20 Questions with Roman Mars

Roman Mars makes radio. He created the podcast 99% Invisible, about the unseen design work that shapes our lives. Most recently, he's been one of the driving forces behind Radiotopia, a hub for incredible, story-based audio broadcasting. Last week, with the support of 21,808 backers, Radiotopia became Kickstarter's most-funded Publishing project of all time. We caught up with Roman and asked him to answer some random questions; we heard about exercise, his iPhone, and Minor Threat.

Tell us about the last great meal you had:

I went to dinner in Las Vegas with the team from Sound Opinions (who are surprising foodies). They knew the chef at this super fancy restaurant, and we didn’t order, but just got sent a little bit of everything on the menu and stuff that wasn’t on the menu. It was so amazing and weird. I felt like a working class interloper in a world I didn’t even know existed. I think I ate organs. I have no idea. 

First movie you saw in the theater:

The first one I remember was Blue Lagoon. I was five. I had a single mom and irresponsible secondary care givers.

Small thing you can’t live without:

My fucking iPhone.

An experience you’ll never forget:

I’ll never forget my twins being born, of course. I remember the doctor holding up the first one (Mazlo) and he was all gray and slimy, like a little zombie baby. He’s now obsessed with zombies. Coincidence?

Music you loved as a teenager:

DC hardcore punk e.g. Minor Threat. Still love it. Still straight edge.

How do you start each morning?

I take my boys to school and then work out in the park. I suppose the FIRST, first thing I do is roll over and check Twitter.

Favorite app:

Right now it’s Kickstarter; I can’t stop refreshing over and over. I’m pretty fond of a crossword game called Bonza, too.

What’s your computer desktop/phone lock screen?

A picture of my boys, Mazlo and Carver. My big handsomes.

First book you remember being really affected by:

I can’t remember the first, but the book dearest to me is Moon Palace by Paul Auster. I’ve never read someone capture my own brand of willful self destruction so accurately and vividly. It also tells a story within a story, which is the literary equivalent of radio. I love stories told by characters in stories.

What do you carry with you every day?

My fucking iPhone.

Favorite place to eat:

Every Friday I get La Val’s pizza in Berkeley. It’s a family ritual. We call it “Pizza Shabbat."

Place you wish everyone could visit:

The Golden Gate Bridge. The greatest human-made structure of all time.

Last idea or factoid you came across that stayed in your brain:

That a factoid is something that resembles a fact, but is not necessarily true. Someone corrected my usage on Twitter and I was totally shocked.

Person in your field whose career/life/work you admire:

Jesse Thorn continually amazes me.

Who did you learn the most from?

My mom is the source of all the good in me.

Favorite thing about the place you live:

I live in the Berkeley hills and I can see the whole Bay Area and the bridges and I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to live here.

Favorite personal item of clothing:

I have black Indy boots that might be the nicest things I own.

Favorite time of day and why:

At 9:30am I exercise and no one can reach me. I also enjoy 11pm - 1am quite a bit, but these days I’m often working then.

Favorite thing to work with:

Sound and solitude.

Last thing you made:

Episode 139 of 99% Invisible. Actually, my producer Avery Trufelman made almost all of it, but I tinkered with it last, so it counts!

20 Questions: Photographer Alex Davis

If you look at photographer Alex Davis' project page, his goal is pretty no frills. He has 100 rolls of film. He wants to get them developed. He wants to make a book of those photos. The photos are great, full of tiny details, like a piercing stare or a windshield streaked by dust and wipers. They're well worth being published in a book. You can see a selection scattered throughout the interview below. 

Tell us about the last great meal you had: 

Thai food place in Cincinnati called Thai Express. Stir fried chicken with veggies—spice level 8—it's on point.

First movie you saw in the theater: 

Don't remember, but do remember watching the first Freddy Krueger movie, scared the shit out of me.

Small thing you can’t live without: 

My watch.

Music you loved as a teenager: 

East coast hip-hop, I took a train from Cincinnati to LA with my grandparents, the only CD I listened to was Big Pun's Capital Punishment album. I know it by heart. I was always the young buck of the crew, and we always listened to Wu-Tang. Once we got that Ghostface Iron Man album, we had it on repeat.

How do you start each morning? 

I've been into this Buddhist book I borrowed from my friend who lives in NYC.

Favorite app? 

Translate app, I'll talk through text for a whole day to friends in a different language, helps me learn how to speak a different language too.

What’s your computer desktop/phone lock screen?

Nine screen shots of Sean Sheffey doing a SS flip in the Mouse video. The one that he is styling like a pimp, that line at the LA Grey Hound bumps. DA BEST.

Your favorite personal item of clothing: 

Recently its been this zip-up jacket I found in my parent's basement. Its all white with navy blue sailboats all over it. Or maybe this Buddhist ring I got when I was in Italy about four years ago. I just got it fixed.

What do you carry with you every day? 

This pen I got from the army surplus store, it has magical powers. It will write in 250 temp, plus the freezing cold, way below zero. Also you can write upside down, it's water proof, it's dope. I don't know when I'll be in any of these situations but you always gotta be ready to get a girl's number.

Favorite place to eat: 

Mom Dukes' house

Place you wish everyone could visit: 

White House, moon and Mars on the same night.

Last idea or factoid you came across that stayed in your brain: 

That this is just a long ass dream that is already planned out. Everyone is on the right path whether you like it or not. You can change it, but it's what is already gonna happen.

Person in your field whose career/life/work you admire: 

GXONETHOA CREW. Video in the works.

Who did you learn the most from? 

My pops. Actually I'm still learning. Life is hard to figure out so I've stopped thinking about it. Just going on with whatever is happening. For all the kids out there, just go on with your life and do whatever you want. Don't bite anyone, just be yourself. If you have a positive idea, jump up and do it. Fuck the rest.

Favorite thing about the place you live: 

Fav thing about the place I live is that I don't live anywhere. I was in SF for about six months, then went back to Cincinnati for a month, then went to NYC for a month. Now back in Cincy for a month, next stop is SF.

Favorite time of day and why: 

When the sun is out.

What is the last thing you made?

This interview happen. Sike! Nah. I made a few collages in London while I was on a skate trip. I would get free newspapers from the tube. They turned out pretty dope.

Radiotopia at Kickstarter: A Discussion on the New Golden Age of Radio

Recently the Radiotopia crew came to our office to have a conversation about how they got where they are — and where they are is pretty special. Uniting a number of exceptional storytellers under one banner, Radiotopia points to a bright future for podcasting. Considering the storytelling chops on display, it's no surprise that their conversation was fascinating all the way through: whether they were talking about the future of audio storytelling or the past.

20 Questions: The Lab's Dena Beard

The Lab, based in San Francisco, is an institution. Besides hosting a number of phenomenal musicians and artists, including but not limited to: Jack Smith, Nan Goldin, David Wojnarowicz, Lydia Lunch, Mike Kelley, Bruce Conner, My Bloody Valentine, Barry McGee, Mark Flood with Culturecide, Carrie Mae Weems, Wolf Eyes, Orlan, Barbara Kruger, Caroliner, Kathleen Hanna, and Jello Biafra, the place is an influential hub for experimental art. We sent the director of the lab, Dena Beard, a bunch of questions and she told us about her vintage tape measure, a river vortex, and not believing in facts.

Tell us about the last great meal you had: 

U Guh Ji Gal Bi Tang at PyeongChang Tofu House in Oakland two days ago. All this Telethon planning gave me laryngitis, so kimchi and hot stew are sweet ambrosia.

First movie you saw in the theater: 

Return of the Jedi! Long after its first release, but my mom still covered my eyes for all the good parts.

Small thing you can’t live without: 

Ambien.

Place you wish everyone could visit:

The Lab, of course.

Last idea or factoid you came across that stayed in your brain:

I don't believe in facts, and ideas are slippery beasts. But I've been obsessed with ossuaries for a long time and missing this fabulous Capuchin Crypt in Rome. They have something like over 4,000 bones in there.

An experience you’ll never forget: 

When I was nine, I sat for hours watching birds duck in and out of Iguazu Falls, an incredibly powerful river vortex on the border of Argentina and Brazil. The falls were deafeningly loud and would kill a man in an instant, but these birds didn't give a hoot.

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Music you loved as a teenager: 

Anything with heavy narrative and high drama.

First book you remember being really affected by: 

Shel Silverstein's Where The Sidewalk Ends.

How do you start each morning? 

Cafe La Llave brewed in my stovetop espresso maker. I'm a bit like a National Geographic special in the mornings, so I usually stub my toe a few times, walk into a few walls, grunt a bit, and then repeat the phrase on the can a few times, "Tostada especialmente para el gusto Latino," till I become something of a real human being.

Favorite app? 

Dictionary.com. I like the word of the day...

What’s your computer desktop/phone lock screen? 

For my phone, Marcel Duchamp's The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même), often called Large Glass or Broken Glass since it was shattered in transport. I figured it would look appropriate when the screen to my celly eventually suffered the same fate. As for my desktop screen, it's just black. Like my soul.

Your favorite personal item of clothing: 

My leather jacket.

What do you carry with you every day? 

A Stanley tape measure from the 1950s. They made them better back then, and it's flat and has good ridges, so it doubles as a worry stone.

Person in your field whose career/life/work you admire:

Chus Martinez, Constance Lewallen, Helen Molesworth.

Who did you learn the most from?

My mom, of course.

Favorite thing about the place you live:

There are still people here who are individuals, who live their lives refusing to deal with the mediocrity that is shoved down our throats everyday. They inspire me.

Favorite place to eat: 

Uni off the docks in my hometown, Santa Barbara. I basically like any sea creature dragged from the watery depths and immediately prepared in closest proximity to my plate.

Person in your field whose career/life/work you admire: 

Chus Martinez, Constance Lewallen, Helen Molesworth.

Favorite time of day and why: 

Cocktail hour, for obvious reasons.

What is the last thing you made? 

I've been working on creating a uniform for over a year now. I'm still sussing out the patterning and sewing bits of that game, but I'm convinced it's my ticket out of the horror of clothes shopping.

Favorite thing to work with:

Great art.

Expanding the Kickstarter + MoMA Design Store Collection

Earlier this year, we were thrilled to collaborate with the MoMA Design store on a collection of beautiful, unique design products that were made with Kickstarter. Seeing creators complete the journey from idea to real life to the MoMA Design Store was so much fun, that today we're excited to announce we're expanding the collection — adding more incredible things brought to life with the support of people like you. 

The nine new products in the expanded collection — everything from a modern gramophone to an ultra-safe bike light — were supported by over 29,000 people on Kickstarter. You can see them all here.

This collaboration isn't the only major news involving Kickstarter and MoMA. Last week, MoMA announced that they have acquired two Kickstarter-funded projects as part of their permanent collection. Makey Makey and Ototo are two incredible devices that allow people to create music from all kinds of objects, including bananas! As Senior Curator Paola Antonelli noted, while these objects "might be small in scale, their significance for contemporary design — and the world at large — knows little bounds."

See the entire collection of products made with Kickstarter in the MoMA Design Store

Meet the Team: Victoria and Alfie

We thought it would be nice to introduce ourselves. Every so often, a couple members of the Kickstarter team will be saying hello, and picking out a few projects — past or present, successful or not — that they're especially fond of. (They will also be posing for GIFs. The GIFs are mandatory.)

This week, meet Victoria and Alfie:

Victoria Rogers

Job: "I work on developing our relationships with local creative communities — right now I'm working with a lot of amazing people in New Orleans." (As you can see, Victoria also really lit up our Halloween party.)

  • Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes Album — "New Orleans-based musician Leyla McCalla creates her first solo record, Vari-Colored Songs. Her voice is straight from the depths of the bayou on a warm summer day. Take a listen!"
  • Nails In The Key Of Life: A Mobile Nail Salon — "Artist Breanne Trammell converts a canned ham trailer into a mobile nail salon, and takes it across America. The manicures are awesome: bright, beautiful, and at times a bit crazy. For me, the best part of the project is that the manicures themselves are only part of the story; each manicure is an opportunity for a new connection and exchange of ideas between Breanne and her clients."
  • The Potter and the RAM — "Susannah Tisue makes porcelain tableware in her studio in Brooklyn, illustrated with wild animals. She creates enchantingly honest, simple, beautiful bowls. Each piece is handmade and screen-printed, and the original drawings are adorable. I have the rabbit and duck bowls and am hoping to collect some more!"
  • Remember Me Sue: The Documentary on Sue Duncan — "Melina Kolb shares the incredible story of the Sue Duncan Children's Center, and the indomitable force behind it, Sue Duncan. I had the chance to volunteer at the center growing up in Chicago, and it absolutely changed my life. Sue gave me the opportunity to launch an art class at the center, and exposed me to the potential for creativity to create change."

 Alfie Palao

Job: "Yo! I answer any questions that come in from project creators and/or backers. I also sit across from Jes."

  • MODERN RUIN: A World's Fair Pavilion — "The pavilion is a huge landmark in Queens, where I'm from (shoutout to the Grand Central Parkway). I have a childhood memory of going skating around here when i was a kid and just being in awe of this massive and strange looking ... thing ("what the hell is that?"). It wasn't until much later on (junior high school, maybe?) that i learned a bit more about the 1964 World's Fair. Matthew Silva has taken this curiosity that a lot of us have had about this building, the World's Fair, and more, and is working on a documentary/tribute to it. Moreover, he's a co-founder of the People For The Pavilion, who have made incredible strides towards saving and restoring the pavilion from its current state of (beautiful) decay. It's quite notable that, though he's a first time filmmaker, the rough cut I've seen of Modern Ruin so far looks incredible."
  • Out Of My Hand: A Narrative Feature — "I was pretty shocked to hear my good friend Mike was heading to Africa to film a movie with his buddy Takeshi. They shot a large portion of this film in Liberia, and wanted to highlight a life outside of the civil wars that have haunted public perception for quite some time. The results are kind of like going to see your friend's band play (friend rock) and being laid to complete sonic waste. A pleasant surprise! No offense, Mike. I've always believed in you."
  • Rebuilding The Silent Barn — "My first introduction to Kickstarter! I kind of remember hearing that Silent Barn, a space I had frequented for many amazing and uncomfortably (seriously, unbearably) hot shows, had been broken into and would have to be shut down for the time being. What I definitely do remember is the amazing response everyone had to this campaign (it was borderline inescapable on Facebook). It's still kind of shocking that this project managed to raise $40,000 ... most of the people who played or went to shows here barely had jobs to cover rent (myself included). But hey, there's a new Silent Barn now and somewhere in my closet there's a T-shirt with a cat on it."

Kickstarter Celebrates Documentary Month

Somewhere between the invention of Netflix Streaming and right now, documentaries started enjoying quite a renaissance. It's not like they weren't great before, we're just saying that after a whole lot of them popped up on Netflix, we heard the sentence "I just want to watch a documentary" 98% more times than before (not actual math). 

Similarly, we noticed that our friends were suddenly experts in really weird things like fainting mountain goats or modern vikings or lost photographers. What we're saying is that docs are entertaining and informative and often beautifully done. Furthermore, there are a whole lot of them that were funded through Kickstarter, all very much worth watching, especially as it starts to get cold and dark before lunchtime. 

As luck would have it, November is the month when not one but four documentary festivals are happening all over the globe. Guess what?! We'll be at all of them, so check below for a handy guide of what to see and do if you're thinking about attending any (or all) of them.

CPH: DOX, November 6-16, Copenhagen, DK

We've partnered with CPH: DOX to select five documentary projects from their community that will be launching Kickstarter campaigns over the next year. The projects will receive hands-on mentorship from Kickstarter staff, and great documentary vets like Gary Hustwit (Helvetica, Objectified) and Rachel Grady (Detropia), among others. In addition, our very own George Schmalz will be hosting a discussion about making and producing documentaries with Kickstarter. In addition, the ten films below will be screened as part of CPH: MARKET.

Above All Else // Approaching the Elephant// Art And Craft //  Below Dreams // Buffalo Juggalos // First to Fall //  In Country // RICH HILL // Tomorrow We Disappear // A Will for the Woods

DOC NYC, November 13-20, New York, NY

DOC NYC happens on our home turf of New York, and the roster of docs being shown is proof: a whopping 38 films made by Kickstarter alumni will be shown at the festival. In addition, our own Dan Schoenbrun and Kickstarter film alumni David Thorpe (Do I Sound Gay), Chad Walker and Dave LaMatina (I Am Big Bird), Mina T. Son and Sara Newens (Top Spin) will host a panel featuring lessons in creative funding, promotion, and audience engagement.

Do I Sound Gay? // The Yes Men Are Revolting // Back on Board // I Am Big Bird // Almost There // In Country // Kasama-Yaki (Made in Kasama) // The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest // The Wound and The Gift // Rubble Kings // Some Kind of Spark // Stop // Tough Love // Florence, Arizona // Grazers: A Grass-Fed Beef Cooperative Story // Hotline // Haunters // Little White Lies // Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine // Sex and Broadcasting, a film about WFMU // Marmato // The Return // Capturing Grace // 9-MAN // Top Spin // She's Beautiful When She's Angry // Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia Lost Rock n Roll // Heaven Adores You // Salad Days: The Birth of Punk Rock in the Nation's Capital // Love & Terror // Finding Vivian Maier // Keep On Keepin' On // RICH HILL // Reverence: A Documentary Short on Branded Yarmulkes // Cherry Pop: The Story of the World's Fanciest Cat // World's Longest Yard Sale // Embedded // Us, Naked

RIDM, November 12-23, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Montreal's RIDM features a number of innovative, experimental docs including three Kickstarter-funded films: Clouds, Buffalo Juggalos, and Evaporating Borders.

IDFA, November 19-30, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam is Europe's largest doc festival, and Dan Schoenbrun and Liz Cook from Kickstarter's film team will be in attendance to talk about Kickstarter projects that experiment with the way we tell stories, whether it be in cinema, journalism, technology, or any other projects that exist outside the realm of film.

If you're attending IDFA, Liz will also be on hand to meet with filmmakers that want advice or feedback about Kickstarter projects.

See hundreds of films made with Kickstarter on our Watch page.

Brain Dump: Bleeding Palm's Ronnie Rivera

The Adventures of Christopher Bosh in the Multiverse is hard to explain. Or it isn't. In fact, it's exactly what the title says it is: Miami Heat's Christopher Bosh has animated adventures as a "weird crazy space god." To (hopefully) better understand the mind behind such a bizarre piece of art, we talked to one the people behind the series, Bleeding Palm's Ronnie Rivera, about swamps, killer whales, and tropical Chinese food.

How do you start each morning?

Coffee, coffee, coffee while I stare blankly at a computer screen for about an hour wondering where I went wrong.

Small thing you can’t live without:

My mini Wacom drawing tablet

Last great meal you had:

Dim Sum at Tropical Chinese restaurant

Music you loved as a teenager: 

The Subhumans, N.W.A., Dr. Dre, Dead Kennedys, Kreamy Lectric Santa, The Crumbs

Place you wish everyone could visit:

Big Cypress Swamp, there is a darkness and emptiness there that everyone should experience.

Last idea or factoid you came across that stayed in your brain:

The killer whale is a natural predator of the moose.

First movie you saw in the theater:

Legend

Person in your field whose career/life/work you admire:

Lucas Pope, the artist behind Papers, Please and the upcoming Return of the Obra Dinn.

Favorite app? 

Yo.

What’s your computer desktop/phone lock screen?

 Your favorite personal item of clothing: 

My Vault 101 hoodie

What do you carry with you every day? 

Lucky 20 sided dice

Favorite place to eat: 

Josh’s Deli in Surfside

Who did you learn the most from? 

The internet.

Favorite thing about the place you live:

 It is seriously crazy here.

Favorite time of day and why: 

My favorite time of day is early evening after the evil daystar has set, it's less humid then.

First book you remember being really affected by:

The Stranger

Favorite thing to work with: 

It's been a while, but I love to work with acrylic paint on wood panel.

What is the last thing you made? 

Concept art for a future project tentatively called GLADEZ: 2077