Archive for April, 2006

Squidoo — Everyone has a speciality

Monday, April 10th, 2006

I just stumbled across Squidoo (with a little help from friend of SMITH and risk expert Denise Caruso), a new personal media site currently in beta-land. Here individuals build “lenses” based on topics of their own personal and professional expertise, from the heady to the practical to the guilty and pleasurable. Think of the site as a more democratic (and I sense somehow also more rarified), and another link to a Web built by the people, for the people, one tentacle at a time.

Miracles & Co.

Monday, April 10th, 2006

Levitation by Joan Fontcuberta

An exhibition at the Zabriskie Gallery of photographs by Joan Fontcuberta.

“Isolated by perpetual fog and the labyrinthine islands of Lake Saimaa, Valhamönde is a small monastic community that is interdenominational and ecumenist. It is a place where monks from all walks of religions come to master miracles, from the “classics” like levitation and weeping blood to the newest postmodernist ones, like dolphin-surfing. Run by the Esoteric Society of Karelia, Valhamönde in the last millennium has produced “awakenings” in such notable students as Rasputin and L. Ron Hubbard.”

This Is the Headline for the Item That Follows, Which Is About Headlines

Sunday, April 9th, 2006

One of the pleasures of working at a magazine or newspaper is writing display type — the headline and the explanatory bit that follows, known as the dek. (One of my favorite heds of all time ran above a fashion-week profile of the New York Times’s style editor: Me So Horyn.)

But technology, it seems, may be taking some of that fun away. The Week in Review section of today’s NYT has an interesting piece by Steve Lohr about how search engines — and the desire to rank high in any search results — are changing the way some journalists are billing their work.

So news organizations large and small have begun experimenting with tweaking their Web sites for better search engine results. But software bots are not your ordinary readers: They are blazingly fast yet numbingly literal-minded. There are no algorithms for wit, irony, humor or stylish writing. The software is a logical, sequential, left-brain reader, while humans are often right brain. In newspapers and magazines, for example, section titles and headlines are distilled nuggets of human brainwork, tapping context and culture. “Part of the craft of journalism for more than a century has been to think up clever titles and headlines, and Google comes along and says, ‘The heck with that,’ ” observed Ed Canale, vice president for strategy and new media at The Sacramento Bee.

Screw it, it’s Friday.

Friday, April 7th, 2006

If you’re like me, you’re just counting down the hours to freedom — you don’t really want to read anything intellectual, do you?


Now, I may be the only person to find this hilariously funny, but I doubt it. So for your viewing pleasure, I bring you one of the funniest viral videos since the Numa Numa Dance: the Chinese Backstreet Boys.

Admit it. You liked it.

How Many in Your Party?

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

How to eat sushi.

Breaking Up Is Very Hard to Do

Thursday, April 6th, 2006


Back when AOL (please don’t call it America Online) was carpet-bombing the country with floppy disks and CDs promising hours of online goodness, a lot of people found it easier to simply sign up for the service than to grapple with the slightly more complicated task of copying and pasting server IP addresses into an email client like, say, Eudora. Eventually, though, many of these subscribers gained some measure of cyberconfidence and decided it was time to move beyond the confines of AOL’s moated castle.


Anyone who has ever tried to let the folks there know that, um, they just weren’t that into AOL anymore knows how hard it is to get off the phone. My own conversation with the tech who was unfortunate enough to catch my call ended abruptly — but only after some 15 minutes of my insisting that AOL (required by a job I was leaving) no longer met my needs.

The point of all this is that there is/was actually a page on (who knew?) where you could say sayonara without the tedium of a phone call. But as Marah Marie relates, good luck finding it.

The Reason It’s Called “Viral” Marketing

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always enjoyed watching companies trying to be “hip” only to fall flat on their collective asses. There’ve already been plenty of examples of user-generated content gone awry — the Los Angeles Times‘ “Wikitorial” experiment comes to mind — and yet some bold (misguided?) souls still try their hand at it.

The latest example is General Motors, which as part of a contest co-sponsored by the Apprentice asked users to create their own commercials for the Chevy Tahoe SUV. Seemed like a good idea to someone, I guess – look hip, get people to your website and avoid paying an advertising company all at the same time.

Didn’t quite work that way. Instead of creating ads to make the SUV and company look good, some users turned the ads into a forum on GM’s part in causing global warming, while others protested the war in Iraq and some just made their negative feelings on the SUV plain. Oh, the irony.

End Times

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

Apocalypse Now

Babies (actually, kids three and younger) are also the focus of an amazing show by photographer Jill Greenberg at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery in L.A. The show runs from April 22 to May 27, but you can see the chilling portraits online here.

“I love the raw emotion of children,” Greenberg explains, “because it comes close to the anger and helplessness I feel about our current political and social situation.”

Please Baby Please Baby Please Baby Please

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

I can’t help but invoke the inimitable mating call of Mars Blackmon, the greatest Spike Lee character (in She’s Gotta Have It, which turns 20 this year), as I hype a new anthology Maybe Baby: 28 Writers Tell the Truth About Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness, Ambivalence, and How They Made the Biggest Decision of Their Lives. The book was birthed by Lori Leibovich, based on a series she edited on Salon. My own indecision over daddyhood is among the essays by Rick Moody, Lauren Slater, Neal Pollack, the always delightful Rebecca Traister, and Joe Loya (one terrific storyteller; have you read his book about robbing banks and doing time?). Kathryn Harrison’s essay, “Cradle to Grave,” about the mental and physical balancing act of raising her newborn and caring for her ninetysomething grandmother blew me out of the water. Lori, Kathryn, and myself will hash all this out today at noon (EST) on WNYC radio’s Leonard Lopate Show .

Here’s the essay.

Piper and I interviewed about our baby dilemma in Salon.

Bloggers Able to Leap Tall Buildings in a Single Bound?

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

Okay, I’ll admit it: I was more than a little skeptical about the power of blogs and bloggers to change the world. I’ll even confess to laughing openly about Instapundit Glenn Reynolds’ new book and its hyper-inflated title, An Army of Davids : How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths.

But in the past couple weeks, I’ve begun to believe. (Sorry for the hackneyed Morpheus paraphrase — I just couldn’t resist.)

Even following MySpace news as much as I do, I was still surprised to learn that the recent massive student protests against new immigration laws were organized, at least in part, on that site.

From the Los Angeles Times:

For the small group of students who instigated the walkouts, most of whom hadn’t been politically active but were well-connected on campus and online, it was a transformative week.

Using modern technology — mostly their communal pages on the enormously popular MySpace website — they pulled off an event with surprising speed and dexterity. Planned in mere hours on little sleep, lacking any formal organization, the protests were chaotic and decentralized and organic.

We sometimes focus solely on the social networking aspect of the social networking sites — unsurprising, that — but forget that social networking can be more than just meeting new friends and finding cute singles; it can be a tool to organize like-minded people towards a cause, and young savvy activists like these are waking up to that possibility.

Then there’s Ben Domenech.