“I am happy when I get up in the morning” (part 2)

Nico Prat with Yours Truly. (c) Celeste Rhoads

In the first part of our interview with radio journalist Nico Prat, we talked about his book, Les Miscellannées d’Internet. In this second part, he tells us why he cherishes his job, what made a difference in his life and what, at the dawn of his 27 th year, he expects from life.

Photos by Celeste Rhoads.

Tell me about the genesis of your first book.

I think I had written an article on VSD, on what I had called « humor 2.0 », in essence saying that jokes were no longer exchanged at the office’s watercooler, but by email, chainmail. I wanted to go a little further than this article, interviewing who was at the origin of that type of sense of humor, and what it meant for us as a society. At this time, I was working on a project with Antoine Dubuquoy. He’s 45, he’s been working in advertising for quite some time now, and I said listen, who could I possibly use for this idea ? He said he didn’t know, but that he was working on a book that would later be the one we released last year, and he said he’d love to do it with me. He had already written a blurb, that was very historical, and I added my own spin on it, which was more about the current aspect of the web, more about the humorous aspect of it, and that became the book.

Your very first book.

My real baby is GloryBox. But it’s my baby with Antoine.

So your real baby, your real projects, are on radio ?

Absolutely. GloryBox is my baby. This is the aspect of work that I cherish the most. I’m working on episode 22. We are very proud of it, with Mehdi Fattah, the show’s producer, because there is a real young electro and pop scene in France that has no inhibitions, that never plays by the rules, that doesn’t try to belong to any specific theme but would quote the Stooges as well as french singer Alain Souchon as main influences – I’m thinking about Aline, Superpoze, bands like those, Mr Nô for instance. I’m really proud that, for an hour, I can leave them the control on national airwaves. I’m still master of ceremony, I still have to take them into a direction and ask questions, but during this whole hour, we learn to discover them, we learn about their journey, we listen to a lot of very good music. The season will be over in three episodes, and looking back, Mehdi and I are super proud. Neither of us is the cause of what happened, but all those bands managed to be booked at important festivals, and they probably would have done it regardless of GloryBox, but we gave them the opportunity to tell who they are, with their own words.

Do you pick the artists you’re going to showcase or do they somehow find a way to reach you ?

We set up an email address, gloryboxrecrute@gmail.com, where bands can send us files and stories. We listen to everything. Some of it we don’t like. Some of it we kind of like, and it ends up in the « sampler » section of the show, and when I have a crush on a band, I select it to spend one hour with the band. If I don’t crush on it, if I’m forcing myself to deal with them, for whatever reason – that it could be good for the station, that it could be good for the show – I’m not going to have a good time, I’m not going to believe in it, and you’ll feel it as a listener. There are criterias, of course, and first and foremost, we have to deal with them before they release their first album.

And how did you manage to put Franz Is Dead on the air ? It already released an album.

Franz Is Dead released an EP. That was his second EP, he also released a mini album with only eight tracks, and it was a paralleled project, so the rules couldn’t apply. The other day we were on the air with O Safari, a band that has only released one track, this just one track. But we had such a massive fall-in-love moment with this track that we picked them for the show. We invited them from that three-minutes song called « Taxi ». With the artists we really manage to establish trust. We have a GloryBox night on Friday where O Safari and Superpoze will play live, there is a little family aspect to it.

And you’re working with artists that would not necessarily be highlighted otherwise, in press or media in general.

Not necessarily. If you look at the format, it’s one hour on national radio, during which we spin four of their tracks, where they have almost absolute control of the programmation, where a review takes place : I honestly do not believe we changed the lives of any artist we shed the spotlight on, they would have done it without us. But I like to believe that at the stage of their career, it couldn’t hurt. And if we managed to help a band through the show, I am particularly proud of it. If someone comes up to me and said, « I discovered said or said band through you », this is where I am at my happiest. We try to put as much fun as we can into the show.

(c) Celeste Rhoads

The little nod to Portishead, was it voluntarily decided, or just an after thought ?

It really wasn’t how the show was called initially. It was supposed to be called « Starter », which I really liked, but we had to ensure the name wasn’t already used by another radio show, so we had to submit every possible name we could think of : it was almost named « Pop, etc » , « At the beginning », etc. We submitted thirty names or so, and two of them were available, including Glory Box. Yes, there is a nod to Portishead. But this is what it means : a mini glory box that you open with a lot coming out of it.

Knowing your age  (Nico will be 27 in July), what is your next big step ? You released your first book before you turned 30 ; you have your own radio show on national airwaves before you turned 30. You will release your second book before hitting 30. What is left to do ?

Swim across the world. (laughs) Seriously, I have no idea. Continuing Glory Box, for sure. Sure, I have a few ideas, that I can’t tell you because they’re not supposed to get out. But I’m already feeling like I’m hallucinating right now. The past year has been amazing for me. Everything I love is in my work. I love getting up in the morning. There will be the second book, the second season of GloryBox that will operate under a few different changes, in september.

But you’re happy.

I’m happy. I’m the happiest. It feels really good. I remember the first time we did an interview together,  and when I look at the photos I feel like I was ten years old. I had shaved, I had my old glasses and I was wearing a close-fitted white tshirt. It’s not an easy job, it is really hard, so I’m really happy that so many people gave me a chance – Laura Lieschmann, Jean Zeid, Emilie Mazoyer,  that supported me, people I owe a lot. All I can hope for myself is to keep on making that kind of connection with people.

(c) Celeste Rhoads

How can someone that young find themselves on such an established radio station ? (Le Mouv’)

One thing with me is that I love the idea of public service, I love the idea of owing people something. I am paid with taxpayer’s money, and I think that’s a beautiful principle and applies pressure, forcing us into an ethos. When I was a kid, I lived in Rouen, and whenever we would go and see her on weekend, we would drive past the Radio City, and I could see the giant poster of key radio personalities and I was telling myself, « When I grow up, I’ll be one of them ». And why Le Mouv’, it’s because the people I met were working there, and that’s how I found myself there.

It’s funny, cause my sister is a journalist as well, a radio journalist, and she has the same attachment to the art – she refuses to do any press, any television, she’s really into radio.

I still do press, because that’s how I started and I like how it’s a completely different exercize. Being on the radio wasn’t in the plan. I have grown attached to it, but it wasn’t in the works. I just wanted to be a journalist. I find it crazy to be paid to give your opinion, and being paid to do GloryBox, it’s crazy to me, because no matter what, I would have still done something similar, I would have had a blog, I would have had it as a hobby, but what I love is now my job, and I feel incredibly lucky.

What has changed the most for you between now and back when I first interviewed you ? What is the thing that has made its mark upon you ?

My interview with Anton Newcombe remains the worst I’ve ever done. (laughs) Really, two things that I will always remember : the day I got my first book in my hands. I remember going to all bookstores to see the book display. I remember entering rooms to sign books and seeing piles and piles of my own book around. It’s very strange. And the second thing is when I became in charge of my very first show. I had been on radio before, I had little segments, little reviews, but I had never been in charge to cover the Eurockéennes festival. 2 hours live – already a hard exercize when it’s your job, but back then, I had little to no experience. They really took a chance on me and I had a lot of fun doing it. Those experiences marked who I am and made for fantastic memories. A lot of things happened from then on. My bosses played my bluff and I hope I never disappointed anyone.

Would you be ready to give back to the community and introduce young people to the art of radio now ? Do you feel experienced enough to be in their shoes ?

No, not at all. This is not my place. I am 26 years old. Who am I to give advice ? I don’t have enough experience as of yet to really help someone get through. The other day some guy showed up before the show and asked to see how things were getting done, so I let him into the studio. If someone asks me advice, sure I will answer, but I have no journey to speak of… it’s going well, for sure, but I’m no teacher, this is not my position. I’m still knocking on wood. Stop saying it’s exceptional, this is where everything will start falling into pieces (laughs).

So you don’t feel you’re « there » ? That you’ve arrived ?

No, I haven’t arrived anywhere. Maybe when I’m 75. I will never be « there ».

So you will never be Pascal Nègre ?

No. It’s funny you’re asking because you’re taking a guy like Philippe Manœuvre, who is still there, can you really reproach them for being still there ? Everyone’s staying the old generation’s gotta move, that they need to make room for the youth of today to have some space. Can we really reproach them for still having something to say ? When I’m 50, when I’m an old ass without anything left to say, will I have the intelligence to go away when I need to ? I can’t know that for sure. Of course you can say that Rock’n’Folk is close-minded, I do believe that Pascal Negre’s vision of the Internet is vomit-inducing, someone else saying « music is dead » made me believe I’m happy they’ve retired … but you can’t deny that those people had made something of their lives and have changed things, in a way. They may have made mistakes but they believed in them. I’m not sure I can say I would have done things any differently.

“I am happy when I get up in the morning” (part one)

Nico Prat and Yours Truly. (c) Celeste Rhoads.

In the first part of our interview with journalist and radio personality Nico Prat, we talked about his first book, Les Miscellanées d’Internet, and the one that will be released next year, Twittus Politicus. In the following lines, you will read about his performance, how Twitter impacts the political world, and what a non-political journalist can do with all this information.

Photos taken by Celeste Rhoads.

Tell us more about this book you released earlier this year.

It was released in January, it’s called “Internet Miscellaneous” and talks about the internet, not in a chronological way, which tells about Internet-based characters, Internet etiquette, and Internet-based stories. So of course we talk about Mark Zuckerberg, about the military use of the Internet during its first steps, MySpace’s Tom, etc. It’s full of little articles and anecdotes that reveal a global, and I hope fun, vision of Internet. It goes from the 60s, during the first try outs, to today. I can’t really pinpoint when the book starts, but I clearly remember the end: when the book in its final form was due, when we could not make any more changes at this point, Steve Jobs died and naked pictures of Scarlett Johansson were leaked. So we gave everyone a call and that’s how the book ends, at this very precise point in time.

So you didn’t make it chapter by chapter in a precise order?

No, that’s why it’s called “miscellaneous”, it’s because it’s a bunch of different stories that are unrelated to each other. It’s a mess, but it reflects Internet’s mess in a way. We thought it would be better to approach things that way. It’s the kind of book you read on the train.

How did the book do? How did you perform, sales-wise?

I have absolutely no idea. It has never been communicated. I think it did well because we had a lot of promotion going on and we also had the opportunity to sign up for a second opus. So I assume we didn’t sink our publishing house to the ground, but I don’t have any numbers. The fact that we have a second one in the works means that it did at least as much as the team expected.

(c) Celeste Rhoads

That’s a book that we can all relate to. We all have an Internet connection and we’ve all been Rick-rolled.

That’s the thing. We all have a lousy friend that keeps emailing us links to the latest supposedly funny meme. But despite that I learned a lot doing research for the book. For instance, the founding fathers of the Internet, if you will, had created a network so they could exchange thoughts and ideas. It was back when Internet had only five users. They started testing it and all went back to their respective homes. One of them forgot his electric razor at the hotel. He used the network to tell his friends, “you guys, I forgot my razor, can someone ship it back to me?” it was one of the first emails. It was encoded and everything, totally not what we deal with Gmail today. The second book will be a bit different, it will be about Twitter and called “Twittus Politicus”, we will work on who represents the politics on Twitter, the vets, the newbies, who clashes with who, does it have any weight in the real political world, etc.

So there will be a chapter about me having a fight with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

No, we will focus on french politics. Characters and people such as Humour de Droite. We were waiting for the end of the presidential and parliamentary elections. So we will work on it this summer. We will try to interview Benjamin Lancar, people from radio station Europe 1, and journalists who I’m sure will have a lot to tell us. We have contacts, on the left wing side but also on the right wing hand, that handled the communication for prominent political characters during the campaign.

Do you think Twitter plays a definite role in politics in general or do you think it’s yet another gadget?

It is a social network, so it is what people make of it. I personally never question myself twice before posting. If I see a funny picture of a cat, I’m going to post it. And this cat can find itself in my timeline between an article on how Sarkozy made a serious move to the right and another one on the weather in Corsica. I don’t ask myself any questions. You can also choose what you’re going to see. People always believe that Twitter leans to the left. Benjamin Lancar himself talked about the “Leftosphere”, when talking about social networks, that would be allegedly left-sided. I’m not necessarily sure this is true. And it can give nuances. I was talking with a friend the other day who said he was generally voting on the right side of the spectrum, but that didn’t mean he was subscribing to everything Sarkozy was doing and saying. You can be critical.

You will see certain political parties, mostly on the left, very much present on the Internet and some, like the National Front, totally absent. 

But young people vote for the National Front as well, and massively so. I think there is still a bit of shame attached to being close to the National Front and adhering to its ideas. I thought the whole presidential campaign was pathetic. The closer we were to the end, I thought the right wing was losing its mind, losing its cool. Hollande was playing on its calm, poised, still side, whereas Sarkozy was all over the place, and he paid the price. He shouldn’t have chatted up to the National Front.

Since you’re going to write about it, do you think communication advisors will see Twitter as an integral part of their strategy?

Absolutely. It’s an important part of your presence on the Internet. Beyond what you can say in your official page, it can also help relay one-liners, help relay slogans, in a fast paced way. I think the right wing are also losing their cool on Twitter. They tend to tweet way too easily, way too fast. They’re accusing, they’re being aggressive. And that’s what people remember. They’re not less present, they’re just not using it wisely. Because Twitter is about the immediate, everything can happen. You can of course delete your tweet but someone will already have screencapped it, or found it in a cache. The DSK story was so massive on Twitter. I remember it woke me up on a sunday morning.

Since you’re not a political journalist, how will you talk about politics on Twitter? What will your angle be?

Precisely through the prism of the guy who doesn’t know anything. I know about Twitter, but I don’t know about politics. It’s not about Twitter or politics, it’s about how a social network that is usually about lolcats, can become so massively important in politics.

In the US, organizations such as MoveOn and the ACLU are using Twitter the best they could for their campaigns, and I’m not even talking about Occupy.

It’s the people that are on Twitter that make Twitter what it is. What’s interesting is the people that can control it and those who watch the carnage. Politics itself, I don’t really care. What I care about is how someone’s tweets play a role in their relationship with other people and how it represents the communication control of the whole party. How someone’s tweets shape a strategy in communication.

And in the US, there is much more control, it is entirely part of a communication strategy that will never be left to the person itself. It’s being taken seriously.

Whereas here, people forget that Facebook and Twitter is where an opinion can forge itself. You can also try to create your opinion and share it so easily.  Being present on Twitter equals a dozen of meetings. No one has to move from their couch and go someplace to hear what you have to say. It’s such a huge tool that is misrepresented and misused. What you have to understand is that the right wing had someone that I believe is profoundly stupid at their head, Benjamin Lancar, who does precisely what should never be done. He’s the standard against which every mistake is now being measured.

There is still a huge belief that people on the internet are an acquired cause to the left wing; that bloggers belong to the left, that people on Facebook and Twitter signing petitions are on the left, that the right is more traditional and therefore will use traditional ways to make themselves known.

No, this is not true. The ring wing is present on the internet, it’s just that if you’re not that inclined, you won’t necessarily pay attention. Hollande was in the opposition, so he was in a position to attack the president. It was easy to use Twitter for that, to be a watchdog against the government. Now that Hollande is president, if the right uses Twitter to note his mistakes, you won’t be able to say that Twitter belongs to the left. Twitter belongs to those who are not in government and are trying to create a movement against it, to be critical, to force critical thinking.

Do you believe you are influential on Twitter or elsewhere? Do you often get reactions to what you tweet?

Depends on what you call a reaction. If I post a picture of a cute kitten and I get a thousand retweets saying yes, this kitten is adorable, I don’t think I’m influential, that I have radically changed the world’s position on cats. But sometimes people are indeed unnerved by what I post, by the article that I choose to post, by what I believe is important. People have a different opinion on everything that I’m capable of saying, but I wouldn’t say that with two thousand followers, I’m influential. You can stumble upon my own tweets the way you can stumble upon anyone else’s.

Wait a few days for the second part of the interview in which Nico discusses how his first book came to be, his career in radio, and what’s ahead for a 26 years old who already achieved what most of us don’t even dare to hope for.

“I suppose my first real job in comedy was teaching high school”

(c) Mindy Tucker withreservation.com

Few women have inspired the editor of this blog as much as Sara Benincasa did. A unique and extremely personal character, Sara is candid, crazy, open-minded, hilarious, and genuine. Not much older than we are, Sara has already appeared in NBC’s Today Show, the CBS Early Show, CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, MTV News, and CUNY-TV’s “Brian Lehrer Live”. She’s written for Wonkette, ComedyCentral.com and “created a splash with her original Sarah Palin vlogs on Huffington Post’s humor site, 23/6, a series for which she won an ECNY Award and was nominated for a Webby for best performance, alongside Isabella Rosellini.” There is no telling how funny Sara is; it is in the way she impersonates Michelle Bachmann, her delirious writing style, and her honest and warm-hearted way she addresses her listeners / readers / viewers. Part of our series on young, inspiring people finding a way to express themselves in a world that is certainly not entirely ready to receive them, Sara Benincasa agreed to answer a few questions, and did so with enthusiasm and loveliness. We could not be any happier. Her book, Agorafabulous!, is released tomorrow. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy.

You attended Columbia’s Teacher College. When and how did you realise you were meant to perform?

Well, teaching teenagers is a kind of performance, I think. You’ve got an audience that may or may not be violent and drunk, and you’ve got to captivate them to the point where they are rendered temporarily immobile by laughter, fascination, or at the very least, fear. So I suppose my first real job in comedy was teaching high school.

“Sex and other human activities” is a very open-minded, funny and candid sex and health podcast. What were your favorite moments on the show so far?

In Episode 19, I break down and cry while talking about the depression I was experiencing at the time. It’s very honest and open and it’s the episode that we get the most feedback on. There’s another episode where I cry about “Doctor Who” and Marcus, my co-host and co-producer, cries about “Battlestar Galactica.” We’re kind of geeky.

Something that stuck with me is describing your experience as a Planned Parenthood escort in NYC. Can you tell us more about what prompted you to volunteer and what PP means to you, especially in the wake of the Kormen story?

Ive actually never worked as an escort for Planned Parenthood. I certainly benefited from the help of Planned Parenthood escorts when I was confronted by an angry protester one morning. And I’m very glad that Susan G. Komen for the Cure restored their funding for mammograms to Planned Parenthood.

The first time I heard you was on Citizen Radio, impersonating Sarah Palin. You’ve been extremely spot-on with every female politician your portrayed, especially with Michele Bachmann. Is there a candidate you’d never make fun of and why?

Oh, I’d feel fine making fun of each and every one of them. I wouldn’t feel fine doing impressions of each one. I’m not going to don blackface and a wig and be Obama…that would be, you know, MILDLY offensive. I’m going to do impressions of candidates I vaguely resemble. Sarah Palin and, to a lesser extent, Michele Bachmann fit the bill.

Amidst all your podcast and live performance work, how did the idea of writing “Agorafabulous” come to you?

Well, I actually started doing the one-woman show “Agorafabulous!” in order to brainstorm ideas for my book proposal. After about a year of that, we got a book proposal together that we liked enough to sell. And it sold! Hooray!

You’ve been very candid about your experiences on air and in your book. How hard was it to be so public about things some of us can be shy or ashamed about?

So long as I felt confident I was only holding myself up for potential ridicule/praise, it was easy to be public with this information. I didn’t really consider it ahead of time, or else I might have hesitated. I just did it. And I’m glad I did.

Is there one more element to your active and constantly evolving career that you have not yet dived into?

I’d like to act more! It’s a great deal of fun, especially comedic acting.

ON AGORAFABULOUS!:  Today Sara Benincasa is an internationally touring comedian, as well as a writer, blogger and podcast host.  The writer and star of the one-woman show Agorafabulous!, she has appeared throughout the media and was a citizen-journalist for the 2008 MTV Choose or Lose Street Team.  Sara hosts the web series Gettin’ Wet with Sara Benincasa and the popular podcast Sex and Other Human Activities.  At the age 21 however Sara’s struggle with her panic disorder developed into full-on agoraphobia.  Her fears were so severe she was afraid to leave her own bedroom.  She sank into suicidal depression.
 AGORAFABULOUS! is an unpretentious, honest look at what effect depression can have on a person. Sara herself is representative of how even after the darkest time you can find light and laughter.  She’s been there and lived to tell the tale; peeing in bowls and all.

“My grandfather told me about this Congressman from Texas.”

Ron Paul

Every so often, a political candidate comes into the already established house to rouse officials and voters. Ron Paul is such a candidate. Perhaps the only congressman to hold a steady and unflinching voting record as an anti-war, pro- gay rights candidate, Ron Paul has been making headlines as this year’s most surprising candidate for the Republican primaries. Sitting among Tea Party hopefuls such as Michelle Bachmann and fellow independent John Huntsman, Ron Paul has always been seen as the least credible contender, the outsider, the small poller. Strong of his strong percentage in Iowa and his most surprising second place in the New Hampshire voting polls, Ron Paul, who is almost impossible to label politically, could perhaps be the third way to defeat Obama and lead the United States towards the alternative to dual party politics. Criticised for his pro-life stance on the left, and for his anti-war position on the right, Ron Paul is a mystery. Loyal follower Bobby Wilbert is helping us shed some light on America’s new political figure.

Tell us how long you’ve been supporting Ron Paul and how you came to favor this candidate.
I have been “following’ Ron Paul since the mid eighties when my grandfather told me of these Congressman from Texas who were exposing The Federal Reserve: Henry  Gonzalez (first Mexican American from Texas to become a Congressman) and Ron Paul. Being in high school at the time, I was like, what the hell is “The Fed”? As for when I came to favor him, I was living in a one-bedroom garage apartment in January 2007 reading some non-establishment newspaper from DC and it said Ron Paul was running for president to educate voters on the Fed, etc. I ordered some stickers and painted downtown Jacksonville with them.

You recently expressed criticism re: the issue with the newsletter. Explain how it made you feel and what you thought you should reconsider.
I first heard about the newsletters in January 2008 on the eve of the 2008 New Hampshire primary when Drudge posted two pieces about them. I was in a consumer law unit meeting at legal aid, and as I read it on my dumb-phone, my heart dropped. I was shocked. I talked to Ron Paul five or six times at events about them and was convinced that he does not hold any racist views. Then in December 2011, the issue came back up. He was on Hannity’s show and told Hannity that he has “no idea” who wrote them. This is what led to my criticism: I find it hard to believe that he doesn’t know who wrote them. I am still struggling with this issue.  I want Ron Paul to come out and say who wrote them. Recently a piece said some one associated with Forbes wrote them.

One of Paul’s main concern is the Federal Reserve: how it operates, how it used, and how it should be used – ie not at all. Can you elaborate on that and explain how Paul’s point of view stands out against other candidates on both sides of the spectrum?
As he said in his speech in New Hampshire last night, Ron Paul is the only candidate who talks about The Fed and the negative effects it has on  middle class and lower income Americans.  Seniors and savers get killed with 0% interest rates (ZIRP) as do savers: I have a 401(k) with $12,000 cash in it and it earns 11 cents interest per month. And The Fed lies about inflation–says they ain’t none, because they define inflation to exclude food, energy and education–and who needs those to survive, right? Obama thinks Big Ben is doing a wonderful job destroying the dollar and Romney–the “Bain” of Ron Paulers–thinks the Federal Reserve is necessary and may not need to be audited. Bernie Sanders gets The Fed since he is an honest, independent politician.

Paul chose to run in the GOP race, but felt really out of place next to personalities such as Bachmann and Perry. What were his other options? Do you believe he had better run as a third party candidate?
Now that he placed well in New Hampshire, I don’t see him running independent or third party. I hear that major players in the GOP have told him to stay in the GOP or his son Rand’s political career will be over in 2016. Ron Paul says he won’t run third party since he won’t get into the debates in the fall–but he would. Remember John Anderson in 1980 when he sued on this issue and won at the US Supreme Court?

What do you make of Paul’s appeal amongst progressives? 
I think this is fertile ground that must be nourished. Being a leftist-libertarian, I have yearned for a left-right alliance. Ralph Nader gets this point and has reached out. An independent  run by Ron Paul in 2012 could get this movement going and make a real impact on the future of  American policy. A platform against war, against the drug war, for gay rights, against crony capitalism, for protecting American jobs, a reformed tax code, and the end of Too-Big-To-Fail ideology would draw a lot of people in and get the message out as well as votes. Ron Paul attracts a hell of a lot of college students and their energy need to be harnessed. Willard Romney  does not attract them, and Obama has let them down. Romeny will lead to Obama’s reelection.

Paul was the first elected official in Congress besides Bernie Sanders to express himself on Occupy Wall Street. How would you align his views on those of the movement?
By taking action to end crony capitalism and and ending the banking system as we know. End the Fed=kill the big banks. Replace the system not with a gold standard but with competing currencies. I also support Ellen Brown’s ideas [my liberal side coming out–give me debt free greenbacks like they has in the Pennsylvania colony but not like th Mass. ones] as detailed in one of my favorite books, Web of Debt.

Lastly, on the day following the Iowa win – do you think Paul can remain a serious dealbreaker in other states?
Yes–even more so after New Hampshire’s second place finish.
What drives me crazy is that Ron Paul supporters too often marginalize themselves and then blame it on others. Since the New Hampshire primary, many media outlets including the New York Times have asked if Ron Paul’s supporters will support any other GOP nominee.  The Paulites shout our in near unanimity “No One But Paul.” This led Tea Party Senator Jim DeMint of SC to tweet: “@JimDeMint I don’t know a single Ron Paul supporter that will vote for anyone but Paul. If Paul isn’t the nominee, I expect Obama wins.
But the Paulites with complain when the GOP disregards them after they act this way.  Why should the GOP care about them if they stated that they will only vote for Ron Paul? If he doesn’t get the GOP nod, Paulites are useless to the GOP. This Cult of Personality for Ron Paul is disturbing. As Bruce Springsteen warned us–having faith in a person or your government is dangerous. If Paulites really care about liberty, they will rally behind the message and stop worshiping their chosen messenger.

MORE: How Ron Paul is affecting the Republican Primary // Paul’s Role at the 2012 RNC // Can Ron Paul beat Obama?

 Bobby Wilbert is a bankruptcy lawyer based in Jacksonville, Florida. He is a graduate of Salisbury University (summa cum laude), the University of Mississippi and Tulane University, where he graduated with distinction with an L.L.M. in Admiralty Law. Today, he is a member of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s Predatory Lending Unit, where he handles primarily Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases in order to save the homes of low-income clients from foreclosure. Actively involved in local and national politics, Bobby is distinguishing himself as an independent, thoughtful, informed and educated voter fighting for the rights of low-income and middle class citizens. He has been following Ralph Nader and Ron Paul’s career since the beginning. He is also a huge Bruce Springsteen fan.

“I have a place where I can express myself without being controlled.”

We have interviewed comics, writers, political activists, in our quest for creativity, imagination, and pro-active search of the self in a world that overvalues the immediate art of information. Amidst the desperation illustrated by the Occupy movement, and the necessity to make themselves a place in the sun, college graduates are amongst the poorest in all demographics. Rising unemployment rates and abandon of one’s aspiration and motivation is how we picture the youth of today. It only just occurred to us that the most imaginative and resourceful people we knew could be one of us, could be so close to what we want to achieve through this blog and through this organisation. We have therefore chosen to interview, depict and portray those who inspire us and could just as well see you through one of those days. Ziad Abu Zayyad is one of those young yet mature minds who are active proponents of change, pushing through the barriers of their environment to redefine the hand dealt by diplomacy and politics. Prisoner of the “palestinian question” in Israel, Ziad took it upon himself to write, describe, read and educate those who felt they had no voice; speak to those who would not listen; and prepare the not so proverbial battleground for a future, any future, as long as it is peaceful.

Can you introduce yourself and let us know what your academic background is?
My name is Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad. I am a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem. I am twenty six years old. I studied International Relations and English Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I am politically active in the Palestinian community and lead a youth movement that works for serving the Palestinian youth. I am also a blogger since 2007 and represent Palestinian youth in Social Media activities and International Conferences.

“It was hard to decide whether to be an analyst that sticks to objectivity or be an ambassador that writes in order to explain the Palestinian case and serve it.”

When did you start the Middle East Post and what prompted you to do so?
I started the Middle East Post in 2007. One of the main reasons that pushed me to establish the website was my interest in finding a place to express myself away from the main media outlets in the Palestinian territories that are usually controlled by main political parties. I also wanted to reach a wider international audience and send a message about my life, the effect of the occupation on it and express my interest in finding a solution that brings civil rights to my people. Later, many others joined me and today write at the Middle East Post, hereby becoming one of the main English writing websites that publishes about the Arab World and the Israeli Arab conflict.

What were the biggest obstacles you had to face when starting the publication?
One of the biggest obstacles was learning how to publish, knowing how to write and setting a goal that I want to reach through my writing. It was hard to decide whether to be an analyst that sticks to objectivity or be an ambassador that writes in order to explain the Palestinian case and serve it.

Do you have any staffers on board and if yes, how did you recruit them?
My staff approached me to become part of the Middle East Post. They showed interest in publishing on the website. Others wanted to help by editing and giving advice about what would be good to develop the website and make it reach a wider audience.

“As Palestinians in Jerusalem, we have to go through checkpoints on a daily basis and we have to fight in order to survive”

How important is the Middle East Post to you and what are your goals for the publication?
Today the Middle East Post is a part of me. It represents me and became a tool that I use to build new relations locally and internationally. It makes me feel that I have a place where I can express myself without being controlled. Not only that but the website has invested in making me reach places that I always wanted to reach and know people who are similar to me and work in the same field: Social Media. One of the recent outcomes was my participating in an International Conference that brought eighteen bloggers from eighteen different countries. Following the relation we built with each other, we decided to establish a network called Global Bloggers for Change. Our local media gave great importance for such an achievement and now we are working through this network to serve bloggers who are working for a positive change within their societies.

Tell us about your life living in East Jerusalem and the issues you face on a daily basis.
Living in East Jerusalem is neither simple nor easy. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem do not have a nationality and are given a permanent resident identity card only to identify them. While travelling we use a travelling document. We have no representation neither in the municipality nor in any other Israeli authority. We refuse to be a part of Israel yet we are not allowed to express ourselves nor have freedom of speech whenever it is about politics or even forming a community leadership. The economic situation of the Palestinians is bad in the city. Building the separation wall disconnected East Jerusalem from the surrounding Palestinian villages that used to cause a movement related to the economic situation in the city. Settlements are built all the time in order to make the city Israeli in every possible way. We have to go through checkpoints on a daily basis and we have to fight in order to survive when talking about monthly income and facing serious social problems. The services that are given to the residents are much less than what is needed and most of the time the city resembles a ghost city because of separation wall. If any of the residents leave the borders of the separation wall to live, for example,  in the West Bank or abroad, he or she immediately lose their identity card and are not allowed to enter the city again. Such circumstances cause serious social problems including substance abuse, family problems and other.  The Palestinian Authority is not allowed to give us any kind of service and if any of the residents of the city cooperate with them , they are charged of cooperation with the enemy.

“I also see myself as a man who continues to lead for the sake of bringing liberty and justice for my Palestinian people”

What do you think of the petition submitted to the UN in September to recognize Palestine as an independent state? What were your reaction to Obama’s response?
I believe that the petition was legitimate and the minimum that the Palestinians would do especially that the majority expressed their commitment to diplomatic efforts and peaceful resistance in order to succeed in earning our rights back. Most of the international community supported the Palestinian bid because it is clear that it works with international law and its norms. Unfortunately the U.S leadership did not support the move that qualifies with president Obama’s vision of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. However, I was thrilled to see thousands of Palestinians going into the street calling for a Palestinian state by the 1967 borders. Such an achievement came after a lot of efforts. I also believe that it is important to continue the efforts on the international level in order to bring real results for the bid and move forward towards a Palestinian state. Here is a link to an article that I wrote about the petition.

In the two to five years to come, where do you see yourself and the Middle East Post?
I hope to succeed in taking the Middle East Post to become a Media outlet that brings objective news and reports about the conflict. I also see myself as a man who continues to lead for the sake of bringing liberty and justice for my Palestinian people while assuring that democracy and freedom of expression is protected.

A Palestinian-Arab living in East Jerusalem, Ziad graduated from College Des Freres in Jerusalem in 2003. Ziad finished his major in International Relations and English Literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ziad is a former President of the Watan student movement at the university. He is interested in Middle Eastern political issues and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Founder of the Middle East Post and Co-Founder of “Global Bloggers for Change” Foundation, he represents Palestinian youth at several international conferences.

“To Flee Immediately! is to ironically explore remaining.”

Renee Carmichael

 We have interviewed comics, writers, political activists, in our quest for creativity, imagination, and pro-active search of the self in a world that overvalues the immediate art of information. Amidst the desperation illustrated by the Occupy movement, and the necessity to make themselves a place in the sun, college graduates are amongst the poorest in all demographics. Rising unemployment rates and abandon of one’s aspiration and motivation is how we picture the youth of today. It only just occurred to us that the most imaginative and resourceful people we knew could be one of us, could be so close to what we want to achieve through this blog and through this organisation. We have therefore chosen to interview, depict and portray those who inspire us and could just as well see you through one of those days. Renee Carmichael is one of those unique minds who had to create her own space to breathe and explore what she loved to do most. A Bachelor from the American University of Paris and a Master’s degree from the prestigious Goldsmiths School of Arts in London, a native of Seattle, WA, Renee is an international, interdisciplinary, and unfathomable human being. Here, she presents her project, the new publication Flee Immediately!, and what pushes her through.

Can you explain what your most recent degree at Goldsmiths is about and what you expected from it?

The Masters I did at Goldsmiths College is called Interactive Media: Critical Theory and Practice. But that’s really a horrible name for it. No, I do not design websites or create showy interactive objects that use the latest technology. Instead, what the course is about is thinking critically about technology within social and political contexts and creating out of that. Software is not a given, it is as much a cultural decision as anything else. And MAIM takes that idea in order to experiment in terms of both methodologies and themes. Its about not being afraid to fail. And its as much about putting theory into practice as it is putting practice to theory, whether it may be through viewing a pen and paper as technology or by putting the pen and paper aside to write a computer programming code.

As the course is half practice and half theory, I was really expecting to start to develop a practice for myself. I had challenged myself through writing academic essays and using theory in interesting ways within them, but I wanted to expand my creativity beyond that. I think the course really did help me to do that. You really get a lot of support to develop and experiment within an area of choice (hence why its hard to say exactly what the course is about – it must be experienced). I normally don’t go as far as calling myself an artist just yet, but I do feel that I have a practice. And ironically, I’ve gone full circle from growing up wanting to be a writer, to wanting to expand beyond writing within this Masters, to finally calling myself a writer and exploring writing in completely new ways such as writing code poems and combining writing with other more physical elements and manifestations.

“Flee Immediately! was the result of a fire that burned underneath me. I had to do something. I was frustrated. I couldn’t find a job.”

How did the idea of Flee Immediately! came to be?

Flee Immediately! was the result of a fire that burned underneath me. I had to do something. I was frustrated. I couldn’t find a job. And even more, a job that related to what I studied as described above.
And most importantly, I wasn’t willing to sell my soul to a job that I could do but wasn’t interested in. So instead, I made Flee Immediately! as a way to not only help myself to achieve something despite what was going on around me, but to help everyone who did my course as well. I wanted it to become a forum that we could all use to explain and explore the complicated way that we see, use and explore technolog(y)ies – to give that experience to others that we all have a hard time describing. As writing has always come naturally to me, I thought a printed publication would be most suitable as a starting
point. But I have never seen Flee Immediately! as limited by this form. In fact, its printed on a1 folded down to A5 and then put into an envelope which actually gives the form itself a lot of flexibility.
Also, each issue can expand and change based on what people want, need, or just for the purpose of experimentation. It can also serve as a way to build events, exhibitions and performances. We’ve already done some readings, workshops and even a treasure hunt last summer before the first issue was printed which was great.

How did you choose the title?

I have to admit that I cannot take credit for the title, as I had help in coming up with it. But I do think it works well in a number of different ways. It originally stems from the friendship/battle between Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Both were exploring the magical world, but in very different ways. Houdini practiced magic, but he revealed how he did every trick. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used seances to explore the spirituality and secrecy of magic. Both of these approaches can be used to look at technology. The sending of the first telegram was both spiritual and magical. But the term ‘Flee Immediately!’ actually comes  from a dinner that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had with some friends. They got around to speaking about the idea of secrecy and the idea that everyone must have secrets. To test his theory, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sent an anonymous message to a random friend saying ‘All is revealed. Flee Immediately!’ And that friend was never seen again.

That’s where Flee Immediately! has its roots, but to me, it also works in quite an ironic way. It is a way to Flee Immediately! the classic responses you get when saying that you studied Interactive Media, like for example, that I design websites or that I create iphone applications, or anything like that. In the editorial of the first issue, I think I came up with the best way of putting it: ‘To Flee Immediately is to ironically explore remaining.’

"I just wish he wasn't so much of an airhead sometimes" - Renee Carmichael

“I can say that I wish to I leave it up to people to explore and experiment with what inspires them.”

So far, what is the publication focusing on and how do you recruit contributors?

There is only one issue out at the moment, but I’m working on a second one that will come out in January/February next year (2012). I think the focus is quite clear in that is looking at technology in more critical ways. But its also quite open and I’m experimenting and exploring what it can become.

The first issue was completely open. I wanted to show how different ideas could meet upon the fold but still relate to this idea of technology and interactive media. It includes: a project on databases and tea leaf reading, an essay on pregnancy and coding,  a proposal for a project on food, data, and crime, a study of hawla money networks, a proposal for the importance of faking it in teaching dance and technology, and even a creative writing piece about a ship which is mapped out by a code poem.

For the next issue, the theme is ‘manual’, to be interpreted in many different ways: manual labor, manual as in hand, manual as the book that comes with your technology, man as machine, any way that inspires you. The first issue developed what Flee Immediately! could be and what it could explore, now this issue will give it a manual. But it won’t just be any manual and the content and the design will reveal that. I’ll leave it as a surprise for now.

The future focus, is still yet to be written. However, in terms of content, I can say that I wish to I leave it up to people to explore and experiment with what inspires them. It can be essays, creative writing, photography, film stills, anything you can think of really. The only limitation is that it somewhat relates to technology or technologies in a critical, social, political way. For the first
issue, I tried an open call but I think it was a bit too open and didn’t end up working too well. I ended up just asking people that I knew to submit things that I thought would represent the variety and type of projects that illustrated the conceptual basis of Flee Immediately!. This next issue, however, submissions have come from a mailing list I’m building, through interest taken up through friends of friends, and just a slow build up of interest in general. I don’t even know some of the people who have submitted. I always want to leave it open to people from all backgrounds to submit and explore for each issue.

“Before I could even think of doing something creative, I needed a job to be able to survive.”

How many people are working on the project?

At the moment its really only me. But that’s not to say that I am alone. I have a support network of people I studied with, who, although not completely involved, I have asked to help me out in various ways as I go along. I also plan to work with a designer for each issue. Overall, I want Flee Immediately! to be something collective so I’m happy if anyone wants to join at any point and in
any capacity that they feel they can. I think each issue will have new input from a variety of people which will help the project to continue to evolve and be a learning experience.

How do you think of expanding it? What do you want it to become?

I’ve already talked about this a lot through the previous questions. But for me, and for everyone, I think Flee Immediately! should be a forum where we can continue to expand and experiment. I’d like to continue doing more events in the future, and coming up with new ways of thinking about what these events can be, whether its an exhibition, performance, screening, party or so on. Not all people who are interested in the themes of Flee Immediately! will make something that fits on a printed page and I want to be able to accommodate that as well as as explore the ways that the printed form can take shape with and beyond the page.

To me Flee Immediately! was just something I had to do, whether it failed or not. I’m in it deep though as its really starting to gain a lot of interest. Even as it grows, however, I have not planned completely for its future.  I do want it to continue to expand and become something else, but what that will be I want to leave up to the experimental and collaborative ideals behind the project itself.

What are the biggest hurdles you faced after graduation and coming up with a project?

I’m going to say it straight up: money. Before I could even think of doing something creative, I needed a job to be able to survive. And without one, I just kept being stressed about money. So much so, that I could never really relax as the thought of money was always there. Now I’m by no means rich, but I have enough that I don’t have to think about it and I finally have the freedom to create.

Also, in terms of Flee Immediately! I needed money to do it in the first place. To be honest, everything else seemed to come together: the ideas, we had interest from GALERIE8 in London to do workshops before the first issue was even printed, participation in publication fairs lined up, but how to actually make it happen? At the time it didn’t matter, as I had that fire underneath me I was determined and I was going to do it anyway. It all came together and I did. But now as it goes along, funding is an issue that I really need to start focusing on to make it a long term project. I would eventually like to have enough money to not only pay for the printing itself, but to give support to the contributers, designers, and makers of the project as well. For now I’m quite amazed at how little you can do these things with, and I would say it shouldn’t stop anyone in the future.

“Once I spent a day or two there I understood that something massive was happening”

The OccupyTogether movement has grown in intensity over a very short period of time, amazing even the most seasoned grassroots journalists. After our interview with Lee Camp, and the personal recollections of our contributor Evan Petersen, we have turned to comedian and podcast co-host John Knefel to gather his impression on what could be the news story to eclipse several campaign races all over the western world. From anger to activism, from niche to all-encompassing community, the movement, without any leader, without any spokesperson, is regrouping the most diverse category of the population: the vanishing middle class. John has spent several weeks at Camp Zuccotti and is not going anywhere anytime soon: strongly attached to the movement’s values, he is sharing with us his impressions, feelings, and hopes for the future months. 
I assume you first went to Camp Zuccotti to cover it for your podcast. Have you always had in mind to more or less stay there and cover it on a regular basis, be one of the protesters?
I actually went to Zuccotti initially out of curiosity and a feeling that I needed to participate in whatever was happening. I didn’t know what that meant at first. Once I spent a day or two there I understood that something massive was happening, and then Molly and I just started talking about it on Radio Dispatch. It wasn’t until after we had discussed it a few times on the show that I really started reporting from there in any more serious way.
 What was your first feeling when meeting the crowd for the first time and has it changed?
When I walked down Broadway the first time and saw Zuccotti, it looked smaller than I expected. The park, that is. That was a few days before the Radiohead rumor, and the encampment was still pretty sparse. There was an info desk, a kitchen, and a small media center. I didn’t know anyone there, but I bumped into a friend who was down there for the first time as well. That’s pretty much been the story. Every time I go down there I see a few familiar faces, and the more often I’m there the more people I recognize. The protesters I’ve met have all been warm and inviting, no small task considering the place is crawling with undercover cops. I’m starting to see myself less as an ally and observer and more as a participant, even as I try to keep the stuff I write on Twitter and say on Radio Dispatch accurate, not propogandistic.

John writing the number for legal aid on his arm before Bloomberg Dawn. Photo by Allison Kilkenny.

Were you ever scared? I remember the night preceding the Bloomberg Dawn, or Battle of Bloomberg as one of my friends called it – Allison posted a picture of you writing down the number for legal aid on your arm.
There are lots of very tense moments. They’re scary because they’re uncertain. When you’re looking at a line of mounted cops in front of you and a fleet of moped cops behind you, you’re imagination can start running a bit wild. Also, it doesn’t take much to escalate these situations. One of the horses on 46th street stumbled and I thought someone was going to get trampled.
Fear of getting arrested is kind of the same thing. You don’t know if the police are going to manhandle you during the arrest. You don’t know what you’ll be charged with, how long it will take. Luckily, nearly all of the arrestees don’t have anything on their record after they get out. Not even a misdemenor. My friends who have gotten arrested say it’s boring but not so bad. Good way to network. I haven’t been arrested yet, but it’s good to hear people talk about it as a hassle, nothing more nothing less. I think once large amounts of people are willing to get arrested — once they see it’s not such a big deal — we’ll be at a new tipping point in the movement.
Michael Moore said that OWS was the killer of apathy. Someone replied that most of all, it was a killer of despair. What do you think? Is there more exhilaration than anger?
There is a certain amount of anger, certainly, but that’s not the dominant emotion. I’d say, yeah, exhilaration. It’s cliche, but I think a lot of people feel empowered. That word gets overused, but I mean it in a very strict sense. Internally, the process is very good at making participants feel like their voice is being heard. And externally, the people in Liberty feel like the news and the elites are finally paying attention to them. It’s an intoxicating feeling. Also, holding the park on Friday morning was unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. Activists in America don’t win. When we did, there was this feeling of, “OK, this isn’t going anywhere.” Also, there is an incredible amount of solidarity and good will.
You told me there’d still be a lot to do by the time I head back. I’m coming back in January. What do you think the post-OWS America will be like?
It’s still far too early to know. This movement is only a month old, and it’s still growing. It’s experiencing some growing pains, and there will be missteps along the way, but no one really knows what’s going to happen. That’s part of the thril. People are not going home, literally. We’ve already forced income inequality back into the national conversation. It might take 10 years to be in a “post-OWS America”. It’s important to remember that the fight being waged here is against — and I say this without engaging in unnecessary hyperbole — the most powerful set of institutions in the history of the world. Structural reform will take years, decades even. The power the movement has is derived from the most basics fact imaginable: we all have bodies, and we’re now using them as tools to fight injustice. The occupation is about bodies calling attention to a system designed to render those bodies, and therefore voices, invisible. There’s an action tomorrow (Friday) up in Harlem calling for an end to the racist Stop & Frisk NYPD practice. There will be a lot of OWS-ers there, along with a lot of leaders from communities of color. Every day there is a new tomorrow, with new events, new actions, new possibilities. That’s not going to end any time soon.
What OWS really revealed to the general public was the extent of police brutality against protesters that have always claimed to be peaceful and non-resistent. Is there a way for NYPD to understand that they could just as well be part of the movement? Have you met NYPD officers that were keen to listen?
This is a very complicated issue that no one has really been able to resolve. On the one hand, NYPD relations around Liberty have been quite good. You see the same cops around, they see the same protesters, and no one wants to break the skull of someone they know. Lots of individual police are sympathetic to the movement, certainly. You see that at every march. There is also a concerted effort to appeal to the cops’ better side. You hear chants like, “give the cops a raise.” On the other hand, even the good cops are using moral means towards an unjust end. Their function is to preserve the status quo and order, even if the current system is unjust. In that way they must be seen as an obstacle towards reform. Not the most important obstacle, but one nonetheless. They take orders from the top brass, who takes orders from Bloomberg. Some OWS-ers talk about the police joining us. If that were to happen it would be a development on the scale of … I don’t know … a presidential assasination. It would be a once-in-a-generation event that would shake the very nature of American life. I don’t see that happening, but I do think that as the movement grows the police will be less willing to use force on protesters. That, at least, is a positive development.
 I asked Lee the same question; what do you think of CNN’s Erick Erickson and his “response” to OWS, “we are the 53%”? On top of their math being questionable, is there really an audience for that site? Does the extreme popular support given to OWS somehow undermine the GOP primaries? Especially considering Herman Cain’s unashamedly pro-millionnaire, anti-poor program.
OWS is so much larger than Erick Erickson that he doesn’t need to be addressed. When you’re the big story, don’t allow the little story to attach itself to you. We get to decide who we respond to, and he doesn’t deserve our time or effort. The same general sentiment goes to Cain, though if he continues to show he has staying power I imagine it will only help the movement grow.
I have attended an OccupyBelfast protest and a similar one in Dublin as well. I was saddened to find Paris could care less about the movement. A journalist explained it was due to “fear of police retaliation” (it didn’t stop OWS) and a “stable unemployment rate” (at 9.8%!) How far does one country have to go to sparkle that type of uprising?
One thing that OWS stresses is that we’re all autonomous, and we can come and go and act as we so choose. The sympathy movements that have popped up are amazing, and I think they’ll continue to grow. I think Liberty Square is the engine that created a lot of the initial momentum, but it’s so far beyond that now, both geographically and digitally. The main issue now is getting another victory or two (whatever that looks like) under our belts. That will help OWS expand. People are drawn to strength.
Will you be with the protesters on Guy Fawkes’ Day and how long do you think the movement can sustain itself, with winter coming?
Winter is still the biggest variable and obstacle in our path. The encampment will make it through the winter, but it will be incredibly unpleasant and the people who continue to show up deserve the respect and admiration of the rest of the world. There’s talk of finding somewhere inside to occupy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that happens on a small scale, but Liberty Square will have occupiers from here on out.
I’ll be out there for Guy Fawkes’ Day, as well as many of the others. See you when you’re back!
John Knefel lives in Brooklyn, NY and is the co-host of Radio Dispatch, a political podcast he created with his sister Molly. A seasoned comedian having graced the stage alongside Jamie Kilstein and Lee Camp, John has also been featured on This American Life with Ira Glass, as well as writing for The Huffington Post, True/Slant, and ThoughtCatalog. You can also find him regularly at Le Poisson Rouge for his comedy show, John & Molly Get Along.