Friday, February 15, 2008

The Great Interview Experiment

You're in for a treat. This space is usually so much about ME ME ME. Today we're shaking things up a little, and I'm going to talk about (or more correctly, with) someone else. What a concept!

I stumbled upon something extraordinary on the blogosphere last week, through my blog friend Curiosity Killer and also at Whoorl. And because I am so extraordinary, I thought I would just sign right up (it's funny how easy it is to toss all artificial modesty out the window while hiding behind the safety of the computer screen.)

It was over at Citizen of the month, Neil came up with this Great Interview Experiment. Basically it gives fellow bloggers their 15 minutes; any blogger, big or small, and particularly for those who don't have a big audience, the hidden gems if you will. You should sign up, it's a great way to meet another blogger and showcase them as they so deserve. Once you comment, you get a chance to interview the person who commented ahead of you, and the person who comments just after you, does the honours for yourself. A most enjoyable chain of events.

I was fortunate enough to be hooked up with Simon, and the following is our conversation. Turns out he's as cool as his blog hints him to be. Let me introduce you to my new blog buddy at Simon Says

Me: I see that you're a fan of Radiohead. What do you think of "In Rainbows"? Should I get it? And do you think the way they "launched" it was truly revolutionary, or just a clever marketing ploy?

Simon: I read an interview where Radiohead said that, in order to be considered a "great" band, they thought they needed to make at least three "great" albums, and that "In Rainbows" was one of them, alongside "OK Computer" and "Kid A". I'd tend to agree. I'm not generally the type to obsessively listen to one album over and over again, but this one hasn't left my cd player much since I bought it at Christmas. If you like Radiohead at all, buy it. Although, interestingly, I think Thom's lyrics have got weaker over the years, while musically they're stronger, more confident, and more inventive than ever.

As for the release strategy, I think releasing it online is becoming a pretty normal thing now. The "pay what you like" aspect was a gimmick - I don't see many others following suit. Personally I prefer cds - I don't own an MP3 player - although if I had downloaded it I would have paid near-full price, because I think it's worth it.

Me: I noticed that you've blogged about Brussels feeling like home now that you've been there a number of years. And you discussed the whole concept of home, and what makes someplace 'home'. Having seen that you've moved around a fair bit before you had children, do you think you will stay in Brussels while your girls grow, or do you envision moving at some point again?

Simon: Both my wife and I are pretty settled here, both professionally and in terms of feeling generally happy about living here. It's a very comfortable place to live - multicultural, great for kids, good schools and healthcare, it's very easy to travel to other countries from here (drive for an hour in any direction and you're in France, Germany, The Netherlands...), and, of course, we have friends here.

I think the only thing that would make us consider moving somewhere else would be if we suddenly both lost our jobs, in which case we might consider other countries. We still travel a lot, so that scratches our "need for foreign and exotic experiences" itch. I wouldn't rule out retiring somewhere else, but that depends on where our children end up living. Frankly it's too far off to think about yet...

Me: There is a truly international flavour in your household. I love your daughters beautiful names, you and your wife have certainly been exposing them to a lot of Italian traditions. Particularly given that you're now based in Brussels! I find in my family our cultural activities tend to celebrate more of my Chinese background and my family are quite involved in our kids' lives. Are there any distinctly UK traditions that your family partakes in to celebrate your own background?

Simon: I'm actually struggling to think of specifically English traditions (the shame...). When we visit the UK (two to three times a year) they get immersed in it, have other people to practise their English with, eat English food, etc. I think they'll get more into that as they get older, and we rely heavily on storybooks for that kind of thing, although I also make some effort to sing them English nursery rhymes. As for events and celebrations, Christmas, for example, tends to be a mixture of Belgian (St Nicholas on 6 December) kind-of-international (Christmas day itself), and Italian (La Befana on 6 January). But if, for example, one year we're in the UK for Christmas, they'll get the British version, with Christmas crackers (do you have those over there? - K pops in with a "yes, we do"), Christmas pudding, and the Queen's speech.

I guess I could introduce them to the idea of Guy Fawkes night, but it'd feel a bit strange celebrating, on our own, a failed attempt to topple the UK government, while living in a country that currently has no government at all...

Me: Can I tell you how impressed I am that you have an imdb profile? (Entertainment Tonight was my daily addiction as a teenager and I still remember remote, trivial entertainment fact that no one really needs to retain). What's the background behind that, do tell...

Simon: Yes, I can tell. The "Wow! Simon has an imdb profile!" was audible across the Atlantic.
At university I was heavily involved in the student TV station - camerwork, editing, etc, and once I'd finished my studies I moved to London and started doing badly (or not at all-) paid work as a lighting and camera assistant. It was enormous fun, hard work, and almost impossible to make a living out of, given the parlous state of the UK film industry at the time. I worked on a few minor tv series, several unreleased low budget movies, some short films and a couple of commercials and rock videos. After four years I decided that I needed to start paying some bills, and then I met my wife and started moving around, so I left it behind. I loved the work, and I'm glad I had those experiences, although personally I find it hard to imagine how I could ever have reconciled the extremely long hours and lack of long-term stability with raising a family.

Me: You are quite a talented sketch artist, and the drawing that you've shared in no way, shape or form resembles a potato head! Do you have any other hidden talents?

Simon: Well if I told you, they wouldn't be hidden, would they?
Thank you. No, I can't think of any off the top of my head. I used to be quite a mean pool player, but it's been a while...

Me: I've noticed that you're an avid reader, although like me, as a parent to young children, making it through a book is a true rarity these days. It's taken me about six years to get through six books. Are there any short reads that you would consider must-reads?

Since moving to a new job at the start of February I now take the metro to work rather than driving, which gives me more reading time. Plus, our girls are both in bed by 8pm, so I have the rest of the evening for reading if I like.

As for short reads, well, I've never been asked to recommend a book by length before...The one I just finished, "Voice of Our Shadow", by Jonathan Carroll, was very good, and most of his are 200 pages or less. What othe slim volumes can I see on my shelf? "The Reader", by Bernhard Schlink, "Silk" by Alessandro Baricco, "By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept", by Elisabeth Smart - all good.

Maybe try short story collections? If you like spooky, Twilight Zone-style things, there's a great collection edited by Alberto Manguel called "Black Water". Some of those are only a couple of pages in length...

Me: Do you like to cook? If so, what is your specialty? If not, what's your favourite take out?

I love food, as anyone who clicks the "food" tag on my blog will see. I never cook. It makes me nervous and things get burnt.
For take-out, there's a good pizzeria two minutes walk from our house, but we also like to get Thai or Indian. But we eat out whenever possible. The food that interests us most is exactly the kind of thing that we (and when I say "we", I mean "my wife") can't make at home.

Me: As a Star Wars fanatic, do you own any light sabers (we have about a dozen in our house)? Or short of that, any memorabilia that your wife will let you display?

I don't own a lightsaber, no. As a child I had a medium-sized collection of the action figures and vehicles (my prized possession was an AT-AT). These days I have a couple of knick-knacks upstairs in the study, a collection of books (mostly behind-the-scenes, "the making of" type stuff). I'd say that I'll always love Star Wars, and I'd happily watch the movies again any day, but I've gone past the stage where I need to buy any more "stuff". After the release of "Revenge of the Sith" I felt that a chapter had closed. They'll continue to release books, tv series, toys, as long as they make money, but I'm not interested any more.

Me: Any big vacation plans this summer?

Over the summer we'll spend a couple of weeks at the beach on the Italian riviera (near, but not with, my wife's parents), which is a fairly regular thing, and probably a week back in the UK to see my parents and some friends. But our big trip this year is actually in the spring - we're going to Japan for two and a half weeks to attend a friend's wedding. Technically she already got married in America last year, but they're having a ceremony/celebration in Tokyo at the end of April, so we jumped at the chance to attend. The only thing we're not looking forward to is an eleven hour flight with two toddlers in tow, but I think they'll love Japan itself. It'll be the first time for me too, although my wife's been once before, about 12 years ago. It's also our first trip outside Europe since our first child was born in 2004.
Oh, and my wife and I are spending a weekend in New York in March, while the girls stay with their grandparents. That'll be my first time in the States.

Me: My husband will be travelling to Brussels on business in a couple of months, for about a week. Are there any must see/ must do/ must eat places that he should absolutely not miss while he's there?

Simon: Must do - meet up with me and my wife for a drink.
Must see - Grand Place. Said (by Belgians, admittedly) to be one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. The Atomium's fun too, although it's out on the edge of town. They're the two icons of Brussels. There's also the "Mannekin Pis", just off the Grand Place, which is a must if you like statues of urinating boys...
Must eat/drink - waffles, moules (although it won't really be the season when your husband's here), Belgian speciality beers, chocolates. For an evening's traditional Belgian dining I'd recommend maybe "Aux Armes De Bruxelles", just around the corner from Grand Place.

And that's it! Wasn't that fun?

I've been interviewed by Alunfoto, and I'll post that up very soon.

Hope to catch some of you bloghoppin' later tonight!


Anonymous said...

That is really neat, I signed up for it. I can not wait to be interviewed and I am already dreaming up my questions for the MOM OF 6 that I have to interview.

Kellan said...

Now, that was really cool Karen! You are quite the Oprah Winfrey, aren't you - throwing out those truly great questions and all!!! That was fun learning so much about Simon - he's very interesting and I need to go check out his site - thanks.

Have a great weekend - see you later. Kellan

Stacey said...

Cool idea!
Happy Friday! Blog Hoppin'!
"Margarita Mom"

Rima said...

That was a cool interview! I think you have a knack. I'm too chicken to sign up for the great interview experiment, but maybe one of these days . . .

Kami said...

Great idea!

When you get a chance stop by, I've given you something.


C. K. said...

Great interview, Karen! You're so thoughtful and observant when interviewing Simon - what an interesting figure! I'm gonna have to check out his blog!

Jeff said...

That was way cool! You're a great example for this whole interview idea. Good job.

Sarabeth said...

That was quite neat.

Blog Hopping--HP

Krista said...

Neat interview and creative questions! Now I'm gonna have to go read his blog! ;)
Hot Mama

Natalie said...

This looks like a lot of fun. I've seen it floating around and haven't really had the FOCUS to actually figure it out. I do like the posts that come of it, so I might just have to check it out!

blog hoppin!

Fine as Wine (Nat)

Rachel said...

Hippity Hop:

what a great idea and a really wonderful interview!
This was such a neat read, I'll definitely have to go check out Simon!
Have a great weekend.

Simon said...

Thanks again, Karen; you made it a fun experience. Let's keep in touch...

Tiffany said...

Fantastic interview!

V-Grrrl said...

Lucky me--after reading Simon for a year or two, I got to meet him and his wife recently. He's just as interesting and charming in person as he is in print. : )


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