Archive for July, 2006

Radiating Optimism

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

SUNDAY, JULY 09, 2006 07:58 PM, EDT

I’m back. Kind of? Physically, I’m living it up in Chloe’s Middlebury bedroom. The AC is cranked, the new DVD player is hooked up and we’ve got a walkie-talkie lifeline to my downstairs “nurses.” At-home recovery is pretty similar to the hospital, except I get to sleep more than 4 consecutive hours between drug dosages and temperature checks. My big goal this weekend was to sit up to eat every meal. Sounds easy, right? Haha, not even close.

A few weeks ago, I got a note from my sister telling me that the daughter of one of her best friends had been operated on for a brain tumor. Casey is 25 and otherwise strong, the tumor was benign, and the surgery was thorough and successful, so the outlook is extremely positive.

In a follow-up yesterday, my sister let me know that Casey will be writing an online journal so that friends and family can track her recovery as she undergoes daily radiation treatments in Boston for the next six weeks.

One of the interesting things about this story is that the blog is appearing on a site called CaringBridge, a nonprofit organization that lets people in the midst of “significant life events” set up free Web sites designed to help them stay connected to family and friends. Huh — using the Web to make it possible and easy for people to share their stories. What a great idea.

The War Gets Personal

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

To all of you coming over today from HuffPo, welcome. Hope you’ll take a look around. In his post at HuffPo, our editor, Larry, was talking about “Shooting War,” our webcomic about a blogger covering the war in Iraq as imagined in the near future.

There is, sadly, a real war going on right now in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. And, like Shooting War’s hero, Jimmy Burns, there are bloggers in the middle of it. We here at SMITH are all about personal media, so we wanted to bring you some of the stories told by those experiencing the war right now. To that end, I’ve culled a few of the best I could find. (For a comprehensive list of bloggers covering the war, check out The Truth Laid Bear.)

After the jump, some of the voices we’ve chosen to feature here. Forgive the sentimentality, but you don’t want to miss these — just culling and posting them was heartwrenching.


SMITH Has Arrived

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

How do you know your online publication has arrived? My rule of thumb — you know you’ve arrived when the “MSM” starts stealing your stories.

Headline on today:

“Google’s unknown artist has huge following.”

SMITH, three months ago:

“Who Is… The Google Doodle Guy?”

Personally, I like our version better.

ALERT! Shooting War’s Lappé on the Radio

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Today, yes today, Shooting War’s creator (and young Josephine’s co-creator) Anthony Lappé will be on WNYC radio’s The Leonard Lopate Show generating heat about the hot new trend of dystopian literature … as seen in certain smokin’ hot webcomics (among other places in pop and high culture). Sitting in the radio booth with him will be JD Connor, a professor of cinema and literature at Harvard. If you’ve ever had a conversation with Anthony you know you’re guaranteed a passionate, smart and entertaining time—even when the topic’s all dark and dystopian. Check it out today at noon and later archived online here.

Wank and File

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

naughty america cap

I’m guessing that the guy in the RL-looking inset top right is the Naughty America member (”member” — heh, heh, get it?) piloting the avatar pictured at top left and in-scene shirtless in gray trousers. And I’m also guessing that the avatar pictured top left is pictured there so that the Naughty America member can keep an eye on the face he’s presenting to the redhaired avatar batting those heart-shaped balloons of love toward him. Aw.

This, of course, is from Naughty America: The Game, whose producers are threatening to launch this summer. “Get ready for the first multiplayer experience,” they say, “to boldly go where no game has gone before — to bed!”

Second Life, but with active genitals. To quote Paris Hilton (with some irony, of course), “That’s hot.”

Oh, and if you click on that link to the NA site? You might want to turn your sound off.

The Brooklynites

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Found via New York blog Gothamist, a project by two photographers who sought to document Brooklyn through the people who live in it, whether they’re famous, infamous, or just your average Brooklynite. (Everyone has a story.) They’ve brought Steve Buscemi back to the apartment where he grew up, gone out to the hot dog vendors on Coney Island and talked to hipsters in Williamsburg.

They explain:

For all the talk about how the city of Brooklyn is a place where the sinewy roots of a nation grew, it’s the sky that you first feel when you enter this borough. Driving over rivers, exiting the dimness of the subway on stone stairs-you enter-and it’s as if someone took an infinite, finely-honed, silver scythe and lopped off the concrete and steel to take back the firmament. An enormous sky broods each day, like a massive pestle, crushing the ingredients and rituals of hundreds of cultures into a mortar made of tar, grass, trees and iron.

Since June of 2004, we have been photographing and interviewing every type of person from nearly every neighborhood in the borough (we plan to include all neighborhoods). We approach people in the street who are intriguing. People whose work and lives we admire. People who are known to be proud Brooklynites. We usually ask the subjects to choose a location in Brooklyn that has some meaning to them. Anthony conducts a brief interview, asking the subject what they think makes Brooklyn special and then Seth completes a photo shoot.

Diaries - Old & New

Monday, July 17th, 2006

If you don’t live in or near NYC, you probably don’t get the excellent City Section of the NYT (it’s online, of course, but for some reason I myself much prefer to read it in print). My friends and I have taken to calling “the City the new Style Section” as Style tends to be tedious and lame and City tends to be fresh and soulful. Sunday’s City led with a long piece about a found diary, the property of a Ms. Florence Wolfson, a gift for her 14th birthday on Aug. 11, 1929. It was in this diary that she wrote about her life, every day, for five years. “Inside the worn leather cover,” writes the Times’ Lily Koppel, “in brief, breathless dispatches written on gold-edged pages, the journal recorded five years of the life and times of a smart and headstrong New York teenager, a girl who loved Balzac, Central Park and male and female lovers with equal abandon.”

What follows in this piece is a remarkable story of personal history—about a young woman and about the city of New York.

We love the intimacy of the diary form here at SMITH—and we love how the Web offers an immediacy with which those who choose to can share their private lives. As a part of our “My Diary” project, we’re showcasing four online journals of four people going through moments of personal transition. If you’re just joining us:

Brad is moving from the city to the suburbs.
Jason is finishing up his first year a high school teacher in Oakland, CA.
Cree has returned to New Orleans after the flood.
Frida is looking for love in Chicago.

Take a peek and let us know if you’re a Diary writer waiting to happen.

TONIGHT: Have a Beer With Shooting War’s Dan Goldman

Monday, July 17th, 2006

Come get steamy with us at a Midsummer Night’s Scene, an art+music happening in downtown NYC that SMITH comics editor JahFurry helped put together with the sweet+creative souls of The HappyCorp. Shooting War’s Dan Goldman will be one of seven artists showing his work at a funky space called L’asso. By “space” we mean “pizzeria,” which means they’ll be free pizza. And beer. Live music supplied by the legendary Cedric IM Brooks. It all goes down from 6-9pm.

Keep reading here for a full list of the artists. (more…)

Strong Women

Sunday, July 16th, 2006

Words and images from an awesome world of female muscle
by Kristen Kaye

Iron Maidens: The Celebration of the Most Awesome Female Muscle in the World chronicles my real-life exploits plunging into the world of women’s bodybuilding as the playwright and director of a theatrical extravaganza featuring 25 of the world’s strongest and most muscular women at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom. My job was to turn the one-night-only “Celebration of the Most Awesome Female Muscle in the World” into a high art happening that exalted women’s strength in both the physical and intellectual realms.

Although I was too naïve and young (23) to worry that I had only six weeks, little budget, and wouldn’t see the performers until two days before the show, I did start to get a bit concerned when I realized that my adaptations of writers like Alice Walker were going to follow skits like the “White Lace Affair,” featuring a smoke machine and a bodybuilder in a white lace thong bikini. I also began to wonder what, exactly, was the nature of female strength anyway? Could Alice Walker and the “White Lace Affair” come one right after the other? We would soon find out.

There was so much I didn’t know: for instance, the controversy over judging women’s bodies that threatens to split the sport in two (is it better to have muscles big and hard, or soft and feminine?); the effects of steroids (not good!); and what it’s like to wrestle men for a living (more common than you might think-and so readily available on video). But with performance night fast approaching there was no time to reconcile the tangle of contradictions-the show must go on. And on it went, evolving into the most complex, unbelievable expression of female strength I’d ever seen. Here are some excerpts from the book and images from the night of the show.

All photos by Bjorg Magnea. Captions by Kristin Kaye.

Linda Wood-Hoyte as Cleopatra posing with Marc Antony
On trying to plan the show:
“I lay back on my bed trying to imagine how the whole thing would turn out. I pictured a single spotlight on a black-clad actress reciting an Alice Walker poem. Then I saw Norman Rockwell’s poster of that scrawny little boy standing before a Mr. Atlas poster and wondered what image we could use for a girl. Was there one? A nice little homey scene, a bedroom, cozy lighting, a girl longing to have muscles, in front of her mirror? Should we start the show with that?”

Christa Bauch as the “Ice Princess”
On finding the essence of female bodybuilders:
“If I had to help these women offer the essence of their being and express the true voice of female power, then I first had to find it. Without actually seeing them until just before the show, I had to get each interviewee to reveal an aspect of herself that even she rarely glimpsed over the phone. I’d gotten the idea for the question I asked them from my conversation with [the show's producer] when she explained that I had to help the women transmit the magic of their femaleness. The question: ‘What is your femaleness?’ ”

Paula Suzuki in “Control”
Bodybuilder Dawn Whitham on “femaleness”:
“Everyone thinks having muscles destroys your femininity. My muscles make me hot. But femaleness and strength is not just a physical thing. It’s a combination. Mostly it’s just something you are. I’m very independent, smart, and business-like. I have a career. I’m a personal trainer. I can bench 400 pounds and fix my own car. I also ride a Harley. Sexy things and the mind can go together too.”

Hannie Van Aken as a “Biker”
On an oft-heard performance theme:
“Hot. She wanted to be hot. Who was I to say that wasn’t her true inner nature? What was I supposed to do as a director? Make her hotter? Advise for red lighting rather than pink? I didn’t know what to do. Wasn’t I supposed to come up with new images of female strength?”

Karla Nelson as “Miss America”
On the dilemma of the perfect female muscular physique:
“One hundred pounds and 500 cc breast implants later (giving her about a D-cup), Dawn found herself placing well in competitions, but outside the Top 5. Judges told her that her look was perfect, but her breasts were too big. She would fight with them about what the right size of breasts was, exactly, and found that flat-chested and big-breasted women alike were not considered winning material. Neither was considered an example of perfect symmetry.”

Doughdee Marie and Fritz perform a duet
On trying to plan the show:
“Standing before my show chart with 20 spots empty and five filled-White Lace Affair, Red Riding Hood, Biker Chick, Stripping Miss America, Lifter-I began to wonder was this really the voice of female power? Did stripping constitute strength? Could men be in the show, even if they did get beat up?”

Thea Bennington as “The Godfather”
Bodybuilder Dawn Whitham on reactions from others:
“A part of her got off on the attention-whether positive or negative-because at the end of the day she never wanted to be the person in the crowd whom nobody noticed. Most of the time she could hack it, but there were days when, say, she just wanted to go to the Stop ‘n’ Shop and get some half-and-half for her coffee, when a person with an ‘Oh my god, look at her!’ would tick her off. ‘I don’t get pissed about what I’ve done to my body. I get pissed about how unintelligent people can be reacting to it. You’d think by now the world could accept that everybody is different, but people are afraid to be different. At least allow others the freedom to push their own boundaries.’ ”

Colleene Colley setting a national lifting record at the show
On what it was like competing as a girl:
“Colleene had been a pioneer competing against boys at the age of 15 in 1980 in Georgia. She beat them, but felt guilty because she knew they were humiliated to be beaten by a girl. She started training with weights to make herself stronger for basketball, but found she had a natural gift for lifting, a gift that wasn’t nurtured at her own school. She had to go to a gym 23 miles away to train because when she went into the weight room at her high school, the boys’ weightlifting coach eyed her and warned, ‘I hope you don’t plan on lifting any weight.’ By 1993, Colleene had already won ten national titles and three world championships.’ ”

Paula Suzuki in “Control”
On seeing a group of female bodybuilders:
“One look at the group and you saw people reveling in being reunited. A second look, and you saw mythic images of strength. Literally larger than life, they seemed untouchable, powerful in being exceptions to the rule. Yet look again, and you saw the hint of nervous girlishness that lingered in their ever-ready smiles and eyes that quickly scanned each other’s bodies; you could have mistaken the scene for a high school bathroom on prom night.”

Millie Carter as herself
On industry reaction to female bodybuilders:
“To say female bodybuilders have “enjoyed” exposure might not be exactly accurate. Industry magazines and webzines have had a history of confusing female muscle with sexuality. In the August 2002 issue of the prominent bodybuilding magazine Muscular Development, Colette Nelson, the then two-time U.S. champion, was featured in an article called ‘Extreme Sex.’ The writer wanted to know what her favorite position was and whether anything was ‘off limits, like her ass.’ He also confirmed that Colette had a ‘hot, phat body primed for either pumping up or porking or both.’ Not all articles have such a provocative slant, but when journalists aren’t extolling the virtues of female muscle, they tend to debate its value.”

Paula Suzuki in “Control”
On fans at competitions:
“Crowds gather at bodybuilding competitions for the same reason that crowds gather at any other kind of event where something unique is on display: to view fine specimens that have been cultivated to rarefied levels. At the National Physique Committee Nationals in Miami in 2003, competitors could just as easily have been a fine porcelain dish at an antique auction or a cat in a cat show or a horse at the track. The crowd exhibited the same zeal for competition, obsession with sporting details, and passion for judging fairness. But instead of shiny, fluffy coats on cats with a refined skeletal structure or one-of-a-kind pieces of old china from a special collection with only a few remaining pieces in the world, bodybuilding fans happen to think perfectly proportioned bodies with exquisitely large and delineated muscles are next to godliness.”

Gabriella Szikszay as the “Egyptian Princess”
On female bodybuilding bonding:
“They were no longer anomalies toiling away alone in the world. Instead, there was a palpable sense of relief and jubilation in being united with others like themselves—and not under the mantle of a competition. Together, they were celebratory victors of their daily small battles with dieting and lifting that weight one more time, while wondering if they look like what the judges want and suffering people’s stares and remarks. Together, these women were a mighty clan.”

Who’s Your Daddy?

Sunday, July 16th, 2006

bush, baby

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