INTERVIEW : SHEPARD FAIREY 
Shepard Fairey is an old friend, and one of the first artists to plaster the walls at Ace Hotel Seattle with their work. You know his name, your grandmother knows his name (probably), but we wanted to catch up with the dude, not the legend. Above you’ll find a spread from Gingko Press's OBEY: Supply & Demand depicting Shepard wheatpasting a mural in Downtown LA with the United Artists Theater — our new Los Angeles coat hook — in the background. Below you’ll find a few choice words from the artist himself, sans posse.
How are you, Shepard?
Good, just staying busy making crap — adding to the abundance of visual pollution we all struggle with daily.
Likewise. You’ve said that Obey stickers have always been an invitation to question and look for meaning, but aren’t intended to convey an implicit message. The Walrus’ Nick Mount wrote that, “Obey Giant is clever child of Duchamp, ironic conceptual art.” What relationship do you see between disruptive, ironic and humorous street art, and the Dadas who rejected prescribed narratives and embraced irrationality and trickterism to disrupt the dominance of state propaganda? Did you get all that?
Yeah, yeah I did. The project started off with a really silly sticker of Andre the Giant. That was something where I made an inside joke with some skateboard friends. What fascinated me and made it turn into a bigger project was the way that it became like a Rorschach test — in the Dada sense of throwing something out there that seemed like it had any number of interpretations. None of it was explicit. Who’s the Posse? Andre the Giant’s dead, who cares? It sort of invited people project onto it. In that sense the project’s always had a Dada side to it.
I’ve also connected it to various other things — Heidegger’s Theory of Phenomenology, which is the idea that people become so numb to their surroundings that they need novel encounters to reawaken a sense of wonder. It’s also like Situationism — the idea that people are dulled by routine. They need a bizarre spectacle to snap them out of their trance. I always liked those ideas.
The idea of a command to ‘obey’ but with nothing specific that they’re told to obey really seemed to irritate a lot of people. Some people understood that it was ironic. It really meant to question in an overt way how you’ve been asked to obey in a covert way or in an insidious way. All of that, the open-endedness, I thought would maybe get in there and fester a little bit.

Shepard’s 2010 installation on temporary plywood scaffolding in front of Ace Hotel New York.
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Recently a piece by Banksy in a working class neighborhood in London was actually chiseled out of the wall of a convenience store and sold at auction here in the U.S. A diverse cross-section of the neighborhood came forward to demand that the piece be returned and Banksy himself kind of broke character and went semi-public to support them. As an artist who has a family, who needs to pay for health insurance and generally make a living for yourself using your creative skills, what do you make of this relationship between street art, money, career and the art world? How does politics play into it? And what about the communities where these pieces live? Does the community have ownership?
It’s all very complicated. Some people say [street art] is all about vandalism and self-promotion. Other people see it as an altruistic gesture democratizing art. I choose to look at it that way.
The name of my book about my twenty-plus year career in art is Supply & Demand. My body of work as a case study illuminates a lot about supply and demand in a literal monetary sense and a cultural currency sense — the arc of how things go overground and take hold. A darker side of our society is that at the moment something can be commodified, somebody will commodify it. You can either understand that and try to make the best of it or you can pretend like you’re not part of it and probably be on the losing end. There’s always the question of when it’s worth saying, “I will turn down the money.” Those are always difficult choices people have to make.
When I see a Banksy on the street I think it’s a gift to the public. I’d rather it stay there. On the other hand, Banksy’s work is worth quite a bit of money. A lot of that has come from the cache of him stealing space. I’m not surprised that people want to steal the work and sell it. I would rather the Banksy piece be out there. He stole the space and they stole the piece, but I don’t look at it in the same way as I’d look at it if someone broke into your house and took the painting off the wall.
As a creative person you’ve been through some tribulations in the battles over image use. What do you think of the work of JR who uses the actual images of individuals without photo release? His work is pretty incredible and clearly has a radical intent. As an artist that’s now being commissioned and shown in galleries how weird is ownership in that context? Where does that usage get blurry?
I mean, I always think it’s great…if all the parties are happy with the situation, but at the same time art’s always been about making strong pictures and not about bureaucracy. A lot of times it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. I see JR’s work as altruistic. I don’t think he’s in it for the money. He may make some money. It may be a by-product of the merit of what he does, but I don’t think he’s going out there trying to find people who he can photograph that are going to be easy to commodify.
One of the things that makes me sad about our society is people love the idea of being involved in something creative until they see somebody else get some benefit.
I work from historical imagery because of various issues I’ve had with the AP. I shoot a lot of my own photographs too. A lot of times this sort of raw material that’s available in our world, whether you’re photographing it or drawing from it, is seen as not having any value until a specific person runs it through their skill set and their vision and then it becomes valuable. For someone to then say that it wasn’t about that person’s abilities I think is wrong.

An Obey piece survives as the gateway to an illicit cat den of sin on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.
Yeah, this theme has been taken up in hip hop and DJing a little right?
Yeah, I mean, I’ve always been a huge fan hip hop fan. Regardless of how much I respect James Brown or Parliament, I think that what Public Enemy did with their samples has equal and distinct merit. I’d buy Public Enemy records and I’d buy James Brown and Parliament records. It’s a win-win.
Definitely a win-win. Do you have a hero? In the art world, politics, music or your personal life…
Joe Strummer is probably my biggest hero. I think he was compassionate toward people’s struggles and really tried to represent that in his lyrics and the way he lived his life. Figuring out how to convey humanity through your art form while still being a badass and entertaining people and not sounding like some sort of hippy-dippy wuss is a real challenge. I think he did it really well. That’s my role model.

INTERVIEW : SHEPARD FAIREY 

Shepard Fairey is an old friend, and one of the first artists to plaster the walls at Ace Hotel Seattle with their work. You know his name, your grandmother knows his name (probably), but we wanted to catch up with the dude, not the legend. Above you’ll find a spread from Gingko Press's OBEY: Supply & Demand depicting Shepard wheatpasting a mural in Downtown LA with the United Artists Theater — our new Los Angeles coat hook — in the background. Below you’ll find a few choice words from the artist himself, sans posse.

How are you, Shepard?

Good, just staying busy making crap — adding to the abundance of visual pollution we all struggle with daily.

Likewise. You’ve said that Obey stickers have always been an invitation to question and look for meaning, but aren’t intended to convey an implicit message. The Walrus’ Nick Mount wrote that, “Obey Giant is clever child of Duchamp, ironic conceptual art.” What relationship do you see between disruptive, ironic and humorous street art, and the Dadas who rejected prescribed narratives and embraced irrationality and trickterism to disrupt the dominance of state propaganda? Did you get all that?

Yeah, yeah I did. The project started off with a really silly sticker of Andre the Giant. That was something where I made an inside joke with some skateboard friends. What fascinated me and made it turn into a bigger project was the way that it became like a Rorschach test — in the Dada sense of throwing something out there that seemed like it had any number of interpretations. None of it was explicit. Who’s the Posse? Andre the Giant’s dead, who cares? It sort of invited people project onto it. In that sense the project’s always had a Dada side to it.

I’ve also connected it to various other things — Heidegger’s Theory of Phenomenology, which is the idea that people become so numb to their surroundings that they need novel encounters to reawaken a sense of wonder. It’s also like Situationism — the idea that people are dulled by routine. They need a bizarre spectacle to snap them out of their trance. I always liked those ideas.

The idea of a command to ‘obey’ but with nothing specific that they’re told to obey really seemed to irritate a lot of people. Some people understood that it was ironic. It really meant to question in an overt way how you’ve been asked to obey in a covert way or in an insidious way. All of that, the open-endedness, I thought would maybe get in there and fester a little bit.

image

Shepard’s 2010 installation on temporary plywood scaffolding in front of Ace Hotel New York.

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Erin Garcia : Whatuuuup professorevans.
Lucy Rose: Oh hey.
Erin Garcia : It’s Erin.
Lucy Rose: I figured as much — ha, Professor Evans.
Erin Garcia : PHD status
Lucy Rose: I like it.
Lucy Rose: I know this is the laziest way to do an interview ever, but it just makes editing so much easier — besides, we get to erase all the umms before we even say them. It makes us both sound so much more intelligent.
Erin Garcia : haha
Erin Garcia : Works for me.
Lucy Rose: (I’ve done this before)
Lucy Rose: Ok, shall we start?
Erin Garcia : Let’s do it.
Lucy Rose: Ok, so you’re from Ohio, right? Tell me a little about where and how you grew up.
Erin Garcia : I’m actually from North Carolina.
Erin Garcia : ha
Lucy Rose: Forgive me, I’m from New Zealand and am still working out the whole US geography thing.
Erin Garcia : I grew up in Winston — Salem which is a med-small city in the middle of NC.
Lucy Rose: What was life like there as a kid? What did you spend your weekends doing?
Erin Garcia : As a kid it was rad, lots of riding bikes and playing in the woods.

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INTERVIEW : IRA GLASS : PART III
Do you recommend to “beginners” that they be fearless about putting work out there to be judged, as long as they know it’s going to be a learning experience?
Yes. It was interesting to me these last two years watching Mike Birbiglia turn himself into a movie maker and at every stage he both had the arrogance of believing that he could do it and the humility to know that he wasn’t any good yet. He had a rough script, and it was okay, I guess, not quite there and he got into the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and they paired him with Mike White who’s an amazing screenwriter who gave him notes, but then he also went out to talk at length to Miguel Arteta and Noah Baumbach and other filmmakers, and he showed the script around to lots of people. David Wayne is another filmmaker. He showed it to Lena Dunham. He really just got input from a lot of people and got them to explain to him: “Okay, here’s how to handle this or that.” I just had incredible respect for it, and when we started to put the film together, he hired this amazing cinematographer who could teach him that world, and we had this amazing editor.He knew what he didn’t know and then he used other people’s expertise to pull him forward. I feel like that’s how you get there. I think so many of us are too shy to. We don’t want to be a bother to other people. We don’t know how to approach other people, and I think that’s a huge advantage that he had just in terms of his personality — he wasn’t self-conscious about that somehow. He knew he needed the help and he was secure enough to just ask. In a way that, for most of my life, I haven’t been so able to do. He was much bolder than I ever would be.[[MORE]]
Right, you came with $50 bucks. He just asked. Do you think that most people are willing to give advice? That people do so much work toward reaching a pinnacle in their career or their lives, learning all sorts of things, but might not get asked — if someone would only ask them, they’d be willing to open up and share what they’ve learned?I think it’s a really delicate thing and people have to be approached in the right way.Does it depend on the level that they’re at or just the way in which they’re asked?It depends on all those things. It’s really just like a human connection you’re trying to make. With Mike, I think he was performing his one-man show and some of these people would come and see the one-man show and the one-man show is amazing and he’s so talented. They would come backstage and chat with him afterwards and he would get to know them that way. They have respect for him even though he was not a filmmaker yet.They knew he’s got something on the ball, I guess. He had that going for him. Occasionally, I’ll be giving a speech or something and somebody will press a CD in my hands who has never done anything and a lot of people are like, “I’m busy. I have stuff that I’m supposed to be getting to that I’m not even getting to,” and they don’t feel they can take on fifteen minutes of listening or half an hour of listening and write somebody a note. It’s a thing. They’d have to be pretty convincing or make the story seem compelling. The best thing that would get me into it would be if the story they were telling on the CD had some promise for me where I felt like, “Oh that just sounds good. Even if they can’t totally execute it, I kind of want to hear that.” That’s the thing that sells me.In your Goucher College commencement address you said to students: “You will be stupid.” I’m curious if that ever stops, the whole being-stupid thing.If you’re lucky that never stops. Ideally, if you’re trying to do creative work the worst thing that could happen is that it gets too easy and then you’re doing the same thing over and over. If you’re successful what’s happening is you’re constantly setting new goals for yourself and inventing new things and trying things that are really hard. That’s been one of the great things about doing the radio show is that we can constantly reset what we’re doing to make it hard again, and I have to say, it’s really hard. It’s easy for me to write a radio story. I know how to write a radio story, but making a show is really difficult still and I feel like that’s a sign that we’re doing the right thing. It’s like we’re constantly trying to invent stuff we’ve never done.Thanks, Ira.

INTERVIEW : IRA GLASS : PART III

Do you recommend to “beginners” that they be fearless about putting work out there to be judged, as long as they know it’s going to be a learning experience?

Yes. It was interesting to me these last two years watching Mike Birbiglia turn himself into a movie maker and at every stage he both had the arrogance of believing that he could do it and the humility to know that he wasn’t any good yet. He had a rough script, and it was okay, I guess, not quite there and he got into the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and they paired him with Mike White who’s an amazing screenwriter who gave him notes, but then he also went out to talk at length to Miguel Arteta and Noah Baumbach and other filmmakers, and he showed the script around to lots of people. David Wayne is another filmmaker. He showed it to Lena Dunham. He really just got input from a lot of people and got them to explain to him: “Okay, here’s how to handle this or that.” I just had incredible respect for it, and when we started to put the film together, he hired this amazing cinematographer who could teach him that world, and we had this amazing editor.

He knew what he didn’t know and then he used other people’s expertise to pull him forward. I feel like that’s how you get there. I think so many of us are too shy to. We don’t want to be a bother to other people. We don’t know how to approach other people, and I think that’s a huge advantage that he had just in terms of his personality — he wasn’t self-conscious about that somehow. He knew he needed the help and he was secure enough to just ask. In a way that, for most of my life, I haven’t been so able to do. He was much bolder than I ever would be.

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INTERVIEW : JAMES VICTORE
James Victore is a man of action. He believes that learning about free jazz and liquor fermentation and speed-racing can make you a better designer, that graphic design is about experiences and stories and using your hands.
Distilling wisdom from decades down in the beautiful muck of making ideas happen, he’s produced a stunning series of aphoristic posters on the nature of art, design and the creative process. His Aphorisms on Art & Idea Execution is on display in the gallery space at Ace Hotel New York through May 25. The installation is in partnership with the 99U Conference. Jocelyn K. Glei caught up with him recently.
What’s a normal day for you?
I like to think we’re like the army. We get more work done by noon than most people do in a full day. Chris [Victore’s sole co-worker] comes in at 10:30 or 11am. We decide on what needs to be done. We rarely work past 5pm. We’re pretty efficient. We make decisions. I look at the agency system and it’s such a waste. That’s why people like Time Magazine come to us. They know they can give it to us on a Wednesday and it will be done on Friday.
[[MORE]]You mentioned ‘making decisions’ earlier as part of the way you function efficiently. Do you think a lot of people get bogged down by that?
Part of the problem these days is there’s so much choice. At some point, someone just has to say: We’re going to do it like this because I want to do it this way. Because, if you don’t, you’re going to be churning out oatmeal. You look at some graphic design today, and you can tell that nobody is in charge.

You’ve been doing a few little films for the book release. Is that new territory? How did they come about?
The publisher wanted a little flat, static image for the book for the website. We weren’t really feeling that. So this is a great example of how we work. We had five minutes to think about it. So we said let’s get out of here. Let’s go under the Bodhi tree where genius is. So we went around the corner to the Italian restaurant, had a pizza and a bottle of wine, and halfway through we said: “You know what would be really funny? A book with chickens walking around on it.”
So we come back to the studio, and Chris calls Iowa. “Do you have chicks? Yeah, we have chicks. How much are they? $34 for a dozen. Excellent, we’ll take a dozen chicks.” So that’s Thursday afternoon. They say they’ll be hatched by Tuesday, and then they’ll ship them. The next Thursday I get a call from the post office, “You have a perishable package here.” So I’m standing in line, and I hear “cheep cheep, cheep cheep.”
So I called Chris and said, “Chicks are here, we need a tripod, a video camera and some barbeque sauce.” So we shot the thing in the afternoon. I kept them one more day, because I wanted to be with them. And we learned how to feed and care for them. Then Saturday morning we took them to McCarren Park and handed them off to a farmer who will raise them. That’s how we do stuff. We just make it up.

Do you do all of your sketching and writing on paper?
Paper, and not in the studio. I’ll go to a bar or a restaurant. When I did the book, I left the studio every morning and I went to the park and sat for an hour, hour and a half. I brought an idea, and I wrote longhand in one of these big sketchbooks. Then I would come into the studio and work during the day. Afterwards, at 4 or 5, I’d go to my bar, sit with a beer or two, and refine it. Or write on a new idea. So it became this really nice process of every day. And it became a habit. I can’t do the think-work in the studio. The studio’s for putting stuff together — for work-work. And if we’re not doing work-work, then we leave. How many great architecture ideas have been drawn on napkins? Because they’re free, they’re not thinking about work. It’s the work you do before you ever put pen to paper. That’s the important part.
Excerpted from the 99u blog

INTERVIEW : JAMES VICTORE

James Victore is a man of action. He believes that learning about free jazz and liquor fermentation and speed-racing can make you a better designer, that graphic design is about experiences and stories and using your hands.

Distilling wisdom from decades down in the beautiful muck of making ideas happen, he’s produced a stunning series of aphoristic posters on the nature of art, design and the creative process. His Aphorisms on Art & Idea Execution is on display in the gallery space at Ace Hotel New York through May 25. The installation is in partnership with the 99U ConferenceJocelyn K. Glei caught up with him recently.

What’s a normal day for you?

I like to think we’re like the army. We get more work done by noon than most people do in a full day. Chris [Victore’s sole co-worker] comes in at 10:30 or 11am. We decide on what needs to be done. We rarely work past 5pm. We’re pretty efficient. We make decisions. I look at the agency system and it’s such a waste. That’s why people like Time Magazine come to us. They know they can give it to us on a Wednesday and it will be done on Friday.

Read More


If Desert Gold had a mascot or a spirit animal, the desert bighorn would be a natural choice — pictured above is another form of Bighorn: a Seattle hair band from the 70s. For the real thing, it’s not that there isn’t plenty of competition out here for mascots — we’ve got roadrunners, rattlers, coyotes and mountain lions. But none can best the bighorn for pure animalized rock n’ roll. They negotiate the rocky terrain of the Coachella Valley sporting massive horns cool as a cucumber — their magisterial cadence makes the nimblest human athletes look all left feet.
If you have a chance to catch one in wild while you’re here, you can almost imagine last year’s apparition of Tupac shirtless astride a bighorn, du-rag tied in front, ascending to Thug Heaven. To catch a bighorn in action, you have multiple options. James R. DeForge, Executive Director and Research Biologist at the Bighorn Institute says, “Two of the best places we can recommend to see bighorn sheep near the Coachella Valley are the Whitewater Preserve and Barker Dam in Joshua Tree. They’ve been seen year-round at both locations.” The water pooled at Barker Dam is a draw for all manner of thirsty wildlife, and you can also check out ancient Native American petroglyphs (including pictorials of you guessed who) a short walk away. And you’ve probably heard of Joshua Tree — that’s where bighorns make frequent cameos in ancient rock paintings.
In Palm Springs proper, you’re best option is Indian Canyons, where Peninsular bighorns are occasionally spotted by vigilant sheep-watchers. If you go that route, stop over at the Amigo Room on your way back and we’ll gladly tell regale and be regaled by tales of bighorn encounters.
So for phantom-of-Pac’s sake, pack some binoculars and some trail mix when you come to town. There’s real rock ‘n roll in these hills out here.

If Desert Gold had a mascot or a spirit animal, the desert bighorn would be a natural choice — pictured above is another form of Bighorn: a Seattle hair band from the 70s. For the real thing, it’s not that there isn’t plenty of competition out here for mascots — we’ve got roadrunners, rattlers, coyotes and mountain lions. But none can best the bighorn for pure animalized rock n’ roll. They negotiate the rocky terrain of the Coachella Valley sporting massive horns cool as a cucumber — their magisterial cadence makes the nimblest human athletes look all left feet.

If you have a chance to catch one in wild while you’re here, you can almost imagine last year’s apparition of Tupac shirtless astride a bighorn, du-rag tied in front, ascending to Thug Heaven. To catch a bighorn in action, you have multiple options. James R. DeForge, Executive Director and Research Biologist at the Bighorn Institute says, “Two of the best places we can recommend to see bighorn sheep near the Coachella Valley are the Whitewater Preserve and Barker Dam in Joshua Tree. They’ve been seen year-round at both locations.” The water pooled at Barker Dam is a draw for all manner of thirsty wildlife, and you can also check out ancient Native American petroglyphs (including pictorials of you guessed who) a short walk away. And you’ve probably heard of Joshua Tree — that’s where bighorns make frequent cameos in ancient rock paintings.

In Palm Springs proper, you’re best option is Indian Canyons, where Peninsular bighorns are occasionally spotted by vigilant sheep-watchers. If you go that route, stop over at the Amigo Room on your way back and we’ll gladly tell regale and be regaled by tales of bighorn encounters.

So for phantom-of-Pac’s sake, pack some binoculars and some trail mix when you come to town. There’s real rock ‘n roll in these hills out here.


INTERVIEW : IRA GLASS : PART I
Hello?
Hello?
Hi, Ira. How are you?
Hey, it’s Ira.
Hi, just to let you know this has already started recording.
Noted, we’re on the record. I’m prepared with my important answers to the national security and other public policy questions that will be presented.
Pretty much, have you ever been associated with a member of the Communist Party?
Have I been with the Communist Party? Not the Communist Party, no.
Thank you for making time to do this. We are all really big fans over here. First off, since you recently crossed the 500th episode mark, how has your selection process for topics evolved from the beginning and how do you search out new material for the show?
In the beginning, the premise of the show was that we we were going to apply the tools of journalism to things so small and personal that journalists don’t normally bother with them. We’re trying to have compelling characters and emotional moments and funny moments and, after doing that for a number of years, myself and the producers on the staff became very interested in trying that same kind of story but doing it for the news. More and more, I think, we’ve been tackling things that are in the news — things that other people try to cover in other ways but we do it with stories that are gripping and emotional and more narrative in a very traditional way and less like news features in that newsy news way.
[[MORE]]
One that strikes my mind is the Giant Pool of Money episode where it really went from a massive topic that confused a lot of people and you broke it down in a way that people could understand. Do you feel like that episode was a turning point — did it do that for the show?
I think it did that. Up until then, we had done a ton of stories about things like the war on terror in Guantanamo and Iraq and guns and things and domestic politics. I think that show just got so many people’s attention because at the point that it appeared in 2008, even before the final parts of the crash, it was before the Lehman brothers fell. It stepped back and was explaining phrases that I think all of us were hearing in the news but didn’t quite know what they meant, like mortgage-backed securities.
I remember that I really didn’t know what that even referred to, before we started working on that episode. I think in time, everybody came to learn from the news. A mortgage-backed security is basically just where somebody buys a bunch of mortgages and bundles them up in a pile and then sells them all at once to somebody else. That’s all that is. It’s a fancy phrase for that.
I think that was a really early piece of reporting — explaining it and explaining exactly what was going on in the economy. In that case specifically, the advantage that we had as non-experts was that we could ask the dumb questions that real beat reporters covering economics never would ask. The whole thing came about because one of our producers, Alex Bloomberg, became very interested in answering the question, “Why are banks doing something that banks have never done since the beginning of the history of capitalism: giving out loans to people and not bothering to check if they were able to pay them back?”
There was a standard loan product called a NINA Loan, a No Interest No Asset Loan. The idea of a NINA Loan was that you didn’t have to prove that you had a job or anything. You didn’t have to do anything to show that you could pay back the loan. We opened our show with this guy who had two part-time jobs, made $30,000 or $40,000 a year, who got a $400,000 loan from a bank, and he said, “I wouldn’t have lent me this money. This is too much money.” We were just like, “Why would a bank do that?”
The answer is the bank did that because it wasn’t going to hold on to the loan. It didn’t matter to the bank if anybody ever paid it back. The bank was going to sell the loan. The bank was going to make the loan and then just sell it to these bundlers who were going to bundle it together into these so-called mortgage-backed securities and all the bank cared about was they had this product that they could sell upstream to these other guys.
That show let us do this thing that reporters weren’t doing quite yet which was to go around to all the people in that business, the bankers, the people selling the mortgage-backed securities, everybody trading in these commodities and say to them, “You guys knew this stuff was crap, right? You knew these people couldn’t pay it back. Since they all did know, what did you think was going to happen? How was this going to work out okay?” You got to hear from the people who brought down the world economy, many of them lovely people.

You just said that you approached that from the outside and that’s why you could ask these questions, but now a few years later I think that you’ve done some really big pieces…
Can I say one more thing? Yes, the thing that we can do is we can use the thing which is the unique power of radio which is that radio works best when you’re telling… it lets you get in there and hear from an actual person. You can get to know a person. It’s a very friendly, person-focused medium, unlike a lot of abstract economics reporting and the kind of talking heads reporting that you get when it comes to a lot of public policy issues. The fact that it’s radio lets us, first of all, spend a lot of time trying to figure out who would be a good talker and then basically let the audience meet the actual people. There are certain things that the medium is just particularly good for.
Do you think that this story changed the level of candidness or openness that your interviewees might have, knowing that their answers might implicate them? Has it caused potential interview subjects to be more guarded?
Our influence isn’t quite so big, I think, that the people we are interviewing have much of an awareness usually of who we are. I think among the people who do, if anything, they’ve seen that we treat people pretty fairly. Even in these newsy stories, people get to say their side. We’re not out to get people. We didn’t want to make the people in the mortgage business look like mobsters because they weren’t mobsters. They just messed something up, but they were perfectly nice people in other ways.
You obviously have a viewpoint as a person, but how much do your own opinions or emotions influence a story? I would say from the economic crisis, you knew that it was bad and people got screwed over, but do you just present the story or does your bias come into it, through editing, tone, music and maybe even just energetically?
I think when the show is working well and when journalists work well, it’s really about trying to understand people. You know what I mean? That requires a suspension of judgment, and really, that’s not very hard because generally I feel really curious about why people do the things they do and especially things in a climate with these sorts of consequences…it’s interesting.
Obviously, I think it was terrible what happened with the economy and I think these were greedy people who were out to make a buck and weren’t being careful about what it could do to the rest of us. As they said in the interviews, they were up against competitors and if they didn’t do it somebody else would just do it, and they were just working a job that they ended up in for whatever reason. I don’t know. In general, just even outside of my journalistic job, I don’t feel such a harsh sense of judgment about people.

From my standpoint, it’s so easy to be like “Screw the banks!” but do you feel because you’ve shared some level of candidness and closeness with the people you’ve interviewed, it’s not quite as easy to point fingers and say “Shame on you”?
No, I think there definitely are people who you can say shame on you about. There definitely are. There are things the banks have done that are really selfish and we tax payers ended up holding the bag for it. There’s no question about that. There’re people in that business who are just dicks, but that’s different. That’s a case-by-case basis kind of judgment. I definitely notice when somebody’s a total dick and when the banks do something that just seems ill-advised. 
For example, before the mortgage crisis hit, one of the things the banks did is that they went to the federal government and they lobbied to get leverage requirements lifted or raised and what those are…it’s a technical thing, but basically what it refers to is something really simple, which is how much money do they have to have on hand to cover all the loans that you’re putting out?
The banks were saying these new financial instruments were so sophisticated in the way that we monitored them and so on, so we don’t need to keep as much money lying around as the federal regulations currently require, and they got them raised. That was a huge problem. That really was a problem and the federal government eventually had to step in as part of the bailout and save them.
One of the things that put them in such bad straits was that the leverage requirements were raised. Obviously, I think that was just greed. There’s just no two ways about that, greed made them want to do that. They wanted to lend out more money and make more money and obviously they were completely wrong. They were wrong.
That’s a dick move that we ended up paying for. I don’t have a problem saying that either to you or on the radio.

Stay tuned for part two of three, coming soon to an Ace Hotel blog near you. And have a look at our Desert Gold schedule during Coachella for more from NPR deep in the desert in the next couple weeks at Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs.

INTERVIEW : IRA GLASS : PART I

Hello?

Hello?

Hi, Ira. How are you?

Hey, it’s Ira.

Hi, just to let you know this has already started recording.

Noted, we’re on the record. I’m prepared with my important answers to the national security and other public policy questions that will be presented.

Pretty much, have you ever been associated with a member of the Communist Party?

Have I been with the Communist Party? Not the Communist Party, no.

Thank you for making time to do this. We are all really big fans over here. First off, since you recently crossed the 500th episode mark, how has your selection process for topics evolved from the beginning and how do you search out new material for the show?

In the beginning, the premise of the show was that we we were going to apply the tools of journalism to things so small and personal that journalists don’t normally bother with them. We’re trying to have compelling characters and emotional moments and funny moments and, after doing that for a number of years, myself and the producers on the staff became very interested in trying that same kind of story but doing it for the news. More and more, I think, we’ve been tackling things that are in the news — things that other people try to cover in other ways but we do it with stories that are gripping and emotional and more narrative in a very traditional way and less like news features in that newsy news way.

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Every Woody Allen stammer from every Woody Allen movie.


ARMORY INTERVIEW : ERIC SHINER

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Eric Shiner is the man behind Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum. He’s also this year’s Armory Focus curator, turning the Armory Show spotlight — now in its 100th year — to US-based artists of the now. As a curator, he has a very strong voice — he’s commissioned an on-site tower of Brillo boxes in tribute to Warhol by Charles Lutz, and light sculpture by Peter Liversidge — and he’s also orchestrating an installation and performance at Ace Hotel New York we’ll tell you about soon… Another distinguishing facet: if you Google Image search him, you find a lot of guys named Eric with black eyes. We recently talked with Mr. Shiner a little bit about the centennial and these last hundred years of art.

Is the centennial of the first Armory Show an inspiration or a long shadow that it’s hard to get out from under? If the lead-up to WWI was the catalyst for the revolutions that were going on then in art, should we just be happy our own malaise are tame by comparison? Does art benefit from adversity and how much adversity is enough/too much?

I can safely say that the first Armory Show is just one of the countless change agents that have occurred in the art world over the past 100 years, although it is certainly an important one. For me, it was simply a point of reference for the Focus Section of The Armory Show, and I am including one installation that makes a direct reference on Marcel Duchamp, whose work at the 1913 Armory certainly ruffled many feathers. War and political upheaval do indeed act as a major influencer on the art being made in that period, but it’s important to note that the Armory was in 1913, with World War I starting a year later in 1914, so there is no connection to that specific war, but more broadly to the cataclysmic social change that was unfolding on a number of fronts in Europe at the time. Art always benefits from adversity, and so too does art present a fair amount of necessary adversity to its audiences. I think that great art should always make the viewer somewhat uncomfortable, challenging them to think in new ways. So, in the end, too much is never enough.

As curator of the Focus section, the country you got handed was the United States of America. That’s a big, rich country. How do you even start to narrow it down?

Yes, indeed. America is a very big thing, both in terms of geography and in more importantly in terms of its psychographic presence in the world, both within and without its borders. It’s true that it is a big, rich country… for some that’s very true, but I think it is critically important to always remember that for many, it is a very poor country with millions of people facing actual need on a daily basis. America is nothing more than a continual series of juxtapositions, from Big to Small, Rich to Poor, Liberal to Conservative. One might even say it is a series of never-ending internal strife and conflict — something that keeps it alive, if nothing else.  This being the case, I didn’t narrow anything down at all. I simply addressed some of the juxtapositions that make up this nation, and selected artists who make a career out of always questioning the powers that be, in one form or another.

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INTERVIEW : LINDA GERARD & DJ DAY

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To many, Linda Gerard needs no introduction. She has a cult following of devoted fans who journey to sunny Ace in Palm Springs to catch a glimpse and an earful of this self-described — Older, Wiser Lesbian. She’s everyone’s femme idol, the apple of our eye and one of our favorite human beings. She’s also a ridiculously talented woman with many an industry notch on her belt. That she’s decided to settle down with us in the desert, hosting Sissy Bingo every week and otherwise wowing those in the know as well as virgin ears and eyes, makes us incredibly blessed. Linda’s voice carries the oceanic vibrations of every great Broadway star before her, and she lets it ricochet ‘gainst the walls of King’s Highway when the mood is right. Her penchant for show-stopping eyewear and envy-inducing collection of let-your-light-shine sweaters and blazers leave us swooning.

We recently released a vinyl-only limited edition of Linda’s greatest hits, Fabulous Selections on our shop, and for our mutual dear friend DJ Day — another Palm Spring legend — we also present his first album, Land of 1000 Chances, on the shop. Day and Linda sat down recently to thumb through a bit of Linda’s life story — the stuff of big dreams, massive love, brave independence and a woman from whom we all have a lot to learn — entrusted to a confidante half her age but who’s definitely dancing to a similar drummer.

Find below the first of three chapters — you’ll see more in the weeks to come. And check out Linda’s and Day’s albums on our shop.

Let’s start from the beginning.

I was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1938, to a very orthodox Jewish family. Kept kosher, did the whole bit. I was always a performer. I always got up in front of people and sang. So, when I was old enough to get on the train my parents would let me go by myself to study in New York. I studied singing, dancing, acting, elocution and all that stuff. My parents wanted me to go to private school, but I said, “No, no, no. I don’t want to go to private school.”

I went to Trenton High School and I was in all the plays and the musicals and that was fun. Then when it was time to go to college and my parents wanted me to go I said, “I want to be in show business, but I’ll go to college if I can go to New York City.” There was a college in New York City called Finch, and it was on 78th Street between Park and Madison. I knew that if I got in I could sing on the weekends because that’s what I wanted to do. I got into Finch and on weekends I sang at 1 Fifth Avenue. I was always singing. I didn’t get great grades but I didn’t care. My parents cared, but I didn’t care. So the following year I didn’t want to go back. I said to parents, “Let me audition for the American Theatre Wing,” which was a very good school, for musical comedy.

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INTERVIEW : URSULA K. LE GUIN

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At 81, Ursula K. Le Guin has published over 80 pieces of literature including books, poetry, essays and one translation from classical Chinese. She is most noted for her groundbreaking work in science fiction and has been awarded the Hugo and Nebula Awards multiple times, and the Locus Award 18 times — more than any other writer in the universe. Her presence in a room could bend steel — she reads, walks and talks with a sly exuberance that seems to set an electric hum in the air.

We’re honored to have had a chance to speak with Ursula in anticipation of her appearance at Wordstock in Portland this weekend. We promised her a couple of thin little questions, and even the much more complex ones we posited to her were a fraction of what we would like to know about her mind. Find her gracious answers below, and see her speak this Sunday.

You’ve been working and living in Portland since 1958. How have you seen the local literary culture and community change over the years? Do you think Wordstock has shifted the literary culture here at all, or that it serves the community in some special way?

Hey, I thought you said this interview would be short and simple. The literary history of Portland since 1958 is short and simple? The literary scene here was never simple. Maybe the biggest change in it is that women count for more than they used to. Due partly to a major societal shift, but also, specifically, to people like Judith Barrington and Ruth Gundle and many, many other activists working to get women writers out of the margins and into the middle of the page.  

During the first few years after Brian Booth energized us to get Oregon Literary Arts going,  the literary community, writers and readers, came together at the Oregon Book Awards for real celebrations. They were great. But it’s hard to keep that much pizzazz going. The current Literary Arts does a terrific job of outreach to all of Oregon.

The old book fair at ArtQuake in the Park Blocks was a hoot. Talk about keeping Portland weird! Wordstock is ever so much more respectable and outward-looking and success-oriented, bringing best selling authors from the East Coast and all. That’s probably a fair reflection of what people want. 

Tell me about how your “source” — internal, creative or otherwordly — for writing finds its expression in such varied iterations as children’s books, poetry, essays and stories. Do you work on one project at a time or many at once, and do they feed each other in any way? 

I can’t tell you anything much about my internal, creative, or otherworldly sources, or how they work. I just sit around and wait for them to tell me what I’m supposed to be writing next, and then I write it, if I can. Good work if you can get it. 

I’m sure you’ve answered more questions about being gender and writing than you can stand — but, here’s one more. You have been publishing books for over forty years. Tell me about your experience of gender — personally and professionally, as well as how creating science fiction expresses, changes or anticipates social evolution around gender.

I made out better in some ways than most women writers of my generation, because I wasn’t competing for the big time awards and glittering prizes (still reserved for male writers at a fairly standard rate of from ten to one to four to one.)  My work got shunted off into the slums of genre, where I won lots of awards, and made friends, too. The poor are always more generous than the rich.  

Now that genre seems to be eating mainstream, and men seem to be less afraid of being eaten by women, things could get even better. If only they can figure out how to make writing e-books pay writers, before stupid Amazon and the stupid pirates destroy the system, and all the writers starve, and THEN what’ll you read? Huh? Aspirin labels?

Imaginative fiction is a great place for people who feel society could use a few changes. Science fiction is particularly good at showing what a different society would actually be like to live in, whether it’s the macho utopias of space opera, or the mean streets of cyberpunk, or the stuff writers like me come up with, like re-inventing gender, or giving Portland a subway out to Reed.



Portrait by Benjamin Reed


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