will do the, like, "Oh, you're not taking your clothes off like Miley Cyrus and all these girls" thing, which to me is just the weirdest thing to say to someone. But then people will say, "She's always talking about being bored, that's petulant," which I feel like is kind of taking the piss out of teenage emotions-just, like, making light of how teenagers feel. When people react that way about things that every teenager experiences, how can you expect to make anything good?

Gay Talese annotates Frank Sinatra Has A ColdOct 08 2013

If you're even a little bit of a magazine nerd, you'll appreciate this: with the help of Elon Green Gay Talese annotates his celebrated celebrity profile, Frank Sinatra Has A Cold.

EG: The punctuated alliteration is gorgeous -- "preened and polished"; "matured" and "molded". How much time would you spend on such a sentence?/eg

GT: Oh, I could spend days. Sometimes these phrases come to you and sometimes they're terrible. Sometimes you think, "Maybe that's okay" and you let it in. I throw a lot of stuff away.

EG: What percentage of what you write for any given story do you get rid of?

GT: More than half. Because it's so easily the case that it's turgid or overwritten.

EG: Do you throw away more now, now that you use a computer?

GT: I don't think so. I've always thrown a lot away, even when I was working on daily deadlines for newspapers. That was really expensive because at the New York Times we were typing what they called a "book" -- it had seven or eight pieces of carbon. A thick thing. If you threw it away, you were destroying 11 cents worth of, well, something.

(via @yayitsrob)

The "gourd pride movement"Oct 07 2013

One of McSweeney's most popular online pieces is Colin Nissan's It's Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers. Its sublime opening paragraph:

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal. I'm about to head up to the attic right now to find that wicker fucker, dust it off, and jam it with an insanely ornate assortment of shellacked vegetables. When my guests come over it's gonna be like, BLAMMO! Check out my shellacked decorative vegetables, assholes. Guess what season it is -- fucking fall. There's a nip in the air and my house is full of mutant fucking squash.

Nissan's piece is included in a new collection and has spawned a collectable mug. Here's a McSweeney's interview with Nissan about the piece and the "the whole gourd pride movement".

McSWEENEY'S: A large part of what makes "Gourds" so funny is the language. Use of F-bombs in humor is sometimes seen as a lazy way to get a reaction from the audience, but here it just works. How do you fucking explain this?

NISSAN: Fudge if I know. It's tricky because properly placed F-bombs really do have the power to work readers up into a lather, but they also have the power to make them think you're a juvenile idiot with a terrible vocabulary. For whatever reason, the swearing worked in this case. I think part of it was the fact that despite the language, the voice in the piece was never really angry or negative, he was just incredibly excited. If he was angry, I actually think the swearing might have turned people off.

The night lightSep 11 2013

Paul Bogard recently published a book on darkness called The End of Night. Nicola Twilley and Geoff Manaugh interviewed Bogard about the book, the night sky, astronomy, security, cities, and prisons, among other things. The interview is interesting throughout but one of my favorite things is this illustration of the Bortle scale.

Bortle Scale

Twilley: It's astonishing to read the description of a Bortle Class 1, where the Milky Way is actually capable of casting shadows!

Bogard: It is. There's a statistic that I quote, which is that eight of every ten kids born in the United States today will never experience a sky dark enough to see the Milky Way. The Milky Way becomes visible at 3 or 4 on the Bortle scale. That's not even down to a 1. One is pretty stringent. I've been in some really dark places that might not have qualified as a 1, just because there was a glow of a city way off in the distance, on the horizon. You can't have any signs of artificial light to qualify as a Bortle Class 1.

A Bortle Class 1 is so dark that it's bright. That's the great thing-the darker it gets, if it's clear, the brighter the night is. That's something we never see either, because it's so artificially bright in all the places we live. We never see the natural light of the night sky.

I can also recommend reading David Owen's 2007 NYer piece on light pollution.

Feeding the Tour de France ridersJul 17 2013

Hannah Grant, a chef who used to work for highly influential Noma (among other places), is now the chef for the Saxo-Tinkoff cycling team currently competing in the Tour de France. She cooks for the entire team out of a food truck.

First of all, I set the menu. I mean, they can request stuff, the riders, if they want. I'll note it and I'll do it if it's possible. But, obviously, then there's rules to how to assemble the menu. Today's a rest day, so we do a low-carb lunch for them. They're not going so far, they just want to keep their legs going, so we don't want to fill them up too much. And we don't want to go too hard on the carbs so they don't gain weight.

Then we have a philosophy of using lots of vegetables, proteins, and cold-pressed fats, and then we use a lot of gluten-free alternatives. So we try to encourage the riders to try other things than just pasta and bread. I do gluten-free breads as well.

It's all to minimize all the little things that can stop you from performing 100 percent, that promote injuries, stomach problems, all those things. So that's a big difference (from cooking in a restaurant), because I have to follow all those rules. I can't just cook whatever I think is amazing. It has to be within those guidelines.

Then I take it as my personal job to take these guidelines and then make an incredible product from it, so they don't feel like they're missing out on things. It shouldn't be a punishment to travel with a kitchen truck and a chef who cooks you food that's good for you.

Grant's cooking seems to be paying off for the team...Saxo-Tinkoff currently has two riders in the top five and is in second place overall in the team classification. (via @sampotts)

Kuwait's booming Instagram economyJul 12 2013

In Kuwait, people sell all sorts of stuff on Instagram, using the service as a visually oriented mobile storefront instead of using a web site or something like eBay. From an interview with artist/musician Fatima Al Qadiri:

BR: Kuwait is a crazy mix: a super-affluent country, yet basically a welfare state, though with a super neo-liberal consumer economy.

FQ: We consume vast amounts of everything. Instagram businesses are a big thing in Kuwait.

BR: What's an Instagram business?

FQ: If you have an Instagram account, you can slap a price tag on anything, take a picture of it, and sell it. For instance, you could take this can of San Pellegrino, paint it pink, put a heart on it, call it yours, and declare it for sale. Even my grandmother has an Instagram business! She sells dried fruit. A friend's cousin is selling weird potted plants that use Astroturf. People are creating, you know, hacked products.

I dug up a few examples: Manga Box is an Instagram storefront selling manga (contact via WhatsApp to buy), Sondos Makeup advertises makeup services (WhatsApp for appts.), sheeps_sell sells sheep, and store & more is an account selling women's fashion items. There was even an Insta-Business Expo held in April about Instagram businesses.

The Entrepreneurship and Business Club of the American University of Kuwait is holding an "INSTA BUSINESS EXPO" which will consist of all your favorite and newest popular entrepreneurs that grew their businesses through Instagram. Not only that, there will be guest speakers by Entrepreneurs that made it through Instagram as well!

(via @cmchap)

A man and his talking houseJul 11 2013

Tom Coates has outfitted his house with technology that allows him to control the lights, heat, etc. but also gives him all sorts of feedback directed to an iPhone app and a public Twitter feed. Derek Powazek interviewed Coates about his setup.

I also have a WeMo motion sensor in my sitting room that looks for movement. When it notices some movement, it posts an @-reply to me on Twitter, so I get notified wherever I am pretty much immediately. It asks me if I'm in the Sitting Room. I often find myself replying to the house. It feels rude not to.

If I'm not in the house and I get a message like this, then I can check on who is in my house by using my Dropcam. This is a little off-the-shelf product that costs about $200. I can, again, view the video feed from it on my iPhone. If it's dark, I can turn on night vision, or (of course) I can just turn on the lights from anywhere using my WeMo set-up.

By the big plant in my Sitting Room, I have a Twine. This is a slightly odd little product from a company called Supermechanical. They were a Kickstarter project. It's essentially a little battery-powered box with a couple of inbuilt sensors in it and a port for plugging in a few others. I use it for capturing the temperature of my house, vibration, and whether or not the plant has been watered recently. I have the temperature set up so that it tweets when the house crosses a threshold - allowing it to narrate when it gets too hot or too cold. I have the vibration sensor set up to shout at me if there's an earthquake, but often it just gets confused when someone slams down on the sofa too hard.

You listen to this man every dayJun 27 2013

From the beginning, all I've ever cared about is things being great. I never cared about when they were done. Because I also feel like I want the music to last forever. And once you release it, you can't go back and fix it, so you really have to get it right. And that takes time.

A chat with Rick Rubin. You may not know the name, but you definitely know the music (and you'll probably never forget the beard).

Louis Armstrong on keeping up his chopsJun 26 2013

In 1964, when they were teenagers at New Trier High School near Chicago, Michael Aisner and James Stein interviewed Louis Armstrong backstage at one of his concerts. In his boxers.

You can't take it for granted. Even if we have two, three days off I still have to blow that horn a few hours to keep up the chops. I mean I've been playing 50 years, and that's what I've been doing in order to keep in that groove there.

Aisner also interviewed Muhammed Ali a couple years later.

Kanye West is a confident gentlemanJun 12 2013

Jon Caramanica talks with Kanye West about his work, his past, his impending child, and all sorts of other things in the NY Times. I started pulling interesting quotes but stopped when I realized that I was copy/pasting like 96% of the article. So, you only get two:

I sat down with a clothing guy that I won't mention, but hopefully if he reads this article, he knows it's him and knows that out of respect, I didn't mention his name: this guy, he questioned me before I left his office:, "If you've done this, this, and this, why haven't you gone further in fashion?" And I say, "I'm learning." But ultimately, this guy that was talking to me doesn't make Christmas presents, meaning that nobody was asking for his [stuff] as a Christmas present. If you don't make Christmas presents, meaning making something that's so emotionally connected to people, don't talk to me.

And I don't want to ruin the amazing last few paragraphs, but I just had to include this:

I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it's like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.

Steven Soderbergh on quitting the movie bizJan 29 2013

Director Steven Soderbergh is not making any more Hollywood movies and plans to focus on his painting, importing Bolivian liquor, reading more, and doing more theater/TV. This conversation with him is informative and delightful.

On the few occasions where I've talked to film students, one of the things I stress, in addition to learning your craft, is how you behave as a person. For the most part, our lives are about telling stories. So I ask them, "What are the stories you want people to tell about you?" Because at a certain point, your ability to get a job could turn on the stories people tell about you. The reason [then-Universal Pictures chief] Casey Silver put me up for [1998's] Out of Sight after I'd had five flops in a row was because he liked me personally. He also knew I was a responsible filmmaker, and if I got that job, the next time he'd see me was when we screened the movie. If I'm an asshole, then I don't get that job. Character counts. That's a long way of saying, "If you can be known as someone who can attract talent, that's a big plus."

(thx, david)

My Design Matters interviewJan 07 2013

Debbie Millman interviewed me for her Design Matters podcast the other day. Spoiler: we did not actually talk much about design.

Wes Anderson on Star Wars, Bill Murray, and his new movieJan 02 2013

A nice interview with Wes Anderson. He discusses how he got his start in filmmaking, his prospects as the director of the next Star Wars movie, and his new film with Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

DEADLINE: Star Wars was among the films that influenced you early on. What would the world get if Wes Anderson signed on to direct one of these new Star Wars films Disney will make?

ANDERSON: Well I have a feeling I would probably ultimately get replaced on the film because I don't' know if I have all the right action chops. But at least I know the characters from the old films.

DEADLINE: You are not doing a good job of selling yourself as a maker of blockbusters.

ANDERSON: I think you are reading it exactly right. I don't think I would do a terrible job at a Han Solo backstory. I could do that pretty well. But maybe that would be better as a short.

Another great Bill Murray storyDec 30 2012

The internet is awash in great Bill Murray stories, but this one might be one of the very best. From the middle of an AV Club interview with Kelly Lynch in October:

AVC: It seems like your sex scene in [Road House] must be one of the most uncomfortable in cinematic history, being up against a rock wall and all.

KL: Oh, I know, but I was padded. [Laughs.] No one knows, so it looks more painful that it was. They really liked everything about the way that scene looked, with the blonde hair against the rocks behind me, but I was like, "Isn't this kind of... mean?" So they put a thin padding under my dress, so you can't see it. But he's still slamming me against the rocks, so I had to be careful not to hit my head. Thank God Patrick was so strong. He could've carried me around that room forever.

By the way, speaking of Bill Murray, every time Road House is on and he or one of his idiot brothers are watching TV -- and they're always watching TV -- one of them calls my husband and says [In a reasonable approximation of Carl Spackler], "Kelly's having sex with Patrick Swayze right now. They're doing it. He's throwing her against the rocks." [Away from the receiver.] What? Oh, my God. Mitch was just walking out the door to the set, and he said that Bill once called him from Russia.

AVC: Sorry, not to dwell on this, but you said that Bill Murray "or one of his idiot brothers" will call. Which brothers are we talking about?

KL: All of them! Joel has called; Brian Doyle has called. They will all call! Any and all of them!

AVC: This was already an awesome story, but now it's even better.

KL: I know, right? I dread it. If I know it's coming on -- and I can tell when it's coming on, because it blows up on Twitter when it is -- I'm just like, "Oh, my God..." And God help me when AMC's doing their Road House marathon, because I know the phone is just going to keep ringing. It doesn't matter if it's 2 or 3 in morning. "Hi, Kelly's having sex with Patrick Swayze right now..."

(via @mathowie)

Woody Allen answers 12 unusual questionsNov 29 2012

Filmmaker Robert Weide asks Woody Allen 12 questions that he's never been asked before.

I am surprised that he would choose sporting events over movies, but as he says, he's seen 'em all at this point. Weide directed the excellent documentary on Allen, which is available on DVD or streaming at Amazon. (via viewsource)

Another unconventional interview with Bill MurrayNov 28 2012

Dave Itzkoff went to interview Bill Murray for the NY Times on the occasion of the release of his new film, Hyde Park on Hudson, in which Murray plays Franklin D. Roosevelt. Itzkoff was expecting just a normal interview but, due to a scheduling problem, ended up accompanying Murray on stage at an evening appearance and continued the interview in front of members of the Screen Actors Guild.

Mr. Murray, having changed his shirt but still in the blue shorts, leaves the hotel and boards a chauffeured S.U.V., where the conversation continues.

Q. It sounds as if you also wanted to convey Roosevelt's voice as much as his physical presence.

A. We had a discussion about it, and we agreed that you don't want to do an impression. You want to get it in you, and then you want to play -- [The car is suddenly cut off by another vehicle.] That person was insane. [To his driver] Well-avoided, Mustafa. But you can bump her now. She's got it coming.

Lost radio interview with Muhammad Ali from 1966Sep 19 2012

From Blank on Blank, a great archive of lost interviews, a 1966 interview with Muhammad Ali conducted by Michael Aisner, then a high school student near Chicago.

From inside the club, Aisner and his friend watched out the front window as Ali screetched up in a red Cadillac convertible, parked in front of a fire hydrant, and jumped over the car door.

For the next 20 minutes, Ali talked boxing, footwork, why he wanted to fight -- and launched into an epic, unprompted riff about traveling to Mars and fighting for the intergalactic boxing title. All went smoothly -- until Aisner realized he'd forgot to turn on the tape recorder.

"I was mortified," he says. "I said, 'Champ, do you think you could do that again?'"

The champ obliged.

(via @LTBelcher)

Sex, lies, and Park SlopeAug 24 2012

You may have read Amy Sohn's piece in The Awl last month about Park Slope's sexynaughty parents.

When "Girls" hit this spring, I was shocked by how true the show rang to my life -- not my old life as a post-collegiate single girl but my new one, as a married, monogamous, home-owning mother. My generation of moms isn't getting shocking HPV news (we're so old we've cleared it), or having anal sex with near-strangers, or smoking crack in Bushwick. But we're masturbating excessively, cheating on good people, doing coke in newly price-inflated townhouses, and sexting compulsively -- though rarely with our partners. Our children now school-aged, our marriages entering their second decade, we are avoiding the big questions -- Should I quit my job? Have another child? Divorce? -- by behaving like a bunch of crazy twentysomething hipsters. Call us the Regressives.

Jake Dobkin interviewed Sohn about the piece and her new book for Gothamist. Well, he attempted to anyway.

Can I suggest that maybe you're just hanging out with the wrong group of people? I mean, if everyone around you is throwing back Xanax and raw-dogging it just to FEEL SOMETHING and then having unplanned kids because they're too stupid to use birth control, is it possible it's not Park Slope's fault, and rather, it might be hanging around with really immature people?

(via @djacobs)

The inspiration for Heath Ledger's JokerJul 30 2012

In 1979, singer Tom Waits appeared on The Don Lane Show in Australia. As you will soon be able to see (the action starts at 1:30), his appearance was likely the basis for Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight.

Holy, uh, Batman, Batman!

The invention of lunchJul 27 2012

Nicola Twilley of Edible Geography interviews Laura Shapiro and Rebecca Federman, curators of the NYPL's Lunch Hour NYC exhibition, about how lunch became a meal and what the city had to do with it.

Sliced wrapped bread first appeared in 1930, and that became the sandwich standard right away. They had the slicing technology before then, but they didn't have the wrapping technology and the two had to go together.

Before sliced bread, the lunch literature is full of advice on social distinctions and the thickness of bread in sandwiches. You slice it very thick and you leave the crusts on if you're giving them to workers, but for ladies, it should be extremely, extremely thin. Women's magazines actually published directions on how to get your bread slices thin enough for a ladies lunch. You butter the cut side of the loaf first, and then slice as close to the butter as you possibly can.

Miles Davis' blind listening testJul 23 2012

As part of an interview by Down Beat Magazine in 1964, Miles Davis listened to a bunch of unknown music in a blind listening test and offered his opinions.

What am I supposed to say to that? That's ridiculous. You see the way they can fuck up music? It's a mismatch. They don't complement each other. Max and Mingus can play together, by themselves. Mingus is a hell of a bass player, and Max is a hell of a drummer. But Duke can't play with them, and they can't play with Duke.

Now, how are you going to give a thing like that some stars? Record companies should be kicked in the ass. Somebody should take a picket sign and picket the record company.

Double FeatureJul 10 2012

NY Magazine has recent interviews with two of the bigger American filmmakers in the last couple decades, Spike Lee and Oliver Stone.

Will Leitch talks to Spike Lee about about movies, Brooklyn, and Barack & Michelle:

When he was sizing Michelle up, this fine woman, he said, "How am I going to impress her?" I always kid him, good thing he didn't choose motherfucking Driving Miss Daisy or she would have dumped his ass right there.

And then in an interview by Matt Zoller Seitz, Oliver Stone talks about process:

It's very intense, and ultimately very painful. I've actually done some acting, but I'm not talking about that. I'm using acting as a metaphor. For me, filmmaking is like acting, in the way that it takes over you. It becomes part of you. The role, the lines, the personality of the character -- it's all in you. It's in your dreams. You think about the character without meaning to, in your sleep. I compare the process to acting because of that quality of immersion, that attempt to internalize the material and become the story. If the attempt is successful, the result is a good or at least an interesting film. But once it's done, it's over, and the actor goes back to being himself.

Edward Burtynsky has a droneJul 02 2012

In an interview with Nicola Twilley and Geoff Manaugh, photographer Edward Burtynsky talks about his use of film and drones, his current big project photographing water, and the challenges of finding ways to photograph the ubiquitous.

I'd say, actually, that I've been careful not to frame the work in an activist or political kind of way. That would be too restrictive in terms of how the work can be used in society and how it can be interpreted. I see the work as being a bit like a Rorschach test. If you see an oil field and you see industrial heroism, then perhaps you're some kind of entrepreneur in the oil business and you're thinking, "That's great! That's money being made there!" But, if you're somebody from Greenpeace or whatever, you're going to see it very differently. Humans can really reveal themselves through what they choose to see as the most important or meaningful detail in an image.

Burtynsky is a favorite around these parts.

Rare audio interview with Stanley KubrickJun 18 2012

Stanley Kubrick didn't give long interviews...or didn't like giving them anyway. But Jeremy Bernstein convinced him to sit down for one, perhaps because Kubrick was a huge chess nerd and Bernstein played chess seriously. So the two of them did this hour-long interview in 1965 that resulted in this New Yorker piece about his life, films, and the then in-production 2001.

During our conversation, I happened to mention that I had just been in Washington Square Park playing chess. He asked me who I had been playing with, and I described the Master. Kubrick recognized him immediately. I had been playing a good deal with the Master, and my game had improved to the point where I was almost breaking even with him, so I was a little stunned to learn that Kubrick had played the Master on occasion, and that in his view the Master was a potzer. Kubrick went on to say that he loved playing chess, and added, "How about a little game right now?" By pleading another appointment, I managed to stave off the challenge.

(via open culture)

Bill Murray interview in EsquireJun 04 2012

If you're like me, you can read interviews with Bill Murray all day long. Here, go nuts.

When I work, my first relationship with people is professional. There are people who want to be your friend right away. I say, "We're not gonna be friends until we get this done. If we don't get this done, we're never going to be friends, because if we don't get the job done, then the one thing we did together that we had to do together we failed." People confuse friendship and relaxation. It's incredibly important to be relaxed -- you don't have a chance if you're not relaxed. So I try very hard to relax any kind of tension. But friendship is different.

And when you're done with that, Aaron Cohen dug up a dozen more Murray longreads.

New Dave Eggers novel: A Hologram for the KingJun 04 2012

Dave Eggers' new novel, A Hologram for the King, is due out later this month and Stephen Elliott has an interview with the author over at The Rumpus.

He's trying to sell IT to the King of Saudi Arabia, with telepresence technology as a lure. It's basically a way to have long-distance meetings using holograms. And Alan really doesn't know what he's doing. He's like a lot of men of his generation, who were trained to sell things, to make deals over dinner, golf courses, all that. But now things are very different, and he's adrift. I have a lot of friends who work in management and consulting and manufacturing, and they talk a lot about men like Alan, and what to do with them. Their modes of working are sometimes outdated, and they're hard to hire because they're very expensive. Alan's surrounded by young people who know more about IT than he does, who work cheaper, and who assume all things are made in China. They would never see it as fiscally plausible to hire someone like Alan. He costs too much and in Alan's case, comes with a lot of baggage.

Interview with a safecrackerMay 30 2012

From McSweeney's Interviews With People Who Have Interesting or Unusual Jobs series, a brief interview with a professional safecracker.

Q: Do you ever look inside?

A: I NEVER look. It's none of my business. Involving yourself in people's private affairs can lead to being subpoenaed in a lawsuit or criminal trial. Besides, I'd prefer not knowing about a client's drug stash, personal porn, or belly button lint collection.

When I'm done I gather my tools and walk to the truck to write my invoice. Sometimes I'm out of the room before they open it. I don't want to be nearby if there is a booby trap.

How the 30 Rock sausage is madeMay 22 2012

This long four-part interview of 30 Rock show runner Robert Carlock at the AV Club is, as mentioned, long but worth reading if you're into TV or 30 Rock. Part one covers season one & and part of two, and part two walks us through part of season two & season three.

[Jerry Seinfeld's] people and NBC were talking at a very high level about promoting Bee Movie, and they were encouraging us to use him. We were really eager to do anything we could to continue our life writing the show, in part, at that point, because we'd really fallen in love with writing it. I will never have another opportunity to write for those people again. Writing a half-hour for Alec Baldwin is insane. And to work with Tina. A lot of the things this show has done, like product integration and guest stars, is partly to give NBC the fewest number of excuses possible to get rid of us. If they're saying, "We'll promote you. Have Seinfeld on," and we all love Seinfeld, we'll sit down and try to find a way to do it on our terms-much like product integration, where every time we've done it, we've had the luxury of being able to call it out or mock it or integrate it. This past live show had a couple of P.I. things in it, because that was so much about television that you're able to do it. We were happy to have Jerry come on the show, and he shot 10 pages in a very long day. We usually shoot six or seven pages, so it was a real burden.

Parts three & four to come. (via @khoi)

Fincher, designer, typographer, spyMar 06 2012

The Art of the Title has an interview with David Fincher, creative director Tim Miller, and designer Neil Kellerhouse about the opening title sequence of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

We were exploring things like, 'How shiny should the skin be? How visceral and uncomfortable can we make it? How abstract can we get? Is that a flower? Is it a vagina?' -- that sort of thing.

During David's visits to the studio we would brace for impact, because he has a reputation for being incredibly picky. The first time I met him, I asked one of his friends, 'How picky is David?' And he said, 'You've heard of pixel fuckers? Well David breaks each pixel down to its separate RGB components and fucks them one at a time.' So there was some fear every time we would send something in, but 99% of the time we were just told to keep going.

(via @capndesign)

A pair of recent interviewsJan 30 2012

Five Minutes on The Verge: Jason Kottke:

Then it's eight more-or-less solid hours of ass-in-chair because surprisingly, that's the way stuff gets done.

The Setup: An interview with Jason Kottke:

My white desk doesn't work so well with the optical mouse, so for some dumb reason I'm using a 242-page book called Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer as a mousepad.

Bill Clinton interviewedJan 19 2012

From the February 2012 issue of Esquire, an interview with former President Bill Clinton about the current political and governmental landscape in America.

One of the real dilemmas we have in our country and around the world is that what works in politics is organization and conflict. That is, drawing the sharp distinctions. But in real life, what works is networks and cooperation. And we need victories in real life, so we've got to get back to networks and cooperation, not just conflict. But politics has always been about conflict, and in the coverage of politics, information dissemination tends to be organized around conflict as well. It is extremely personal now, and you see in these primaries that the more people agree with each other on the issues, the more desperate they are to make the clear distinctions necessary to win, so the deeper the knife goes in.

Interview with top chess player Magnus CarlsenJan 13 2012

I don't particularly follow chess or play the game, but I'm fascinated by Magnus Carlsen. This line from him about how he approaches the game is great:

Having preferences means having weaknesses.

Woz talks about JobsOct 12 2011

Dan Lyons posted the notes of a long conversation he had with Steve Wozniak last week. Lots of Apple history and prehistory...I didn't know, for instance, that Woz designed the Apple I before Jobs was involved.

I was highly regarded for my engineering skills. But I never wanted money. I would have been a bad person to run a company. I wanted to be a nice guy. I wanted to make friends with everybody. Yes I came up with the idea for the personal computer but I don't want to be known as a guy who changed the world. I want to be known as an engineer who connected chips in a really efficient way or wrote code that is unbelievable. I want to be known as a great engineer. I'm thankful Steve Jobs was there. You need someone who has a spirit for the marketplace. Who has the spirit for who computers change humanity. I didn't design the Apple II for a company. I designed it for myself, to show off. I look at all the recent Apple products, like the iPhone, the iPad, and even Pixar, and it was like everything Steve worked on had to be perfect. Because it was him. Every product he created was Steve Jobs.

And Woz is *still* an Apple employee! He makes $100 a week. (via stellar)

The TalksJun 23 2011

A new interview site launched yesterday with an impressive roster out of the gate, including Mick Jagger, Sofia Coppola, and Mike Tyson.

I read Playboy.com for the Miles Davis articlesJun 09 2011

From 1962, Alex Haley interviews Miles Davis for Playboy magazine.

Why is it that people just have to have so much to say about me? It bugs me because I'm not that important. Some critic that didn't have nothing else to do started this crap about I don't announce numbers, I don't look at the audience, I don't bow or talk to people, I walk off the stage, and all that.

Look, man, all I am is a trumpet player. I only can do one thing -- play my horn -- and that's what's at the bottom of the whole mess. I ain't no entertainer, and ain't trying to be one. I am one thing, a musician. Most of what's said about me is lies in the first place. Everything I do, I got a reason.

The article is SFW but the ads are NSFW...here's a completely SFW version.

Harvard dropouts, 40 years laterJun 06 2011

Harvard tracked down three people who dropped out of the school in the late 60s to see what had happened to them in the meantime.

"I knew I didn't want to do city planning, to play in that bureaucratic world," he continues. "I also knew that if I stayed another semester they would hand me a diploma, and that diploma is going to open a whole lot of doors that I don't want to go through. And I know that I am not real strong, and if I have that key, at some point I'm going to be seduced and want to go through one of those doors. So by not having the diploma, I will remove the temptation. That actually worked out very well, because I was tempted, more than once."

That's from a man who became a world-renowned knife expert.

Gene Hackman interviewJun 02 2011

A short interview with Gene Hackman in GQ...he says he's done with acting.

GQ: Sum up your life in a phrase.
Hackman: "He tried." I think that'd be fairly accurate.

A rare interview with Stephen HawkingMay 09 2011

Claudia Dreifus of the NY Times scores a rare interview with Stephen Hawking. The ten questions were sent to him in advance and then he met with Dreifus in person to play his answers for her.

Q. Given all you've experienced, what words would you offer someone who has been diagnosed with a serious illness, perhaps A.L.S.?

A. My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.

Audio clips of some of his answers are available in the article's sidebar. Interestingly, despite the advances in text-to-speech audio and upgrades to his writing hardware & software, Hawking's voice remains the same.

Jay-Z and Gwyneth interview each otherApr 12 2011

They each have a personal brand web site -- Gwyneth has GOOP and Jay-Z has the recently launched Life + Times -- so they recently decided to interview each other about that. Here's Z Qing G:

SC: Personally I was very surprised at your extensive knowledge of hip-hop songs. Particularly how you can sing '90s hip-hip songs word for word. I can't even do that! How does a girl from Spence discover hip-hop?

GP: I first was exposed to hip-hop when I was about 16 (1988) by some boys who went to collegiate. The Beastie Boys were sort of the way in for us preppie kids. We were into Public Enemy, Run-DMC and LL Cool J. But then I went to LA the summer between my junior and senior year of high school and I discovered N.W.A which became my obsession. I was fascinated by lyrics as rythym and how Dre had a such different cadence and perspective from say, Eazy-E, who I thought was one of the most ironic and brilliant voices hip-hop has ever had. It was an accident that I learned every word of Straight Outta Compton and to love something that a.) I had no real understanding of in terms of the culture that it was emanating from and b.) to love something that my parents literally could not grasp. But I was hooked. I can't remember what I ate for dinner last night but I could sing to you every single word of N.W.A's "Fuck Tha Police" or [Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock's] "It Takes Two." Go figure.

And here's G Qing Z:

GP: You are the coolest man on Earth, how the f did you get like that?

SC: I'm around great women, starting with my mom. Women keep men cool. The hotter the chick the cooler the guy ... that sounds like a really bad rap line!

What a couple of huge cornballs! And I mean that in the best way possible.

Long Chris Ware interviewMar 22 2011

This is the first part of a four-part interview with Chris Ware, in which he discusses comics, working, and family. Ware on becoming a father:

Yeah, it kind of fixed every mental problem that I had within an hour. So I highly recommend it if anybody out there is thinking of having children, you should really, I mean, it's the only reason we're here, and if you have any doubts in your mind about yourself or where your life is going, it'll be answered easily and almost instantaneously. It's a clich'e to say, but it also immediately sets you aside from yourself and you're no longer the star of your own mind, which is really not a very good state of mind to be in. Unfortunately, in my country it is one that seems to be encouraged until about the age of 60 or something, now. I really think the main export of America is this sort of fountain of youth that we somehow manage to tap into, like with pop music -- it's not out of the question to see 50-year-old men still dressing like teenagers and I just feel like, "What happened?" It's like we won World War II and now we can be idiots for the rest of time.

I don't know about an hour, but yeah, similar experience here. Here's part 2, part 3, and part 4.

How much is a planet worth?Feb 04 2011

Over at Boing Boing, Lee Billings has an interview with Greg Laughlin, an astrophysicist who recently came up with an equation for estimating the value of planets, a sort of Drake equation for cosmic economics.

This equation's initial purpose, he wrote, was to put meaningful prices on the terrestrial exoplanets that Kepler was bound to discover. But he soon found it could be used equally well to place any planet-even our own-in a context that was simultaneously cosmic and commercial. In essence, you feed Laughlin's equation some key parameters -- a planet's mass, its estimated temperature, and the age, type, and apparent brightness of its star -- and out pops a number that should, Laughlin says, equate to cold, hard cash.

At the time, the exoplanet Gliese 581 c was thought to be the most Earth-like world known beyond our solar system. The equation said it was worth a measly $160. Mars fared better, priced at $14,000. And Earth? Our planet's value emerged as nearly 5 quadrillion dollars. That's about 100 times Earth's yearly GDP, and perhaps, Laughlin thought, not a bad ballpark estimate for the total economic value of our world and the technological civilization it supports.

Liquid sculptureDec 21 2010

Shinchi Maruyama throws water from his hands or from glasses and catches the temporary sculptures they make with his camera.

The Morning News has an interview with Maruyama and a photo gallery of his work; this one is really cool.

TGI Friday's, the first singles barNov 26 2010

Over at Edible Geography, Nicola Twilley has a fascinating interview with Alan Stillman, the founder of TGI Friday's and Smith & Wollensky. Stillman started Friday's because, essentially, he was interested in meeting girls.

I wanted T.G.I. Friday's to feel like a neighbourhood, corner bar, where you could get a good hamburger, good french fries, and feel comfortable. At the time, it was a sophisticated hamburger and french fry place -- apparently, I invented the idea of serving burgers on a toasted English muffin -- but the principle involved was to make people feel that they were going to someone's apartment for a cocktail party.

The food eventually played a larger role than I imagined it would, because a lot of the girls didn't have enough money to stretch from one paycheque to the other, so I became the purveyor of free hamburgers at the end of the month.

I don't think there was anything else like it at the time. Before T.G.I. Friday's, four single twenty-five year-old girls were not going out on Friday nights, in public and with each other, to have a good time. They went to people's apartments for cocktail parties or they might go to a real restaurant for a date or for somebody's birthday, but they weren't going out with each other to a bar for a casual dinner and drinks because there was no such place for them to go.

The anthropology of trashNov 04 2010

An interesting interview with the anthropologist-in-residence of the NYC Department of Sanitation.

The money set aside for street cleaning was going into the pockets of the Tweed and Tammany politicians. Eventually, it got to be that it was so dirty for so long, no one thought that it could be any different. Imagine, on your own block, that you can't cross the street, even at the corner, without paying a street kid with a broom to clear a path for you, because the streets were layered in this sludge of manure, rotting vegetables, ash, broken up furniture, debris of all kind. It was called "corporation pudding" after the city government. And it was deep -- in some cases knee-deep.

The Super Mario Bros infinite 1-upOct 28 2010

In a recent interview for the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., Mario's baby daddy Shigeru Miyamoto revealed that the infinite 1-up trick was included in the game on purpose but that the minus world was a bug.

"We did code the game so that a trick like that would be possible," Miyamoto revealed. "We tested it out extensively to figure out how possible pulling the trick off should be and came up with how it is now, but people turned out to be a lot better at pulling the trick off for ages on end than we thought." What about the famed Minus World? "That's a bug, yes, but it's not like it crashes the game, so it's really kind of a feature, too!"

Steve Jobs and "the bicycle for the mind"Oct 15 2010

I enjoyed this extensive interview with John Sculley about his time at Apple (he was CEO from 83-93) because of 1) his insight into Steve Jobs' way of thinking, 2) his willingness to talk about his mistakes, and 3) his insights about business in general...he gives Jobs a lot of credit but Sculley is clearly no slouch. Some high points:

[Jobs] felt that the computer was going to change the world and it was going to become what he called "the bicycle for the mind."

On the small size of teams actually building products:

Normally you will only see a handful of software engineers who are building an operating system. People think that it must be hundreds and hundreds working on an operating system. It really isn't. It's really just a small team of people. Think of it like the atelier of an artist.

Sculley was president of Pepsi before coming to Apple:

We did some research and we discovered that when people were going to serve soft drinks to a friend in their home, if they had Coca Cola in the fridge, they would go out to the kitchen, open the fridge, take out the Coke bottle, bring it out, put it on the table and pour a glass in front of their guests.

If it was a Pepsi, they would go out in to the kitchen, take it out of the fridge, open it, and pour it in a glass in the kitchen, and only bring the glass out. The point was people were embarrassed to have someone know that they were serving Pepsi. Maybe they would think it was Coke because Coke had a better perception. It was a better necktie. Steve was fascinated by that.

On why he should not have been hired as Apple's CEO:

The reason why I said it was a mistake to have hired me as CEO was Steve always wanted to be CEO. It would have been much more honest if the board had said, "Let's figure out a way for him to be CEO. You could focus on the stuff that you bring and he focuses on the stuff he brings."

Remember, he was the chairman of the board, the largest shareholder and he ran the Macintosh division, so he was above me and below me.

After Jobs left, Sculley tried to run the company as Jobs would have:

All the design ideas were clearly Steve's. The one who should really be given credit for all that stuff while I was there is really Steve. [...] Unfortunately, I wasn't as good at it as he was.

And finally, Sculley and Jobs probably haven't spoken since Jobs left the company:

He won't talk to me, so I don't know.

Jobs is pulling a page from the Don Draper playbook here. In season two, Don tells mental hospital patient Peggy:

Peggy listen to me, get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.

Maybe Jobs is still pissed at Sculley and holds a grudge or whatever, but it seems more likely that looking backwards is something that Jobs simply doesn't do. Move forward, Steve.

Obama, the Rolling Stone interviewSep 29 2010

Long interview with Barack Obama in Rolling Stone. Most of it is politics, but they also discussed music.

My iPod now has about 2,000 songs, and it is a source of great pleasure to me. I am probably still more heavily weighted toward the music of my childhood than I am the new stuff. There's still a lot of Stevie Wonder, a lot of Bob Dylan, a lot of Rolling Stones, a lot of R&B, a lot of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Those are the old standards.

A lot of classical music. I'm not a big opera buff in terms of going to opera, but there are days where Maria Callas is exactly what I need.

Thanks to Reggie [Love, the president's personal aide], my rap palate has greatly improved. Jay-Z used to be sort of what predominated, but now I've got a little Nas and a little Lil Wayne and some other stuff, but I would not claim to be an expert. Malia and Sasha are now getting old enough to where they start hipping me to things. Music is still a great source of joy and occasional solace in the midst of what can be some difficult days.

Roger Ebert talks with Errol MorrisSep 17 2010

Roger Ebert recently sat down with Errol Morris to talk about his new movie, Tabloid, and a bunch of other stuff. The interview is presented as a series of eight YouTube videos. In this one, he talks about how he got started writing his blog for The NY Times and how that helped him get over his 30-year struggle with writer's block:

He's working on a seventeen-part article about a murder case for the blog. Seventeen parts!

Zuckerberg and Style Rookie and DysonSep 13 2010

The New Yorker has a trio of interesting articles in their most recent issue for the discerning web/technology lady or gentlemen. First is a lengthy profile of Mark Zuckerberg, the quite private CEO of Facebook who doesn't believe in privacy.

Zuckerberg may seem like an over-sharer in the age of over-sharing. But that's kind of the point. Zuckerberg's business model depends on our shifting notions of privacy, revelation, and sheer self-display. The more that people are willing to put online, the more money his site can make from advertisers. Happily for him, and the prospects of his eventual fortune, his business interests align perfectly with his personal philosophy. In the bio section of his page, Zuckerberg writes simply, "I'm trying to make the world a more open place."

The second is a profile of Tavi Gevinson (sub. required), who you may know as the youngster behind Style Rookie.

Tavi has an eye for frumpy, "Grey Gardens"-inspired clothes and for arch accessories, and her taste in designers runs toward the cerebral. From the beginning, her blog had an element of mystery: is it for real? And how did a thirteen-year-old suburban kid develop such a singular look? Her readership quickly grew to fifty thousand daily viewers and won the ear of major designers.

And C, John Seabrook has a profile of James Dyson (sub. required), he of the unusual vacuum cleaners, unusual hand dryers, and the unusual air-circulating fan.

In the fall of 2002, the British inventor James Dyson entered the U.S. market with an upright vacuum cleaner, the Dyson DC07. Dyson was the product's designer, engineer, manufacturer, and pitchman. The price was three hundred and ninety-nine dollars. Not only did the Dyson cost much more than most machines sold at retail but it was made almost entirely out of plastic. In the most perverse design decision of all, Dyson let you see the dirt as you collected it, in a clear plastic bin in the machine's midsection.

Interview with the @BPGlobalPR guySep 13 2010

Remember the @BPGlobalPR Twitter account that sharply lampooned BP's response to their oil disaster in the Gulf? Mat Honan has an interview with the person responsible. (And it's not Mike Monteiro.)

The idea was mine, and all the long form writing, talks, and speeches were me. But a lot of tweets -- a lot of my favorite tweets -- weren't mine. I edited and maybe tweaked some of them, but there's no way I would have been able to come up with the quality or volume of jokes without a good team. We had about 15 people, and those writers deserve a lot of the credit. Some contributed every day. My dad did one, even. I sent him a message and told him about it, and I was like, "fuck, I'm not sure what he'll think." But he responded immediately with a joke.

Castro, Israel, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and dolphinsSep 09 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg visited with Fidel Castro recently and has two posts on his Atlantic blog about his meetings with the former Cuban head of state: part one and part two.

After this first meeting, I asked Julia to explain the meaning of Castro's invitation to me, and of his message to Ahmadinejad. "Fidel is at an early stage of reinventing himself as a senior statesman, not as head of state, on the domestic stage, but primarily on the international stage, which has always been a priority for him," she said. "Matters of war, peace and international security are a central focus: Nuclear proliferation climate change, these are the major issues for him, and he's really just getting started, using any potential media platform to communicate his views. He has time on his hands now that he didn't expect to have. And he's revisiting history, and revisiting his own history."

This is substantial reporting but I'll admit my favorite line was:

I've never seen someone enjoy a dolphin show as much as Fidel Castro enjoyed the dolphin show.

Because of Goldberg's reportage on Castro's remarks regarding anti-Semitism, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (and strong critic of Israel) announced yesterday that he would meet with Venezuela's Jewish leaders. Someone get Errol Morris down to Cuba to make a sequel to his film about Robert McNamara. The Fog of Cold War perhaps? (via @kbanderson)

1980 Ebert interview with Jodie FosterSep 07 2010

From 1980, Roger Ebert interviews Jodie Foster, who is on the cusp of entering college. Here's an anecdote about Taxi Driver at Cannes:

The movie had been controversial. The president of the festival jury, Tennessee Williams, already had vowed that it would win a prize only over his dead body (it won the Grand Prix; Williams lived). The key people at the press conference were Martin Scorsese, the film's director, and Paul Schrader, who wrote it. The French critics were lobbing complex philosophical questions at them in French, and then the English-language translators were wading in, and everyone was getting nicely confused.

Someone finally condescended to ask a question of the little girl down at the end of the table - the one, you might assume, who'd been brought along to France as a treat, along with all the ice cream she could eat. The translator grabbed for the microphone, but Jodie Foster waved him off and answered the question herself, in perfect French. There was an astonished round of applause: At last, an American who spoke French! And less than 5 feet tall!

Usain Bolt wants to play soccerSep 02 2010

Professionally. From the tail-end of a recent interview with the sprinter:

Ultimately, he says, he'd love to make a go of playing football professionally. He's being deadly serious. One of the perks of being Usain Bolt is that sporting stars love to meet him, so whenever he's travelling and there's time, he tries to train with a top football team. Last year it was Manchester United, a few days ago it was Bayern Munich. He's still carrying a copy of the French sporting newspaper L'Equipe, which features a spread on his football skills and praise from Bayern manager Louis van Gaal. He shows me a photo of himself with his arm wrapped round the dwarfed 6ft German forward Miroslav Klose. "If I keep myself in shape, I can definitely play football at a high level," he says.

"With his physical skills, I reckon he could play in the Premier League," Simms says.

Professional American football would be even more of a no brainer...Randy Moss with Darrell Green speed++.

Napoleon Dynamite opening title sequenceSep 01 2010

The Art of the Title Sequence interviews Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess about how the film's instant-classic title sequence came about.

We actually had Jon Heder placing all the objects in and out [of frame], and then showed it to Searchlight who really liked it and thought it was great, but some lady over there was like "There are some hangnails, or something -- the hands look kinda gross! It's really bothering me, can we re-shoot some of those? We'll send you guys a hand model." We were like "WHAT?!" This of course was my first interaction with a studio at all, so they flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder. So we reshot, but they're now intermixed, so if you look there are like three different dudes hands (our producer's are in there too.) It all worked our great though and was a lot of fun.

The interview also addresses Pablo Ferro's involvement and the Napoleon Dynamite animated series currently in development.

Francois Truffaut's last interviewAug 19 2010

The New Yorker has published an interview with Francois Truffaut conducted before his death in 1984.

Cardullo centers the conversation around Truffaut's first feature film, "The 400 Blows," the overwhelming success of which, in 1959, was a key moment in the launching of the French New Wave. As such, he gets Truffaut to talk about what went into the beginning of his career and how his filmmaking process was influenced by his years of work as a film critic and his lifelong obsession with watching movies.

Fred Brooks interviewedJul 30 2010

Kevin Kelly has a short Wired interview with Fred Brooks, author of the essential Mythical Man-Month and the new The Design of Design.

Great Bill Murray interviewJul 28 2010

This has been linked around quite a bit in the last week, but it's worth a look if you haven't read it and like Bill Murray at all. According to the article, this is only the fourth or fifth time that Murray has been interviewed in the past ten years. On his involvement with Garfield: The Movie:

No! I didn't make that for the dough! Well, not completely. I thought it would be kind of fun, because doing a voice is challenging, and I'd never done that. Plus, I looked at the script, and it said, "So-and-so and Joel Coen." And I thought: Christ, well, I love those Coens! They're funny. So I sorta read a few pages of it and thought, Yeah, I'd like to do that.

[...] So I worked all day and kept going, "That's the line? Well, I can't say that." And you sit there and go, What can I say that will make this funny? And make it make sense? And I worked. I was exhausted, soaked with sweat, and the lines got worse and worse. And I said, "Okay, you better show me the whole rest of the movie, so we can see what we're dealing with." So I sat down and watched the whole thing, and I kept saying, "Who the hell cut this thing? Who did this? What the fuck was Coen thinking?" And then they explained it to me: It wasn't written by that Joel Coen.

And I love that he loved Kung Fu Hustle so much...I agree that it is underrated.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle interviewJul 22 2010

In this filmed interview, the Sherlock Holmes author discusses how and why he came up with the famous detective.

He refers to Watson as Holmes' "rather stupid friend". (via mr)

Dieter Rams video interviewJul 19 2010

The legendary Braun designer talks about his craft.

A design should not dominate people.

And hey, I didn't know that a book had been published on Rams' work. I bet Jony Ive has at least three copies. (via monoscope)

Penn and Teller interviewJul 14 2010

As a casual Penn & Teller fan, I didn't know that the pair rarely socialize outside of work...and that they might not even like each other (although the respect is obviously there). That and more from this interesting interview.

"But then you come out here and it turns out, as insane as this is, that you have more artistic freedom in Las Vegas than you have in New York. Much more. And the reason is this..." He leans forward conspiratorially and says, in a stage whisper. "In Vegas, our investors don't give a f--- about us. The people who are our bosses see our show maybe once a year. One of them will bring their kids and come by. And they are pleasant and they love us and they sincerely enjoy the show. Then they leave and they don't think about us. And because nobody's paying attention we do exactly the show we want. As long as people come to see it nobody cares what we do. And it means that we have done wilder things and more new stuff here than we ever did in New York. The contract is 100 per cent between us and the audience. And that's crazy."

"The contract is 100 per cent between us and the audience"...I love that.

Interview with a window cleanerJul 13 2010

NY Times readers recently had a bunch of their questions answered by a NYC window washer. (This is more interesting than it sounds.)

For safety reasons, music and cellphones are not allowed up in the scaffolding, but some of us listen to our own music in our heads.

Here's part two. (via @nicolatwilley)

Muybridge, but not by MuybridgeJun 21 2010

Possible clues have emerged that Eadweard Muybridge may not have taken all the photographs attributed to him.

Naef explains why he thinks that stereographs attributed to Muybridge were in fact taken by Watkins, who sold the negatives to Muybridge. Muybridge then printed and sold them under his own name. "I think from what I've seen and knowing what I know about Muybridge - and I'm not an expert on Watkins by any mean and Weston is - I think yes Muybridge published pictures by other people," Brookman said. "Some by Watkins potentially, but I think Muybridge was also a photographer and a significant photographer."

Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes has a three-part interview with photography curator Weston Naef about why he thinks this is so. Part one is here. (No word yet on why Muybridge has so many unnecessary letters in his name.)

David Remnick interviewedJun 10 2010

Robert Birnbaum interviews David Remnick.

But I remember, one week after getting [the New Yorker editor job], in the almost absurd way I got it, I had to go to San Francisco, and I was at dinner and some guy came up to me. He had been in the Midwest and lived in San Francisco and he came up to the table where we were having dinner and grabbed my arm in a way that was slightly alarming and his message to me was, "Don't fuck this up!"

The whole thing is great.

MadonnaspeakMay 13 2010

Madonna uses a surprising number of cliches and figures of speech in this interview (conducted by Gus Van Sant).

his Girl Friday
talks the talk
walks the walk
lots of ways to skin the cat
he's got a fire under his ass
a bee in his bonnet
a trip down memory lane
turn my lemons into lemonade
clotheshorses
so far, so good
reinvent the wheel

The interview itself may not be worth looking at unless you're already a Madonna, GVS, or cliche fan.

Roundtable about Lipsky's DFW bookMay 11 2010

Over at New York magazine, the Vulture Reading Room is reading/reviewing David Lipsky's Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, an almost straight-up transcript of a 5-day Rolling Stone interview with David Foster Wallace in 1996. Participating are D.T. Max (author of a forthcoming DFW biography), Sam Anderson (New York mag book critic), Laura Miller (Salon book critic), Garth Risk Hallberg (from The Millions), and me (blogger, dad, slacker).

David Foster Wallace's interviews were always show-stoppers: erudite, casual, funny, passionate, and deeply self-aware -- like he wasn't just answering the questions at hand but also interviewing himself, and his interviewer, and the entire genre of interviews. Last month, David Lipsky published essentially the Platonic ideal of the form: the book-length Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself -- a sort of DFW version of a DFW interview.

Interview with Pixar's Ed CatmullApr 21 2010

Scott Berkun transcribed some of the more interesting points of a video interview with Ed Catmull done during an Economist conference last month.

[At Pixar] there is very high tolerance for eccentricity, very creative, and to the point where some are strange... but there are a small number of people who are socially dysfunctional [and] very creative -- we get rid of them. If we don't have a healthy group then it isn't going to work. There is this illusion that this person is creative and has all this stuff, well the fact is there are literally thousands of ideas involved in putting something like this together. And the notion of ideas as this singular thing is a fundamental flaw. There are so many ideas that what you need is that group behaving creatively. And the person with the vision I think is unique, there are very few people who have that vision.. but if they are not drawing the best out of people then they will fail.

The video is embedded in Berkun's post as well. (via sippey)

1993 Steve Jobs inverview about Paul RandApr 16 2010

Rand designed the NeXT logo for Jobs.

Business lessons from the Five GuysApr 12 2010

Great interview with Five Guys Burgers and Fries founder Jerry Murrell. Their entire focus is on the product.

The magic to our hamburgers is quality control. We toast our buns on a grill -- a bun toaster is faster, cheaper, and toasts more evenly, but it doesn't give you that caramelized taste. Our beef is 80 percent lean, never frozen, and our plants are so clean, you could eat off the floor. The burgers are made to order -- you can choose from 17 toppings. That's why we can't do drive-throughs -- it takes too long. We had a sign: "If you're in a hurry, there are a lot of really good hamburger places within a short distance from here." People thought I was nuts. But the customers appreciated it.

Good name too. My son frequently asks if we're "going to go visit the five guys" to get "hangleburgers and peanuts".

My interview on The PipelineMar 23 2010

I try not to do too many interviews these days (they tend to get in the way of actually getting stuff done), but I was pleased to be interviewed for an episode of Dan Benjamin's Pipeline podcast.

They discuss blogging for a living, general vs. niche blogs, content longevity, making the transition to full-time blogging, how taking a break (even for a week) can affect traffic, finding links, guest bloggers, the good and bad of comments, and more.

(Christ, is that my voice? I *was* just getting over a cold...)

Magnus Carlsen, the chaotic and lazy chess championMar 22 2010

You never expect too much from the first few questions of an interview, but this interview of chess world #1 Magnus Carlsen is good right out of the gate.

SPIEGEL: Mr Carlsen, what is your IQ?

Carlsen: I have no idea. I wouldn't want to know it anyway. It might turn out to be a nasty surprise.

SPIEGEL: Why? You are 19 years old and ranked the number one chess player in the world. You must be incredibly clever.

Carlsen: And that's precisely what would be terrible. Of course it is important for a chess player to be able to concentrate well, but being too intelligent can also be a burden. It can get in your way. I am convinced that the reason the Englishman John Nunn never became world champion is that he is too clever for that.

SPIEGEL: How that?

Carlsen: At the age of 15, Nunn started studying mathematics in Oxford; he was the youngest student in the last 500 years, and at 23 he did a PhD in algebraic topology. He has so incredibly much in his head. Simply too much. His enormous powers of understanding and his constant thirst for knowledge distracted him from chess.

SPIEGEL: Things are different in your case?

Carlsen: Right. I am a totally normal guy. My father is considerably more intelligent than I am.

His comparison of his abilities with Garry Kasparov's later in the interview is interesting as well.

Karl Lagerfeld interviewMar 19 2010

The interview is a little rough in spots but people -- like Lagerfeld -- who have strong opinions but don't try to push them on others are always interesting to listen to, even if you disagree.

The whole culture of cell phones, texting, and instant messaging is very impersonal and also very distracting.
I'm not working at a switchboard. I have to concentrate on what I'm doing. The few people I have in my telephone are already too much. When I'm on the phone I talk, but I really want to be alone to sketch, to work, and to read. I am reading like a madman because I want to know everything.

I think that you might have Asperger syndrome. Do you know what that is? It's a kind of autism. It's like an idiot savant.
That's exactly what I am. As a child I wanted to be a grown-up. I wanted to know everything-not that I like to talk about it. I hate intellectual conversation with intellectuals because I only care about my opinion, but I like to read very abstract constructions of the mind. It's very strange.

That's quite Asperger's. There's a boy who's 20 years old; you can see him on YouTube. He'd never seen Paris from the air before and they flew him over Paris in a helicopter. Then they took him to a studio and he drew the entire city. Building by building, street by street.
I can do that with the antique Greek world.

(via siege)

On web nerderyMar 18 2010

Paul Ford is moving along from Harper's to work on some other stuff. This part of his reasoning, especially the part in italics (mine), resonates with me on all of my frequencies:

I had an opportunity to be an editor at Harper's, to edit pieces for the magazine. It was something I expected to really want. I had wonderful editors to learn from. I did a little of it for print and a lot for the web. I wasn't bad at it, even. Not great, but not bad. I could have been a respected editor instead of a huge nerd. But all the editing in the world can't compare to building little websites and mangling text and writing things and messing around in spreadsheets and figuring out what's wrong with comments. I wake up thinking about how all the pieces fit together and I want to do more of it and with lots of people.

Dave Eggers interviewMar 09 2010

The Guardian recently interviewed Dave Eggers and found that the Staggering Genius is no more.

Time to break the ice. You hate doing interviews, don't you? I ask, sitting down (there is no desk; he works on an old sofa). "No, not at all," he says. There is a look of mild amazement on his face as he tells me this and it's not disingenuous; as he will explain later, he feels a certain sense of distance from his old self. Perhaps he prefers not to remember exactly how he used to be.

Garry Winogrand interviewFeb 03 2010

A 1970 interview with photographer Garry Winogrand on how he's not trying to say anything with his work. Instead, he sets up photographic challenges for himself, which he then attempts to solve.

My only interest in photographing is photography.

They don't DJ like they used toJan 29 2010

In an interview with DJ magazine, Carl Cox talks about how his DJ setup has changed through the years.

What I am worried about and don't want to fall into, is dependence on too many screens to play a set. It's bad enough having one computer screen. After all, it's all about the performance and the people. I want to be looking at the crowd and them looking at me, interacting with one another. If we start getting dependant on screens it is going to ruin the art of performance.

(via @jessicadeva)

Feltron Annual Report 2009Jan 25 2010

You know it, you love it, the Feltron Annual Report for 2009. This year, he asked people who knew him to report data.

Update: Here's a nice interview with Felton about the report.

Interview with an anonymous Facebook employeeJan 13 2010

All sorts of goodies come up during the interview, including master passwords, keeping data after it has been deleted, and the the ubersmart Facebook engineers that you can't talk to "on a normal level".

Orson Welles doesn't like RosebudDec 11 2009

I'm ashamed of Rosebud. I think it's a rather tawdry device. It's the thing I like least in Kane. It's kind of a dollar book Freudian gag. It doesn't stand up very well.

Even calmly answering interview questions and sipping on tea from fine china, Welles is an imposing presence. (via clusterflock)

Update: Here's the first part of the full 50-minute CBC interview from which the snippet above was pulled. Part two, part three, part four, part five, and part six. (thx, blake)

Cormac McCarthy interviewNov 18 2009

The WSJ has a conversation with Cormac McCarthy.

Your future gets shorter and you recognize that. In recent years, I have had no desire to do anything but work and be with [my son] John. I hear people talking about going on a vacation or something and I think, what is that about? I have no desire to go on a trip. My perfect day is sitting in a room with some blank paper. That's heaven. That's gold and anything else is just a waste of time.

Before reading this interview, I didn't know much about McCarthy -- he's a fellow at the Santa Fe Institute? -- but now I think I need to read The Road. (via df)

Books have stalledNov 03 2009

This is a curious exchange between "book mechanic" Michael Turner and interviewer Brian Joseph Davis. Turner says:

We are living at a time when, for the writer, the book is too little.

And then Davis replies, in part:

[The book] is stalled out, in terms of technology, at 1500 AD, and sociologically at around 1930.

The sociological stalling of the book around 1930...I have no idea what that means. Could someone more steeped in book culture explain what that might mean? (via ettagirl)

Update: Henrietta Walmark asked Davis what he meant by his "sociological stalling" remark. Here's what he said:

Literature in book form, and discussion around it, was the mark of education, of the gentry and petit bourgeois. Literature in book form never really found a place in mass produced, post WW2 middle class culture.

That's pretty much the consensus of my inbox as well...TV and radio took over as the cultural currency around then.

Rare hour-long Alfred Hitchcock interviewOct 14 2009

In 1973, Tom Snyder interviewed Alfred Hitchcock for the Tomorrow Show. Thought to be lost, the whole thing is now up on YouTube after being transferred from a VHS tape. Here's part one:

To follow: part two, part three, part four, part five, and part six.

Bananas and antibananasSep 16 2009

This interview with physicist Murray Gell-Mann contains several great moments, but I particularly liked the answer he gave when asked about how great his colleagues were:

I don't put people on pedestals very much, especially not physicists. Feynman [who won a 1965 Nobel for his work in particle physics] was pretty good, although not as good as he thought he was. He was too self-absorbed and spent a huge amount of energy generating anecdotes about himself. Fermi [who developed the first nuclear reactor] was good, but again with limitations-every now and then he was wrong. I didn't know anybody without some limitations in my field of theoretical physics.

I read one such anecdote involving Gell-Mann in a book some years ago:

Richard Feynman, Gell-Mann's chief competitor for the title of the World's Smartest Man but a stranger to pretension, once encountered Gell-Mann in the hall outside their offices at Caltech and asked him where he had been on a recent trip; "Moon-TRAY-ALGH!" Gell-Mann responded in a French accent so thick that he sounded as if he were strangling. Feynman -- who, like Gell-Mann, was born in New York City -- had no idea what he was talking about. "Don't you think," he asked Gell-Mann, when at length he had ascertained that Gell-Mann was saying "Montreal," "that the purpose of language is communication?"

(via 3qd)

Maira Kalman interviewSep 09 2009

At Bygone Bureau, Kevin Nguyen speaks with Maira Kalman about her recent work, especially her And the Pursuit of Happiness blog on the NY Times site.

In these situations I'm tackling such big subjects; the only way I can handle that is to give you a snapshot of what I'm seeing and feeling at the moment. I also like to go into a lot of different subjects and to digress, so it gives that kind of snapshot outlook. I can jump around from thing to thing, and hopefully, it'll all make sense.

Man in a van interviewAug 28 2009

Jimmy Tarangelo lives in Manhattan in a van down by the river.

He doesn't like paying rent, but he does like living in Manhattan. So what does he do? He lives in a van down by the river, literally. I spent a few hours with Jimmy and let him speak his mind.

A pizza oven grows in BrooklynAug 25 2009

Adam Kuban interviewed my friend Mark about the pizza oven he built in his Brooklyn backyard.

It is actually pretty amazing how well the oven works. The first thing we made after pizza was a roasted chicken. I just can't describe how amazing it was. Not to mention the pizzas. They cook in about 90 seconds, and when I pulled the first one out of the oven, and the backyard smelled like a pizzeria, we knew all the work was worth it.

Mark and I work in the same office and it's nice to hear that his daily phone conversations about stucco, stucco suppliers, stucco styles, and stucco application techniques have resulted in success.

The history of Levi's jeansAug 25 2009

A Continuous Lean has an interview with Lynn Downey, an archivist and historian for Levi Strauss.

Well, [Levi's] started just as a regional thing, we had the lock on the West and other brands had their own consumer segments. I believe Lee had the South sort of sewn up, and there were some other brands, I think Lee included, that were known in New York. It's funny, you could always tell where someone was from; if they said "jeans," then they were from the west, if they were from the East they called them "dungarees," you could immediately tell where someone was from.

Update: Here's part two of the interview.

Interview ProjectAug 14 2009

Interview Project features David Lynch traveling around the country and interviewing normal folks. (thx, youngna)

Update: David Lynch isn't travelling around...his son Austin and Jason S. are co-directing. (thx, eric)

Jared Diamond lunch interviewAug 10 2009

Last week, the Financial Times had lunch with Jared Diamond.

"Was it a cultural choice that the Inuit up in the Arctic did not become farmers? No, it wasn't. You could not have agriculture in the Arctic," he bristles. "So it seems to me that the rise of agriculture in the modern world really does involve strong environmental influences. And if you want to call that geographical determinism, you can call it geographical determinism.

I'm here to interview you, who are you?Jul 14 2009

For an interview with Gerard Butler (aka the head Spartan in 300), Esquire sent Cal Fussman in cold. He was given an address and a first name and told to go get the story.

We agree that the balcony upstairs is the best spot. There's a magnificent view of L. A. Gerry hits a button and an awning lowers. His assistant, who has the aura of someone who could be running a Fortune 500 company, sets down a fruit plate and some water.

"Whatever you do, I get the impression that you do it well."

Gerry seems not to comprehend that I truly don't know what he does.

"I went more for the energy than for something big and bombastic. It was great when my mom came over and stood on the balcony. The boy did good."

Just then, a small gift balloon that says MOM rises directly in front of us, out above the trees.

"Where the fuck did that balloon come from?" he says. "I've had some of the craziest synchronicities in my life."

"Where are you from?"

"You don't even know where I'm from. This is unbelievable."

By his own admission, Fussman "really hadn't seen many movies" before six months ago. There's something a touch New Journalism about this interview...or perhaps it's just the opposite.

Gay Talese interviewJul 10 2009

The Paris Review has posted an extensive excerpt of an interview with writer Gay Talese from their summer issue. Wonderful stuff, ranging from his unusual writing process to how he got his start to a brief behind-the-scenes about writing Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.

All the other reporters of my generation would come back from an assignment and be done with their piece in a half hour. For the rest of the afternoon they'd be reading books or playing cards or drinking coffee in the cafeteria, and I was always very much alone. I didn't carry on conversations during those hours. I just wanted to make my article perfect, or as good as I could get it. So I rewrote and rewrote, feeling that I needed every minute of the working day to improve my work. I did this because I didn't believe that it was just journalism, thrown away the next day with the trash. I always had a sense of tomorrow. I never turned in anything more than two minutes before deadline. It was never easy, I felt I had only one chance. I was working for the paper of record, and I believed that what I was doing was going to be part of a permanent history.

It had better be good too, because my name was on it. I've always thought that. I think this came from watching my father work on suits. I was impressed by how carefully he would sew, and he never made much money, but I thought he was the real thing. His name was on those suits-the buttons couldn't fall off tomorrow. They had to look great, had to fit well, and had to last. His business wasn't profitable, but from him I learned that I wanted to be a craftsman.

Don't miss the piece of shirt board that Talese used to outline the Sinatra story. (via submitted for your perusal)

Update: Who else used shirt boards? Robert Rauschenberg.

Wall-E end creditsJun 22 2009

The Art of the Title Sequence takes a look at the excellent ending credits for Wall-E and interviews the gentlemen responsible.

Jim Capobianco's end credits to Andrew Stanton's "WALL-E" are essential; they are the actual ending of the film, a perfect and fantastically optimistic conclusion to a grand, if imperfect idea. Humanity's past and future evolution viewed through unspooling schools of art. Frame after frame sinks in as you smile self-consciously. It isn't supposed to be this good but there it is. This is art in its own right. Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman's song, "Down to Earth" indulges you with some incredibly thoughtful lyrics and, from the Stone Age to the Impressionists to the wonderful 8-bit pixel sprites, you are in the midst of something special.

(via quipsologies)

Bill Simmons on, what else, basketballJun 12 2009

In an interview with the New Yorker about basketball and his new book, The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons offers up his take on how players skipping college impoverishes the NBA.

The lack of college experience also means that you probably have less of a chance to have a conversation with a Finals player about English lit or political science. For instance, if you're a reporter, maybe you don't ask for thoughts from modern players on the Gaza Strip or Abdul Nasser, or whether they read Chuck Pahlaniuk's new book. These guys lead sheltered lives that really aren't that interesting. Back in the seventies, you could go out to dinner with three of the Knicks -- let's say, Phil Jackson, Bill Bradley, and Walt Frazier -- and actually have a fascinating night. Which three guys would you pick on the Magic or Lakers? I guess Fisher would be interesting, and I always heard Odom was surprisingly thoughtful. I can't come up with a third. So I'd say that the effects are more in the "didn't really have any experiences outside being a basketball player" sense.

A short word with Eliot SpitzerJun 11 2009

A short but revealing interview with Eliot Spitzer over a hot dog lunch in Central Park.

I asked him why so many politicians are caught in insane sex scandals. "What is it with you all?"

"I'm not going to make excuses," he replied evenly. "Let me ask you a question: Is there a difference between politicians and anybody else? Or is it that the lives of politicians are so very public?"

"There is a difference, Mr. Spitzer. You were elected to a position of public trust."

"That's right," he conceded. "It's why I resigned without delay. Some said I could try to ride it out. But I didn't see it that way. What I did was heinous and wrong."

(via the browser)

Eight questions for Jonathan RauchJun 04 2009

A wide-ranging interview with the always interesting Jonathan Rauch. Topics include blogging, introversion, politics, and gay marriage.

America is divided on the meaning of marriage and is understandably cautious about tampering with an age-old, embattled institution. On the other hand, Americans are increasingly sympathetic to gay couples who are pledged to care for each other (and their children) but who are legal strangers to one another, a situation which just makes no sense.

On gay marriage, activists on both ends of the spectrum conspired against radical incrementalism. One side tried to ban gay marriage forever on every inch of American soil; the other side dreamed of mandating it nationally by court order. To its great credit, the country refused to be hustled. Instead it is taking the truly conservative approach, which is to try gay marriage in some places, without betting the whole country.

DFW interviewMay 20 2009

Amherst Magazine interviewed David Foster Wallace in 1999.

I've hit on an effective way to handle all this schizogenic stuff, which is to keep the whole thing at a very simple level, roughly a level/vocabulary that an average U.S. fifth-grader can understand. I want my work to be good. I want to like it. This is the only part that has anything to do with me. I can't make it have an 'impact' on anybody else. This doesn't mean I can't hope it has one, but I can't do anything to guarantee it, or even to cause it. All I can do is make something as good as I can make it (this is the sort of fact that's both banal and profound), and promise myself that I'll never try to publish anything I myself don't think is good or finished. I used to have far more complex and sophisticated ways of thinking about 'impact,' but they always left me with my forehead against the wall.

(via howling fantods)

Buy before you tryApr 23 2009

Something tells me that Steve Wozniak is not down with Last Year's Model.

I have such a crowded life and crowded schedule. When people send me a link with a gadget, I'll look at it and buy it if it looks interesting, but I don't have time to check out everything I'd like to. [...] As far as the mobile devices, I've gone through all the different smartphones, all the different gadgets. For a while I was using a Razr for voice and messing with mobile devices, but now I'm traveling with an iPhone and a BlackBerry.

Maureen Dowd interviews telephone inventorApr 23 2009

Ha! Maureen Dowd interviews Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone.

ME: The telephone seems like letter-writing without the paper and pen. Is there any message that can't wait for a passenger pigeon?

BELL: Possibly the message I'd like to deliver to you right now.

ME: Why did you think the answer to telegrams was a noisy new telegram?

BELL: We have designed the receiver so you can leave it off the hook.

See also The Victorian Internet. (thx, @evamaria_m)

David Simon interviewApr 20 2009

Short video interview of David Simon.

You know, newspapers are gonna say, "We already let the horse out of the barn door. How can you charge for content? Information wants to be free." All that bullshit. As I remember, there wasn't an American in America 30 thirty years ago who paid for their television. Television was free 30 years ago. Now everybody's paying 16 bucks a month, 17 bucks a month, 70 dollars a month.

Related: the NY Times recently ran the poignant story of a interracial Baltimore couple who turned to The Wire for comfort when the husband underwent treatment for cancer.

Also related: read David Simon's HBO pitch for The Wire from Sept 2000.

Dave Eggers interviewedApr 17 2009

Wag's Revue interviewed Dave Eggers about What is the What and some other things.

We're pluralists at McSweeney's. We publish anything of great quality, whether that's experimental or very traditional or somewhere in between. There is and should always be room for all approaches to writing, and whenever anyone closes the door on one -- by saying, for example, that experimentation might someday "exhaust itself" (not to put you on the hotseat), it's very saddening. And of course it ignores the entire history of all art in every form ,which is a history of constant innovation, experimentation and evolution. The person who says "Enough innovation, let's stick with what we have and never change" is pretty much the sworn enemy of all art. Not to overstate it, of course.

While you're there, gape at the odd choice of JPGs for pages instead of, you know, HTML. (via fimoculous)

Spark interviewApr 17 2009

There's a short interview with me about what I do on kottke.org on this week's Spark radio show on CBC. There's also an uncut version of the interview that runs about 20 minutes which includes many delightful false starts and ahs and ums. What can I say, I've got a face for radio and a voice for print.

Without boundariesApr 17 2009

From an interview by Kicker Studio of London designer Crispin Jones, where he says that the broad definition of design is perhaps not so bad.

On one level design is horribly inarticulate word - it has no real meaning nor way of encompassing all the things that are classed as "design". This weakness however means that the discipline is kind of without boundaries. I think design allows you to engage with the contemporary world and engage in shaping the world: we're living in a golden age of products/services as technology matures and people integrate it into their lives.

You may have picked up on this by reading kottke.org over the years, but I think that designers, architects, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, writers, scientists, et al. are all engaged in doing the same kind of thing, more or less, and that working "without boundaries" and borrowing the best aspects of many disciplines is one of the keys to maximizing your creative potential. (thx matt)

Editing David Foster WallaceApr 09 2009

The House Next Door is on a roll lately. Today they're featuring an interview with Glenn Kenny, a film writer who edited the three articles that David Foster Wallace wrote for Premiere magazine.

Dave would often be commissioned to do pieces at 5,000-7,500 words so he understood that at a certain point in the process it was quite possible this would happen, but in a way he was constitutionally incapable of keeping to a word length. It was a tacit agreement you had with him when you commissioned a piece that you were going to get something long. But if you can run a piece that long, he's one of the cheapest first rate literary writers out there-you pay him X amount of dollars per word, but you get five times the words.

Kenny also wrote a short piece on his blog shortly after Wallace died.

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