Tag Archives: interviews

Extra Extra: Alisa Wilhelm Loves The Internet, So She Blogs Blogs Blogs

4 Nov

One of the last pages in Issue No.2 is something called “Our Job is Awesome.” The words on that page are a mini-play, a transcription of a real-life seven line conversation between John and Andrew in which they discuss the merits of a shared workplace. This dialog was captured by Alisa Wilhelm and originally published on her eponymous blog. We were hoping to find a couple of short pieces for the second issue when we stumbled across Alisa’s blog and saw that little gem nestled in her blog (and tagged “crumbs”). We asked permission to publish it, and she agreed.

Alisa’s blog is more than crumbs. It’s student art projects, art projects detached from school, thoughts on travel to distant lands, thoughts on studying at the University of Arizona, and more more more. We interviewed Alisa to find out why she puts pieces of her life on the Internet for all to see. Because she’s an artist and photographer, we also asked her to choose some images from her blog to repost here. She obliged us with answers and images. Enjoy.

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Dove&Snake: When did you start blogging?

Alisa Wilhelm: I started blogging in 2003. I was 12, and I used Yahoo Geo Cities instead of a blogging platform. I had to manually archive all of my entries. We had dial-up internet at my house.

D&S: Why did you decide to start a blog?

AW: I’ve always been obsessed with documentation, preserving, trying to keep remembering. Even before I read about Anne Frank, I wanted to be used like she is used today: a historical record for future generations. When I started blogging, it was just another expression of me documenting my life. I didn’t care to attract an active audience, but I secretly hoped that I would.

D&S: Why do you continue blogging?

AW: For a while, I really wanted to be a part of this cool blogging community called 9rules. It is very exclusive. You have to submit your blog to be reviewed and approved, or more likely denied, and they only accept submissions during certain times. I wanted to be a well known blogger, that’s why I wanted to be in this cool blogger’s club, and that’s what drove my blogging.

9rules accepts blogs that have a very narrow niche. The niche could be in any field, but it has to be specific. I knew that, so you can see points in my blog of me being like, “Concert reviews! THAT is my niche!” or “Life of a university student! MY NICHE!” However, I really didn’t care enough about those things to base every single post around them (also, they aren’t narrow enough). I stopped caring about how many people read my blog and I turned my visitor trackers off. I like pretty blogs, so now I just try to make my blog posts pretty. I continue blogging in order to create a pretty blog.

Colorblind

D&S: Do you know your readers?

AW: I know some of them. I stopped using visitor trackers a couple years ago, so I have no idea how many people read my blog.

D&S: How are the readers you know of connected to you in real life? Do they read your blog because they know you, or do they know you because they read your blog?

AW: I would guess that the majority of readers that I know of read my blog because they know me. None of my family members live nearby, and I have friends who are far away as well. I think they’re curious to find out about what I’m doing. When I read blogs from my friends and family, I find out things about their life that I might never think of to ask about. It’s probably a similar situation.

D&S: Do you get much feedback from your readers? What do they say?

AW: I used to get a lot more feedback than I do now. I don’t invite feedback. Some bloggers ask a question at the end of their post to get a discussion started, but I don’t. Lately I’ve been getting more non-traditional blog feedback than I have actual blog comments. Strangers email me encouraging notes saying that they like what I make, and people that I come into casual contact with often start conversations with, “I hope you don’t think I’m creepy, but I was reading your blog the other day…”

D&S: Have they (the strangers who hope you won’t think they are creepy because they read your blog) ever been creepy? If so, how did you respond?

AW: One time I was in a park, and a man came up to me and asked if I was Alisa and if I had a blog. I thought that I must have met him somewhere before, but I hadn’t. That was kind of creepy—an adult man approaching a teenage girl to ask her about her blog that he found. I was guarded, but I answered his questions. It turns out that he is a librarian who found my blog by searching for “Casa Grande Public Library,” a library that I have a love-hate relationship with. I used to volunteer there, and I love books, but I’ve had some bad experiences involving a very stereotypical, stern, shushing librarian.

D&S: What blogs do you read?

AW: Right now I’m subscribed to 283 blogs. I’ll give you a sample of my favorites: Ample Sanity, a deluge of New York Times blogs (Idea of the Day, The Moment, Schott’s Vocab, and others), artist’s blogs (Camilla Engman, Fine Little Day), and Things Magazine.

D&S: How do you encounter other blogs? What makes you want to subscribe to certain blogs?

AW: I find other blogs by reading other blogs. My favorite posts to read are ones that show photos, have a paragraph or two of text that might not even relate to the photos, and share a couple links. It’s those links that I find most valuable. They usually lead me to other blogs that I’ll like. When a blog is pretty consistent with my idea of a good post, I’ll subscribe. I don’t mind a lot of text if it’s interesting to me and well written.

D&S: Do they influence what you post on your blog?

AW: The most influential blogs that I read come from European women artists. Their photos are so calm and nice. I try to do that, but it’s difficult.

D&S: How do you decide what events from your life become blog posts?

AW: If I’m proud of it, then I post it.

D&S: This summer, you were out of the country and unable to access the Internet. Did you miss updating your blog?

AW: Not really. I wasn’t editing any photos, and I didn’t make much art, so I really had nothing that made me think, “I want to blog this.” I was more worried about my archive list looking less complete. I didn’t blog for two months, so the list goes: April 2009, July 2009.

*Alisa went to China. Here are 1723 photos compiled into a timelapse journey to East Asia:

China 2009 from Alisa Wilhelm on Vimeo.

D&S: Your blog is quite the miscellany. You post school projects, personal projects, observations about your university, notes and images from your travels, and more. What do you hope to communicate by posting these kinds of things?

AW: I want to give interested people a sample of what I’ve been thinking about, working on, and looking at. I used to think that my blog could give people an example of what my life is like, but there’s no way it could ever do that.

D&S: Who are the “interested people” who you are communicating with in your blog? Do you know who they are and what they’re interested in?

AW: Some Blythe doll owners read my blog. They are interested in Blythe dolls, haha. The community that forms around Blythe dolls is very close knit—adult women, strangers, gather for tea parties for their dolls, and they send people they don’t even know little gifts that are Blythe-related. I have a Blythe doll, her name is Marcie, and I read blogs about the lives of other Blythe dolls. Those people (and their dolls) read back. Other people have varied interests: family and friends care about me as a person, instructors are interested in seeing what I do out of the classroom, other artists like to see art.

D&S: Do you ever read your old posts? If so, what do you think of the you from the beginning of your blog?

AW: I try to avoid reading old posts, as anything older than a couple months I find to be extremely embarrassing. I guess it’s good that I’m not stagnant.

D&S: You started a joint blog project with Adam called Adam+Alisa. Who is Adam?

AW: Adam is my boyfriend! He’s an artist and photojournalist, among other things, and he lives in Boulder, Colorado.

D&S: Why did you start that blog with him?

AW: We have very long lists of things that we want to do together, and a blog was one of those things (Adam started the idea). We also have a very long list of future posts to make for the blog. Adam sometimes thinks of it as PDA, but I don’t. I think of it as an ongoing collaboration project with someone that produces work that I know I’ll like.

D&S: What will readers of Adam+Alisa find there? How is it different than your individual blog?

AW: Everything that has been posted on Adam+Alisa so far has been a collaboration project. We make each other a poster every month and mail a hard copy of that, but a jpeg diptych is posted on the blog. Along with that, we send each other preview swatches of the poster, and those are posted as well. Photo diptychs and audio are also there. It’s different from my blog because we both have access to it, and we come up with little assignments for blog posts (example: take a picture of a tree today). I don’t give myself assignments for my blog.

D&S: How long do you think you’ll keep blogging?

AW: As long as I keep loving the internet, I bet I’ll keep blogging.

36 Down, 14 to Go: John Weatherford’s Quest for 50 Books in 52 Weeks

23 Sep

Back in May, we asked John Weatherford about the first four months of his attempt to read 50 books in a calendar year. Our last interview covered his list, his plans, and the difficult mountain of books he faced in the final two-thirds of 2009. We asked him if we could check in when September rolled around, and here we are. John answered our questions about reading during the summer, reading about food, keeping current with the bee keeping world, comparing fiction to famous painters, exploring the world, and finishing what he started.

Dove&Snake: When we talked to you in April, you were at 16 books. Your most recent blog entry shows Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s Long Way Round as number 34. Mathematically, you picked up your pace a little over the summer. Did reading over the summer feel any different than the first four months of the year?

John Weatherford: The big thing in the summer is that there are far fewer distractions than the rest of the year. TV is not really worth watching, and it is so hot outside that I don’t feel conflicted about sitting around inside the air conditioning.

D&S: You’ve read a lot about food. Why is that a subject of interest for you?

JW: I didn’t exactly grow up with good healthy eating ideals instilled in me. Lately, I have been making some changes, so I have enjoyed reading some good, well thought-out defenses for eating the foods God put on the planet for us versus the foods we cooked up in a lab.

D&S: Your blog entry from August 23 is particularly interesting. I’ve got a few questions based on that one. First, you said reading Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire was “the first time this year, possibly in [your] entire life [you] read 2 consecutive books by the same author.” Is there any particular reason you wanted to read two books in a row by Pollan?

JW: Basically, I had two books left by Pollan. After I read the first one, I really wanted to go ahead and finish.

D&S: Also, you mentioned, as a sort of disclaimer for your thoughts on that book, that you “subscribe to several seed catalogs as well as bee keeping catalogs.” How did you find out about them? What made you so interested in them that you decided you wanted them delivered to your home on a regular basis?

JW: I grew up with seed catalogs and plant and gardening books as a fixture of my surroundings. I suppose I wouldn’t feel right without flipping through this year’s catalog each February. I don’t really have a way to put the information to use, but I figure that shouldn’t stop me. The bee keeping catalogs were just a passing fancy. I went through a phase a few years ago where I read a bunch of books about bees and bee keeping. From that came a desire to keep bees someday. It probably won’t happen, but I guess I’ll keep up on the current trends just in case.

D&S: The last question from that entry pertains to the heart of your quest. You identified August as your “late summer slump.” What do you think caused that slump? Have you come out of it yet?

JW: Yes, I am out of it. I think I just got tired of reading. It was bound to happen. When you do things out of obligation they will eventually become a chore, but even that will pass.

D&S: You read two issues of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. In your response to McSweeney’s 14, you compared the short fiction in that volume to art you saw in museums when you were a kid in a very specific way: “I could have done it. But I didn’t.” What about the fiction in McSweeney’s left you with the feeling that you could write those same kind of stories?

JW: I really meant that as a complement more than a critique, but it might not have come off that way. I suppose that there was nothing in those stories that would have been outside of my ability to write, but I was trying to say was that even if I could have written them, I didn’t. I didn’t have the inspiration to think those thoughts, I didn’t have the dedication to see them through, I didn’t have the courage to put them down on paper, and I didn’t have the tenacity to see them through to publication. Anyone could paint a Rothko with a little practice, but would you? And would you fully commit to it even if you did paint it? Probably not.

D&S: Have you ever wanted to write a short story? What has kept you from doing so?

JW: I suppose I have, but it definitely doesn’t compel me. I’m pretty visual so maybe if it was a graphic novel or a children’s book with illustrations. I’d definitely consider writing non-fiction.

D&S: You didn’t respond in that same way to the other fiction you read over the summer (two by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and one by Chip Kidd). What was the difference between these novels and the McSweeney’s fiction?

JW: With the Kidd book, I think I felt differently because the author has such a different life experience that there is no way that I could see things from the same point of view as he has. With the Garcia Marquez, I feel like he is operating on a completely different plane that other writers so I sort of feel like nobody is going to touch that stuff. I suppose if anyone could paint a Rothko, then no one could ever have painted Guernica, except Picasso himself.

D&S: You read How to Be an Explorer of the World and indicated that some might not even think it should count in your quest for fifty because it’s a light read full of 59 challenges “designed to increase your imagination, problem solving, story telling abilities, and overall hipster appeal.” Did you act on any of those challenges? What was the result?

JW: No, but I have a few planned to conquer once the year of reading is finished.

D&S: You read a book about your own faith and a book about a different faith. What did you learn about your own worldview, spirituality, and theology as a result of digging in to not only your own beliefs, but those of others?

JW: I’d say I was confronted with the lack of dedication that is expected of me by my culture. If I were a Muslim in a nation governed by an Islamic majority there would be so many more cultural expectations placed upon me. I guess being a Christian in the United States is “easy.” I don’t really like easy. It makes me uncomfortable. The thing is that with all of my cultural freedom, I have to hold myself to a high standard, and I have to live my life to my standards whether I am being called on it or not.

D&S: What do you have next on your list?

JW: I have read two more books since then, and I am almost through a third book on adoption. I am planning on reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies soon, and possibly another McSweeney’s.

D&S: By that count, you only have fourteen left to go. Do you think you’ll be able to get to fifty books by December 31?

JW: I will do it. It probably won’t be easy with the holidays coming up, but I am going to make sure it gets done.

50 Books in 52 Weeks: Interview with John Weatherford, Literary Adventurer

18 May

John Weatherford is trying to read 50 books this year. We’re well into the fifth month of 2009, so that means John has been at it for the first third of the year. He started a blog so the rest of us can follow his progress, but we wanted to dig a little deeper into how the literary adventure is going; John obliged.

Dove&Snake: Where did you get the idea to read fifty books in a calendar year?

John Weatherford: I guess I just wanted a challenge, and I was typically reading around 25-35 books a year, so I figured 50 would be a challenge. I didn’t want to make it so ridiculous that all I did was read, but I wanted to have to sacrifice some things in order to make it happen.

D&S: You started off with a specific list of books to read this year. How did you pick those books?

JW: The list started as basically a list of every book I owned or had borrowed that I had never read. That only made about 35, so the rest I got off of PaperBack Swap. I just got books that were available now and that I had been meaning to read, or were socially significant books that I felt foolish for not having read.

D&S: Have you wanted to change that list at all? Are you going to stick to those books only?

JW: I have already changed the list a lot. I have read 6 or 7 books already that weren’t on the list at the beginning of the year. I’m okay with that. I was going to stick to the list so that I would decrease my surplus book supply, but sometimes a book comes along and you know that you need to read it at this point in your life. So I grant myself the freedom to divert from the list.

D&S: What books came along that you just had to read?

JW: In Praise of Slowness and a book I am currently reading called An Army of Davids. They were books I put on my wishlist on PaperBack Swap as soon as I joined and when I finally got them, I couldn’t wait to start reading them.

D&S: Are there any books on your list that you were especially looking forward to reading when you made your list?

JW: The book I was most looking forward to reading was Moby Dick. I haven’t gotten to it yet. I don’t think I will cut that one, but you never know.

D&S: Are you allowing yourself re-reads?

JW: I am not allowing re-reads in my 50 books total. There are a few books that will be required reading for me, but I just throw them in on top of the 50 non-required reads I am trying to do.

D&S:What books are required reading?

JW: I am reading Rocking the Roles again. It is a book about marital roles that my wife and I are going through with another couple. I anticipate that there will be other books that I will re-read with some other people in the near future.

D&S: Does it bother you when you’re reading something that’s not on your list?

JW: It doesn’t bother me. I try not to be tied down to obligations. I just kind of roll with whatever comes along.

D&S: Are you on the pace you hoped you would be at by this time of the year?

JW: I am on pace. Right now I would be at about 49 books for the year if I keep this pace up, but I always get more reading done in the summer, so hopefully that means I am ahead of pace. I would like to be 2-3 books ahead by the end of September if possible.

D&S: This isn’t your first time attempting to read 50 books in a year. How does your 2009 50 books quest compare to 2007 and 2008?

JW: I read 38 books in 2007 and 40 in 2008, so I am steadily improving. Last year I got behind pace early and gave up on the 50. Then I got laid off from my job in June and read 14 books in 8 weeks. I probably could have done it last year if I hadn’t given up so quickly. Live and learn, I guess.

D&S: How many total books did you read from January to April?

JW: From January 1 through April 30 I read 16 books.

D&S: Total pages?

JW: Some of the books are no longer in my possession thanks to PaperBack Swap, but I would guesstimate about 4000 pages, give or take a few hundred.

D&S: As the year has progressed, has it been easier or more difficult to keep up the pace?

JW: Definitely more difficult. It gets to be a real drain on my time and my brain starts to rebel, I think. I usually have no problem reading, but as the year goes on, it gets more and more challenging. It is really hard not to see it as an obligation and to let myself enjoy the adventure. It often feels like a job, like if I don’t clock my hours for the day someone is going to report me. I’d say that has been the biggest surprise to me. It isn’t bad, I enjoy struggling through things. I think it is good for character, I just wasn’t expecting it.

D&S: How does your blog help you keep going?

JW: It keeps me accountable. I know people look at it and I don’t want to have to say I gave up. I really like to finish things, and I am very deadline driven. Knowing others know my deadline helps me keep motivated.

D&S: Can we check in with you in September for an update on the second third of your year-long literary adventure?

JW: Definitely check in. It will keep me honest.

Tucson Grid Project 2.0: Interview with John Weatherford

21 Apr

Tucson Grid Project 2.0 is this Friday night. We caught up with John Weatherford, the mind where TGP originated, to find out what we can expect to see on the walls at 7:00 pm at 785 S. Columbus.n63901456405_7347

Dove&Snake: I know the basic idea for the TGP came from the Portland Grid Project. Where did the idea for adding in the emotions come from?

John Weatherford: Well basically, I just didn’t want the concept to get stale. In addition, I was trying to find a way for people to connect with the city more than just take a journalistic look at it. It is one thing for someone to wander the city in search of something that catches their eye and to take an “artistic” photo. It takes photography to an entirely different plane when you ask someone to look around them, to look for sorrow, and then be bold enough to photograph it. Couple that with the fact that there are almost no people participating that consider themselves photographers or artists, and we are really asking people to take a substantial risk.

D&S: Did you always plan to continue the project year to year? Did you always plan to evolve it?

JW: I guess I always assumed that it would catch on and that we would continue it. Then, after last year’s photographs and the bigger than expected turn out, it seemed like we had no choice but to keep it going. I think this is something that will be around for quite a while. We are already talking about next year and possible themes for following years. One thing we would like to see is more community involvement. I don’t want this to be a Second Mile thing. I want to see us own the event but I want to see the whole of Tucson walking the streets with cameras. I have already talked to a few parents about getting their children involved next year. I feel like there are a bunch of perspectives that are not yet being seen.

D&S: How are you planning to set up this year’s show?

JW: It will look very similar to last year. This year, however, instead of the photos being hung based on content of the actual image (i.e. graffiti, signs, traffic, landmarks) each emotion will occupy its own area of the room. So depending on the artist you may have 3 or 4 pictures that seem to be related or they may at first glance have nothing in common. This is why many people have included summaries of their photos. I am looking forward to seeing what the contributors thought of when they heard anguish or joy or passion.

D&S: Can you give us a sense of the photographers who are taking part in the show? Who are they?

JW: In a short description they are just normal people. Some are photographers, some are artists, some are mothers. We have students, teachers, bus drivers. People in their teens, twenties, thirties all the way through their sixties. We have representatives of downtown, campus, Vail, Marana, Oro Valley. It is a cross section of Tucson. We have some gaps but I feel very good about the diversity that is represented in the photographers. There are a few I haven’t even met yet. Part of the artistic ethos of Second Mile is a belief that we are all creative because we were created by the most creative being ever, and since we are created in His image we bear some of that creativity. I think you will see what I mean at the show.

D&S: You’ve been selecting photos for the show for the past week or so. What are your initial impressions of what we’ll see?

JW: I think from a quick glance the critic would say that this year’s pictures are “less artistic” than last year’s. I was careful to say critic because this experience is not about criticism–it isn’t even about art. It is about being in your city and loving your city. The thing I am loving about this year’s photos is the fact that they are incredibly well thought out, and they tell a story. What are we as a community if we cannot tell the story of our city? Last year the pictures were great, some were even incredible. This year, however, the participants were asked to do more than frame a beautiful or unique image of their surroundings. They were asked to process an emotion and convey it though a lens. That is not an easy thing to do. That being said, from what I have seen so far no one will be disappointed. There is an obvious intentionality to the photographs I have seen so far. The photographers took the emotions they were given and interpreted that through the city they live in. I would rather look at that than really well composed photographs of graffiti any day.

Check2Check Art Opening

27 Mar

Tonight from 7-10pm, The Living Room (4th Ave & 5th St) is hosting Keegan Rider’s Check2Check Art Opening, featuring art by Josh Flood, Keegan Rider, Pat Foley, Iner, Balley Hill, K-Beth, Goner, Grader, John-Paul Olson, Ray Roy OE, S. Scuzzin, Andy Stiembrink, Token, Prime Suspect Trevor, Jesse Vasquez, Matt Wade, James Walterson and selected pieces from the Kai One Inc art collection. The show is free, but you can donate a few bucks to The Living Room at the door.

We hoped to sit down with Keegan before the show and conduct a proper, full-fledged interview about what he calls his “best project/art party yet,” but he had scheduled a road trip to “go to California and see big trees,” so we did a quick mini-interview over email this week. check2check1

DOVE&SNAKE: What’s up with the upcoming art show? That’s a big list of artists on the Facebook event page, and I saw something about spray paint. Is it a graffiti show?

KEEGAN RIDER: Yeah, it’s graffiti, street art and pop art. It’s my best project/art party yet.

D&S: What will you have in the show?

KR: I’m doing a reflexive piece on drug addiction that I have created a Jesus stencil for.

D&S: How did you choose the artists for the show?

KR: The theme of the show is street art, pop art and graffiti writing as fine art. The artists are mostly from Tucson and are between the ages of 20 to 30. Many are known for street art and graffiti writing around Arizona and the West Coast.

D&S: Is the street art scene growing in Tucson?

KR: I believe so. We hope to create street art that is more than “graffiti.” It should be art that opens minds and leads to thinking about the world we live in. Street art is created to be temporary, which means it is art in its true form. The message and process of creating the work becomes the purpose of the piece.