Editor’s Note: This is the first interview of several we’ll be publishing this month, all with our section editors. Like the rest of the LARB ecosystem, their work depends on the generous support of everyday readers who keep LARB going; we hope you’ll consider giving this month for our winter fund drive.
Meet Phillip Maciak, special correspondent for Dear TV.
What do you do and why?
I teach film studies, and I write for “Dear Television” at LARB because I’m lucky.
What is your favorite place to write/edit outside of your home?
I theoretically like to write at work, but whenever students come in for meetings they laugh at me because my office is so small. I’m told I will have a new, larger, office soon, but that utopian future is contingent upon the completion of a large construction project in my building, so I’m not optimistic. We spent part of this summer in Austin, TX, and I got a lot of writing done at a place called Thunderbird Coffee. Maybe that’s an uncool place, I don’t know. Either way, I got the last stamp on my coffee card the day we left, so look out Austin, I’ll be back in January, and I will be redeeming my free coffee.
What is your favorite thing to drink while writing/editing?
I drink coffee when I write. I shouldn’t.
NASA asks you to select one piece of art/literature/music/film to send into space that will explain our civilization to aliens. What do you chose and why?
Thanks, NASA! I would send The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. I’ve been singing parts of it over and over to my infant daughter to calm her down recently, and I am very bad at singing, so that suggests to me that there’s something about Pet Sounds that is good in a transcendent way, and the aliens will get it even if they don’t have ears or prefer The Beatles or something crazy like that. Also, my daughter is like a cute little alien, so that bodes well.
Share a cultural moment/experience you had in 2015 that you really enjoyed.
So, last February, my film seminar was reading a Jonathan Crary essay about subjective vision and the history of optics, which can occasionally be difficult material. And then, #TheDress happened, and it was like one of those ripped-from-the-headlines Law and Order episodes. Something stupid happens on Instagram, and then all of a sudden we’re participating in a national conversation about the science and psychology of color perception and re-connecting with a lost sense of visual wonder on our iPhones. I think a lot of people remember it as just another dumb internet thing like cats and cucumbers, but when’s the last time a meme got hundreds of thousands of people to read up on chromatic axes? (Also, it’s black and blue—open your eyes!)
Share a cultural moment/experience you had in 2015 that you really didn’t enjoy.
We saw Sleater-Kinney play at the Pagaent in St. Louis this April. I didn’t really enjoy that that show ended.
What is the one question you always wish people would ask in interviews? Now answer it!
Nobody wants to hear my ranked list of Elisabeth Moss reaction shots from Mad Men.