Age and occupation. How long have you lived here, where did you come from, and where do you live now?
29, writer and programmer for Ftrain.com, Associate Web Editor, Harpers.org, contributor, The Morning News, commentator, NPR's All Things Considered.
Came from Pennsylvania with a laptop on my knee. Found a place in Brooklyn when I was 23.
Three for Thee
1. Last night I bumped my head and said, "Gedankenexperiment!" Then I started watching my favorite programs on Tivo while skipping the commericials. How far can the consumer go in manipulating or ignoring advertising?
The word "consumers" makes me sad for this world. Whenever someone tries to convince you of advertising's nobility, remember that word -- the industry looks at you and sees not a human, but a gobbling creature with money to spend.
And the only way to ignore advertising is to die.
I'm a huge fan of what Negativland does. They just take what they want and use it to their own ends, and turn any ensuing legal proceedings into a huge art project. One of their members has put together a movie made up of product placements in other movies, called "Value-added Cinema."
You have to do something to keep ownership of your own mind. Literally - studies show that being exposed to well-known brand names will cause a spike on an EEG. It's fair to push back when people are trying to crawl into your brain. Ads should be mercilessly mocked, cut, pasted, and vandalized. Or at least questioned--but no one wants to scare off sponsors.
Of course, I work in advertising, so I spin around and around this topic.
2. Would you be so kind as to write a political cartoon (sans cartoon) for this site? Please use the word aperient or distrait, if you'd like; your choice.
Panel 1: The president and his father are at the eye doctor's, looking at eye charts. The optometrist says, "looks fine so far."
Panel 2: The optometrist switches the chart to a map of the Middle East. Both Georges squint.
Panel 3: The optometrist says, "Here's your problem. You're both incredibly nearsighted."
Panel 4: The younger George says to older, "well, it seems distrait is inherited."
3. Right here, right now. Do your best NPR voice for me, please.
Time travel question: What era, day or event in New York's history would you like to re-live?
It's a one way time machine, huh? Then put me back between 1880 through WWI. It was an amazing time: huge waves of immigrants, massive strikes, and Bolshevists on one side, Edith Wharton-style high society on the other, with a tremendous focus on manners. Edison is churning out inventions. Everything is new: imperialism, anti-imperialism, the tabloid press, tall buildings, recorded sound, powerful unions, anarchism, novels by Dreiser. Modern life began there.
What's your New York motto?
"Have your wallets open."
Just how much do you really love New York?
When I go elsewhere in the U.S. I'm always surprised at the casual racism and homophobia. All the stuff about towelheads, faggots, them, is just a natural part of conversation out there. Most New Yorkers seem to know better and try a little harder. When I come into LaGuardia or get out at Penn Station, I feel physically relieved to see all the different people. That's how I know I'm home.
Best celebrity sighting in New York, or personal experience with one if you're that type.
One of my best friends is Steve Burns, who used to be on Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues. He's the only person I know who had a doll made in his likeness. We've known each other for years.
After he quit Blue's Clues, he wanted to be an indie rocker, and made an album with the help of several members of the Flaming Lips. This sort of crossover has not worked out well for people in the past -- think Corey Feldman, or William Shatner. So he asked me to help him re-invent himself, and we sat down and strategized, wrote a web site, and came up with some talking points. It took months to really get it right, a lot of debate. In the end, I was capable of being Steve, which we used to good effect--take a look at this "interview" at The Morning News -- I wrote that entire thing, went to his place, took the photos, and emailed it to him for comments when I was done.
For the most part, the media did exactly as we asked, like well-behaved dogs. It was beautiful to watch those ideas spread out. Newspapers around the country, TV, Newsweek, blogs, online message boards, everywhere. Sometimes they'd rewrite the press releases, or adapt content from the web site, but usually they just yanked the language as-is and threw in an intro graf. Entirely on our schedule, they made Steve an underdog, then jumped to defend him from critics and naysayers. We loved that, because there were no critics or naysayers of note. Of course, it helped that the album was pretty good.
Since the album, Songs for Dustmites, came out, it's all been on him, and he's been on tour opening for the Flaming Lips. I'm mostly out of the process, and it's been great to watch. But when the album came out last year on August 12, my answering machine had this 9-word message on it from Steve: "I want to thank you for making me cool." A moment of deep professional and personal pride.
This is definitely not to say that he's actually cool. But it's an amazing illusion, thanks to the sheeple in the media.
Just after midnight on a Saturday - what are you doing?
I have an incredibly amazing, exciting life, which doesn't involve sitting around my apartment, writing advertisements on deadline, reading up on new XML-related technologies, and heating up food from cans. But in order to stave off jealousy, let's lie and say that's what I'm up to.
Who do you consider to be the greatest New Yorker of all-time?
All of the clerks at bodegas. They dispense cigarettes, soup, sandwiches, sex enhancers, birth control, and coffee without judgment. Without them we would die.
If you could change one thing about New York, what would it be?
Eternal unlimited Metrocards for everyone. And while I have this power, I'd also like public toilets, more open places for people to meet, and the total elimination of Barnes and Noble.
The End of The World is finally happening. What are you going to do with your last 24 hours in NYC?
It's going to be really hard to find beer, like during the blackout, so while everyone else holds each other and begs God for redemption, I'd hit the store. If I had to spend the last day alone, I'd get a huge book I've been meaning to read, like The Tunnel by William Gass, and see if I could get through it before everything ended, taking a break to watch Dan Rather cry. If I wasn't alone, I'd try to spend my last 24 hours the way I usually spend my spare time: sex, crying, and looting.