Episode 156: Douglas Rushkoff

7Mar

There’s an art to interviewing Douglas Rushkoff — and really, “interview” isn’t the right word. It’s akin of offering suggestions and watching him takeoff, explore an idea, and just blow the thing wide open. As with all of his books, every page of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus is utterly bursting with ideas — and every conversation with the author follows the trajectory, as well. It’s impossible to keep up, but if you’re lucky, you can contribute the occasional thought and marvel as Rushkoff runs with the ball. In his latest book, the writer grapples with issues of economics and fairness in the digital age, exploring why the utopian promise of digital democracy and doing no evil never quite came to fruition as many late-20th century philosophers anticipated. But much to his credit, Rushkoff is forever the optimist on the topic of technology, presenting hopeful solutions for every issue the book raises. In this hour-long conversation, we discuss Kickstarter, what’s going on with Twitter, and how all of us lowly cogs can make a meaningful impact.

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Episode 155: Tom Hart

29Feb

Rosalie Lightning is one of this year’s most difficult and most important books. It’s the story of a parent grieving the death of his young daughter the best way he knows how — through making a comic. Tom Hart taught the form for a decade at Manhattan’s school of Visual Arts before opening The Sequential Artists Workshop, a Gainesville-based school devoted solely to the art of comics making, where he serves as Executive Director. Hart has been producing his own work in earnest since 1994, when Hutch Owen's Working Hard earned him a Xeric Foundation grant for self-publishing. Over the years, the titular Wall Street-battling protestor has earned the cartoonist numerous industry awards and landed a daily strip in Metro newspapers. His new book i easily his most potent and highest profile, having landed the top spot on The New York Times’ best selling graphic novel list. As with the book, this conversation is not an easy one, but it’s one well worth having.

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Episode 154: Brooke Arnold

23Feb

“Other ATI beliefs that I learned range from utterly bizarre to downright barbaric,” Brooke Arnold writes in the essay, I Could Have Been a Duggar Wife, “like the creator of Cabbage Patch Kid dolls is actually a Satanic wizard who implants demons into the dolls that then sneak into children’s bodies while they are sleeping — along with the old standard that rock music is inherently sinful.” The story’s subhed labeled Arnold a “real-life Kimmy Schmidt,” as she exposed a laundry list of horrors perpetrated by the Advanced Training Institute, a fundamentalist homeschooling program that helped give rise to reality TV stars, the Duggar family. A week later, Salon published a followup in which Arnold admitted that if she had know how large a splash the story would cause, she “ would not have had the courage to press ‘send’ on the pitch,” while adding that the positive response from women with similar backgrounds ultimately made the decision worthwhile. The story also, naturally, helped raise the profile of a comedian working to establish a name for herself in the big city, as well as helping to inspired the creation of the forthcoming comedic memoir, Growing Up Fundie. We sat down to discuss starting over again in the big city and creating comedy from personal tragedy.

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Episode 153: Gene Luen Yang

17Feb

Not too long before our conversation, the Library of Congress appointed Gene Yang its “Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.” It’s the kind of announcement that makes everyone around the comics community cheer — another big moment in a space perpetually starved for legitimization as the institution chose its first ever graphic novelist for the post. Of course, they would have been hard-pressed to find a stronger candidate. Yang has been a fixture in the kids and YA comics scene since his 2006 book American Born Chinese became the first graphic novel to score a spot as a finalist for the National Book Award, Young People’s Literature. These days, Yang finds is at the helm of DC’s flagship Superman title and has released Secret Coders, an educational book that combines the cartoonist’s love of comics and passion for computer programming. We sat down at First Second’s triangular conference room in the Flatiron building to talk tech and the Man of Steel’s truly American immigrant story.

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Episode 152: Nicole Georges (Bonus)

10Feb

Friend of the podcast Nicole Georges joins us via Skype to discuss her brand new show, Sagittarian Matters, which combines her love of conversation, advice and eating food products past their expiration date. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a conversation about love, punctuation, offering unsolicited advice, and the pitfalls of writing comic books about your parents.

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Episode 151: Noah Van Sciver, Derf and Tommi Musturi

9Feb

We kick things off Noah Van Sciver, one of comics’ most exciting — and prolific — young talents. Last year alone, the Denver cartoonist released three books, all of which made their way to various best-of lists: St. Cole, Fante Bukowski and My Hot Date. The artist is also well-known in indie comics circles for his on-going series Blammo and the 2012 Fantagraphics title The Hypo, following the life of a melancholic young Abraham Lincoln. Released that same year on Abrams, My Friend Dahmer details Cleveland cartoonist Derf’s experiences attending high school with future serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. The book’s followup, Trashed, debuted from the publisher last year, offering a fictionalized version of the time the artist spent working as a sanitation working as a 19-year-old. Derf is also the author of the alternative weekly comic strip, The City, which ran in 140 paper before coming to a close in 2014. Finnish cartoonist Tommi Musturi made his Fantagraphics debut last year with The Book of Hope, which follows the life of a retired couple. The artist is also known for his wordless comic  Samuel, and for co-founding the publishing house Huuda Huuda, for whom he has translated a number of prominent English language artists, including Daniel Clowes and Edward Gorey.

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Episode 150: Bill Griffith

1Feb

It’s been several years since I last spoke to Bill Griffith. I’m fairly certain I spent much of that last interview attempt to talk the cartoonist into drawing a full length book — and while I certainly can’t take any of the credit, I’m happy to say that the artist was on-hand at this year’s Comic Arts Brooklyn to discuss just such a project. Invisible Ink marks, incredibly, Griffith’s first full-length graphic novel, after four decades spent drawing comics professionally. Of course, working on a daily strip ha kept the cartoonist plenty busy, producing a cumulative output that dwarfs any of his underground comics contemporaries. While others focused on floppies and books, Griffith took a more traditional approach to the medium, infiltrating national newspapers with the sublimely, absurdly subversive Zippy the Pinhead.  With Invisible Ink, Griffith explores his mother’s life, uncovering her diary, unfinished novel, and a “long and happy” affair she carried on with a fellow cartoonist. The conversation is a wide ranging and fascinating look at one of alternative comics’ most enduring and beloved careers. It’s a great way to celebrate episode 150.

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Episode 149: Josie Long

26Jan

“It’s woven very densely into the fabric of my life,” explains Josie Long. “It happens when you do your accounting every year. You look at your receipts, and everything there you’ve written about.” The comedian began her standup career at the tender age of 14, scoring a BBC New Comedy Award three years later. Having spent more than half her years on Earth as a standup, it’s certainly understandable that comedy has become the filter through which Long examines her life. I caught up with the comedian ahead during a week-long string of shows in New York. She’d been out swimming in the ice cold Atlantic in the midst of an autumn chill, her voice slightly worse for wear. But she happily spoke the cross section of the personal and professional, an area she had been mining heavily for the set she was performing later that evening.  Cara Josephine trades her often political source material in for stories about family and failed relationships, making for far away Long’s most personal show to date.

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Episode 148: Eric Bogosian

19Jan

Eric Bogosian is not an easy interview — but he’s a good one. I came ready to discuss his recently published book on the Armenian genocide, Operation Nemesis — but the writer quickly made it known that he’s not keen to reflect upon something that’s already out in the world, particularly not with something new in need of promotion just over the horizon. Before we began, he sat me down and played a handful of examples of his 100 Monologues project, featuring a rotating cast well known actors from stage and screen acting out works written by Bogosian between 1980 and 2006, arguably the purest manifestation of the work at the hard of an incredibly diverse career. Over the decades, he’s written books and appeared in myriad films, sitcoms and stage productions , but its Bogosian’s career as a playwright that will almost certainly be his legacy. And here it’s shown bare for all the world, just his words and an actor’s performance cast against a black backdrop. The interview, conducted several months ago, has been waiting for the release of the 100 Monologues Kickstarter campaign to go live, timed to promote the project, which is currently seeking $25,000 to shoot and post the the second 50 monologues. It’s an ultimately a wide-ranging talk focused on Bogosian’s current passion project, while taking the occasional peek back at an utterly fascinating career in art and entertainment.

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Episode 147: Walter Martin (of The Walkmen)

12Jan

Walter Martin and I keep getting kicked out of coffee shops. It’s a strange thing. Over the course of the 50 minute interview, we close out two places in Manhattan. But as romantic as getting kicked out of two New York City establishments in under an hour with an indie rock star looks on paper, the whole thing is slightly mundane. Turns out the coffee shops in midtown like to shut their doors before eight. And Martin, for his part, doesn’t appear to be embracing the rock and roll lifestyle these days. The Walkman multi-instrumentalist has settled down a bit, starting a family and taking a step back from the heavy touring. In 2014, Martin issued his post-Walkman debut, We’re All Young Together, a delightfully catchy collection of all-ages kids tunes recorded with members of bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The followup, Arts & Leisure, is due out next week. The songs are a joyful celebration of Martin’s love of fine art, filtered through the youthful passion of singer-songrwriters like Jonathan Richman. Coffee shop shut downs aside, we managed to have a fascinating conversation about rock band politics, playing solo and what it means to grow up.

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