Archive for September, 2006

Josh Wolf Going Back to Jail

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Bad news out of California: videoblogger Josh Wolf appears headed back to jail after a three-judge panel revoked his bail. (He was out pending appeal.) He has to report tomorrow afternoon. Details in the San Francisco Chronicle.

For more info, and to donate to his legal fund, check out his blog.

YouTube, And A Lack Of Common Sense

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Seems everyone’s getting into the act — from Newsvine comes a report that the government plans to upload anti-drug advertisements to YouTube.

The decision to distribute anti-drug, public service announcements and other videos over YouTube represents the first concerted effort by the U.S. government to influence customers of the popular service, which shows more than 100 million videos per day.

The administration was expected to announce the decision formally on Tuesday. It said it was not paying any money to load its previously produced videos onto YouTube’s service, so the program is effectively free.

“If just one teen sees this and decides illegal drug use is not the path for them, it will be a success,” said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for the drug office.

Just one problem — it’s already been proven that these ads, when they appeared on television, didn’t work, and were in fact counterproductive. Oops.

Barking Up the Right Tree

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Pika.jpgI’m just back from The Future of Web Apps, an inspirational conference in San Francisco about the technology that’s the backbone of what many refer to as Web 2.0 — shorthand for community rich, user-driven, and, one hopes, more economically grounded than the last boom (Flickr is a great, oft-cited example). For folks like us trying to create a new kind of magazine — one that’s community driven yet still guided by professional editors — it was pure manna. A personal highlight was seeing my old friend Ted Rheingold deliver a presentation on building passion-centric communities, like the one he founded, (which was followed by, as well as places like Deviant Art, Craftster and Cats That Look Like Hitler (always a crowd pleaser).

People who know me know that I believe in my friends. When their projects are smart, fun and heartfelt there’s no chance you can get me to shut up about them. This means, for one, I wear my Dogster shirt all the time. As such, people are prone to looking me up and down and asking, “Hey man, what’s Dogster? I tell them it’s a user-driven community of dog lovers. Reply: “Oh, like Friendster for Dogs.” Quick, unnuanced answer: “Yes.” At that point people either nod their head as if to say, “I’m down with that,” or maybe chuckle and walk away, though sometimes smirk and wait for me to defend and/or explain it. To the smirkers I say: Dogster has 10 employees in a fun office in San Francisco and is making a lot of people, and dogs, happy. And after two and a half years working like, on and for the dogs, the company just raised a million dollars in order to keep building the biz and keep connecting people to their passions. If those passions have paws, then more power to them. Read about how Ted and his crew are getting the dogs out in The New York Times here.

Smith Come Lately

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Who is SMITH?

We think it’s us, a magazine about storytelling in its many shapes and forms.

CBS thinks it’s a mysterious criminal mastermind leading a band of bad guys trying to pull off a few more jobs before retiring to a nice boring life (though how can that plotline ever get better than Sexy Beast?). While a prime-time drama (by the guy who made ER and the West Wing, no less) would seem to have little in common with a magazine steeped in personal storytelling (save for the fact that I put our SMITH sticker on the ubiquitous “Who is Smith?” posters that seem to be popping up everywhere and probably cost more to make then this site spends in a year), in fact we have at least things in common:

1. The perspective of Smith is from point of view of the criminals. SMITH’s point of view is from the little guy’s looking up, or the “chicken-eye view.”

2. Both have excellent casts. Smith has Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, Jonny Lee Miller, and a killer supporting crew. SMITH has Tim Barkow, John House, Alex Koppelman, and a killer team.

3. Both offer compelling storylines full of surprising characters. I received a DVD of the pilot, which was a bit scratched but actually very good (from what I could tell). There’s a character named Jeff who is officially the world’s least Zen surfer. You will love him.

4. As one reviewer explained, “Every line of dialogue, every glance, every moment of silence, is loaded with meaning and intent, yet the pilot never feels slow or overstuffed, despite its long runtime.” SMITH knows how he feels about a long run time. (It’s late and I’m in bed on my laptop).

5. There’s that name.

Smith debuts tonight, some nine months after SMITH. The official site is here. Write in to CBS and ask them to advertise on this site. C’mon Smith, throw us a bone.

Lonelygirl Speaks

Monday, September 18th, 2006

No, not in that way — this time it’s not “Lonelygirl” or “Bree” speaking, but Jessica Rose, the actress who plays her. MTV has an interview with her; it’s here.

And, just to add to the confusion, “Lonelygirl” is still posting. Today “she” reveals that she’s had her first kiss, with “Daniel.” Scandal! Dish, honey, dish.

Finally, Common Sense on YouTube

Monday, September 18th, 2006

I wrote last week that Universal was threatening to sue YouTube for copyright violations; as I pointed out at the time, Universal probably has a case, but it’s one that strikes me as silly, even self-defeating.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so, as Warner Music today announced that it will be distributing its videos over the site, and — in what I think is the best, and most forward-thinking part of the plan — giving its blessing to any users who want to use music from Warner Music artists in their own videos.

The Financial Times reports:

Warner Music has agreed to make its library of music videos available to YouTube, marking the first time that an established record company has agreed to make its content library available to the user-generated media company.

Under the agreement, YouTube users will have full access to videos from Warner artists. They will also be permitted incorporate material from those videos into their own clips, which are then uploaded to YouTube. Warner and YouTube will share advertising revenue sold in connection with the video content. …

Sunday’s deal will coincide with the rollout by YouTube of a new filtering technology designed to monitor content from partners like Warner across its site. That technology will help determine royalties for artists and other rights holders. It will also allow YouTube to remove user-generated clips based on Warner material that the company deems offensive.


Saturday, September 16th, 2006

If the weather holds (and it’s certainly shaping up to be a lovelier Saturday than the forecasters expected), I’m thinking of heading down to the Conflux Festival in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Conflux, if you don’t know, is “the annual NYC festival for contemporary psychogeography.” And psychogeography, as I think you can be excused for not knowing, is “the investigation of everyday urban life through emerging artistic, technological and social practice.” Like classic punk rock, psychogeography is influenced by Situationism.

I see that I have already missed the meeting of the “Smell Committee,” which occurred yesterday at 2pm. But if I hurry, I can still make the “Wayward Plant Registry,” a “City Reliquary Museum Tour,” and a talk entitled “Killing the Fathers, or: If You Meet Jane Jacobs On The Road…”

I might just drop everything and go, and if I do, I will report back to you.

Conflux is headquartered out of the McCaig-Welles Gallery at 129 Roebling Street in Williamsburg. Their website is

Better Elections Through Video

Friday, September 15th, 2006

Sorry the Friday video’s a little late this week — if you must know, it’s because I’m still in mourning over a certain loss of innocence.

Speaking of losses of innocence, this week’s video is just about guaranteed to make you lose faith in the security and sanctity of American elections. If you haven’t already heard about it, it’s a video made by researchers at Princeton who’ve documented just how easy it is to hack into the voting machines made by the infamous Diebold. What makes this SMITH-relevant, I think, is the sheer genius of the idea — not the idea of the hacking, but the idea of a perfect way to get the message out, in stark, uncompromising terms, and in a way that even someone who’s not a professor at Princeton can understand and appreciate: viral video.

Tony Bennett

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Tony Bennett’s Bagel
By Matthew Robinson

I was at the 1996 Montreal jazz Fest with my (then) girlfriend. We were walking through the food court under the hotel on our way to press conference featuring my musical hero Tony Bennett. The place was bustling. But when I saw a man in a gingham shirt and khakis sitting alone eating a bagel and drinking coffee. I stopped in my tracks.

“Do you know who that is?” I asked my (then) girlfriend.

“No,” she replied.*

“That’s Tony Bennett!” I squealed.

“No it’s not,” she said.

“How would you know?” I asked, moving away from her and towards the table at which my idol sat alone eating undisturbed…for now.

“Um…Mr. Bennett,” I began, my hands clasped at my heart, holding it in as Tony Bennett turned to see who was addressing him.

“Um…I don’t mean to…bother you, but…I came from Bost-”

“You’re from Boston?” the proud Berklee father exclaimed, leaping to his feet. “Wow! Hey — you want some bagel?”

“No, thank you, Sir,” I stammered. “I just-”

“What? You want a picture,” he surmised, seeing my (then) girlfriend with the disposable camera in her hand.

“Well, if you wouldn’t—”

“Of course,” he beamed, putting his hand on my shoulder and smiling that winning smile.

Of the 24 pictures my (then) girlfriend took that trip, this was the one that did not come out.* But I still have the autograph framed in my bedroom.

Fast forward to 13 months later back in Boston.

Mr. Bennett has just finished another spectacular show, during which I have somehow been given the privilege of watching him from the stairs to the stage.

After the show, I am escorted backstage, a cigar box full of CD covers, pictures, and Sharpies in hand. Immediately figuring out my intentions, one of Tony’s handlers steps directly into my path.

“He can’t do all of those,” he says.

Then, from over his shoulder, I hear a familiar voice.

“Let him through, Johnny.”

As Johnny steps aside, Mr. Bennett’s eyes lock on mine.

“Didn’t we meet last year in Montreal?”

* This is one of the reasons she is now my “then” girlfriend.

A Reporter Documents the Experience of Dying

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Dying is, of course, a universal experience, and for obvious reasons one rarely documented. Yes, we have uncommon instances like Timothy Leary’s very public disembarkation from his earthly vessel, the horrific decapitations of prisoners in Iraq and similar morbid videos to be found online, and many stories of death in war and famine that are caught by reporters and photojournalists. Also, in the past few years several bloggers have gone rather loudly into that good night. (I recall one particularly inspired blog written by a man dying of Cancer, but can’t find it now on a few cursory Web searches. Please leave a comment if you know the one I’m referring to.)

Here’s another to add to the list. Leo Green, a reporter and videographer for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, was recently diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. But rather than hang up his keyboard and camera and withdraw from his work to die in privacy, he’s decided in conjunction with the paper to document the experience online. His goal is to raise awareness about ALS, which is rare and so receives less research funding than many other diseases for which there are no cures. An excerpt:

Like an old neon sign, parts of my nervous system are buzzing, flickering, beginning to blink out.

As the neurons die, the muscles follow.

My arms grow thin. I limp. My speech slurs. Two hands are needed to shave.

I suffer from a disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. I received the official diagnosis just 11 days ago.

” … and there’s no cure,” my doctor said, tucking the phrase into the end of a long sentence.

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