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Monday, May 16, 2011
92Y Culture Klatsch: Q&A With Steven Levy

imageSteven Levy, a senior writer at Wired and author of In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, is the latest subject for Culture Klatsch, our new interview series focusing on the subjects’ media and culture diet.

Levy will be at 92YTribeca on May 25 with Steve Lohr, reporter at The New York Times, and David Kirkpatrick author of The Facebook Effect, for a panel discussion about Facebook and Google.

The companies are shaping up to be the greatest frenemies of this decade, as witnessed by the latest kerfuffle, which involved Facebook hiring a PR firm to place damaging stories about Google in the press. Fast Company called it an ”epic, escalating war.”

Without further adieu, here’s 92Y Culture Klatsch with Steven Levy:

Where do you go for news when you start your day?

I get The New York Times and WSJ on my Kindle. I used to get the printed Times, but I’m traveling a lot and the Kindle version follows me around, so I forgo the newsprint. After scanning those, I dive into the web.  My Twitter feed gives me a good selection of links. Hacker News, TechCrunch and Techmeme provide the tech lowdown. Romanesko and MediaGazer cover media stuff.

What are your favorite websites?

Besides  I go all over, but often find myself on (my hometown),, Baseball Prospectus, and the music sites Captains Dead, Cover Me, and Aquarium Drunkard.

How much do you use Twitter and Facebook (or other social networking services)?

As I mentioned before, Twitter is really useful, a combination of first-alerts and a curated news magazine. It’s also a good way to see how actual readers are responding to my stuff. I also use Facebook, but as my friend list expands, it actually becomes less valuable. I have no time and patience to tweak it for a better experience. But it is a good way to keep track of my son’s rugby games and the random activities of friends, colleagues and people I hardly know.

What book are you currently reading (or the last one you read)? Print or digital?

I’m reading Jim Gleick’s The Information in print and Charles Portis’ Masters of Atlantis on e-book. 

What magazines do you subscribe to?

I always take the New Yorker, and other current subscriptions include New York, Business Week and Baseball America. When I travel I often buy a copy of Mojo.

What are your current (or all time) favorite television shows?

Really enjoyed “Justified” and can’t wait for the “Breaking Bad” new season. My wife and I usually watch “The Daily Show” and “Colbert.” My guilty pleasure is “Chase,” which is a really cheesy show where the bad guys are really bad. It reminds me of “Walker, Texas Ranger” which is another show that was totally entrancing without disturbing a single brain cell.

What’s the last movie you saw?

Last time in a movie theater, was “True Grit,” I guess. Can’t get enough of the Coen Brothers. Recently I was in a hotel room scanning for a good Netflix movie and I stumbled on a Belgian-made animated film called “A Town Called Panic.” Apparently it had been a cartoon series on European television. It was awesomely inventive and utterly hilarious. 

What’s the last performance (dance/opera/theater) you attended?

I think it was the current production of Stoppard’s Arcadia, which was good, but not up to the version several years back. Before that, I saw Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities at Lincoln Center and loved the performances.

What’s the last music purchase you made?

After I saw My Morning Jacket at Terminal 5 last year (and my ears stopped ringing) I bought all the stuff of theirs I didn’t have. More recently, I bought a CD by a duo called The Civil Wars and the Mavis Staples record she did with Jeff Tweedy, which I liked but was not as gritty as the one she did with Ry Cooder.

What radio shows or podcasts do you listen to?

This American Life, of course.

What’s your favorite piece of art on display in your home?

An amazing seascape photograph by DoDo Jin Ming.

Where do you go / what do you do to “disconnect”?

I have a place in Western Massachusetts where I wrote most of In The Plex. In NYC you often don’t know someone who’s living a couple hundred feet away from you. Down our unpaved road, if someone moves in a half mile away, it’s big news. Totally different scale.

Hear more from Mr. Levy on May 25 at 92YTribeca with David Kirkpatrick and Steve Lohr for Facebook vs. Google: Allies or Enemies? Tickets are available here.

Previous 92Y Culture Klatsch Q&As, aka The (Tentatively Named) 92Y Culture Diet Q&A:

  • The (Tentatively Named) 92Y Culture Diet Q&A With Constance Rosenblum
  • The (Tentatively Named) 92Y Culture Diet Q&A With Tom Blunt
  • The (Tentatively Named) 92Y Culture Diet Q&A With Tom Feyer
  • Introducing The (Tentatively Named) 92Y Culture Diet Q&A

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