Thanks for joining us, illmitch. Tell us about growing up. What was your family like? what were you like as a kid?
I was born in Oakland, CA (my parents met at a San Francisco Giants playoff game, and I was named after a combination of Kevin Mitchell and Mitch Richmond), but moved to Lawrence when I was 2, and grew up with a single mom. I was a pretty nerdy kid, especially with fantasy - I started out reading a lot of Greek and Nordic mythology and then progressed to the Lord of the Rings in grade school and just took off from there. I started Game of Thrones in 5th grade and got into Dungeons and Dragons around that time too.
I got into politics from a pretty early age too. I come from an extremely liberal family, and the 2000 Bush-Gore election was a pretty pivotal factor in my interests in politics (ironically, in a mock election we held in grade school, I convinced a majority of my classroom to vote for Nader). I first got heavily into music around the same time – although I had been into stuff like Green Day, Third Eye Blind, Rage Against the Machine, and Beck growing up, my first real “favorite band” was the Beatles around 5th grade or so.
What kind of things were you into during high school?
I’d say my top 2 interests in high school were music and politics. I listened to a pretty wide variety of music in high school – I started out primarily listening to underground metal and hardcore punk, but ended up getting into indie folk, reggae, dance music, hip hop, and more (I could probably fill up an entire post documenting my taste in music and how it’s changed from year to year, or even month to month). As far as politics are concerned, like I mentioned I’ve always been fairly left-wing thanks to my family, but in high school I became interested in socialism and anarchism, and was actually a founding member of my high school’s Young Socialists’ Club (no idea if it still exists). Despite that I was somehow pretty popular, and got involved in Student Council – I was junior and senior class president, and managed to get voted to prom court my senior year.
What made you choose KU?
Growing up in Lawrence, if you’re one of the “smart kids” – i.e., you got placed in the gifted program, and took a lot of A.P. classes – there’s kind of a sentiment that smart kids from Lawrence don’t pick KU. I felt that way early on, and was primarily interested in a few small liberal arts schools. Later, however, I ended up getting a full ride to KU, and once I had decided on my major (Linguistics), I already knew the heads of my department thanks to going to high school with their kids, and thus it was pretty easy to commit.
How and when did you find RCT?
I think it was my sophomore year (’09-’10) and I was trying to find something to distract myself with during an Arabic class. I was looking up news on KU sports, and found a series of RCT articles on the outlook of different KU football positions (you can insert your own joke about Turner Gill, or the irony of finding a KU sports site from posts on football, here). I ended up really liking both the community and the strength of the content, and decided to start participating later on.
If you aren't already, I encourage everyone to follow illmitch on twitter . One thing I've enjoyed has been your piano videos. How long have you been into piano?
I got forced by my mother to start playing piano when I was about 6 (I think). One of the strengths of the place I learned to play piano at (Lawrence Piano Studio) was that it focused on group classes (with up to 10 students). So, instead of having individual piano lessons as a 6-year old, I was in a group class with a lot of my best friends, and I think that’s one thing that helped me stick with it. I’m now 26, so I’ve been playing piano for roughly 20 years, although I stopped taking formal lessons when I finished high school.
I have it in my head that you said on the site you studied abroad during college. If so, what was that experience like?
Yes, as a part of the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship I studied abroad in Morocco during the summer of 2010. It was fantastic. I had a different experience from a lot of study abroad programs in that I didn’t take classes at a local university; rather, the State Department hired native teachers to teach intensive day-long classes at a site reserved for the program. While I didn’t have the same leeway to travel or freedom to mess around, I learned a ton (and being on scholarship helped, too).
Morocco is an absolutely amazing country, and I highly recommend traveling there. I stayed in Rabat, the capital, for a couple weeks, but spent the majority of my time in Tangier, one of the largest cities, and certainly one of the most metropolitan areas thanks to its close geographic proximity to Spain (indeed, while I was there Spain won the World Cup, and we could hear the celebration in Spain from across the Straits of Gibraltar). We traveled around a decent amount, although only for weekends, as we had class Monday through Friday. My most memorable experience is probably our weekend in Chefchaouen – it’s located in the Rif mountains, and the architecture and landscape there is just incredible.
What do you do for work now?
I teach piano. I’m currently searching for new jobs, particularly something where I can use my Arabic skills.
What has been your greatest success and biggest regret?
Greatest success – Finishing graduate school. I started grad school at Michigan immediately following my undergrad at KU, and while I sometimes felt at a disadvantage going straight to grad school without taking time off, I still managed to do well and graduated with a good GPA.
Greatest regret – Neglecting to do an internship. As I’ve looked into the government contracting industry, in hindsight I feel I would be in a much better position had I interned somewhere in graduate school.
If a RCTer came to visit you, what would you do and where would you take that person?
I’d probably start them off with lunch at one of Sacramento’s many great taquerias. You can probably pick a random spot in Sacramento, throw a rock, and find fantastic Mexican food. Grab some tacos and a Jarritos and you’re good to go. After that, let’s take a walk to the gorgeous Capitol Park (there’s actually a statue modelled after my dad there, but that’s a story for another day), and maybe check out historic Old Sacramento. The new Kings arena is currently under construction but is set to open this fall, so there’s always that too. Afterwards, I’d head to a local barbecue joint, Tankhouse, for dinner. They’ve got some amazing dirty tots with cheese sauce and pulled pork, a nice selection of craft beer, and also a special where you can get a bucket of 6 Hamms for $10. If you’re still feeling up for it, there’s a great assortment of bars within a mile radius.
Anything else we might not know about you?
My Twitter was mentioned earlier, but believe it or not that’s actually become a pretty significant part of my life. I’ve had a Twitter since 2009, but didn’t start getting super “into it” until I was in grad school. Since then, I’ve found my way into a number of different communities there, and today a lot of my best friends are people I’ve met through there. Some follow recommendations - @BauceSauce, @SquidDad, @YungCostanza, @TopShelfTyson, @PlagueLovers, and @ohfarrell.
Where do you live: Sacramento, CA
Facial hair: 5 o’clock shadow to full beard
Any pets: I don’t have any myself, but my parents have 2 Boston terriers, a very old mutt, and a cat
What kind of car do you drive: Ancient volvo
Corrective lenses: Glasses. I’m physically incapable of putting in contacts
Hair style: Short-ish with some bangs
Favorite movie: The Godfather
Favorite tv show: Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Favorite beer or thing to drinkFounders Breakfast Stout
Favorite band: Three-way tie between The Mountain Goats, Swans, and the Smiths
Favorite food: Pulled pork/brisket combo from Arthur Bryants
Favorite non KU team: Michigan football
All time favorite KU player: Thomas Robinson
First concert: GWAR
First w-2 job: Assistant piano teacher at Lawrence Piano Studio
Best athlete seen play live: Demarcus Cousins
Favorite dinosaur when you were a kid: Deinonychus