Archive for April, 2006

MySpace, Your Space, Our Space

Friday, April 28th, 2006

We’d like to hear your stories about MySpace—people you’ve met, weird encounters you’ve had, any good story you’ve stumbled upon about the amazing social networking playground. Since SMITH created its page—check it out here—we’ve met some great people, not all of whom have told us that “sexy hot Jewish chicks rule!” Cartoonist Ed Piskor found us, and we found his own trust-no one MySpace tale told, of course, in graphic novel form. It’s on his MySpace page, but also linked from his site.. And check out his video from a panel discussion at a MOCCA art exibit with Jonathan Lethem and Dan Clowes talking about the relationship of novels, comics, and film.

Herald Brodkey

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

More than many/most/any of his contemporaries, Harold Brodkey chewed on his own biography until it turned into a dense, sugarless mass. And few/no one of his critics have looked at his process and the result as acutely as Jonathan Baskin in a recent issue of Bookforum:

Other moments from Brodkey’s childhood—Doris’s cancer, Joe’s infidelity—play out over and over in Stories in an Almost Classical Mode, as they do throughout Brodkey’s oeuvre. In “Largely an Oral History of My Mother,” a narrator named Alan briefly remembers going as a boy to buy a car with his dad. Brodkey later expanded the story to some sixty pages in “Car Buying,” adding, for instance, that the father stopped to see his mistress on the way to the dealership. The addition of such information reconfigures Brodkey’s previous appraisal of the situation; the reader of both stories can never be sure where the author stands in relation to his material. This was exactly how Brodkey wanted it. In his best stories, ultimate meaning remains finally, and intentionally, elusive. Brodkey always leaves open the possibility that more material may be added at a later date: “A story is a brighter substance when it isn’t finished,” he once wrote, “when it is still hints and guesses, a family matter like a child’s face.”

The rest is here.

Participatory Media — Put Your Hands in the Air

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

The Economist says personal or participatory media is changing media and society in a major and profound way. We at SMITH have been calling using the term “personal media” and could not agree more.

Kurt Anderson says investors should give sites like us lots of money.

Meanwhile, Slate’s Sarah Hepola has picked a funny time to stop blogging. Doesn’t she know she’s at the cusp of society-changing millions?

SMITH contributor Patrick Sauer does.

Don’t Look! This is Private!

Monday, April 24th, 2006

I don’t often turn to the comics page for my philosophy, but in Blondie’s case I’m always willing to make an exception. I just happened to catch today’s strip, which goes back to the question I asked Friday:

Do we owe it to kids like this not to publish the things they’ve made so public because they may not have fully thought through the consequences?

In this particular Blondie strip, Dagwood asks his daughter what she’s doing on the computer. “Blogging my personal life on-line,” she replies, then quickly covers the screen, saying, “Daddy! Please! Don’t look! This is private!!”

It’s a good joke, but it’s also got quite a bit of insight about those of us in the Internet storytelling generation: we willingly post everything about our lives to the most public of media, then expect that certain people will just not look.

At this point, I think it takes personal experience to truly comprehend the insane duality that is this public/private expectation; I wonder if there’ll come a point at which the public at large will wake up to it, and what the effect on this kind of online journal-keeping will be.

MySpace Saves Lives—and SMITH Digs Up Poetic Dirt

Friday, April 21st, 2006

No, seriously.

If you haven’t heard yet, authorities in Kansas say they’ve foiled a plan for a Columbine-style school shooting—because of MySpace. Apparently one of the five teenagers planning the attack posted about it on MySpace, and discussed it with a woman living in North Carolina, who let police know.

After the jump, read a poem written by one of the people I believe has been arrested in the case.


Rock the Boat, Rock the Vote: New Orleans Diary, Chapter 2

Friday, April 21st, 2006

Just in time for the historic New Orleans mayoral election, SMITH’s own Cree McCree unfurls Chapter 2 of her Diary, Back Home in New Orleans. Here’s a little taste.

When we came back home after two months of post-K exile in Asheville, North Carolina (which ain’t exactly the Superdome), most of the plants we’d dragged inside were dead. But our lucky “money” plant was still alive. And, more importantly, so was Tig — the outdoor cat we’d left behind, who reappeared miraculously right after I stopped searching for him online at (”Moron!” he meowed. “I’m out here, on the deck!”)

SMITH Diaries: Back In New Orleans

Friday, April 21st, 2006

Chapter 2: Life on the Strip in the New Normal

Check out Chapter 1 here.

On the eve of the historic mayoral election, our correspondent still isn’t sure which way she’s swinging, but says it takes more than a flood to break the spirit of the cats in her many hats.
By Cree McCree

Cree McCree left New York for NOLA in August, 2001, escaped NOLA during the flood, has returned, where she has picked up her life as a flea market entrepreneur, costumier, and assemblage artist. She is a contributing editor at High Times magazine and a frequent contributor to

MARDIS GRAS HAS COME AND GONE, along with the St. Patrick’s Day parade (both Uptown and Downtown versions), the Italian parade, the Irish-Italian parade, the towering food altars of St. Joseph’s Day, and a scaled-down version of the Mardi Gras Indians’ annual St. Joseph walkabout. So for a brief period between now and the big French Quarter Fest that immediately precedes Jazzfest, things are pretty much back to (ab)normal in New Orleans, or the New Normal, as Times-Picayune columnist and rising national media star Chris Rose calls it.

For me, the New Normal is life on The Island (as Chris calls it), which I like to call The Strip: the high and dry band of land right next to the Mississippi River, stretching from the far reaches of the Bywater and Marigny through the Quarter and all the way Uptown, which for the most part escaped major flooding and remains more or less intact.

Less is the operative word, even in The Strip: Home mail delivery happens one or twice a week if you’re lucky (and no magazines at all in the still-forbidden 701 zip zones of Orleans Parish). Garbage pick-up (maybe) once a week if you’re very lucky. No recycling until probably forever (and it still feels weird throwing bottles and cans and papers away with the boiled shrimp shells). Lots of traffic lights are still out, replaced by the ubiquitous four-way stops where distracted drivers glued to their insurance adjusters on mobiles bump and grind their way to meetings with their contractors. Stores and restaurants are open but with limited hours, scaled-back menus, and skeleton staffs. Translation: you can’t make a 10pm beer run to Sav-A-Center, or get a pizza delivered from Rocky’s, or pay for breakfast with plastic at Slim’s.

But these are minor inconveniences. Our place, House of Boo (named for the cats that rule our roost) was only grazed by Katrina’s winds and not victimized by the Army Corps of Bunglers, whose man-made levee breaches flooded most of the town. We didn’t even have to toss out a moldy refrigerator to fester in the streets, thanks to the foresight of my husband, Donald — who may be the only person in New Orleans who emptied the fridge of food before evacuating. (Donald also put “Terrorist Target” high on his list of reasons to leave New York City for New Orleans, where we moved into our house on August 11, 2001. But that’s another story.)

When we came back home after two months of post-K exile in Asheville, North Carolina (which ain’t exactly the Superdome), most of the plants we’d dragged inside were dead. But our lucky “money” plant was still alive. And, more importantly, so was Tig — the outdoor cat we’d left behind, who reappeared miraculously right after I stopped searching for him online at (”Moron!” he meowed. “I’m out here, on the deck!”) Everything else was exactly the way we’d left it — not a speck of mold besmirched our artwork or Donald’s extensive collection of avant books and records or my stock of vintage clothes and costumes — which would soon help me spawn my most successful season ever as a Mardi Gras costumier.

So am I wracked with survivor guilt? You bet; though I swore off Calvinism years ago, there’s still an inner Methodist that says I don’t deserve my good fortune. But I also know that what Donald and I do — make music, make art, and keep the underground economy bubbling with flea markets and community sales — is a vital part of the recovery process. I also believe that those of us who don’t have to spend our energy gutting our houses have that much more to give to a city that’s given so much to us.

What’s astonishing is that people who are gutting their houses are right there in the trenches with us. The vast majority of my friends and fellow artists, even those who lost everything, are back in town and rebuilding their lives. There’s Brett, who made a harrowing escape from Mid-City at the height of the shoot-and-loot insanity and not only lived to tell the tale but is making it in into poetry. Wendy, a UNO communications prof who salvaged nothing from her Lakeview home and is staying sane by teaching a meta-class in post-K narratives and baking up a storm in her Uptown rental. Jimmy and Sue Ford, who gutted the first two floors of their flooded house to accommodate a home elevator for their two wheelchair-bound teenage sons, who suffer from muscular dystrophy — and didn’t let the heavy labor slow them down. Sue still rocked the Muses parade as the leader of the all-girl Mardi Gras band Pink Slip, Jimmy still served as Grand Marshal for the Lyons Marching Club, and the Fords still hosted a Mardi Gras bash for out-of-town friends in their new, vastly improved digs. That’s the thing about rebuilding; as long as you gotta do it, you might as well do it right.

“Everyone has a story” is true to the nth power in post-K New Orleans, and I’m going to try to bring you as many of those stories as possible as the weeks and the months go on, along with my personal take on the bigger picture. With so much at stake here, the big picture really does matter.

And I still don’t know who is getting my vote for mayor.

Next chapter: The harrowing misadventures of Mid-City poet Brett Evans and his fellow “Cavalier Assholes,” who were too hungover to evacuate … and got swept into Waterworld.

Previously: Check out Chapter 1 here.

Giants Robots! Exploding Rockets! Satan! The Amazing Maker Faire

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

DIYers, storytellers, craftspeople, artists, and others who dig the smart, weird, and sublime will be salivating over the offerings at Make magazine’s first ever Maker Faire, this weeekend (April 22-23), in San Mateo, CA. Just clicking through the list of panels, events, and speakers is enough to make a NYC-locked guy start clicking on Jet Blue for a flight west. Just bumbling around the site, I found the coolest photobooth project ever, torch-blowing firetruck, and FM radio station-making workshop.

Here’s a blurb from the Makers:

We are absolutely blown away by the people and attractions we’ll have at the Faire: a flying Pterosaur replica, a flock of whale blimps, a giant painting machine, DIY RFID implants, model rocketry, breadboarding, trailer-glass blowing, The Crucible’s welding workshops off the back of a fire truck, pinhole photography, soldering, spud gun building, bubble machines and a bubble guy that appeared on Johnny Carson in the 1970s, Bunnie Huang, Joe Grand, William Gurstelle and his Backyard Ballistics, The Exploratorium, Zeum, The Lunar Society (rocket builders), Graffiti Research Lab, Squid Labs, biodiesel, electric cars, a Linux supercomputer cluster running on veggie oil, neon art, circuit bending, VJs, slide rules, pinball restoration, the Phenomenauts, Satan’s Calliope…and much, much more. Quite an eclectic collection. That’s not to mention Diana Eng of Bravo’s “Project Runway” or the 50 craft booths in Bazaar Bizarre or the Swap-O-Rama-Rama clothing swap.

Salon Goes All Wiki on Me (a Daddy Dilemma Exposed!)

Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

Welcome anyone who heard me on WHYY, a Philly public radio station close to my heart as I grew up listening to it, and the host mentioned SMITH magazine a few glorious times. That’s brotherly love from Marty Moss-Coane, baby!

We were talking about Salon’s Maybe Baby book, and the essay I wrote about my own daddy dilemma. The essay, excerpted on Salon, catapulted me into my own up close and personal taste of participatory journalism. See, Salon lets anyone publish a letter. It’s a, well, baby step version of the well-documented disaster that was the wikitorial experiment at the L.A. Times. After the story ran along with an interview my editor did with my girl and I, the letters poured in.. For example…

jeez, what a wimp
maybe intellectuals shouldnt have kids if they are going to overthink everything, the longer she holds off, the harder and more expensive its might be to have a baby.

And got better and better. (more…)

Graphic Novel = Wallpaper

Monday, April 17th, 2006

It’s no secret that New Yorkers (and way too many others in the world) are obsessed with real estate, and I gladly admit to heading to said section of the New York Times before, say, reading the latest on the op-ed page from the Public Editor (forgive me Bill Keller, for I have sinned). I actually care less than I should about property values, but the Times’ Real Estate section is full of personal histories and the stories behind where people live and why they live that way—these pages are rich.

Take this kid Loren Kreiss, heir to some fancy furniture business I admittedly have never heard of. He’s profiled in the most recent “Habitats,” a column about people who live in places the rest of us cannot afford, but we shouldn’t hate these people too much as they’ve done something interesting and/or outlandish with their space. Kreiss has decorated his digs using images from a graphic novel he wrote called The Artifact and the Manipulated Living, and is creating wallpaper for other clients in a similar spirit. How cool is that? (By the way, we’ve got some graphic novel news of our own; sign up for our email newsletter at the top right-hand corner of this page and find out first … before we tell the Real Estate section.)

As long as we’re not quite yet reading the Week in Review, we turn our attention to the Style section, where friend of SMITH and all-around slam-dunk-delight Shoshana Berger is featured with her lucky-duck dude Tony Saxe on the wedding pages. Shoshana’s the founder and editor of ReadyMade, a magazine that is to DIY artists and craftsmakers what SMITH aims to be for storytellers. To Shana & Tony we say: Mozel Tov! Big ups! Nameste! Salut! That’s a damn fine ding dong wedding cake!

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