A Non-Commercial Decade Of Dominance!
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Latest Interview Jilann Spitzmiller: An interview with the filmmaker and documentarian.
37) Howard Bloom: An interview with omnivorous man of all seasons: Howard Bloom, author of the upcoming The God Problem: How A Godless Cosmos Creates....
***** Great wide ranging interview.
Comment: Along with the interviews of George Dickerson and Lem Dobbs, this one forms an almost perfect trilogy of interviews with men whose minds seem ready to explode with output and energy.
***Good, solid interview.
Comment: Solid, straightforward answers, but could have ranked much higher had Hicks answered questions about Ayn Rand, which composed the bulk of the interview, but were excised.
39) Bruce Ario: An interview with the puzzling, frustrating, quirky, but occasionally great undiscovered poet and novelist.
****Occasionally excellent interview.
Comment: Ario gives a personal, revealing interview. A lack of artistic depth is balanced off by a personal grace and honesty that makes for an affecting read.
40) David Desser: Getting into Asian Cinema with one of the premier DVD commentarians and film scholars of the day.
****One of the better film criticism interviews recorded.
Comment: Desser is on point and focused. Would rate higher if a bit longer and expansive, but a very good read.
41) Jilann Spitzmiller: An interview with the filmmaker and documentarian.
****Some keen insights behind the scenes in making a documentary film.
Comment: Spitzmiller really fulfills with detailed information on how to make and distribute films.
1) Novelist Charles Johnson: Dan gets the National Book Award-winning author Charles R. Johnson to speak out on his career, literature's sad state, Buddhism, Rod Serling, and deliteracy....
**** Landmark interview that set standard for whole series' intelligence in questions and answers.
Comment: Johnson gave a good effort, but a little bit too PC on topics like race, and reticence in 'naming names' in the arts world prevents interview from being in the top tier.
2) Philosopher Daniel Dennett: Dan takes on philosopher Daniel Dennett, whose career proves ideas are not just for quiche-eaters, and who reveals his true feelings about God, Political Correctness, alien abductees, consciousness, and Stephen Jay Gould....
**½ Failed attempts at wit, but occasional quotable moments admixed with the execrable. A disappointment.
Comment: Dennett waffled on whether to be interviewed, then in his final disagreement he claimed the interview was not focused on his career. I asked if he read beyond page 1. He said he'd not, then read to page 2, and agreed to the interview. Despite taking pride in his intellect, Dennett refused to engage queries that were 'outside' his box, much like 'lesser' intellects. The interview's nadir is when I link to a tv show he was on with Steven Pinker, re: the most influential people of the last millennium. I then point to Genghis Khan's omission as a way to probe history, causality, and influence. So how does Dennett reply? An embarrassing attempt at humor claiming he does not know enough about Genghis Khan. So why was he on such a panel, save to be a celebrity 'expert' outside his area of expertise?
3) Novelist/journalist Pete Hamill: Dan takes on journalist/fictionist Pete Hamill who speaks on his love of painting, Jimmy Breslin, Frank Sinatra, James Joyce, and gives advice for young writers....
****½ Broad ranging interview; only a bit less depth than the 5 star interviews prevents it from that level.
Comment: Very late in returning interview, but well worth the wait. Hamill comes across as witty, charming, engaging, in a 'guy you'd like to suck down a beer with' sort of way, especially when he takes criticism of his career in stride. Terrific interview.
4) Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker: Dan converses with the famed scientist, Steven Pinker, on dirty words, pop culture, modern art, and public intellectualism, in the first and only in depth interview for his latest book, The Stuff Of Thought....
***** The standard-setter. One of the greatest interviews ever recorded.
Comment: There's a reason that this interview is, by far, the most popular in the series' history. Pinker comes across as open, accessible, wise, classy, and passionate. Its posting, just two weeks before the release of The Stuff Of Thought shows that fortuity exists.
5) Poet James A. Emanuel: Dan gets last century's most neglected great published poet, James Emanuel, to speak out in this century, in his only in-depth interview online or in print....
*****Everything that an interview should be, especially considering it also serves as a de facto coming out party to a younger generation of poetry lovers.
Comment: A landmark. The only in depth interview with one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century. Emanuel shows wit, wisdom, and class. As an introduction to his work and life, this is a nonpareil primer.
6) Paleontologist Jack Horner: Dan speaks with the famed dinosaur hunter on his latest adventures, growing up in Montana, his experiences in Vietnam, learning disabilities, and, of course, dinosaurs....
****Concise, on the mark answers, and a willingness to speak of his and others' limits.
Comment: The most quickly returned interview. Direct, cogent answers. Only Horner's dyslexia, which prevented longer answers, prevents this from a higher rating. Invaluable ideas on his science.
7) Essayist Phillip Lopate: Dan gets the essayist and film critic Phillip Lopate to discourse on essays, New York, Frank McCourt, James Frey, and the MFA writing mills....
** Some good points, but fails to speak in depth. An abrupt ending.
Comment: Lopate turned out to be the first really bizarre interview. His insecurities and defensiveness show when I link to a horrid poem he wrote and generously state that it's not good. This likely triggered the reason he turned the interview in only a third complete, leaving out whole sections related to cinema and the Holocaust. He showed how out of touch with modern media, and lacking in class, he is when, in an email to me he claimed that he should be paid to be interviewed, even though Cosmoetica has a readership that dwarfs the combined sales of all the books he's ever written.
8) Zoologist Desmond Morris: Dan gets the author of The Naked Ape to opine on his youth, Surrealism, religion, the origins of art, and homosexuality....
*****Wise, cogent answers on his life, art, and career in the sciences and media. Brilliant.
Comment: A class act, and he agreed to be interviewed by me after turning down all interview requests for nearly 30 years, precisely because he loved earlier interviews I'd done. Showed his class when, after I pointed out a major inadvertant error that could prove embarrassing to his legacy, he was grateful for it, and did not, as lesser interviewees have, think I was trying to show him up. As with the Pinker interview, there's a reason this is the second most widely read in the DSI series.
9) Journalist Charlie LeDuff: The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter shoots straight with Dan on his life on the road, The New York Times, masculinity, dumb critics, and political bullshit....
*****Personal, deep, wild, and outrageous. An all-time classic.
Comments: Perhaps the most 'honest,' and self-effacing interview from a Pulitzer Prize winner in recorded history. Personal, witty, well-spoken; this interview shows that greatness in an interview does not mean being anything like the other 5 star interviews.
10) Psi writer Brad Steiger: The best-selling investigator of things that go bump in the night tells Dan of his boyhood, his love of cowboys, history, his take on debunkers, and the Top Ten Supernatural Monsters of All Time....
****½ Wit, depth, and a broad knowledge of things beyond natal subject areas.
Comments: A terrific read. Steiger saw the importance of the DSI to establishing his intellectual bona fides decades hence, and made the most of his opportunity. Another classy guy. Also, the third most popular interview, based largely on Steiger's decades of popularity and fans in an often neglected area of human life.
11) Nature essayist Edward Hoagland: The noted nature writer tees off on the world as Dans informative and incisive questions unleash a furious passive/aggressive tizzy, a lifetime in the making, in the most bizarre DSI yet!
zero (0) stars- an atrocity. The interview that will haunt the interviewee's career and reputation.
Comments: An absolute atrocity. I went out of my way to print and mail the interview to this man because he was not cyber-ready, and then I got back bizarre, psychotic rants, laden with poor grammar, spelling, and typos (which I left in- lest he paranoidly accuse me of even more things). The worst (in a so bad it's actually bizarrely funny) moment of the interview is when the septuagenarian stutterer (a complex based in insecurity) accuses me of being insecure. In the interview, he claims a friend 'warned' him of me. Aside from being paranoid, the fact that the friend was likely Lopate makes their relationship seem outright bizarre. My only phone conversation with Hoagland lasted about 10 minutes in length, with about 30 seconds of me asking a question or two, and 9½ minutes of Hoagland getting out a reply or two. Oddly, as time goes on, this DSI will stand as the only memorable thing future generations will even vaguely recall Hoagland's name with, and debating over whether the answers manifest mental illness or just being an insecure asshole. An unappreciative, arrogant, delusive, unhappy, and sad individual.
12) Novelist Daniel Wallace: The writer of the novel Big Fish speaks of his life, and advises younger writers on the ins and outs of the writing process and business....
*** Solid interview. Nothing memorable, but nothing damning, either.
Comment: A nice guy who claimed he was not that smart. Played the PC game re the arts, but was charming enough that it did not come off as condescending toward the audience.
13) Writer/Poet and Actor George Dickerson: The well-known actor and writer remarks of his careers on stage, television and in film, his connections to artists and politicians, as well as his latest film project....
****½ Wit, daring, depth, and honesty make this interview well worth savoring.
Comment: Dickerson's Zelig-like career made a great backdrop for a wide-ranging interview, and one that actually saw Dickerson take literary license and daring with his written answers. Only reticence re: the Hollywood establishment and toward some aspects of his life keep this from 5 stars.
14) Philosopher Mark Rowlands: The philosopher tackles everything from Arnold Schwarzenegger and life's meaning to evil and Sisyphus, while revealing that he learned more from a wolf than he did from his professors....
***** Deep, thought provoking answers, a respect for the readership, an ability to clearly distill an idea, humor, and willing to engage in debate when disagreements arise. A classic!
Comment: Rowlands was a class act from start to finish, and the ideas discussed range from the trivial and funny to the profound. A must read.
15) Law Professor Richard Thompson Ford: The law professor, and author of The Race Card, Richard Thompson Ford talks to Dan on race, racism, and the abuses of racism, by racists and race carders alike....
****½ In depth answers, an ability to focus in on queries, and an ability to not be too lawyerly. Terrific interview.
Comment: Ford took the interview seriously, and it shows. An interview that shows a great deal of breadth and depth in history, legal history, and social commentary.
16) Film critic James Berardinelli: The popular online movie reviewer lets loose on how he got started, his favorite actors and films, the secrets to his success, and why he loves Steven Spielberg, but hates French critics....
***½ Fun interview on film. Not as deep as other interviews, and a bit too predictable in comments on the art of film.
Comment: Berardinelli gives a good reading interview that shows his love for film, even if a bit too delimited in his ideas on the art.
17) Former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder: The former congresswoman, and leading voice of the publishing industry, speaks of the future of politics and in print....
* Rote, canned, shallow answers from an ex-politician.
Comment: Schroeder seems like a nice woman, but why she agreed to be interviewed, when she claimed to be in transition in her life, is a mystery.
18) Playwright Lee Papa: Lee Papa (aka The Rude Pundit) does his best to show Dan and all comers that he's the rudest asshole online....
*½ Shallow, trite replies on art, with an emphasis on persona over intellect by interviewee.
Comment: Papa did not take interview seriously, returned an interview with 25% of it unanswered, then belligerently raged like a child when I denuded his idiocy regarding the arts. Seemed to take pride in being an asshole, then sent a psychotic email to me, dickwaving his insecurities that I had exposed his act.
19) Painter Zhiwei Tu: The master painter opens up to Dan about his career, life, and things beyond the canvas....
**** An excellent introduction to an artist whose reputation is only going to wax.
Comment: This interview reminds me of Jack Horner's. Whereas Horner's direct answers were the result of his dyslexia, Tu's direct answers stem from his artistic intensity and unpolished English. That said, a fine read and a terrific primer for those interested in painting, and Zhiwei Tu in particular.
20) Drew Gardner: The renowned photographer discusses light, life, history and his future....
***½ A good primer for those interested in this artist and his career.
Comment: Like many non-writers, the gift of gab is not Gardner's, and I wish there had been a bit more discursiveness on his career and answers to some specific queries, but overall, Gardner renders a good portrait of himself. Quite equivalent to the Tu interview, but given Gardner's native tongue is English, he gets a half star less.
21) Lem Dobbs: the screenwriter of The Limey and Dark City takes on life, Hollywood, PC, and the dumbing down of culture- and wins....
*****A masterpiece that shows the interview format CAN be art!
Comment: Thus far, the longest interview in the DSI canon, dwarfing prior record holders, the Pinker and Rowlands interviews, at over 53 thousand words. But, the passion, intellect, a willingness to bitch, detail, nice literary feints, and more, are the sorts of things that make me proud that this interview series exists, and provides the very best of what the Internet can provide to the masses.
22) John Grabowska: the nature documentarian talks of life, nature, Loren Eiseley, the National Parks, film, and why his kids really are bright, adorable, and creative....
*****Another great interview from someone with a love of knowledge and communication.
Comment: While not as long, overall, as some others, because he is among the lesser known of my interviewees, there was little to go on, as far as background questions, but Grabowska answered plenty, and reveals a good deal of his personality and life in a most revealing interview. Hopefully, this will be a touchstone for future pieces done on the man and his work. Right there with the very best interviews I've posted.
23) Robert Grudin: the noted philosopher discusses his latest book, design, recent history, corporatism, and the influence of capital....
***½ Solid, no-nonsense interview.
Comment: I would have hoped for more Rowlands-like discursiveness from a philosopher; nonetheless, very pointed and precise answers, with a dash of wit tossed in. For those who know nothing of the man, a solid first step in exploring further works of his.
24) Dan Schneider: Andrew Goldman turns the tables on your faithful (and favorite) interviewer....
**** Questions that do the younger set proud.
Comment: I got better questions than I expected, which means that Cosmoetica is doing some good. But, I cannot give it more than 4 stars because there simply is not the depth and breadth that is in the best 5 star interviews I've conducted. But, I tried to be as representative as possible.
25) Terence Witt: Dan gets the author of a controversial book on the origins of the universe to take on his critics and dish some of it back....
****An interview that rises above the usual white noise surrounding the author's work.
Comment: A good interview, and one which allows the subject to step out from under the caricatures he's been saddled with. Misses the greatness of some of the earlier science interviews because of a bit of reticence and skimpiness on Witt's part re: his background, and also a bit of evasiveness, brevity, and circularity in some replies. But, overall, a terrific read.
26) Brian Switek: The first time science book author gets dirty, talkin' dinosaurs, megafauna, life as a geek, and more....
*****A terrific interview with a rising light in the field of paleontology and the sciences.
Comment: As with John Grabowska and Mark Rowlands, a little known person in their field discourses deeply and well on their subject matter. Where some big names only want to push books and give cookie cutter answers, Switek uses the queries as springboards for deeper investigations into other areas. Excellent all around!
27) Larry Sanger: The philosopher and online encyclopediae guru speaks out on his work, his controversies, and more....
****A very good interview with Wikipedia's co-founder and Citizendium's founder.
Comment: It took an often frustrating amount of time (2.5 years) for the interview to get done, but it was worth it, as the second longest interview, thus far, is wide ranging, revealing Sanger as diffident, knowledgeable, sometimes conservative and judgmental, but also probing. It does what interviews should, portrays a person in many lights.
28) Jamais Cascio: An interview with the ethical futurist unlike all other futurists....
***½ Good interview on a fascinating subject.
Comment: I wish the interview could have been longer, but time and personal constraints left it what it is. Also, a bit more openness on the personal side would have upped the interview a notch or two, but, overall, a nice introduction to the man and his field for newbies.
29) Gregory S. Paul: An interview with the provocative leading light of dinosaurian illustration, specifically, and science illustration, in general....
***½ Good interview with a caustic subject.
Comment: If the replies had been longer and more in depth I would have given it another star, but Paul's feistiness and directness are a refreshing change from the general mushiness many interviewees proffer.
30) Chris Impey: An interview with an astronomer working on the fringes of galactic formation and black hole theory....
**** Impey's charm comes through.
Comment: Concise, to the point, willing to take on issues others might not. Had it been a bit more in depth it would have rated another ½ a star.
31) Peniel Joseph: The rising young star historian speaks on his youth, Stokely Carmichael, his views on America, race, and President Obama....
**** Sharp, pointed, specific laser-like replies to most queries.
Comment: Another excellent interview. Would have scored higher had there been a bit more in-depth answers, but overall a good introduction to the man and his views.
32) Ed Godziszewski: The first of two interviews with the foremost Godzilla film historians in America....
****½ Misses out on five stars only because of the immanent subject matter.
Comment: Great interview. Had the subject matter been on 'deeper' matters than Godzilla, no matter my love for the topic, this would have been a 5. One gets a sense of the interviewee, inside and out.
33) Matthew Pellowski: The filmmaker whose documentary, Eyes Of The Mothman, broke the mold on psi subjects, on his views on film and the future.
****½ Terrific interview.
Comment: As with the prior interview, only the subject matter prevents a higher rating. Otherwise, another slam dunk.
34) Andrew Neel: Probing the filmmaker on his career, his art, and his family ties....
***½ Good interview.
Comment: Good, solid, to the point. Lacking some in depth revelations, but an interesting backstory.
35) Matt Ogens: Another interview with a promising documentarian....
**** Good interview.
Comment: Splits the difference of the last two interviews: more in depth than Neel, not as in depth as Pellowski.
36) Rick Goldsmith: An interview with a veteran polemical filmmaker on the state of documentaries today.
*** Solid interview.
Comment: The least of the filmmaker interviews thus far, basically because the DSI was returned quickly, with many queries left unanswered, including a decent ending. Abruptions, flippancy, PC and not enough depth make this merely a solid interview.
After reading some mediocre interviews, wherein the interviewees did not even bother to pretend to care about the questions asked them, nor the reading pleasure of Cosmoeticas audience, the sites fans wanted me to invoke a ratings system for interviews, figuring that the interviews that are great deserve more readership than the bad ones. And, since the high quality of the questions is static from interview to interview, it really points out how much of the interviews success depends on the interviewee and his or her willingness to open up. Ironically, even the lesser interviews are successes because they often unwittingly reveal the negative and/or malevolent side of the interviewee, just as the great interviews reveal the positive and intelligent side of the interviewee. Yet, even the lesser DSIs are miles above the fellatio and relentless hucksterism that passes as interviews online and in print.
Along with the rating, I will add comments relevant to the interview- be it quality, background information, and recollections of the pros and cons of the interview and interviewee.
So, herein I will invoke a 0 to 5 star rating system, with ½ stars invoked as needed.
***** 5 stars- a great interview, one that shows interviewing is an art form. The answers are in depth and treat the reading audience as the intelligent people they are, plus being highly quotable.
**** 4 stars- an excellent interview. The interviewee is often witty and intelligent, but perhaps is a bit reticent in a few areas, due to PC or their own nature. Still quotable.
*** 3 stars- a good, solid interview. Some high points that are quotable, but some negative points and ho-hum moments.
** 2 stars- a mediocre interview. Some good quotes but more often the interviewee is agenda pushing or being reticent and/or not taking the interview and the audience seriously. Good and bad points are about balanced.
* 1 star- a bad interview. Not quotable, and the interviewee thinks that DSIs are just run of the mill interviews found elsewhere. Rote answers and/or interviewee delusions can be seen. Not quotable.
zero (0) stars- an atrocity. The interviewee has no real reason for doing the interview save to serve their own ego and/or ax to grind.
Enjoy the interviews, but make sure you compare the great and bad interviews with each other, and the differences between how the interviewees approach the questions (and often the exact same questions) and the quality of the interviews.
Copyright ©2001-2011 by Dan Schneider