User:David Shankbone/Interviews

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Sam Brownback official portrait 3.jpg
Sam Brownback is perplexed. The U.S. Senator from Kansas and Presidential candidate is a Republican Catholic who appeals to Evangelical Christians--he is against marriage for gay people, he is against abortion, and he has a clean image in a party tainted by scandal--who should be a favorite among the party's base. But he has not been. "I'm baffled by that myself," Senator Brownback told David Shankbone. "We haven't been able to raise money."

A recent poll in Iowa has put him in eighth place, with 2% supporting his campaign. "If we don't finish fourth or better in Iowa...we'll pull out."

Senator Brownback's relationship with God infuses almost every answer you find below. Although he doesn't feel "competent" to explain why God would dislike gays, he does feel strongly that allowing two men or two women to enter into the union of marriage will destroy it for heterosexuals. Pointing to the research of Stanley Kurtz at The Hoover Institute, Brownback asserts that Northern Europeans have "taken the sacredness out of the institution."

In the interview, Senator Brownback discusses the tug-and-pull that befalls him when his constituents show up at his office and say, "Look, I'm a conservative, but we need this bridge, we need this subsidy, we need this hospital.” Brownback feels this spending system needs to be changed; however, when it comes to energy policy, Brownback is there for his constituents. David Shankbone asked the Kansas Senator, a supporter of cellulosic ethanol, why he doesn't support the lowering of tariffs on sugar since sugar ethanol delivers 8 times the energy output of cellulosic ethanol. Brazil, in particular, has become energy independent because of its sugar ethanol program. It's cheaper to produce, and there is vastly more bang for the buck in sugar fuel than in corn fuel; an entire country no longer needs to import oil because of it. Federal tariffs currently make sugar ethanol too expensive in the United States. "You're going to kill the ethanol industry here just as it gets going," was Senator Brownback's response. However, there is a debate over whether the process to make corn ethanol uses more energy than the ethanol itself produces.

Below is David Shankbone's interview with Senator Sam Brownback.

Augusten Burroughs by David Shankbone.jpg
I had an unofficial phone call from Gay Talese last Tuesday. He had just flown back from Colombia and he was cranky. "I'm happy to do an interview with you," he said, "but what the hell could you ask me that's not already out there? Have you even bothered to look?!”

"Jeez, Mr. Talese, lots of things," was my response. I lied. The truth is that when I call people to interview them, I do not have a set of preconceived questions. My agenda is to talk to them to have a sense of who they are, to flesh them out as humans. To find out what they think about the world around them at that moment. With Gay Talese I had little interest in talking about Frank Sinatra Has a Cold and with Augusten Burroughs I had little interest in discussing Running with Scissors. I want to know what they think about things outside of the boxes people have placed them in.

With a memoirist like Burroughs, even this is a challenge. What parts of his life he has not written about himself, other interviewers have over-mined. When we met for dinner at Lavagna in the East Village, I explained to Augusten this issue. I suggested we make the interview more of a conversation to see if that would be more interesting. "Instead of you in the catbird seat," I said, "let's just talk."

We struck an instant rapport. What set out to be an hour and half interview over dinner had turned into four hours of discussion about our lives similarly lived. I removed half of the interview; the half that focused on me.

Below is David Shankbone’s conversation with writer Augusten Burroughs.

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Musician Daniel Snaith previously recorded under the stage name 'Manitoba', but changed it in 2004 under threat of an American lawsuit by Richard "Handsome Dick" Manitoba, who had actually released music under the 'Manitoba' moniker for over 30 years. As Snaith himself commented, "It's like The Smiths suing John Smith or something". Unable to afford the contest, Snaith opted to rename his project. Snaith is quoted as saying that he chose the name "Caribou" while on an LSD trip with friends in the Canadian wilderness.

Below is David Shankbone's conversation with the electronica pioneer.

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One of the most visible Satanic organizations in the United States is the Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey. Members of the Church, such as Peter Gilmore, Peggy Nadramia, Boyd Rice, Adam Parfrey, Diabolos Rex, and musician King Diamond, were active in media appearances to refute allegations of criminal activity in the 1980's during the "Satanic Panic" and the FBI would later issue an official report debunking the satanic criminal conspiracy theories of this time.

Gilmore feels Satanists are often misunderstood or misrepresented. LaVey's teachings are based on individualism, self-indulgence, and "eye for an eye" morality, with influence from Friedrich Nietzsche and Ayn Rand; while its rituals and magic draw heavily from occultists such as Aleister Crowley. They do not worship—nor believe in—the Devil or a Christian notion of Satan. The word "Satan" comes from the Hebrew word for "adversary" and originated from the Abrahamic faiths, being traditionally applied to an angel. Church of Satan adherents see themselves as truth-seekers, adversaries and skeptics of the religious world around them.

On a windy October day in Central Park, David Shankbone sat down with the High Priest of the Church, Peter Gilmore, who has led LaVey's congregation of Satanists since his passing in 1997 (he became the High Priest in 2001). They discussed the beliefs of the Church, current events, LaVey's children and how Satanism applies to life and the world.

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Vivien Goldman recalls with a laugh the day in 1984 when she saw her death, but the laugh fades as she becomes lost in the memory. She was in Nigeria staying in Fela Kuti's home; she had just arrived hours before and found people sleeping everywhere like house cats when Muhammadu Buhari's army showed up to haul everyone to jail. Kuti was an opponent of the government who was in jail, and they came to arrest his coterie of supporters. They grabbed Goldman and were about to throw her in a truck until Pascal Imbert, Kuti's manager, yelled out, "Leave her alone. She just arrived from Paris! She's my wife! She knows nothing! "

Goldman stops for a moment and then smiles plainly. "They thought I was just some stupid woman.... That time sexism worked in my favor."

Vivien Goldman has become a living, teaching testimony of the golden era of punk and reggae. She is an adjunct professor at New York University who has taught courses on the music scene she was thrust in the middle of as a young public relations representative for Island Records. She writes a column for the BBC called "Ask the Punk Professor" where she extols the wisdom she gained as a confidant of Bob Marley; as the person who first put Flava Flav in video; as Chrissie Hynde's former roommate; as the woman who worked with the The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Slits and The Raincoats.

As Wikinews reporter David Shankbone found out, Goldman is one of those individuals that when you sit in her presence you realize she simply can not tell you everything she knows or has seen, either to protect the living or to respect the dead.

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Bat for Lashes is the doppelgänger band ego of one of the leading millennial lights in British music, Natasha Khan. Caroline Weeks, Abi Fry and Lizzy Carey comprise the aurora borealis that backs this haunting, shimmering zither and glockenspiel peacock, and the only complaint coming from the audience at the Bowery Ballroom last Tuesday was that they could not camp out all night underneath these celestial bodies.

We live in the age of the lazy tendency to categorize the work of one artist against another, and Khan has had endless exultations as the next Björk and Kate Bush; Sixousie Sioux, Stevie Nicks, Sinead O'Connor, the list goes on until it is almost meaningless as comparison does little justice to the sound and vision of the band. "I think Bat For Lashes are beyond a trend or fashion band," said Jefferson Hack, publisher of Dazed & Confused magazine. "[Khan] has an ancient power...she is in part shamanic." She describes her aesthetic as "powerful women with a cosmic edge" as seen in Jane Birkin, Nico and Cleopatra. And these women are being heard. "I love the harpsichord and the sexual ghost voices and bowed saws," said Radiohead's Thom Yorke of the track Horse and I. "This song seems to come from the world of Grimm's fairytales."

Bat's debut album, Fur And Gold, was nominated for the 2007 Mercury Prize, and they were seen as the dark horse favorite until it was announced Klaxons had won. Even Ladbrokes, the largest gambling company in the United Kingdom, had put their money on Bat for Lashes. "It was a surprise that Klaxons won," said Khan, "but I think everyone up for the award is brilliant and would have deserved to win."

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You may not know Joseph Merlino, but he knows about you and what makes you function. He knows what turns you on and he knows whether it is a problem for you. Merlino, who is the psychiatry adviser to the New York Daily News, is one of the more accomplished psychiatrists in his field and he is the Senior Editor of the forthcoming book, Freud at 150: 21st Century Essays on a Man of Genius. The battle over interpreting Freud's legacy still rages, a testament to the father of psychoanalysis and his continuing impact today.

On the eve of the book's publication, David Shankbone went to the Upper East Side of Manhattan to discuss the past and future of Freud and psychoanalysis with Dr. Merlino, one of the preeminent modern psychoanalysts. Shankbone took the opportunity to ask about what insanity is, discuss aberrant urges, reflect upon sadomasochism ("I'm not considered an expert in that field," laughed Dr. Merlino), and the hegemony of heterosexuality.

Dr. Merlino posits that absent structural, biochemical or physiological defects, insanity and pathology are relative and in flux with the changing culture of which you are a part. So it is possible to be sane and insane all in one day if, for instance, you are gay and fly from the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia.

Frank Messina by David Shankbone.jpg
In the early Olympic games, athletes used to run a mile and then recite a poem. The first poet-in-residence of an English football team, Ian McMillan, remarked that football chants are like huge tribal poems. Generally, though, sport and poetry have never seemed natural companions in human enterprise. Until the New York Mets baseball team suffered in 2007 arguably the worst collapse in Major League Baseball history. To describe the anguish fans felt, The New York Times turned to a poet, Frank Messina. "Nothing was really representing the fan's point of view," Messina told Wikinews reporter David Shankbone in an interview. "There's a lot of hurting people out there who can't express what happened."

And to those who read the Times last Saturday, Messina wants you to know his father never apologized for raising him as a Mets fans. "I never asked for his apology, and he never apologized, nor did he owe us one. I was misquoted in the New York Times."

Messina's parents taught him about opposite ends of the spectrum of life. "My mother was supportive even when I made mistakes. She taught me to never give up no matter what vocation you choose in your life." Whereas Messina's mother taught him to never give up, his father taught him how to die with grace. He passed away from cancer in 2005. "I got to see a man who accepted his fate. He was like the Captain of the Titanic. My mother was also calm. I was the one freaking out inside. I saw someone who had acknowledged his own demise, accepted it, and died at home. He was a tough old guy. It takes a lot to accept that; it takes a very strong person. Some of the special moments toward the end was sitting with him and watching baseball games."

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There are two things one can expect on a trip to see Michael Musto at the offices of the Village Voice: a twenty minute round-trip wait for the elevator and rapid fire answers from one of the most recognizable gossip columnists in the United States. Musto, in addition to his appearances on Countdown with Keith Olbermann and the E! network, has been writing his column for the Voice since 1984. He has recently compiled the best of them in a book released this year titled, La Dolce Musto: Writings by the World's Most Outrageous Columnist. He was Carrie Bradshaw, replete with a prodigious use of puns, before Sex in the City was a thought. His column is a romp through his life, spats and opinions on socio-political issues. As David Thigpen of the Chicago Tribune wrote, Musto is "a funny and caustic satirist who masquerades as a gossip and nightlife columnist."

Musto, a Columbia University graduate, is a rarity in today's celebrity world: he is accessible. He often corresponds with his readers and his public functions are a mix of parties, nightclubs, academic lectures, university panels and film premieres.

He is friendly and frank, and he welcomes people to join him in his world ("I just got a message that Michael Lucas died!" he says staring wide-eyed at his phone; the message turned out to be false). David Shankbone spoke with Musto about his life and his relationship to the world of celebrity journalism. And he did not hold back.

Alex Necochea and Bryn Bennett by David Shankbone.jpg
When a fan connects with a band, it's often during moments like a drive down a highway at night reflecting on some aspect of his or her life; sitting at home after a fight with a girlfriend; singing in the shower; or celebrating at a party with her friends. Music becomes a soundtrack to an individual's life, and a connection with the musician forms when the listener is able to peg a perfect moment or feeling to a song. Boston-based mega-member rock group Bang Camaro's fan base claims a different level of interaction: they often have learned to play their music before they ever had a moment associated with it. Bang Camaro found fame on the video game Guitar Hero II, where an aspiring rock god uses a guitar-shaped peripheral to play rock music as notes scroll towards him on the screen.

David Shankbone journeyed to the Bowery Ballroom to talk to the two founding members of Bang Camaro, Alex Necochea and Bryn Bennett. But when MTV.com shows up at the same time as Wikinews to do an interview, the band must split up. Below is our conversation with Necochea about touring, influence, politics, throwing his corpse out of a plane and flatulent women.

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Racism, sexism, homophobia, are all aspects of a person's fear and paranoia over his or her place in society, but opinions rooted in such feelings are unacceptable to express in public or in polite company. Michael Richards shouted down a black heckler by yelling, "Shut up!" followed by "He's a nigger!" and gave his already dormant career less of a chance of ever reviving. When Isiah Washington called a co-star on Grey's Anatomy a "fag," his contract was not renewed.

None of this would have happened to either actor if instead of racist or homophobic terminology they had said, "Shut up, fattie!" or "Fat ass!" It's not an easy time to be fat in America. A fat person is seen as weak-willed, as suffering from an addiction to food, as unhealthy and deserving of ridicule. It goes without saying that people who are overweight are, indeed, people with a full range of emotions and feelings that are as easily hurt as a thin person's.

David Shankbone met Kira Nerusskaya, a documentary filmmaker, at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Her film The BBW World: Under the FAT! is in production and post-production. She is a self-described Big Beautiful Woman (BBW) and she hosts the website TheBBWWorld.com; she is also one of the leading voices that has recently emerged for fat acceptance. In researching her film she has traveled to Russia, London, Paris, Ireland and all over the United States to interview fat women about their obesity and their place in their respective societies.

Below is an interview with Nerusskaya about the health, issues, public reactions to and sexuality of a BBW.

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Critic Robert Fulford wrote of legendary civic preservationist Jane Jacobs that she "came down firmly on the side of spontaneous inventiveness of individuals, as against abstract plans imposed by governments and corporations." With certain alterations, the same could be said of author and journalist Trisha Posner, who penned the popular Health Watch column in Miami's Ocean Drive magazine.

Posner was fired for expressing her opinion on a YouTube video about regulations affecting her South Beach neighborhood. Like many rejuvenated communities in the United States, Posner's historic south Fifth Street has become the Tribeca of Miami, a fashionable, trendy nightspot with a maelstrom of growth in hotels, restaurants and boutiques that have out-priced many long-term residents.

Local activist Frank Del Vecchio asked Posner if she would appear in the eight-minute Close the Loophole video, directed by Emmy award-winning documentarian Robyn Symon, to state her belief that a loophole that allows popular local restaurants such as Prime One Twelve and Devito South Beach to exist in her residential neighborhood should be amended to limit the amount of seats in the establishments in proportion to their number of rooms. Her segment began, "Hi, I'm Trisha Posner. I'm a journalist and columnist for Ocean Drive magazine. I am married to Gerald Posner, the author." Within a few hours after her appearance, she was fired by Ocean Drive publisher Jerry Powers.

Posner was aghast and bewildered. Attractive and comely, as a health columnist she is an unlikely candidate as a civic instigator; but those qualities belie Posner's buffalo stance on doing what she feels is right for her community. "I hate being in the public eye and I prefer to be low key," Posner told Wikinews in an interview. "To do the video I was nervous. Only in person do I feel comfortable." Wikinews reporter David Shankbone recently spoke with Posner.

The Raveonettes by David Shankbone.jpg
"We’re only two days in and we’re already fucking tired," says Sune Rose Wagner to David Shankbone as he walks into the dressing room at the Bowery Ballroom. Wagner and Sharin Foo comprise the Raveonettes, a group made for "nostalgists who long for Everly Brothers 45's and diner jukeboxes, the Raveonettes tweak "American Graffiti"-era rock with fuzzed-out surf-guitar riffs," said The New York Times. They recently left Columbia and signed with Fierce Panda, and are on tour. They felt constrained by their Columbia contract: "The major label system sometimes doesn't allow for outside "help" to get involved, meaning that we don't get to choose who we wanna work with. That can be a pretty terrible thing and bad things will surely come of it," said the band on their MySpace site.

Their first EP, Chain Gang of Love, was a critical and commercial success. "Few albums provoke such amazing imagery," said the BBC. Pretty in Black is virtually fuzz-free, highlighting the exquisite detail in the Raveonettes' gift for pastiche: the prowling, garage-surf guitars in "Love in a Trashcan"; the ghost dance of "Red Tan," wrapped in Phil Spector-style sleigh bells," said Rolling Stone of their next album. Of their current album, Lust Lust Lust, set to be released on November 5th (although Amazon says March 4, 2008), Sune told NME that, "There are a lot of songs that deal with desire, restlessness and the tough choices you have to make sometimes." Fans can here some of the new material at MySpace.com/TheRaveonettes.

Below is David Shankbone's interview with Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo.

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Torture proliferates American headlines today: whether its use is defensible in certain contexts and the morality of the practice. Wikinews reporter David Shankbone was curious about torture in American popular culture. This is the first of a two part series examining the BDSM business. This interview focuses on the owners of a dungeon, what they charge, what the clients are like and how they handle their needs.

When Shankbone rings the bell of "HC & Co." he has no idea what to expect. A BDSM (Bondage Discipline Sadism Masochism) dungeon is a legal enterprise in New York City, and there are more than a few businesses that cater to a clientèle that wants an enema, a spanking, to be dressed like a baby or to wear women's clothing. Shankbone went to find out what these businesses are like, who runs them, who works at them, and who frequents them. He spent three hours one night in what is considered one of the more upscale establishments in Manhattan, Rebecca's Hidden Chamber, where according to The Village Voice, "you can take your girlfriend or wife, and have them treated with respect—unless they hope to be treated with something other than respect!"

Below is David Shankbone's interview with Bill & Rebecca, owners of Rebecca's Hidden Chamber, a BDSM dungeon.

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It can be difficult to be John Reed.

Christopher Hitchens called him a "Bin Ladenist" and Cathy Young editorialized in The Boston Globe that he "blames the victims of terrorism" when he puts out a novel like Snowball's Chance, a biting send-up of George Orwell's Animal Farm he was inspired to write after the terrorist attacks on September 11. "The clear references to 9/11 in the apocalyptic ending can only bring Orwell's name into disrepute in the U.S.," wrote William Hamilton, the British literary executor of the Orwell estate. That process had already begun: it was revealed Orwell gave the British Foreign Office a list of people he suspected of being "crypto-Communists and fellow travelers," labeling some of them as Jews and homosexuals. "I really wanted to explode that book," Reed told The New York Times. "I wanted to completely undermine it."

Is this man who wants to blow up the classic literary canon taught to children in schools a menace, or a messiah? David Shankbone went to interview him for Wikinews and found that, as often is the case, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Reed is electrified by the changes that surround him that channel through a lens of inspiration wrought by his children. "The kids have made me a better writer," Reed said. In his new untitled novel, which he calls a "new play by William Shakespeare," he takes lines from The Bard's classics to form an original work. He began it in 2003, but only with the birth of his children could he finish it. "I didn't understand the characters who had children. I didn't really understand them. And once I had had kids, I could approach them differently."

Taking the old to make it new is a theme in his work and in his world view. Reed foresees new narrative forms being born, Biblical epics that will be played out across print and electronic mediums. He is pulled forward by revolutions of the past, a search for a spiritual sensibility, and a desire to locate himself in the process.

Below is David Shankbone's conversation with novelist John Reed.

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Few artists ever penetrate the subconscious level of American culture the way RuPaul Andre Charles did with the 1993 album Supermodel of the World. It was groundbreaking not only because in the midst of the Grunge phenomenon did Charles have a dance hit on MTV, but because he did it as RuPaul, formerly known as Starbooty, a supermodel drag queen with a message: love everyone. A duet with Elton John, an endorsement deal with MAC cosmetics, an eponymous talk show on VH-1 and roles in film propelled RuPaul into the new millennium.

In July, RuPaul's movie Starrbooty began playing at film festivals and it is set to be released on DVD October 31st. David Shankbone recently spoke with RuPaul by telephone in Los Angeles, where she is to appear on stage for DIVAS Simply Singing!, a benefit for HIV-AIDS.

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There are few organizations in the United States that elicit a stronger emotional response than the American Civil Liberties Union, whose stated goal is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States". Those people include gays, Nazis, women seeking abortion, gun owners, SPAM mailers and drug users. People who are often not popular with various segments of the public. The ACLU's philosophy is not that it agrees or disagrees with any of these people and the choices that they make, but that they have personal liberties that must not be trampled upon.

In David Shankbone's interview with the President of the ACLU, Nadine Strossen, he wanted to cover some basic ground on the ACLU's beliefs. Perhaps the area where they are most misunderstood or have their beliefs most misrepresented is their feelings about religion in the public sphere. The ACLU categorically does not want to see religion disappear from schools or in the public forum; but they do not want to see government advocacy of any particular religion. Thus, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's placement of a ten ton monument to the Ten Commandments outside the courthouse is strenuously opposed; but "Lone Ranger of the Manger" Rita Warren's placement of nativity scenes in public parks is vigorously defended. In the interview, Strossen talks about how certain politicians and televangelists purposefully misstate the law and the ACLU's work in order to raise funds for their campaigns.

David Shankbone's discussion with Strossen touches upon many of the ACLU's hot button issues: religion, Second Amendment rights, drug liberalization, "partial-birth abortion" and whether or not George W. Bush should be impeached. It may surprise the reader that many ideas people have about the most visible of America's civil libertarian organizations are not factually correct and that the ACLU often works closely with many of the organizations people think despise its existence.

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Gay Talese wants to go to Iraq. "It so happens there is someone that's working on such a thing right now for me," the 75-year-old legendary journalist and author told David Shankbone. "Even if I was on Al-Jazeera with a gun to my head, I wouldn't be pleading with those bastards! I'd say, 'Go ahead. Make my day.'"

Few reporters will ever reach the stature of Talese. His 1966 profile of Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra Has a Cold, was not only cited by The Economist as the greatest profile of Sinatra ever written, but is considered the greatest of any celebrity profile ever written. In the 70th anniversary issue of Esquire in October 2003, the editors declared the piece the "Best Story Esquire Ever Published."

Talese helped create and define a new style of literary reporting called New Journalism. Talese himself told National Public Radio he rejects this label ("The term new journalism became very fashionable on college campuses in the 1970s and some of its practitioners tended to be a little loose with the facts. And that's where I wanted to part company.")

He is not bothered by the Bancrofts selling The Wall Street Journal—"It's not like we should lament the passing of some noble dynasty!"—to Rupert Murdoch, but he is bothered by how the press supported and sold the Iraq War to the American people. "The press in Washington got us into this war as much as the people that are controlling it," said Talese. "They took information that was second-hand information, and they went along with it." He wants to see the Washington press corp disbanded and sent around the country to get back in touch with the people it covers; that the press should not be so focused on--and in bed with--the federal government.

Augusten Burroughs once said that writers are experience junkies, and Talese fits the bill. Talese--who has been married to Nan Talese (she edited James Frey's Million Little Piece) for fifty years--can be found at baseball games in Cuba or the gay bars of Beijing, wanting to see humanity in all its experience.

Below is David Shankbone's interview with Gay Talese.

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Tom Tancredo has been a member of the United States House of Representatives since 1999, representing the 6th Congressional District of Colorado. He rose to national prominence for his strong stance against illegal immigration and his announcement that he was a Republican candidate in the 2008 Presidential election. David Shankbone recently spoke with the Congressman and posed questions from Wikipedia editors and Wikinews reporters

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John Vanderslice has recently learned to enjoy America again. The singer-songwriter, who National Public Radio called "one of the most imaginative, prolific and consistently rewarding artists making music today," found it through an unlikely source: his French girlfriend. "For the first time in my life I wouldn't say I was defending the country but I was in this very strange position..."

Since breaking off from San Francisco local legends, mk Ultra, Vanderslice has produced six critically-acclaimed albums. His most recent, Emerald City, was released July 24th. Titled after the nickname given to the American-occupied Green Zone in Baghdad, it chronicles a world on the verge of imminent collapse under the weight of its own paranoia and loneliness. David Shankbone recently went to the Bowery Ballroom and spoke with Vanderslice about music, photography, touring and what makes a depressed liberal angry.

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Evan Wolfson, the founder of the modern gay marriage movement, tells the waiter he would like an iced decaf and "the usual." Wolfson, one of Time Magazine's Most Influential People in the World, is a man who unflinchingly knows what he wants and stays his course, whether it be in his choice of restaurant or in his choice of battle. And others always know when they see Evan coming what it is that he wants.

Since his time at Harvard Law School when he wrote a paper on the topic, what Wolfson wants is the right for gay people to marry. The issue gained national prominence in 1993 when the Hawaii Supreme Court held in Baehr v. Lewin that the government had to show a reason for the denial of the freedom to marry, not just deny marriage licenses to the plaintiff gay couples. Wolfson was co-counsel in the historic 1996 Hawaii trial in which he argued that the government does not have a sufficient reason for excluding same-sex couples from marriage. In 1999, Wolfson contributed to Baker v. Vermont, the case that led to the creation of civil unions; advised the lead attorneys in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the case that led to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts; and since 2003, when he founded the primary umbrella organization coordinating the efforts to win marriage for gay people, Freedom to Marry, Wolfson has played a role in every marriage equality case in the United States. He is the movement's founder and leader, and his focus remains square on winning that right. "For years," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, "many of us were saying to him, 'We're not ready. The country's not ready. And, by the way, you're crazy.'"