Q&As
1

San Francisco's Baffling Jejune Institute Gets A Documentary

The toughest part of writing about San Francisco's Jejune Institute "thing" was trying to describe it, something I attempted to do for this site twice. In a first piece about the citywide game, which was put on by a group called Nonchalance, I went with "[p]art public-art installation, part scavenger hunt, part multimedia experiment, part narrative story." For the follow-up, I added "underground alternate reality game" to the mix. Both summaries missed the mark, partly because of my own inadequacies as a writer, but also a symptom of the project's sprawling originality—it wasn't like anything else out there, and that was part of what made it [...]

36

Is Brooklyn Better? Has Manhattan Gotten Worse? Revisiting NY Mag's "I Hate Brooklyn" Article Seven Years Later

Seven years ago, Jonathan Van Meter, the writer and Vogue contributing editor, published an essay in New York magazine called "I Hate Brooklyn." Here is how it begins:

"Please tell me you're not moving to Brooklyn," she said. "No, no, no," I said. "Never." "Thank God." "Why would you think such a thought?" "Something about the way you said… Brooklyn… like you'd gotten comfortable with it." "No," I said, "it's just that I've had to say it a lot lately because that's all everyone ever talks about. Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn. I hate Brooklyn."

From there, the piece proceeds to many places you'd expect (hipsters, gentrification) and, [...]

5

How'd You Get There, Christopher Hollowell Of Dun-Well Donuts?

Dun-Well Donuts, a shop founded by Christopher Hollowell and his friend Dan Dunbar, sits just off the Montrose L stop in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Every day, the pair offer an array of different vegan donuts (flavors rangefrom Tangerine Basil to Maple Bourbon), and they currently make every single one themselves. The shop opened last year. Hollowell was on his way to a postbac program at Columbia when he and Dunbar decided to drop everything and make donuts. Earlier this year, the New York Daily News called them the best doughnuts of 2012. Over a blueberry frosted one, Hollowell talked to me about the decisions involved in opening the [...]

4

How They Got There: A Conversation With Wilderness Therapist Brad Reedy

Brad Reedy grew up surfing in Orange County. He originally planned to be an English teacher, but a chance internship pushed him toward the practice of wilderness therapy instead. With a few colleagues, Reedy launched Second Nature, a treatment group dedicated to helping troubled preteens, teens and young adults. Four years ago, he stepped back from the therapy side to focus on outreach and growing the organization, which now has four sites in three states. As the face of the company, Reedy travels 130,000 miles a year. We met on one of his recent trips to New York.

How did you get here?

During my graduate work at Brigham [...]

4

"Not So Pure Michigan": The Man Who Hates Wisconsin and Ohio

When Wisconsin's tourism bureau launched a war on its neighbor by suggesting Wisconsin is actually the "mitten state," Michigan saw an unlikely ally come to its defense: a 30-something video pro named John Kerfoot.

Since 2006, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has run a branding campaign titled "Pure Michigan." A few years into the campaign, Kerfoot took his camera to nearby Lake St. Clair to shoot a Pure Michigan spoof about the lake's scourge of fish flies, which appear every year in swarms so great that, as the voiceover goes, "visitors are left wondering, 'Why the hell do I live in Michigan?'" (Insert blanket headphones-at-work [...]

4

A Conversation With Writer Scott Raab

Scott Raab’s new memoir The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James isn’t really about basketball. It’s about addiction and sobriety, marriage and divorce, childhood and parenthood, loyalty and autonomy. In 15 years at Esquire—and five years at GQ before that—the 59-year-old Cleveland native has, as he writes in the book, “shared cunnilingus tips with Robert Downey Jr., got tattoos with Dennis Rodman, once smoked a bone with Tupac, twice did nothing with Larry David, and visited with Phil Spector in his castle in Alhambra three times, all without gunplay…[and] even went to Bill Murray's house once for an Oscar party." [...]

8

A Conversation With Musician Ben Lear

Last night at Le Poisson Rouge, Ben Lear was wearing a wetsuit that made him look like a Starfleet Medical Officer and shaking hands. The 23-year-old son of 89-year-old television mogul and activist Norman Lear (you might know him for producing "All in the Family" or founding progressive advocacy group People For The American Way) had just finished performing Lillian, a show that's like an epic blend of Arcade Fire, Feist, a Muppet adventure and rock opera (although Lear prefers the term "folk opera," for its lower pretentiousness quotient). The story, which is by turns touching and bizarre, follows a young man’s search for his lost love, [...]

3

Proudly Fraudulent: An Interview With MoMA's First Poet Laureate, Kenneth Goldsmith

Kenneth Goldsmith (born 1961) is an American poet. He is the founding editor of UbuWeb, teaches Poetics and Poetic Practice at the University of Pennsylvania and is Senior Editor of PennSound. He hosted a weekly radio show at WFMU from 1995 until June 2010. He has published ten books of poetry, notably Fidget (2000), Soliloquy (2001) and Day (2003) and Goldsmith's American trilogy, The Weather (2005), Traffic (2007), and Sports, (2008). He is the author of a book of essays, Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in a Digital Age (2011). As editor he published I’ll be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews (2004) and is the co-editor of Against [...]

19

How Did You Get There, Vegan Fashion Designer Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart?

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart is an animal lover with an entreprenurial spirit who founded a vegan fashion line. Vaute Couture is finding success—recently opening its first brick-and-mortar store in Williamsburg—but the founder quit her Ford Modeling contract and her MBA program, worked 80-hour weeks, and had to reinvent the female dress coat in order to get to this point. Over iced coffees, Hilgart talked about talked about unusual fashion, unusual work, and business as usual.

How did you end up with a vegan fashion line. Are you a fashion person or an animal person first?

Since I was eight, I've been raising money and awareness for animals. I would [...]

2

How'd You Get There, Dancer Audrey Ellis?

Audrey Ellis grew up on a fruit farm in western New York dreaming of being a dancer. She moved to Brooklyn five years ago after graduating from Goucher College with a degree in dance and philosophy, and joined a dance company while also working as a freelance instructor. She enjoyed the cycle of performing and teaching, performing and teaching, but something was missing. Enter the farm. A few years back, Ellis and her friend Sarah Capua formed a dance company called A+S Works and decided to host a weekend-long dance festival on Ellis' family's land. The first event was a success, as was the second, and so the festival [...]

4

How They Got There: A Conversation With Chiropractor Bill Walsh

Bill Walsh will openly admit that his many former bosses were justified when they fired him. He was "arrogantly unfit," and is not shy about telling tales of his, shall we say, youthful misadventures. Eventually, Walsh righted himself, joined a recovery program, went to chiropractic school, and started a practice in Park Slope. He's been treating people there for the past 25 years.

At Plaza Center for the Healing Arts, Walsh combines his talent for manipulating the spine with an encyclopedic knowledge of anatomy, the body's relationship to itself, and a homeopath's understanding of drugless cures. He enables his patients to make themselves better. "My job is to place [...]

3

How They Got There: A Conversation With Poetry Teacher Marty Skoble

Marty Skoble sits in his office surrounded by the words of his students. Recently, one of his charges slipped a note under his door that read simply, "Waves look like white horses." That is not the most advanced of similes, but consider the context: The uncertainty of the pensmanship suggests that the anonymous writer was in his or her first decade.

Skoble started teaching poetry at Brooklyn's Saint Ann's in the 1980s. More than 30 years later, the balding, bearded gentleman who speaks with the thoughtful cadence of a lifelong educator is an institution, meeting with every lower school student once a week and 400 children in total. In [...]

5

How They Got There: A Conversation With Author Robert Sullivan

Robert Sullivan is almost certainly the only man in the country with a holiday greeting card from Anna Wintour on his fridge and a bestseller about rats on his resume. The former exists because of his 20-year gig as a contributing editor at Vogue; the latter comes as a result of the year he spent observing and chronicling the urban creatures as they lived their lives in an alley near Ground Zero.

In the Brooklyn apartment he shares with his preschool teacher wife and two teenage kids—one who recently took off for college with most of his father's drum set in tow—Sullivan explained how a life spent crisscrossing [...]

2

How They Got There: A Conversation With Artist Duke Riley

Duke Riley postponed our first interview because he was freight-train hopping across the country. The Rhode Island School of Design- and Pratt-trained artist needed to be in San Francisco for meetings so he and a friend worked their way west. They made it, eventually.

Jumping on trains is usual behavior for someone who lives a highly unusual life. Riley moved to Brooklyn in 1997 and meandered his way into the city's art world by doing his own thing. He threw parties in abandoned buildings on the Brooklyn waterfront, made art, and ended up owning a tattoo parlor, essentially by accident. Jerry Saltz credited the 38-year-old as [...]

6

The Lost Art Of Opium Smoking: An Interview With Author Steven Martin

Of all it has embraced, the booming artisanal movement has so far passed over one largely extinct 19th-century practice: opium smoking in the old manner.

But in a book out last year, one collector of antique opium-smoking paraphernalia documents how his fascination with a lost era's artifacts led to an attempt to recreate and live in a lost era of chandu, resulting in an opium addiction of "the traditional manner" that reached a peak of thirty pipes a day. I spoke with author Steven Martin about his book, Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction, his Opium Museum project, and the cultural legacy of [...]

3

How'd You Get There, Standup Comic Kate Wolff?

Kate Wolff always knew she was funny, but when her classmates growing up told her she was going to be on "Saturday Night Live," she laughed and informed them she wanted to be a teacher. Well, life is funny sometimes. Teaching wasn't the dream job Wolff envisioned, and although she still teaches middle-school art, she's trying to make it in the brutally tough New York standup scene. In the basement of the Village Lantern where she produces a weekly show, Wolff talked about getting paid, incorporating her son into her act, and the process of toughening up for the stage.

How did you get here?

I went to college [...]

3

The Tribeca Film Festival's New Artistic Director Made a Career Of Watching Movies

The Tribeca Film Festival starts today, and at its helm this year is Frédéric Boyer, who is something of an accidental artistic director. All the Parisian ever wanted to do was watch films. He even skipped his schoolboy exams to screen a flick. That obsession—viewing five, six, seven movies a day—led to a job at Videosphere, the Paris store with over 60,000 titles, which in turn resulted in a gig programming the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes. Now, he finds himself programming the New York festival. The career path is accidental, perhaps, but he's hardly unprepared. "It's the life I choose because I don't want my work to stop at 6:30 [...]

7

Talking To The Nerdist's Chris Hardwick

Chris Hardwick has made a career out of being a nerd. Well, actually, he has made several careers out of being a nerd, as the host of "Web Soup" a writer for Wired, an author and the host of The Nerdist podcast. Paste Magazine and Rolling Stone both named The Nerdist one of the ten best podcasts of the year, which means that it's now a TV show, with a special airing tomorrow night on BBC America. The podcast has also spawned a community of tech, science and nerd culture enthusiasts on Nerdist.com.

Years before he created Nerdist Industries, Chris was already sowing [...]

11

Talking To Karen Russell, Author Of 'Swamplandia!'

To open with a bit of an understatement, author Karen Russell has had a very good year. Her debut novel, Swamplandia!, has received widespread praise since its publication in February (including a spot on the just-announced New York Times list of the 10 Best Books Of 2011). Then last month, the news broke that HBO has optioned the novel—a bildungsroman of sorts about a teenage alligator wrestler and her search for her missing sister—for what they describe as a “half hour comedy series." The adaptation will coincide with producer Scott Rudin’s other in-the-works literary projects, including Noah Baumbach’s take on Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, as well as [...]

11

An Interview with X-Men's Cyclops, Who Sucks

Q. Let’s talk about the personnel change that many say redefined the X-men. The entire team left, except for you! A. Yes. I wanted them to stay, but they ignored me. Q. You had to rebuild the team from scratch. A. It was the hardest time for me as a leader. There was no one to lead. Q. What was your role in the recruitment of the new cast of international heroes? A. I mostly had to be patient while the Professor recruited them. It was very difficult.

This fake interview with Cyclops, of X-Men, is really funny… FOR MEGA-NERDS.