Songwriting is something that happens if you let it. There is little correlation between writing prose and writing songs for me. A song is a bed sheet used as a sail, prose is a barquentine fully-rigged.
I’m not a poetry guy. I don’t understand most of it. I like the plain spoken stuff OK, like the “Land of the White Donkeys” guy. Is that Tate? His stuff is more along the lines of Mitch Hedburg though. Emily Dickinson I like. She was a rare seed with a rampant flaring core. I’m surprised no one has founded a religion in her honor. Or maybe they have. All these poetry readings attended by poets. But mostly I find that poetry doesn’t suit my speed. Mostly I cannot understand what is being said. I don’t want to be teased with feathers by someone tittering in a harlequin mask hiding behind a pillar—I want to be high-fived or hugged by a blinged out mothereffer. Hug a thug!
I remember as a small child thinking that the fiddle in bluegrass music was a baby crying and singing. So I liked it. I thought they just brought their baby on stage with them. Bluegrass was what I first saw as a three-dimensional music—the skeleton and the organs and the skin and face. That is the first thing I remember about music, that bluegrass is like a body with joints that move and smiles, stretches, etc.
(excerpted from an interview with Bill Callahan on The Rumpus)
SCOTT RAAB: Your name came up once in an interview with Robert Downey Jr. and a hush descended upon him.
BILL MURRAY: Well, people get pretty quiet when they hear his name, too.
SR: Downey told me: “We wanted Bill to consider a role in Iron Man, but nobody could find him.” Show people are awestruck by your inaccessibility.
BM: I’m not trying to be coy. It’s just practical for me. When the phone started ringing too many times, I had to take it back to what I can handle. I take my chances on a job or a person as opposed to a situation. I don’t like to have a situation placed over my head.
SR: You want control?
BM: To the degree that I can get the things that want to control me out of the way, then there’s less stuff in my field of vision. Then I can work.
SR: A lot of folks worry that if they aren’t available or don’t say yes, they’ll stop getting asked.
BM: If you keep saying yes, they’ll stop asking you, too. That’s a much more likely event. I think we’re all sort of imprisoned by — or at least bound to — the choices we make, and I think everyone in the acting business wants to make the right choices. You want to say no at the right time and you want to say yes more sparingly. I came out of the old Second City in Chicago. Chicago actors are more hard-nosed. They’re tough on themselves and their fellow actors. They’re self-demanding. Saying no was very important. Integrity is probably too grand a word, but if you’re not the voice of Mr. Kool-Aid, then you’re still free. You’re not roped in.
SR: Your Second City teacher/mentor Del Close is a guy I’ve never read enough about. What was it that made him so influential?
BM: Well, he was a guy who had great knowledge of the craft of improvisation. And he lived life in a very rich manner, to excess sometimes. He had a whole lot of brain stuck inside of his skull. Beyond being gifted, he really engaged in life. He earned a lot. He made more of himself than he was given. Came out of Manhattan, Kansas, and ended up hanging out with the Beats. He was incredibly gracious to your talent and always tried to further it. He got people to perform beyond their expectations. He really believed that anyone could do it if they were present and showed respect. There was a whole lot of respect.
SR: Sounds like a great teacher.
BM: He taught lots and lots of people very effectively. He taught people to commit. Like: “Don’t walk out there with one hand in your pocket unless there’s somethin’ in there you’re going to bring out.” You gotta commit. You’ve gotta go out there and improvise and you’ve gotta be completely unafraid to die. You’ve got to be able to take a chance to die. And you have to die lots. You have to die all the time. You’re goin’ out there with just a whisper of an idea. The fear will make you clench up. That’s the fear of dying. When you start and the first few lines don’t grab and people are going like, “What’s this? I’m not laughing and I’m not interested,” then you just put your arms out like this and open way up and that allows your stuff to go out. Otherwise it’s just stuck inside you.
[The nanny comes downstairs and asks where Murray wants to go for dinner with his sons and Raab.]
BM: I haven’t made any plan yet. But we’ll need to be more dressed up than we are now. You can get away with it ‘cause you’re a girl, but you’re not going to get away with that [points to his son]. And I’m not going to get away with this. He’s going to get away with that [points to Raab]. Lincoln [Murray’s ten-year-old], you’re going to have to get dressed nicely. And you need a shower. That’s an order.
LINCOLN: Yes, sir.
SR: Did you ever want to be a stand-up?
BM: No. I saw them work, and they seemed so unhappy. If an audience didn’t like them, they’d get so miserable about it. It looked too miserable. I did it once and it was fun. But I only had to do it once to realize I could do it, but I don’t want to do it. I’ve done it a little bit lately — I’ll emcee a concert, something like that.
SR: It’s no surprise you can do it. You’re Bill Murray.
BM: But you still have to be funny. If you’re not funny, then it’s “Guess who’s not funny?”
SR: Bill Murray.
BM: ”Hey, I’ll tell you who’s not funny. That guy.” I don’t wanna die at this point.
SR: Is your body of work a source of gratification?
BM: Am I gratified that I got it done? Is it gratifying to have this library, this stack of things that I’ve worked on? Well, yeah. I like ‘em all. Some of them are not as successful as others, but I like ‘em all. They’re like your kids
SR: You must like some more than others.
BM: The ones I like most are the ones where I connected with great people. The gratification part is: I worked with that son of a bitch. I worked with her. If you get that thing done, you’re professional friends for life. There are people who drove me crazy, but they got the job done. And when I see that person again, I nod my head. Respect.
SR: Respect. I think that’s also a Chicago thing: Friendship is no substitute for gettin’ the job done.
BM: When I work, my first relationship with people is professional. There are people who want to be your friend right away. I say, “We’re not gonna be friends until we get this done. If we don’t get this done, we’re never going to be friends, because if we don’t get the job done, then the one thing we did together that we had to do together we failed.” People confuse friendship and relaxation. It’s incredibly important to be relaxed — you don’t have a chance if you’re not relaxed. So I try very hard to relax any kind of tension. But friendship is different. I read a great essay: Thoreau on friendship. I was staying over at my friend’s house and there it was on the bedside table, and I’m reading it and I’m thinking it’s an essay, so it’s gonna be like four pages. Well, it goes on and on and on and on — Thoreau was a guy who lived alone, so he just had to get it all out, you know? He just keeps saying, “You have to love what is best in that other person and only what’s best in that other person. That’s what you have to love” —
LINCOLN [from the top of the stairs]: Dad!
BM: What is it?
LINCOLN: The Cubs are beating the Cardinals 9-0.
SR: I hope it’s going to be a good season.
BM: They got off to a shaky start. And the columnists went, “Here we go again.” They write with vitriol. Game One, the papers were like the last days of Watergate. I think they’re trying to make Theo [Epstein, Chicago Cubs president] march to their tune. Isn’t gonna happen. [Lincoln comes downstairs.]
SR: Lookin’ good.
BM: Aw, man, doesn’t he look good? Except for the bruises on your leg. What are you, in some sort of a weird relationship? Did you wash your hair?
SR: I can smell it. A little Herbal Essence.
LINCOLN: Hey, Dad. Bryan LaHair [Chicago Cubs first baseman]hit a grand slam.
BM: You mean today against the Cardinals? He’s got a great swing. He was out with a bad back, but he’s got a great swing.
SR: How many kids do you have?
BM: Six. All sons.
SR: That’s a lot of emergency-room visits.
BM: There’s only a couple times when fame is ever helpful. Sometimes you can get into a restaurant where the kitchen is just closing. Sometimes you can avoid a traffic violation. But the only time it really matters is in the emergency room with your kids. That’s when you want to be noticed, because it’s very easy to get forgotten in an ER. It’s the only time when I would ever say, “Thank God. Thank God.” There’s no other time.
SR: Any fathering tips?
BM: If you bite on everything they throw at you, they will grind you down. You have to ignore a certain amount of stuff. The thing I keep saying to them lately is: “I have to love you, and I have the right to ignore you.” When my kids ask what I want for my birthday or Christmas or whatever, I use the same answer my father did: “Peace and quiet.” That was never a satisfactory answer to me as a kid — I wanted an answer like “A pipe.” But now I see the wisdom of it: All I want is you at your best — you making this an easier home to live in, you thinking of others.
SR: Are you a tough laugh with your kids?
BM: For many years I was a tough laugh, but lately I’ve been giving it up. I appreciate when they’re trying to be funny, you know? I think they feel like they have to be funny, that I’ve got some standard of humor that they have to come to. But funny is funny, and there’s no denying funny.
SR: Did you and Bruce Willis get along on the set of Moonrise Kingdom?
BM: I got along great with Bruce Willis. He’s different, though. He’s rolled as a movie star for a long time, so it’s a little different for him coming into Wes Anderson’s world, where no one gets movie-star treatment. Life really does change when you go on one of Wes’s films — you gotta sit back and relax. But Bruce absolutely delivered. He was really game. It was like, Let’s play. Sometimes you get people that don’t want to play — they just want to perform, to act. He’s a movie star, I’ve been a movie star — we don’t have to take this so seriously. So we’d play. We’d goof up a take just for the fuck of it. He delivers one of the biggest laughs of any movie I’ve ever been in. And it really took a movie star to do it. The casting of Bruce was perfect. This movie is really funny. This movie’s gonna be big. Big.
SR: Had you met Willis before?
BM: I met him at this Andy Garcia movie I did, The Lost City. Willis is there and he’d had a couple drinks. We’ve all had a few drinks. And he says, “I just want you to know …” I’m like, “Oh, fuck.” He says, “I used to work as a page at NBC, and my job was to refill the M&M bowls and the peanut bowls in the actors’ dressing room. And only you and Gilda ever treated me like a human being. You were nice to me.” And I thought, Whew, that’s good. I felt like, Shit, I did somethin’ right, you know?
SR: The last time we talked about Wes Anderson was after what sounded like a horrible experience in Italy for The Life Aquatic. You must have a great affinity for him.
BM: Wes is still a young man, but he was just a kid when I met him on Rushmore. And he’s grown as a person, as a man, as a movie director. His stuff just keeps getting better and better. And he’s managed to make the making of movies a real living experience. For Moonrise Kingdom, he rented a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, and we lived in it. The editing rooms were in the mansion. And we had a great cook. You could be relaxed in your own skin, but it also meant that you could work endless, ungodly art-movie hours because there was gonna be a meal prepared for you when you’re done.
SR: A savvy move on his part.
BM: It wasn’t lost on me.
SR: It’s amazing what goes into making a movie.
BM: But nobody cares. It’s like talking about the difficulties of fame. Nobody gives a shit. No one could care less. But it’s an amazing triumph even to make a bad movie. Even a crap film is really an extraordinary achievement. You’re taking a two-dimensional object and making it three-dimensional. The number of people. The number of days. The number of cuts.
SR: How was it working with Mickey Rourke on Passion Play?
BM: It’s complicated to talk about Mickey Rourke. He had all these things he had to do to get himself into working. He had all kinds of props. However, when it came down to actually doing a scene with him, it was just like with Bruce: Let’s just do this. Okay, that was good. Let’s do another one. The thing about him is the foibles have been personal, not professional. Like he tried to be a boxer and got his face busted up. He was a beautiful actor.
BM: He was a heartthrob. And now, like myself, he’s had a second life as an actor. He’s never embarrassed himself as an actor. All right, I’m going to go call a restaurant. I gotta call some place and get lucky.
SR: Just mention “Scott Raab.” They love me in Charleston.
BM: I’ll try.
Saturday morning, in the TV room. Raab has a plane to catch in a little bit.
BM: More coffee, sir?
SR: That would be great.
BM: Wanna go get some breakfast, Lincoln?
LINCOLN: Dad, look what happens in this one.
SR: This is a reality show, Swamp People?
BM: Gator hunters, right? They do a lot of huffin’ and puffin’ in it. Is this an Animal Planet show, Linky?
BM: Hist’ry. [To Raab] Want something to eat?
SR: You know what I had this morning? One of your tangelos. Spectacular. Those are from your place in California?
BM: Those are mine.
SR: You have them sent?
BM: Yeah. We have avocados, too. We don’t actually grow the avocados, but they’re next door. We all share out there. [Goes into the kitchen to get a couple of avocados.] Feel those. Those are all ready to go. People don’t know: You put a ripe avocado in the refrigerator and they stop where they are.
SR: These are nice.
BM: Carry some with you. Here’s a bag. Take a few. You got to have enough to make guacamole.
SR: Can I swipe a couple tangelos? That tangelo was extraordinary. It freshened me right up. It was waiting for me right at the stair post.
BM: Your hand will lead you to fruit.
SR: How do the tangelos grow?
BM: On a tree.
SR: What are they in relationship to oranges and tangerines?
BM: Part tangerine and part orange.
SR: They peel easy.
BM: And it makes the most amazing juice ever — I always thought Florida orange juice was the best. Tangelo juice is better than Florida orange juice.
SR: It’s 10:10.
BM: Yeah, we should go. You got enough of those avocados? You sure?
In the car. Murray’s driving Raab to the airport.
SR: Are you off for a while or do you have more work coming up?
BM: I’ve been sent a few things I didn’t really care about. But there’s one thing I’ve gotten phone calls about. The script hasn’t come yet. I said: “Don’t FedEx it. Send it regular mail. Don’t waste your money.” But now I’m really wanting it, and it’s not here.
Last summer was great. I had an ideal situation. The job was in Newport, so I was able to get up to Martha’s Vineyard, bring a couple of my boys up there. And then I was able to go to England and do a real job over there, this movie about Franklin Roosevelt, Hyde Park on the Hudson. [Murray plays FDR.] That was the first time I’ve actually had a full-on movie role in several years. I guess I did Get Low. But that was not a long job. And then I had Zombieland right on top of it. Zombieland came out of nowhere. It was like putting on an old coat and finding a couple hundred dollars in it.
SR: That was a wonderful movie.
BM: That was a real delight, that. It’s a real movie movie. And it’s funny. I love that Emma [Stone]. Just a doll. And Woody [Harrelson] is fantastic to be with. He has great ambition. He’s always pushing himself. Woody called me up and said, “Do you want to try this thing?” I’d just left Georgia, and I had really had enough of Georgia. It had been really cold, shooting that Get Low. Physical cold is really tiring. Of course, I’m with Duvall, who’s, like, seventy-nine or something and he’s just a horse. He didn’t particularly like the cold either, but he’s a tough bird, that boy.
SR: Gene Hackman, Clint Eastwood, those guys —
BM: They keep going. When you’re good at it, you can keep going.
SR: Is this hood hooked down? Because I keep looking at the hood and it’s shaking.
BM: I’ve had it looked at, but it does shake on that side. You’ve got me nervous again. I’m going to go back and tell them all over again. I like this car. I’d hate to give it up. I’ve been thinking about cars because my boys are always pushing cars in my face.
SR: You seem to have close relationships with your sons.
BM: As much as the divorce was very hard, the fallout of it has been really great. I ended up much closer to my guys than I ever would have been.
SR: I’m not inclined to put a sunny face on everything, but I think that tough times really do wind up making people closer.
BM: I never went much for “It’s an ill wind that blows no good” kind of thing.
SR: ”Everything happens for a reason.”
BM: That drives me nuts. I want to give them five on rye when I hear that. “Everything happens for a reason.”
SR: Five on rye?
BM: Five on rye.
SR: A knuckle sandwich.
BM: ”Everything happens for a reason” is a kind of self-hypnosis.
SR: ”It’s God’s plan.”
BM: Well, it’s not God’s ideal. It’s part of the plan, but if no one acts in the moment of possibility, then it devolves into “Well, then I got hit by a car. Because I was standing in the middle of the road. Well, everything happens for a reason.” Someone should make a sketch about it. It’s probably a good Saturday Night Live sketch.
SR: It makes me think of the Coen brothers’ movie A Serious Man. The harder you try to look for the plan, the more inexplicable things become.
BM: I really do enjoy the Coen brothers’ stuff. You know, I worked with Frances McDormand [frequent actress in the Coen brothers’ movies and wife of Joel Coen] in Moonrise Kingdom. Talk about a no-bullshit actress. No frills. She’s just so effortless.
SR: It’s hard work to make something appear effortless.
BM: It’s easier to watch because you don’t get worried. There’s the Dreamlifter [Boeing 747 Large Cargo Freighter]. Look at that.
SR: I’m amazed that can fly.
BM: It’s the biggest plane in the world. Look at that fucker. [Pulling up to the terminal.] Here’s my boys over here — the Delta boys.
SR: No NetJets?
BM: I really only need to use it when I’m traveling with the boys. For a two-stopper it saves you, like, eight hours and eight plane tickets. What do you think eight plane tickets would cost?
SR: And that’s only the dollars and cents of it. All the stress …
That is my best description of it. Metaphorically, it is suffocating, but even physically, it is literally suffocating. As I am writing this, I am literally feeling my air passage blocking off.
I was an in abusive relationship for two years towards the end of high school. I never lived with my abuser or had kids with him or married him. Beyond going to the same high school, I didn’t have any messy connections to him formally or informally. I know I’m luckier than many others in similar situations.
It creeps up on you. You realize some things are not quite right, but you’re willing to tolerate more and more. This can be for a variety of reasons. Maybe he rationalizes them away. Maybe he convinces you that you’re just overreacting, or worse, crazy. It took me several months before I had an epiphany that things were terrible and I had to get out; it took me over a year to actually do it.
One common occurrence pattern is instability. There’s a cycle of violence. There will be a honeymoon stage, where everything is awesome and you’re so in love. It’s intoxicating. Then it starts to build up; you feel like you’re walking on eggshells and you’re jumpy and afraid something is going to happen at any moment. Finally, he lashes out bigtime. And while this is scary, I always found that this caused some level of relief. Things are rocky for a little while, and then everyone apologizes and you’re super in love again. You might even break up and get back together a few times. And even if you realize that this ‘love’ thing is totally fake, you enjoy it while you can.
You feel like you’re on edge even for the smallest disagreements. And there will be disagreements, no matter how much you try to be perfect. No matter how much you try to give in to the ridiculous demands.
It’s extremely lonely. Your abuser will try to cut you off from anyone that can keep you sane. It will probably work. Some of your friends and family won’t believe that things are as bad as you say they are. If they were, wouldn’t you leave? They may accuse you of trying to get attention, or trying to ruin someone’s life, or of being a drama queen. They may just be in denial because they’re a friend of the abuser. Maybe they just don’t want to deal with that level of problem. Even the ones that do support you will get tired of your actions. They won’t understand how hard it is to cut things off. They won’t understand that doing what he says is for your own safety. And he’ll be telling you not to talk to this person or that group of friends, and eventually nobody will be left.
I developed physical symptoms that were difficult to deal with. Five years later, I still get nauseous if I’m triggered, and sometimes vomit. I’m also subject to panic attacks.
I’ve lost a lot of my guilt associated with lying. It’s taken a long time to re-learn that I shouldn’t lie for the hell of it. At some point I felt so strongly like needing to rebel that I started trying to hold a secret life. I started lying about the tiniest things, like what I had for breakfast (he was very curious and controlling about my eating habits; during one particularly bad month I lost 30 pounds).
One thing to realize is that being in an abusive relationship is just that - a state of being. Getting a beating doesn’t necessarily make things worse. In my experience, physical violence was often just an assertion of his power, an assertion of the status quo. Given the choice, I’d take physical violence over being forced to do anything sexual, and sexual abuse over a new rule to conform to, because he never hurt me badly enough that it stunted my day-to-day activities. The emotional damage I received from sexual abuse and rape would very strongly affect my ability to function. His demands would often directly influence my ability to function, and result in a huge loss of dignity.
There were highs and lows, but I always felt sick. I didn’t like being conscious, and I only liked being unconscious sometimes. Sometimes a particularly bad panic attack, or a particularly bad abuser attack would be completely debilitating, but for the most part I was extremely dysfunctional. Ironically, I was probably resourceful beyond what I thought I was able to in order to survive the experience. It feels like a strange haze, a spell. It’s the only thing you can think about. It’s a completely consuming state.
Random forest (or random forests) is an ensembleclassifier that consists of many decision trees and outputs the class that is the mode of the classes output by individual trees. The algorithm for inducing a random forest was developed by Leo Breiman and Adele Cutler, and “Random Forests” is their trademark. The term came from random decision forests that was first proposed by Tin Kam Ho of Bell Labs in 1995. The method combines Breiman’s “bagging" idea and the random selection of features, introduced independently by Ho and Amit and Geman in order to construct a collection of decision trees with controlled variation.
Each tree is constructed using the following algorithm:
Let the number of training cases be N, and the number of variables in the classifier be M.
We are told the number m of input variables to be used to determine the decision at a node of the tree; m should be much less than M.
Choose a training set for this tree by choosing n times with replacement from all N available training cases (i.e. take a bootstrap sample). Use the rest of the cases to estimate the error of the tree, by predicting their classes.
For each node of the tree, randomly choose m variables on which to base the decision at that node. Calculate the best split based on these m variables in the training set.
Each tree is fully grown and not pruned (as may be done in constructing a normal tree classifier).
For prediction a new sample is pushed down the tree. It is assigned the label of the training sample in the terminal node it ends up in. This procedure is iterated over all trees in the ensemble, and the mode vote of all trees is reported as random forest prediction.
Features and Advantages
It is one of the most accurate learning algorithms available. For many data sets, it produces a highly accurate classifier.
It runs efficiently on large databases.
It can handle thousands of input variables without variable deletion.
It gives estimates of what variables are important in the classification.
It generates an internal unbiased estimate of the generalization error as the forest building progresses.
It has an effective method for estimating missing data and maintains accuracy when a large proportion of the data are missing.
It has methods for balancing error in class population unbalanced data sets.
Prototypes are computed that give information about the relation between the variables and the classification.
It computes proximities between pairs of cases that can be used in clustering, locating outliers, or (by scaling) give interesting views of the data.
The capabilities of the above can be extended to unlabeled data, leading to unsupervised clustering, data views and outlier detection.
It offers an experimental method for detecting variable interactions.
Random forests have been observed to overfit for some datasets with noisy classification/regression tasks.
Unlike decision trees, the classifications made by Random Forests are difficult for humans to interpret.
"Confusion can be a very creative state of mind," said David Wilson (museum founder) in an interview with author Lawrence Weschler, originally aired on NPR, October 27, 2001. ************************************************** *****************************
As my husband and I stand just feet from the museum’s entrance, a couple exit the building. The man, looking perplexed, rubs and bats his eyes. The woman with him has a thought bubble over her confused face that says, “What did we just experience?!!” But they themselves say nothing at all. My husband and I don’t know what to expect. We enter.
It’s dark inside. There are disembodied sounds - howling coyotes and Indian chants - floating around the serious looking, yet curious, exhibits; many of these odd exhibits are accompanied by recordings of verbose, Latin-filled double speak, sounding very authoritative and knowing. After seconds of listening to this, my brain starts to feel like it’s spinning in my skull on puree.
After nearly an hour of repeating “What?” about a thousand times, we stumble upon the tea room with a high Moorish ceiling and a pixy in a Russian dress who asks if we want tea and cookies. Of course, my husband and I don’t resist. We sit down at a candle lit table and think. A threesome (a guy and two girls) entwined in a velvety corner alcove, sip tea while discussing Nietzsche and existentialism. Meanwhile, I’m just thinking, “Hey, these almond cookies are really good.”
Horned humans, bats who can fly through solid matter, theories on forgetting, yellowed Victorian-era telegrams that come across as scammy as Nigerian Spam… What? Do you question? Do you simply trust? Do you have a good ironic laugh? Yep, and you may just see things a little differently after.
Upon returning to the glare and noise of mid-day Venice Boulevard, everything looks a little askew, like entering an alternate universe. I probably look as perplexed as those other people I saw leaving earlier, but actually I’m just thinking (and not about cookies, this time): “Question everything.”
David Wilson is right: “Confusion can be a very creative state of mind.”
“In media appearances, Kurzweil has stressed the extreme potential dangers of nanotechnology, but argues that in practice, progress cannot be stopped, and any attempt to do so will retard the progress of defensive and beneficial technologies more than the malevolent ones, increasing the danger. He suggests that the proper place of regulation is to make sure progress proceeds safely and quickly.”—Ray Kurzweil
“I think we’re right on the cusp of the next generation. I think all the big major photographers came at a time when they all wanted to shoot for print—you couldn’t imagine their photographs not on print. Probably the only one who seems like a younger generation that’s big big is Terry Richardson. You can see he does just as much for his blog [as for print]; he’s one of the few that takes a lot of shots knowing that they’re going to go on the Internet and communicate that way. I think we’re right on the cusp of the new generation saying, “I’ve always thought of my pictures being on the Internet.” I mean, pictures on the Internet are pretty beautiful. It’s like looking at a photograph on a light box. So I do think there’s going to be a next generation. Not only will there be street-style blogs on the Internet, but more editorial sites that are Internet-driven. I’m a little surprised by how many people still want to open up new print magazines. Because you really have to wonder, what is your real reason for doing that? I think we’re just at the cusp of a new group coming up and doing it in a totally different way. Almost like music. I mean, are albums important anymore? I think you can be a huge artist and maybe only do a couple singles; I don’t know if all your songs have to come out in groups of 12. So I think we’re close to seeing a new way of music and fashion and photography.”—Scott Schuman on the future (via howtotalktogirlsatparties)
A high school football star who was once one of the most highly sought after athletes in the nation has had a rape charge against him dropped after the woman confessed on Facebook that the rape never happened. Brian Banks, who is now 26-years old, spent six years in prison and broke down crying when the prosecutor moved to have the case dismissed.
“There are no words in any language, no gesture in any culture that can explain or describe what I have been through,” said Banks. “I hope my story brings light to a major flaw in the judicial system.”
Banks was once a football star with dreams of playing in the NFL. He was only 16 when a woman accused him of kidnapping and raping her at school. The woman, Wanetta Gibson, added him as a friend on Facebook and in a message said she wanted to “let bygones be bygones.”
Banks’ attorney, Justin Brooks, said that Gibson and Banks met and she was caught on video admitting that no rape every took place, and that she would help him to clear his record. She was then brought before prosecutors and is now obligated to repay the $1.5 million that her mother was paid by the school for what allegedly happened.
“I will go through with helping you but it’s like at the same time all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don’t want to have to pay it back,” she told Banks.
Banks went to jail in 2002 for the crime, when he was just 16 years old. At the time, he was being heavily recruited by USC and other colleges. He was on his way to fill out college applications when he met up with Gibson and went to a stairwell to make out. He apparently said something she didn’t like, which led to the allegations of kidnapping and rape.
Investigators found no physical evidence of rape. Due to the pressure from his attorney and prosecutors, Banks pleaded no contest to the kidnap and rape charge, after being told that he would get 41 years in prison if he fought the charge and was convicted.
Banks thought he would get just 18 months based on his attorney’s advice, and instead ended up in prison for six years. While in prison, his case was taken on by the California Innocence Project.
“Brian’s story is so compelling, and his case for innocence so clear, we knew we had to take this on,” said Justin Brooks of the Innocence Project. “Brian lost a huge part of his life when he was unjustly sent to prison.”
Banks has had to remain on probation under electronic monitoring and could not get a job after being registered as a sex offender.
“This is a kid who was a superstar,” Brooks added. “He would be playing the NFL now if this hadn’t happened.”
To sum up Carver in two words, call him “Hemingway meets.” Not Hemingway meets a social conscience or feminine sensitivity, but just other beings. Carver’s stories still, for the most part, center male protagonists, who remain haunted by unseen scars. But his stories are about what happens when these men collide with other people, with friends, with women, even the occasional dog. While the style is even sparer than Hemingway’s, this new addition of other people makes them infinitely more rich and complex.
In the blurbs on the backs of his books, people often talk about how dark and gloomy Carver’s stories are. They’re half right, but they’re also blind to the real core of the stories, because they miss the overwhelmingly humane and sensitive way that he depicts that darkness. Here, people who are far more ordinary than real life are portrayed in the midst of their monotonous lives, never exotic safaris and wars. Carver manages to construct entirely believable scenarios in which these ordinary people become real to each other in new ways, cease to be furniture. Even in the most bizarre scenarios, like marijuana induced dual tracing of a place of worship for a blind man who calls him “bub” in “Cathedral,” the events are always believable, always crafted from nothing other than the raw materials readily available in our stupid daily lives.
Carver’s stories are incomparably uplifting because of their insistence on never depending on the foreign or exotic to bestow self-actualization. Or maybe I should put that differently and say that these stories redefine the foreign and exotic: rather than Africa and Cuba, the exotic is now Walla-Walla, Eureka, Felony Flats, and Yakima. Right in the midst of our alcoholism, our failed attempts at adultery, or any other of our failed attempts to escape who we are – right there Carver shows us the resources for newness and love. And it only takes a little twist, a little rearrangement of the furniture on the lawn and an extension cord run out to the lamp and record player, for us to start dancing to the music that was there all along in the magical presence of other people.
There is less experimentation than there used to be. In part it’s because designers who used to do a lot of experimenting on their personal sites are busier these days – busy with client work, or creating products, or branching into areas such as publishing and conferences. Ten or 15 years ago, maybe you were single, with not much work and no family. You had loads of time to play with the design of your website. Now, not so much.
As for younger designers, there are so many brilliant ones now. I’m constantly impressed and inspired by them. But many younger designers are more into social media than blogging – “social media killed the blog star,” as my friend Jeff Croft put it in a comment on my site. So they’re less likely to have a personal site that needs redesigning and experimentation.
Also, it’s a different time. Companies such as Twitter and Google and Facebook are snatching up young web designers. They don’t have time to experiment on their blogs – they’re too busy helping Mark Zuckerberg get rich. Then, too, a lot of younger web folks are more into UX than designy-design, or more into coding than design, and so if they have a blog they may be satisfied using a default Tumblr or WordPress template.
Finally, the web is no longer ‘underground’, no longer ‘the wild west’. It isn’t the province of a few crazy rebels. It’s filled with professionally professional professionals who follow widely endorsed best practices and standards. That’s very good in a lot of ways, but it tends to create an environment where there is less experimentation.
+ How to disappear for weeks and worry your mother sick + Asian Loneliness + #bloglife + Moving in with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air + Quack Medicine: The Pros and Cons + Easy mnemonics for remembering all the various grudges you hold + How to get priced out of a neighborhood you thought you…
They asked me to teach a Skillshare class. I’m not sure what I’ll be teaching yet, but it will be fun and hopefully helpful. If you haven’t signed up for it, you should.
The Descriptive Camera works a lot like a regular camera—point it at subject and press the shutter button to capture the scene. However, instead of producing an image, this prototype outputs a text description of the scene. Modern digital cameras capture gobs of parsable metadata about photos such as the camera’s settings, the location of the photo, the date, and time, but they don’t output any information about the content of the photo. The Descriptive Camera only outputs the metadata about the content.
As we amass an incredible amount of photos, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage our collections. Imagine if descriptive metadata about each photo could be appended to the image on the fly—information about who is in each photo, what they’re doing, and their environment could become incredibly useful in being able to search, filter, and cross-reference our photo collections. Of course, we don’t yet have the technology that makes this a practical proposition, but the Descriptive Camera explores these possibilities.
The technology at the core of the Descriptive Camera is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk API. It allows a developer to submit Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) for workers on the internet to complete. The developer sets the guidelines for each task and designs the interface for the worker to submit their results. The developer also sets the price they’re willing to pay for the successful completion of each task. An approval and reputation system ensures that workers are incented to deliver acceptable results. For faster and cheaper results, the camera can also be put into “accomplice mode,” where it will send an instant message to any other person. That IM will contain a link to the picture and a form where they can input the description of the image.
The camera itself is powered by the BeagleBone, an embedded Linux platform from Texas Instruments. Attached to the BeagleBone is a USB webcam, a thermal printer from Adafruit, a trio of status LEDs and a shutter button. A series of Python scripts define the interface and bring together all the different parts from capture, processing, error handling, and the printed output. My mrBBIO module is used for GPIO control (the LEDs and the shutter button), and I used open-source command line utilities to communicate with Mechanical Turk. The device connects to the internet via Ethernet and gets power from an external 5 volt source, but I would love to make a another version that’s battery operated and uses wireless data. Ideally, The Descriptive Camera would look and feel like a typical digital camera.
After the shutter button is pressed, the photo is sent to Mechanical Turk for processing and the camera waits for the results. A yellow LED indicates that the results are still “developing” in a nod to film-based photo technology. With a HIT price of $1.25, results are returned typically within 6 minutes and sometimes as fast as 3 minutes. The thermal printer outputs the resulting text in the style of a Polaroid print.
Next fall, we will launch a new Emerald completely rebuilt for the digital age. The gray, daily newspaper will be replaced by a modern college media company.
We know what you’re thinking: Another college daily goes down, buckling under the pressure of advancing technology and retreating readership.
That’s not our story. Yes, we confront the same challenges as every American newspaper, but this is not a move made out of financial desperation. The Emerald, as a nonprofit company, is having its best year financially in more than a decade. We have no debt and a solid reserve fund.
We are making this change to deliver on our mission to serve our community and prepare our student staff for the professional world.
By MICHELLE FIORDALISO NY Times, Published: May 10, 2012
I WAS driving my 11-year-old son, Joe, to school. It had been one of those mornings. He was singing opera and doing hip-hop moves when I needed him to put on his shoes.
As we pulled up in front of school just in time, I snapped: “I can’t start our day this way. This kind of stress is going to make me sick.”
He burst into tears. “Don’t say that!” he yelled. “Promise to never say that again!” He raced out of the car, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.
On more than a few occasions, he has expressed his fear that something might happen to me. As the child of a single mother, he clearly has been pondering the same questions I do: Who will take care of him if I die? Who will love him as much as I do?
Joe’s fear of my mortality jarred me into reality, and I called my doctor. There actually had been a reason for my harsh statement. My face and arm had been numb for months. I had shrugged it off as stress but then started to get chronic headaches, too.
My doctor agreed to see me right away. After examining me, she said, “If I can’t get you in for an M.R.I. at the imaging center, I’ll need to send you to the hospital in an ambulance.” She explained that stress doesn’t create the symptoms I was having. It could be an aneurysm, a tumor or early signs of multiple sclerosis.
Someone else might have panicked, but this kind of situation makes me practical. She got me an appointment for an hour later. In that time, I did what any sensible person who has been ordered to get an emergency M.R.I. does: I got the car washed. I wasn’t in denial; there’s just so much time to get stuff done, and worrying wasn’t on my checklist.
Some people are terrified of sickness and death. Not me. I decided to face death head on when I was about 10 and saw a photo spread about AIDS in Life magazine. I declared that one day I was going to help those men.
And I did. At 20, social-work degree in hand, I applied for a job on the AIDS unit of St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York. When asked if I could handle seeing gaunt men with tubes in their mouths, I said “yes.” When asked if I was afraid of watching people die, I shook my head no.
I was like the naïve teenager who enlists in the Army without any idea of what war is like. For the next two years, patients of mine died every day. After a while the pain caught up to me. If I were going to befriend death, I needed a different approach.
So I became a sky diver. Then a motorcyclist. I climbed rocks. Canoed in Class-5 rapids. Bungee jumped. And most harrowing of all, I moved to Los Angeles to become a writer. I hoped all these experiences would give me something I desperately wanted: fearlessness.
I walked into the imaging center. In the waiting room, I got down to business on my cellphone. I made arrangements for my son to be picked up from school and got a friend to take care of our dog. I like things that can be checked off a list. Kid, check. Dog, check. Custodian for my son should I die, check.
The technician called me in. He was kind and covered me with a blanket. I almost told him I loved him. Some people might dread an M.R.I., but lying down in the middle of the day without anyone asking me to do anything is a single mother’s dream.
The technician asked, “Have you ever had an M.R.I. before?”
I got pregnant in 1999. I was 26. At the beginning of my ninth month something unimaginable happened: I had a mild stroke. A small bleed in the front left lobe of my brain took away my ability to speak and control the right side of my body. They rushed me to the hospital. I didn’t remember reading about sudden paralysis in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” and I wanted my money back.
In an instant I got a glimpse into how vulnerable motherhood was going to make me. My usual hubris turned into humility. I did not like it one bit.
Just before putting me into the machine, the technician handed me a red rubber ball, explaining that if I needed to communicate with him, all I had to do was squeeze it. He reassured me that while I might feel alone in the tube, I wouldn’t be.
I could have used a red rubber ball back when Joe was 10 weeks old. That’s when his father left. Feeling lost, I fled New York and went to Miami to live with a friend. On my back I carried a pack with five weeks of clothing for the two of us. On my chest I strapped my baby in a Bjorn. In my left hand I held his car seat. In my right, his stroller.
I looked like a soldier. Walking through the airport, I felt more alone than I ever had. No one offered to help, and why would they? From the outside it seemed as if I had it all handled.
My brain and neck scans were done. It took three hours longer than I expected and it was too late to take Joe to the movies, the promised reward for his stellar report card.
When Joe is testing my patience, it’s difficult to be alone as a parent. But when he does something amazing it’s even worse, because there is no witness but me to mark the milestones. No one else who will know and remember all the funny, lovely things he says and does.
I HAD the M.R.I. because I was numb, but my numbness actually started long before, when Joe was a baby. I needed my eyes and ears to be vigilant if I was to single-handedly care for him. But I didn’t need a heart to feel. It was safer to focus on the details and forget that my baby was more intimidating than caring for dying men and much scarier than hurling my body from a perfectly good aircraft.
With Joe, I wasn’t fearless. Quite the opposite, I was petrified of how much I loved him. Death was something I had grown comfortable with; it was life I wasn’t so sure about. The problem with numbness, though, is that you don’t choose which parts not to feel. You don’t get to block out pain and suffering but keep all the good stuff. You get everything or nothing. That’s the deal.
The night of my M.R.I., I walked into Joe’s room one last time before going to sleep. It had been a long day. Safe and sleeping in his bed, he had one hand on his left cheek and one on his right. It reminded me of when he was a baby and we shared a bed in Miami. He’d wake in the night and find my face with his tiny hands. With one he’d hold my left cheek and with the other he’d hold my right. Only when he’d found both would he fall back to sleep. I was his red rubber ball.
My eyes welled up. The enormousness of my love swelled bigger than any fear. The terror of potential loss flooded in. But so did the joy of connection. Joe hates to see me cry, but he was sleeping so I figured, why not.
I thought about the fact that eventually one of us will stand at the other’s funeral. That day will come, and no amount of list making or numbness can keep it away. I didn’t know if the moments between my sitting on his bed and a funeral were few or many. All we can do is make the moments we have matter.
I put that on my list: savor our time together. Check.
Like how he still holds my hand. Or hangs out in our front yard in his plaid bathrobe, holding a fake cigar in his mouth. Or how he nicknamed me “cita” for mamacita, and how I always wanted a nickname from someone who’d love me enough to give me one.
Suddenly I saw that his eyes were open. He had caught me loving him. And his eyes had tears in them, too.
“Why are you crying?” I asked.
“Because I’m happy,” he said.
And just like that, he fell back to sleep.
I knew I was happy, because even though my face and arm were numb, my heart wasn’t. In two days I’d get the message that the M.R.I. was normal. But in that moment all that mattered was that Joe was alive, and so was I. And we were happy.
About a year ago I told a friend of mine that I had started to learn the Python programming language. He asked with a raised eyebrow why it was I wanted to do this at age 34.
“Take it from me as someone in the industry,’ he said disparingly. ’We only hire guys who know their stuff. Python is fine, but you’ll need to know C, C++ among other things. A couple of years of work and you’ll still only be a novice. If you’re looking to change careers this aint the way.’
His advice is almost certainly correct from the point of view of trying to get a job as a programmer. It highlights nicely the perception most people have of programming. It’s a career path. It’s something you do to earn a living. It’s something you specialise in – or you don’t do it.
This perception is so widespread and ingrained in our culture that it defines just about all our institutionalised work place structures. A company will either buy its software, or if it’s in need of specialised software to automate particular processes, then it will high a specialist to create that software. None of the other employees will be expected to know how to program. It is the cultural default that an employee is expected to passively receive the interfaces with which she must interact on a day to day basis.
But this is our cultural reality not just in our work lives, but in all facets of our lives. We passively receive ALL the various interfaces that we deploy to manipulate our environment: the stove top you use to cook your food, the knife you use to cut your meat, the piano on which you play your music, the steering wheel you use to drive your car.
Just think about that for a moment and let it sink in. EVERY interface you employ on a day to day basis is likely created by someone else. And since our own creativity is necessarily constrained by the various interfaces we employ then an absolutely crucial dimension of creativity is denied to us.
This fact of our existence enslaves us to reality in a way that most people are completely unaware of until they are shown how they can break free.
Approaching work with the use of automation and APIs subverts an established paradigm of modern work - that we need to rely on others to free us from the tedious processes that constrain us. But we don’t. It’s this possibility that should be blowing your mind right now – if programming is something new to you. If you use a computer in your day to day work – it’s very likely that your processes have developed to a point where they could benefit from some degree of automation. And the only person really qualified to provide that automation ultimately will be you and YOU alone – because you may well be the only person who knows the process.
Blocking you from pursuing this course of action is your belief that learning to code is a massive investment of time that defeats the reward on investment. This may have been true once. When there were only lower level languages to use, there was a great deal of complex manual work that higher level languages have now automated. What’s more, due to the wonders of open source – there is a practical infinity of libraries that further automate much of the grind work in programming. Such are the virtues of Python and many other scripting languages. In learning to program, your access to the varying kinds of interfaces out there increases beyond imagination, as well as giving you the power to craft your own.
In my own case, within three months of learning python part time I had enough knowledge to perform the sorts of tasks I described above. I’m not an expert in the language. I’m not an expert in programming – far from it. But I don’t need to be for it to make a material difference in the quality of my existence. I will likely never get a job as a programmer. But that was never the aim. It was never about being able to build interfaces for other people in a contractual fashion (i’ll be happy to do it in an open source context, however) – it was about building interfaces for ME.
Given the relative ease in learning the basics of programming in scripting languages like Python, the time has come to challenge the assumption that programming is a specialisation. If you need an analogy: is learning to read and write in a spoken language like English – a specialisation? No, it’s a fundamental tool needed to navigate your contemporary existence. It’s easy enough to learn that you devote some of your early years to the task – and then it stays with you for life. You could go on to specialise in language use. Maybe you’ll go on to become a writer. But you don’t need to specialise for your language skills to provide you with an incredible level of life-improvement. Well – so to with programming.
What’s more – I now feel cured of an affliction I never realised I had. If I had to name this affliction, I’d call it –defaultism. Always did I just default to the way of things as it was handed to me. Now I look at every aspect of my life with a hacker’s eye. How can I free myself of this task? – is the question now at the forefront of my mind at all times. There is no need to throw out every interface with which we are presented. If it fits our needs and desires then fine. But how often do you subvert your own desires and needs because of the constraints imposed by the limitations of the interfaces with which you have been bequeathed?
I look at the world around me and feel almost disgusted by the entrenched defaultism that I see everywhere. For instance, when the internet came along there was a sense of liberation from the passivity of watching television. We learnt to talk back. We learnt to create our own blogs and express ourselves as opposed to merely imbibing the thoughts of others in a mass daily dose of benign hypnosis. Clay Shirky informed us about the great cognitive surplus that would result from being so freed. And yet here we all are – facebook members all – allowing one site to define the structure of our social relationships. Yes we can comment. Yes we can poke. It’s more than television allowed. But it’s the whole world still watching one tube, one interface – just as it was before. As always we accept the tools on offer without ever questioning whether or not our desires and needs extend beyond it.
Many of you can’t imagine this because you’ve never had the experience of having your desires open out in the sort of way I mean. The way the interfaces with which you interact constrain your awareness of those desires, because as far as you are concened – they exist outside the realm of imaginability.
‘OMG That’s AWESOME – I want to learn to code!”
And she felt this way because she had been given a glimpse of the way possibilities expand when freed from the constraints of the default interface. Her immediate reaction was: ”I WANT THIS”. Hence her desires opened outward in a way that was scarcely conceivable to her before. In this way does learning to code literally change your life. It frees you from the defaultism you likely never even knew you had.
Imagine applying this perspective to the interfaces like Facebook which currently define many of your social relationships. Imagine having the desires to reshape these experiences in a variety of new dimensions. Imagine meeting people with similar desires. Imagine the creativity you could bring to bear in the development and progression of those relationships. The default processes of ‘friendship’ would become positively depressing to you. You’d see your former life as a barren, grey void of routine and habituation.
Learning to code is about the best antidote to the defaultism of our modern age I can imagine. It’s time it became a fundamental pillar of our cultural lives. For most of those in the hacker community – such sentiments I think will be old hat. But the hacker community remains relatively insular. It needs to learn to engage more outwardly. The hacker sensibility needs to spread beyond its elite origins and mainstream. Many won’t like that idea – because it will muddy the ease of self-identification that hackers currently enjoy. But the value to the world at large will be immense – so it needs to happen.
Most violent crimes are committed by a small group of persistent male offenders with ASPD. Approximately half of male prisoners in England and Wales will meet diagnostic criteria for ASPD, characterized by emotional instability, impulsivity and high levels of mood and anxiety disorders.
However, about one third of such men will meet additional diagnostic criteria for psychopathy (ASPD+P). They are characterised by a lack of empathy and remorse, and use aggression in a planned way to secure what they want (status, money etc.).
Previous research has shown that psychopaths’ brains differ structurally from healthy brains, but until now, none have examined these differences within a population of violent offenders with ASPD.
“Using MRI scans we found that psychopaths had structural brain abnormalities in key areas of their ‘social brains’ compared to those who just had ASPD,: ”Dr Nigel Blackwood from the IoP at King’s and lead author of the study. ”This adds to behavioral and developmental evidence that psychopathy is an important subgroup of ASPD with a different neurobiological basis and different treatment needs.
“There is a clear behavioral difference amongst those diagnosed with ASPD depending on whether or not they also have psychopathy. We describe those without psychopathy as ‘hot-headed’ and those with psychopathy as ‘cold-hearted’. The ‘cold-hearted’ psychopathic group begin offending earlier, engage in a broader range and greater density of offending behaviours, and respond less well to treatment programmes in adulthood, compared to the ‘hot-headed’ group. We now know that this behavioural difference corresponds to very specific structural brain abnormalities which underpin psychopathic behaviour, such as profound deficits in empathising with the distress of others.”
The researchers used MRI to scan the brains of 44 violent adult male offenders diagnosed with Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD). Crimes committed included murder, rape, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm. Of these, 17 met the diagnosis for psychopathy (ASPD+P) and 27 did not (ASPD-P). They also scanned the brains of 22 healthy non-offenders.
The study found that ASPD+P offenders displayed significantly reduced grey matter volumes in the anterior rostral prefrontal cortex and temporal poles compared to ASPD-P offenders and healthy non-offenders. These areas are important in understanding other people’s emotions and intentions and are activated when people think about moral behaviour. Damage to these areas is associated with impaired empathising with other people, poor response to fear and distress and a lack of ‘self-conscious’ emotions such as guilt or embarrassment.
When Siki Im moved to New York in 2001, he had no intention of designing clothes. After graduating with honors from England’s Oxford Brookes School of Architecture, Im took a position with a New York architecture firm, but over time realized the job wasn’t satisfying him. Since high school he had liked clothes, admiring iconoclastic labels likeMaison Martin Margiela, Comme des Garçons, and especially Helmut Lang before they were well-known beyond fashion circles. When Im got the opportunity to join Helmut Lang (in the post-Lang era), he took it. After several years working in the fashion industry, he decided it was time to start his own label, and in September 2009 he introduced his first solo collection. Inspired by William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies, it was a hit, earning him the Ecco Domani Award for Best Men’s Wear.
Im’s collections since have taken their inspiration from a variety of sources—Native Americans, the immigrant experience, Michael Jordan—but each works with one consistent vision. Beautifully tailored blazers and coats, billowing pants, and elongated tops, all crafted from luxurious fabrics—often in black—form the foundations of that vision. Im also insists on adhering to traditional methods whenever possible. Most of his blazers are fully canvassed and hand-tailored at Martin Greenfield Clothiers in Brooklyn, and his denim, which he introduced in his spring-summer 2012 collection, is all selvage sourced from Cone Mills in North Carolina. Im’s fans may not know exactly what to expect with each collection, but they can always be certain it will be expertly made, modern, and smart.
Marc Bain: Walk me through your design process. Where do you start when you’re coming up with a collection?
Siki Im: It’s not very linear. It starts always with something like an emotion or feeling, or even a proportion I’d really like to develop further, and then I test it out for a couple months—or not months, it depends—[to see] if I still like it. Sometimes you listen to great music, and maybe at first you hate it, but it’s stuck in your head and you start thinking about it more and more. Then you think maybe that’s something which is valid, you know? The initiation, sometimes it starts with a mood, like from a book, or once it was a New York Times article, once it was a movie. I try to keep it pretty open. At the beginning I started with books, but then people were asking “What will be the next book?” And if that already happens then it’s not really fresh.
I like to also surprise a little bit. The spring-summer ’12 collection was pretty heavy because it was about the Arab Spring in a way. Then last season I did the opposite more or less. It was a lot of Michael Jordan in the ’90s, because somewhere along when I was developing and designing the spring-summer collection it got very political, which I personally love but I don’t know if it was justified in fashion. I was a huge basketball fan in the ’90s and into all that stuff, so how can I make that into a non-streetwear, non-literal form, you know? So it’s definitely not linear.
MB: You’re known for doing a thesis for each collection. Where does that come in? Is the idea there from the start?
SI: My first collection, Lord of the Flies, it was really parallel. But sometimes it comes way before, sometimes in the middle, sometimes it’s later. If it does come later, usually the mood or the theme was already there; I just had to dig deeper and research more. For me, what I really like is researching more, so every season I can learn something. It keeps my mind going, which I need and appreciate. It’s just also fun. People can dis and say it’s not relevant or it’s too much, and that’s fine, but for my sake I like to learn and research and study.
MB: Do you have a particular person in mind as your customer?
SI: I’d like to say 25-35, male, sophisticated, but no. We do also have women wearing it, which I think is very beautiful. But it’s not for everyone, just because of the fit, the details, the price, the visibility. I think it will already in itself direct to a certain group.
MB: One thing I’ve noticed looking at your pieces is that you choose really beautiful, rich fabrics. How do your fabric choices play into your designs?
SI: Like with music, if you write a song, sometimes the melody comes before the lyrics, sometimes the other way, sometimes they go together. It’s the same thing. Sometimes with certain garments I design I already know what the fabric is, or sometimes I’ll see a fabric and I know what type of garment it should be. So it goes hand-in-hand.
MB: You studied architecture, so how did you end up designing clothes?
SI: It was pure accident. I just like designing. I never thought to become a fashion designer. Somewhere along, when I was working in an architecture office, I was just getting bored doing, like, renderings and drawings twelve hours a day, and buildings take so long to be built because of the scale. I just wanted to try something else in terms of designing. It could’ve been a car or anything else. New York City is so open and so horizontal in terms of how you can move around and meet people—it’s like a playground almost—and I’ve been very fortunate. It took me a really long time to call myself a fashion designer.
MB: You’ve said that Helmut Lang was a big influence on you. What about his work attracted you?
SI: Since probably the end of high school I was really attracted to his aesthetic. I couldn’t tell you why. Then coming to New York I studied more of his stuff, just going to the stores. I liked everything he did. It was always modern, meaning timeless, and always pushed the boundaries of what fashion is. The advertising, store design, the details: it was amazing, and it’s still so valid. If you see his menswear by itself, it’s well-made clothes but very simple. But it’s about the context. Everything he tried to do, and he did, like thinking of new ways to think of menswear and also to think of fashion. He was one of the first advertising on a New York cab. He was one of the first streaming online, on dial-up. And he had a great team, like Melanie Ward, who I was fortunate enough to work with afterwards. They just pushed the boundary.
MB: Do you keep up with menswear blogs at all?
SI: I really wish, just to keep myself, I don’t know, relevant or contemporary. I try to, and there are some that I look at, but not as I used to when I was in the corporate world and had more time [laughs]. I do sometimes now to just get away from reality and see what’s up and what’s out there, but not as much as I should maybe, I don’t know. I’m trying to also be very controlled. I teach at Parsons and I see the students, they come with so much research material and so much research from blogs that it dilutes and clouds. It’s just too much.
MB: So it’s not good that they have so much material?
SI: All the social media is great, but you really have to control yourself so that it doesn’t control you. Especially in design. If you have too much information, when are you going to say stop and do your own thinking, rather than getting inspired and influenced by other things? It could be a very dangerous process.
MB: Your heritage is Korean; you were born in Germany; you went to university in England; now you live and work in New York. That’s a very global experience. Has that had any influence on your work?
SI: It’s very strong, that dichotomy. Even in university, all my theses were about identity, and about anthropology, and cultural context and dissonance. It’s the same thing, I think, with my collections. It’s all about different poles and juxtapositions which could be violent or beautiful. This is what I always love, the tension between, say, soft and hard fabrics, or Wall Street and religious influence [Im’s fall-winter 2010 collection], or—I’m just referencing certain of my collections—immigrant culture and living in the Western Hemisphere [spring-summer 2011], or Middle East meets globalization meets America [spring-summer 2012], or Michael Jordan meets suiting [fall-winter 2012]. I’m always interested in that because I think that is reality and it is honest and imperfect, and this is what I like. It’s also how I’ve been living and experiencing, you know, messing around with identities.
MB: What are some examples of garments you’ve designed that you think demonstrate this juxtaposition you’re talking about?
SI: The tunic. I love tunics. The tunic is a garment which is very, in a way, ethnic. It could be seen as a primitive, vernacular garment worn in the Middle East, certain parts of Asia. But I just love it. I love the proportion. So we took the tunic and made it more modern: this is a silk-cotton fabric, and we made it slimmer and more modern with certain details. But this is like a simple metaphor.
MB: And you incorporate that into a more Western, tailored look?
SI: Yeah. For instance, you have this soft, drapey fabric, and I would put a harder, tailored, fully canvassed blazer on top of it, and that gets a look which people think, “Wow, it’s fresh.” But no, it’s not. In the Middle East, that’s what they do: huge tunics with a jacket or blazer. What I do is nothing new. It’s not that avant-garde, I think. It’s just what I like and what I’ve seen in other cultures, studying them. So that’s a simple example. Or that crazy hat from the Native-American collection [Silent Thunderbird Prayer, fall-winter 2011]. It’s actually from images of Native Americans, and they used to wear these crazy big hats. But ours is done in a rabbit felt and, hopefully, more modern. So using those references from those ethnic or vernacular languages and making them more modern with fabric, with proportions, and then clashing them with denim or a leather jacket or a handmade blazer, something like that.
MB: When you think of someone actually wearing your clothes on the street, is there a particular image or fantasy that comes to mind?
SI: I hope it’s some cool kid who could be a skater, or someone who works in a gallery, or someone who goes to a party, or someone who picks up the trash, that would be fun. But since it’s luxurious fabrics and it’s all made here in America, in New York mostly, there are certain limits in terms of price point, so it will already specify a certain [person], unfortunately. But I’ve heard from a couple of customers who say when they wear my clothes they feel very confident and strong and protected. That’s a very nice compliment.
MB: That raises an interesting question about who has access to your clothes since I’ve read that you’re influenced by a lot of left-leaning thinkers. Is that accurate?
SI: I really enjoy postmodernists and poststructuralists from the ’60s and ’70s to the ’90s and now, like Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, or like Martin Heidegger. They seem to be socialists/Marxists, but the reason why I like them is not because they are leftists or socialists but because of their critical thinking and critical questioning.
MB: Do you think fashion can be an intellectual pursuit? I guess by that I mean can clothing ask critical questions or make critical statements?
SI: Yeah, I totally think so, because fashion is cultural in itself and culture is usually a reflection of certain opinions or statements. Even like Michelle Obama wearing a lot of domestic designers, it [offers] an opinion. That’s the beautiful thing about fashion: it’s not just clothes, it’s something more than that, which is how design should be actually. It should have an opinion, I think, or no opinion is an opinion too.
MB: Do you have any favorite pieces from your last collection, or from any past collection?
SI: Yeah. We started denim, and I really like some of that stuff. From last collection, I really like the outerwear a lot. I thought it was quite successful. There’s stuff I don’t like as much, but definitely the outerwear I’m very happy about. I enjoy designing outerwear more anyway probably.
MB: Is there any general direction you see your designs heading, or is it just one season to the next?
SI: What’s really important—and some people see it, some people don’t—is that every season we have certain stories or themes, like Native American, or Michael Jordan, or Arab Spring, but if you take the themes out or the colors, then everything should have the same language. Some people think every season I’m so different, which I don’t think at all just because there are certain things that are alike and will continue. You will always see a tunic. You will always see a big, cropped pant. You will always see a black blazer. And it’s just about the styling or the story put on top of that. So for me it’s really important that I keep my language and keep improving my language. It’s important for me also to work on silhouettes, which I think menswear is not really doing so much.