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Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Write Stuff: Ian Brennan on the Arrogance of Believing We Are Modern

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

MARILENA DELLI
  • Marilena Delli

Ian Brennan is a Grammy-winning record producer and has produced three Grammy-nominated records. At age six, while staying home sick from school, he by chance saw an old Elvis Presley exploitation film on rerun television and was inspired to pick-up the guitar. It immediately became his obsession and “life-jacket” for surviving childhood and adolescence. He recorded his first album in 1987, during the pre-Pro Tools, dark ages. 

He has worked with artists as diverse as country-great Merle Haggard, filmmaker John Waters, Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Fugazi, Green Day, Tinariwen, Kyp Malone & Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio), the Blind Boys of Alabama, Nels Cline (Wilco), and the Vienna Boys Choir, and has repeatedly travelled the world in search of music. Amongst others, he has discovered and produced groups who went on to be the first international releases in the indigenous languages of their respective countries: Rwanda, South Sudan, and Malawi. During his leanest years, he supported himself by day working as a counselor in the locked emergency-psychiatric unit for Oakland, California. This led to his becoming a violence prevention “expert,” lecturing on the topic over 100 times annually since 1993 at such organizations as the Betty Ford Center, Bellevue Hospital (NYC), UC Berkeley, and the National Accademia of Science (Rome), as well as on various continents: Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and North America. He was a published poet by age 19 and has written about music regularly for Zero Magazine and Guitar Player. He is the author of three other published books. The Boston Phoenix called his lyrics ”a model of economical, unpretentious, narrative songwriting,” and the Readers+Writers journal praised his novella, Sister Maple Syrup Eyes as, “A beautiful book. Achingly beautiful.” Brennan was born in Oakland and raised in the far East Bay Area. He relocated first to Paris and then to Italy as a homebase, starting in 2009.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Write Stuff: Josh Rosenthal on Feeling and Expressing the Hard-to-Locate Aspects of Ourselves

Posted By on Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

EMMA GERSON-ROSENTHAL
  • Emma Gerson-Rosenthal

Grammy-nominated producer and Tompkins Square label founder Josh Rosenthal presents his first book, The Record Store of the Mind. Part memoir, part "music criticism," the author ruminates over unsung musical heroes, reflects on thirty years of toil and fandom in the music business, and shamelessly lists some of the LPs in his record collection. Crackling with insightful untold stories, The Record Store of the Mind will surely delight and inspire passionate music lovers ... especially those who have spent way too many hours in record stores. Celebrating ten years in 2015, Rosenthal's San Francisco-based independent record label Tompkins Square has received seven Grammy nominations and wide acclaim for its diverse catalog of new and archival recordings. Rosenthal will present The Record Store of the Mind at Green Apple Books on Clement on November 18th.

Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?

I was big into Roald Dahl. I wrote to him and he wrote back. I loved all the people on Match Game and Hollywood Squares, especially Paul Lynde. I was also a big fan of (NY Met) Rusty Staub, and I met Ed Kranepool once.

Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.

I wish someone would ask me to do an actual striptease in real life, rather than just stripping. I’m listed!

What’s wrong with society today?

We read the headlines but people don’t feel empowered to create change. They don’t know where to start or how they could help.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Write Stuff: Howard Junker on Being Inducted into the Hall of Fame

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2015 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR
  • courtesy of the author

Howard Junker was born in Port Washington, NY, the town called East Egg in The Great Gatsby. He grew up in Chappaqua, NY, across the valley from Reader’s Digest. He was educated at Horace Greeley, Canterbury, Amherst, Stanford, and the University of San Francisco. He served in the Naval Air Reserve as an antisubmarine warfare technician, doing his six months of active duty in Memphis, TN. He has written for many magazines, including Architectural Digest, Art in America, Artforum, Esquire, Film Comment, Film Quarterly, Harper’s Bazaar, The Nation, The New Republic, New York, Newsweek, Playboy, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, and Vogue. He has also worked as a documentary filmmaker, a television producer, a construction carpenter, a junior high school science teacher, a fondue cook, a P.R. flack, and a technical editor. He founded ZYZZYVA, a journal of West Coast writers and artists, in 1985, and edited 90 issues before he retired at the end of 2010. He published Kay Ryan in the second issue; Sherman Alexie while still an undergraduate; and gave Haruki Murakami his first appearance in English. He discovered F.X. Toole, whose stories inspired Million Dollar Baby, and Jill Soloway, who created Transparent. He also edited five anthologies of work from ZYZZYVA, as well as four first novels and three first collections of poems.  He teaches metamemoir at the Fromm Institue at the University of San Francisco.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?


I'm always tempted to say I'm a writer. That seems fraudulent, however, although I published my first story when I was 8.

What's your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

Life is a struggle. Sisyphus was being punished, but that's what life is like: you roll it up the hill, it rolls back down. Then you roll it up again. If you're lucky, you get to do it some more.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

Get a second opinion.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Write Stuff: Steve Orth on What Happens to the Soul When the Body Dies

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

LINDSEY BOLDT
  • Lindsey Boldt

Steve Orth lives in Oakland, CA. His most recent work is Cyborg Legs, out now from OMG! Press.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?


I don’t really remember the last time someone asked me this...I remember the other day I was at work, at the supermarket that I work at, and I happen to be talking to some asshole, and me and this asshole we’re just chatting, you know, just general small talk (that day’s weather, the evening’s weather, the forecast for the next day). Anyway, I don’t know how it came up, but I ended saying that I only worked at the supermarket part time. And then this asshole was all like, “Oh, what’s your second job?”

I guess the point of your question was really if I tell people I’m a writer. Well, I don’t really, cause I very rarely want to talk about it. I live sort of a double life. And I prefer that. Because the honest truth is that I really didn’t decide to become a writer so that I can talk about how I’m a writer. When I have told people that I’m a writer and they ask me what I write about, then I get really flustered, I start stuttering and talking nonsense, like, “I don’t know...I write poem...stuff...about grocery store....and I write prose-y stuff about writing poetry..and then I also write other things about....everything that could happen to...guy me?”

I decided to become a writer for three reasons. 1. Because I LOVE IT. 2. Because I have a talent for it and 3. Because I prefer to be left alone. And if you like being alone then be a writer!

What's your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

Sometimes I wake up and I’m covered in hives.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

This is a two part-er. The first part is that you should write your stories or your poems, whatever art it is that you want to do. Get good at it. Work hard on it. Have fun with it. Enjoy it, love it, struggle with it. Work on your relationship with it. But work on it with hard work. Being an artist is lots and lots of hard work. And you fail a bunch. You sometimes have an idea and the idea turns out to be terribly stupid. A real dum-dum. It’s a failure. But failure is fun. Failure makes you learn. Failure helps you find your voice. You need to at least have a small chuckle for every failure. But you go at it again the next day. Work, work, work. That’s it. Sometimes you are totally full of shit and then your art is full of shit. That’s ok, though. Work on not being full of shit. Or work on being the greatest full of shit artist that there’s ever been.

Part 2 is the social aspect. Meet people. Meet artist. Meet them poetry readings. Art shows. Be nice to them. Be honest with them. They’re not all going to be your friend, but have good graces. Don’t talk too much. Talk some. Smile at people. Remember their names. Shake their hands. Eye contact is nice. Don’t drink too much wine, unless everyone else is going to drink too much wine. And then other people will want to show you their art. Let them. Look at it. Comment on it. Be thoughtful. Put out a magazine featuring their art. Champion the artists you love. Help them with their art and they will hopefully help you with yours. But don’t get too upset if they don’t think about your art all the time. They’re all, like you, insanely narcissistic.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

I’m guilty of being a little shy with showing my writing. I do have a core group of very gracious friends that will read and comment and champion my work, which makes me feel blessed and helps get my work out there. And then when it’s out there, people I don’t know will read it. That’s amazing to me.

If I work on my art and am not lazy, then that’s a successful day. Even if whatever I spent all day working on is total garbage. Somedays are just Trash Days. But that’s fine. I’ll take that! Why not?! What else should I do with my time? Stick fried eggs under my armpits? I could do that, I guess. But I’m not going to.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Write Stuff: Chris Carosi on Allowing People an Opportunity to Listen

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

REBECCA WETHERBEE
  • Rebecca Wetherbee

Chris Carosi is from Pittsburgh and then escaped to study at the University of San Francisco Creative Writing Program between 2009 and 2011. He is the author of two chapbooks, bright veil (New Fraktur Press, 2011) and FICTIONS (The Gorilla Press, 2015). Other work has appeared in Spring Gun, Switchback (where he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize), Your Impossible Voice, and a few others. He lives in San Francisco with Rebecca. He's @sutrogram on Twitter but kind of only follows stand-up comedians and Pittsburgh sports personalities, because he believes in a more leisure-friendly Internet between the hours of 7pm-10pm when he gets home from work and wants a drink. He works for City Lights Booksellers and Publishers as a publicist and digital marketing coordinator. If given the opportunity to have any automobile to drive for life, it would be a 1997 Cadillac DeVille. Black with beige interior.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?

I rarely get that question unless it’s from a relative or when I’m forced to mingle with people I will only meet once. I like to think I can tell if I am connecting with someone right away, if the conversation turns inward I’ll edge toward the idea that I could be weird — always best to just be yourself around strangers no matter what and maintain eye contact (which is extraordinarily difficult). Depends on the person if they can even appreciate that and pick up on it socially. So much trust at play in those scenarios. But usually I just start with, “I’m a publicist,” which is my actual profession and things can spread out naturally. I think acknowledging that I write and think about poetry is really only enjoyable to me. Facebook doesn’t count. At least to me. If I’m hanging with some poets, I don’t have to say shit and that’s the best.

What's your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

In terms of what I go through privately most of the time: it is a very serious challenge for me to experience that I am listened to at all or that what I say or do has any value to anyone. I say “serious” because it’s not a very unlucky fate, but that’s the area of myself I get tripped-up on most often. This comes from childhood I am sure, and also I know intuitively that most people are just smarter and better—it is 100% how I backed away from meaningful one-on-one conflict resolution into writing poems.

The good news is that once you start down the creative path you find other uses for it down the line, if you have the stubbornness or arrogance to stay with it. And people will listen. Or maybe it’s you allow people an opportunity to listen. Definitely learned to just pretend I’m okay and perhaps I can fool everyone I come into contact with, and they too will pretend because they have their own insecurities.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Write Stuff: Amy Stephenson on Hustling, Basically, and Hunting Down that Blush

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR
  • courtesy of the author

Amy Stephenson is a curly-haired human female living in San Francisco. She’s the host of Shipwreck, a contributing editor for Hoodline, and the Director of General Shenaniganery at Booksmith. You can find her on your platform of choice as LoserTakesAll.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them… ?

I start off stammering about being a bookseller but also running events and writing for a local news blog and other odd things and eventually I come around to saying, “Basically, I hustle.” Lately, though, I’m getting a lot of “Oh, YOU’RE the one who does Shipwreck,” and then I’m usually off the hook.

What's your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

Finding the perfect blush. But also feelings. Experiencing and communicating in a way that’s authentic, without worrying that I owe people an explanation for being whatever I am. I struggle with anxiety and depression and perfectionism and body dysmorphia and impostor syndrome and a zillion other things creeping in corners.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

Sometimes I wear heels, and sometimes I slouch, and sometimes I wear heels and I slouch.

We all get high on our own personal haterade, as an Internet Friend once put it. I try my best not to.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Write Stuff: Jasper Bernes on the Shadow Cast by Unfreedom

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

ANDREW KENOWER
  • Andrew Kenower

Jasper Bernes was born in 1974, after the end of the great postwar boom, and grew up in Topanga Canyon, Calif., among its pure products. He is author of two books of poetry — Starsdown (2007), and the just-published We Are Nothing and So Can You. He is currently completing a book of literary history, Poetry in the Age of Deindustrialization. With Juliana Spahr and Joshua Clover, he edits Commune Editions. He lives in Berkeley with his family. 

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?

I am continuously flummoxed by this simple question. I think most people who ask it are curious about what I do for money, which means that I should answer by saying that I teach literature courses to college students. However, I also spend much of my time writing, and some of this writing is either paid for by my university work or a requirement of it. Is this a job? Maybe? Then there are things that I write which are more or less on my own time, like poetry, but still difficult to disentangle from the other writing and certainly no less urgent. You can see that I’m very confused.

What's your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

I’ve been trying to overthrow capitalism. It’s really hard.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

I would propose that we collaborate, since I also want to do what I do, and am still not sure it’s going to work out.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Write Stuff: Tomas Moniz on Not Forgetting How Powerful We Are

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

HEIDI YOUNT
  • Heidi Yount

Tomas Moniz is the founder, editor, and writer for the award winning zine, book and magazine: Rad Dad. His novella Bellies and Buffalos is a tender, chaotic road trip about friendship, family and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. He is co-founder and co-host of the rambunctious monthly reading series, Saturday Night Special. He’s been making zines since the late nineties, and his most current zine addition / subtraction is available, but you have to write him a postcard: PO Box 3555, Berkeley CA 94703. He promises to write back.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?

I usually say, I try to do less and be more. I think we all tend to do too much, stress too much, obsess too much. But I know it's a common question that I often ask others myself so I respond by sharing my excitement that I have a humbling, satisfying, exhausting job at a community college teaching basics skills writing classes. I get to talk about writing, encourage people to trust their own voices, share their stories, think critically about who they are and what they believe. Which, of course, reminds me to do the same…

What's your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

Trusting that what I write is worth the work. Knowing that I should enjoy and appreciate the process of creating and doing rather than the product and its reception or success, but too often I find myself distracted by rejection or desiring approval. In fact, it's that struggle that silences me, that makes me avoid writing. In some ways, this is applicable to so many aspects of life: Take relationships. I remind myself daily to enjoy people for who they are, cherish messy, complex relationships, revel in the moments rather than focusing on what they will bring you later, what they might mean. Capitalism has really messed us all up.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

Let's collaborate. Seriously! Write me: PO BOX 3555 Berkeley CA 94703. We learn by doing. Especially when we do things together.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Write Stuff: Akemi Johnson on Slowing Down Time

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

KENJI JOHNSON
  • Kenji Johnson

Akemi Johnson is a Northern California native, now Washington, D.C.-bound. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Nation, Roads & Kingdoms, Kyoto Journal, Off Assignment, and elsewhere. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Brown University, she has taught creative writing at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and the University of Iowa. For a long time, she’s been completing a creative nonfiction book on the borderlands around the U.S. military bases in Okinawa, Japan, which she researched as a Fulbright scholar. Once, she won the James D. Phelan Award from the San Francisco Foundation, and she wonders what Phelan—the late anti-Japanese leader who ran under the slogan “Keep California White”—would think about that.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?

Depends on the kind of conversation I’m having. Short and superficial: I say my day job. Long and substantial: I talk about writing.

What's your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

Everything comes down to time.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

Get real comfortable with rejection. Learn to be motivated by internal, not external, factors.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Write Stuff: Joshua Clover on Wearing Intense Knowledge Lightly and Changing Quickly

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

SEETA CHAGANTI
  • Seeta Chaganti

Joshua Clover is a communist, though various communists don’t think so. He is also a professor of literature and critical theory at the University of California Davis. A national award-winning essayist, poet, and cultural theorist, he was a senior writer at The Village Voice, once quit as senior writer at Spin, and has a column at The Nation. He has collaborated on writing, publishing, and conference organization with Jasper Bernes, Chris Chen, Timothy Kreiner, Annie McClanahan, Chris Nealon, Louis-Georges Schwartz, Juliana Spahr, Michael Szalay, and others. His latest book is Red Epic.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?

The what-do-you-do question is usually en route to a more interesting conversation, so I think it can be good to move past it pretty swiftly. Recently the best conversations I have had with strangers have begun, “Can I ask you why you’re reading that?”

What's your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

To be a good friend to my friends. I like to argue, and I’m a good critic. But I am not half as good as I would like to be at making my friends feel cared for and supported and admired and loved. I’m trying to get better at that. My friends are helping.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

Yes, because I am not dead and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t live past 36. No, because this is still a world that destroys people.

When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

Having been betrayed by a series of leaders who had been angling for buereaucratic jobs or worse, a couple of years ago one of the parties in the National Union of Students in the UK ran an Inanimate Carbon Rod for president. They made it to the national hustings and this young man gives a talk on behalf of Inanimate Carbon Rod. The speech is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. It is savagely funny. It’s a word salad of faux-political uplift and new economy buzzwords along with references to previous betrayals which, we are assured, the Rod will not do. “There are those who will say clear future value people but let’s be clear: future. Not just for the next five years but the next four thousand years together with the rod in positive serous fightback for serious together clear where we’re going… the NUS needs to be going forwards not backwards, upwards not forwards, and always twirling, twirling twirling twirling, towards improving the student experience through sharing best practice.” It’s an astounding satire of political speeches in general, but also a brutal assessment of actually existing student politicos. All without cracking up. In fact it’s quite angry. “It will not stand back when you are kettled through the night on Whitehall waiting for some uniformed thug… the rod does not do glowstick vigils. It wants revenge.” Amazing.


Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?

I have an almost total lack of interest in family history. Though I am interested in the consistency with which it intersects with the great tides, often horrifying, of history at large. Like, relatives who died in the camps, yes. Relatives who fled the dustbowl and starvation for California, yes. Who fought in the army. Who fought in the Free Speech Movement. Yes yes. I really like that clichés are clichés for a reason.

How much money do you have in your checking account?

I don’t have a savings account, so, all of it. I have actually never had a bank account or credit card. I have this little credit union. They wink at me with secret complicity because they know I got arrested for blockading a bank once, it was in the local news. They think I am the weaponized wing of the credit union movement.

What’s wrong with society today?

People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed.

What is your fondest memory?

It changes? Prince at Madison Square Garden in 1986. The time I wrote a perfect 400 word review and I knew that for the first time ever the editor would send it forward without any changes and she did. A reading Juliana gave at Berkeley a few years ago. The first time I took acid, reading the same Joyce page over and over. That time I felt like I really understood the first chapter of Capital. March on the port, November 2, 2011, Rihanna soundtrack. Hearing “Graveyard Shift” for the first time. Not that it’s my favorite song, I just remember hearing part of it as I was out running one day in Iowa and freaking out, running directly home to find out what song it was. I called the radio station and everything. But really, all the people who were waiting for me outside the jail when I got out after a few days in 2012 — thinking I had a lot of good friends.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

Do you remember that Facebook meme from 2009 or so, when you were supposed to post “25 Things People Might Not Know About You” or something like that? And a friend of mine posted her list, it was sort of uninteresting which is the meme’s fault not hers, and then the last one was, “thinking there might be a revolution in my lifetime is the only reason I am not afraid of dying.” I am probaby misquoting but that was the idea. I don’t know if I have ever had such an intense moment of self-recognition, that sense of, oh, that is the entire structure of my psychic life and I never quite knew it. That was the basis for the poem “Transistor” in my book.

What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

Art is giving form to the antagonism between the concept and immediate struggle. Or: lol again.

When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?

Think about possible answers to questions from SF Weekly.

What are you working on right now?

A book about the political economy of riot. The publishers changed the title. It’s now called Riot. Strike. Riot which is maybe better?

What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?

It is no secret that I most admire the writing of my friends. More and more that is how I get to be friends with people. I like writing that wears intense knowledge lightly and changes quickly. I like writing that doesn’t hedge all its bets while claiming it is being open and vulnerable. I like Diane Di Prima a lot. I am still trying to understand what it means to love Baraka despite how fucked up a lot of that shit is.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

Capitalism.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?

Once I crashed a pickup into a warehouse wall in New Orleans, and was knocked unconscious. When I woke up I had some memory loss, but called a phone number in my pocket. It turned out to be a friend in town; she called the EMTs. They showed up and were checking me out, when a guy walked up. We’re on some warehouse district back street, deserted, distant sounds of revelry. This was Sugar Bowl week. I was very disoriented, it was like being superhigh and everything was in and out of focus. The guy was drunk and he was in handcuffs and the handcuffs were attached to a skirt, it was just sort of hanging from them. Empty skirt midair. He wanted the EMTs to cut off the handcuffs before he went home to his wife.

What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?

That was always the big threshold when I was a journalist, making a dollar a word. But it turns out they don’t pay you to write words. They pay you for their degree of editorial say. The more they pay, the more they reserve the right to change your words. This is an absolute and linear relation, and any well-paid journalist who doesn’t know it just happens to write what their editors wanted them to say in the first place, without having to be told.

What are some of your favorite smells?

Bread coffee hash gasoline. I can’t imagine anyone ever says anything else.

If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?

I’d like to spend a year in China. But I would also like to go back to school and study economics, begin again from the beginning.

 

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. This interview was conducted by Evan Karp. Follow Litseen at @Litseen.


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