• Making the Book Talismanic: An Interview with Robert Ansell

    Robert Ansell is the Director of Fulgur Press, which has published the work of esoteric artists for 20 years.

    'We who proudly make ourself every graven image,

    Shall have great copulations

    And are allowed to love our Gods:

    -Austin Osman Spare, The Witches' Sabbath

    Avi What led you to work at Sotheby's?

    Robert: Well, my formal education was somewhat erratic, but I decided to pursue a career in fine art, starting out as a saleroom porter—in those days, this was considered an apprenticeship of sorts. I joined Sotheby's in September 1984 and within months was transferred to the Book Department, working under the tutelage of Simon Heneage. He proved to be an inspirational mentor and a lasting influence, because it was Simon who introduced me to the work of Austin Osman Spare. (more…)

  • Design Thinking for Social Good: An Interview with David Kelley

    David Kelley is the founder of IDEO and the Stanford d.school

    David Kelley shares the IDEO Design Process

    Avi Solomon: Were the seeds of your future career planted in your childhood?

    David Kelley: I don't know, I feel I was just a lucky kid. So many kids are not allowed to flourish their creativity. But I was the kind of kid that would take apart the family piano. I can remember I had a perfectly good bicycle I got for Christmas and a few days later I had sandblasted it and painted it a different color. Not that my parents understood why I was always ripping things apart and redesigning them but I was certainly tolerated. So I think it did contribute in a lot of ways. I wish for a lot of other kids that they could tinker like I did. (more…)

  • Searching for Magic in India and Silicon Valley: An Interview with Daniel Kottke, Apple Employee #12

    Daniel Kottke lives and works in Palo Alto, Ca. Here, he talks about the genesis of his 1974 trip to India with Steve Jobs.

    Daniel Kottke was one of Apple's first employees, assembling the company's earliest kit computers with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in a California kitchen. In 1974, Jobs and Kottke backpacked across India in search of themselves; now, they are industry legends. Along the way, he debugged circuit boards, helped design the Apple III and the Mac, and became host of Palo Alto cable TV show The Next Step. (more…)

  • The Butterflies of India: An interview with Isaac Kehimkar

    Isaac Kehimkar is an avid naturalist and the author of The Book of Indian Butterflies
    Isaac's photostream of Indian Butterflies is at Flickr.

    Avi Solomon: What early influences drew you to the study of nature?

    Isaac Kehimkar: I grew up in Deonar, a suburb of Mumbai. It was a time when black and white television had just started in India with only one channel and no video games in sight. But Nature offered so many options. Deonar was still green and water in the streams was sparkling clean. The Monsoons were my season and catching fish and crabs with local Koli and Agri boys in the rice fields was my favorite pastime. That's the time I even dared (rather foolishly) to catch snakes too! With the rains gone and rice harvested, cricket pitches were soon paved in the rice fields and we played cricket till the rains came again. (more…)

  • Making Shelter Simple: An Interview with Lloyd Kahn

    Lloyd Kahn is the editor-in-chief of Shelter Publications. His latest book is Tiny Homes: Scaling Back in the 21st Century.

    Avi Solomon: What do you see in your childhood that pointed you onto the path that your life took?

    Lloyd Kahn: When I was a kid I had a little workbench with holes in it, and the holes were square or round or triangular. And you had to pick the right little piece of wood block and hammer it in with a little wooden hammer. And so I'd hammer with it, put the round dowel into the round hole, and hammer it through. And then maybe the most formative thing was when I was twelve – I helped my dad build a house. It had a concrete slab floor, and concrete block walls. And my job was shoveling sand and gravel and cement into the concrete mixer for quite a while. We'd go up there and work on weekends. One day we got the walls all finished, and we were putting a roof on the carport, and I got to go up on the roof. They gave me a canvas carpenter's belt, a hammer and nails, and I got to nail down the 1" sheeting. And I still remember that, kneeling on the roof nailing, the smell of wood on a sunny day. And then I worked as a carpenter when I was in college, on the docks. I just always loved doing stuff with my hands. (more…)

  • Game Design with Kids: An Interview with Charley Miller

    Charley Miller is a game designer and producer based in New York City.

    Avi Solomon: Tell us a bit about yourself.

    Charley Miller: My name is Charley, I'm from Kentucky and I'm a game designer based in New York City. I split my time between personal game projects, teaching game design, and working with clients. The client work is split between game design and helping non-gaming projects think through their user experience. I think of myself as an ambassador of games right now because so many people want to gamify their product but most are doing it wrong by just adding static incentives. I'm currently working with a team on an iPhone location and social game about spreading viruses in the real world called Outbreaker—not as scary as it sounds—that plays with the idea of what it means to go viral. I'm also hoping to release games about running for President and walking the streets of NYC this year. (more…)

  • The Grammar of Happiness: An Interview with Daniel Everett

    Daniel L. Everett is Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University. He is the author of Language: The Cultural Tool and the subject of the documentary A Grammar of Happiness.

    Avi Solomon: Were there any formative experiences in your childhood that shaped your career?

    Dan Everett: Well, by far the most important experience in my childhood was the death of my mother when I was eleven. She was twenty-nine. That changed my life, and it taught me that life is extremely fragile. And I knew from that point on that I was going to die and never feared dying. Because I felt that if my mother had died, I certainly didn't have any fear of dying. (more…)

  • Working Undercover in a Slaughterhouse: an interview with Timothy Pachirat

    Timothy Pachirat, Assistant Professor of Politics at The New School for Social Research and the author of Every Twelve Seconds, is not the first to see industrialized violence and political analogues in the slaughterhouse. But rather than write an exposé, he took a job at one to see how it works from the perspective of those who work there. I interviewed him about his experiences on the kill floor.


  • The Botany of Bible Lands: An Interview with Prof. Avinoam Danin

    Avinoam Danin is Professor Emeritus of Botany in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He curates Flora of Israel Online. His latest book is Botany of the Shroud: The Story of Floral Images on the Shroud of Turin.

    Avi Solomon: What first sparked your lifelong fascination with botany?

    Avinoam Danin: My parents told me that when I was 3 years old I always said "Look father, I found a flower". My grandparents gave me the book "Analytical Flora of Palestine" on my 13 birthday – I checked off every plant I determined in the book's index of plant names.

    Avi: How did you get to know the flora of Israel so intimately? (more…)

  • Filmmaking in Bollywood's Shadow: An Interview with Jaideep Varma

    Jaideep Varma is an author, filmmaker and professional cricket analyst working in India.

    Avi Solomon

    Tell us a bit about yourself.

    Jaideep Varma

    I was in advertising for 12 years as a copywriter, then gave it up in 2000 to be a full-time writer. I published a novel, Local, in 2005. I directed a feature film, Hulla, which was released in 2008, and a full-length documentary feature film called Leaving Home – the Life & Music of Indian Ocean, which was released in 2010 and won the National Film Award this year. I also, purely accidentally, invented a statistical system in cricket called Impact Index, which is what I am running and co-developing full-time currently. (more…)

  • Robert Sapolsky on Stress: An Interview

    Prof. Robert Sapolsky on Coping with Stress (Audio link) Photo Courtesy of Indiana University

    Robert Sapolsky is a Professor of Biological Sciences and Neurology at Stanford University. He is the author of A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons.

    Avi Solomon:

    What event or person influenced your decision to study Primatology?

    Robert Sapolsky:

    Reading The Year of the Gorilla, by George Schaller, when I was in middle school. Schaller was the first person to do field work with gorillas (long before Dian Fossey). I had a vague sense of wanting to do primatology before that (sufficiently so to be reading the book), but that book cemented it. (more…)

  • Eyal Ophir on the Science of Multitasking

    Photo: Eyal Ophir with his daughter Sahar, courtesy of the subject.

    Eyal Ophir was primary researcher on the pioneering Stanford Multitasking study. He now designs information interfaces for the browser RockMelt.

    Avi Solomon

    How did you get to studying multitasking at Stanford?

    Eyal Ophir

    While I was at Stanford, Cliff Nass (my advisor, and a global expert on human-computer interaction) introduced me to some great ethnographic work done by Ulla Foehr and Donald Roberts at the Dept. of Communication looking at media consumption among youth. They saw that young people were reporting more media-use hours than actual hours, and figured out these same young people must be consuming multiple streams of media simultaneously in order to fit it all in. This is where I was introduced to the concept of Media Multitasking. I came from a cognitive psychology background, and I was inspired by Anthony Wagner's work on memory and cognitive control (Anthony was my reference for all things cognitive, and ended up being the third author on the paper). So for me, the interesting question was simply how these kids are managing to process and control so much information all at once. (more…)

  • An interview with David Eagleman, neuroscientist

    Photo: Poptech

    David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and author.

    Avi Solomon

    What fascinates you about the nature of time?

    David Eagleman

    We all go through life assuming that time is an external river that flows past us. But experiments in my laboratory over the past decade have shown that this is not precisely the case. Time is an active construction of the brain. We can set up simple experiments to make you believe that a flashed image lasted longer or shorter than it actually did, or that a burst of light happened before you pressed a button (even though you actually caused it with the button), or that a sound is beeping at a faster or slower rate than it actually is, and so on. Time is a rubbery thing. (more…)