Archive for September, 2006

Move Over, Road Rage

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

It’s MySpace rage that’s the new problem:

A 22-year-old woman was arrested after authorities say she tried to hire someone to kill another woman whose photo appeared on her boyfriend’s Web page.

Heather Michelle Kane was booked Tuesday for investigation of conspiracy to commit murder, Mesa Detective Jerry Gissel said.

She was arrested after she met an undercover Mesa police detective at a grocery store, gave the officer $400 and offered to pay an additional $100 once the woman had been killed, according to court records.

The records say Kane gave the undercover officer photographs taken from her boyfriend’s social networking Web page of the woman she wanted killed. She also requested a photo of the woman’s dead body.

I smell a trend story…

YouTube = Napster?

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Well, I suppose it had to happen sometime. The head of Universal is warning YouTube that the combined wrath of the recording industry is about to come down upon their heads. The New York Post reports:

Universal Music chief Doug Morris launched a loud salvo at YouTube, warning the upstart Internet firm that it could come into the legal crosshairs of the world’s largest music company.

YouTube, the prolific swapper of videos online, consistently violates the music industry’s copyrights when it allows users to post videos, Morris said in a speech at a Merrill Lynch conference in California.

Morris’ cage-rattling could signal the first legal fight on behalf of a major content company against YouTube, which was founded less than two years ago but has quickly become the dominant online video site. According to industry data, some 60 percent of videos viewed online come from YouTube.

I’ve got to concede that, legally, they have a point. There’s a lot of stuff on YouTube that’s clearly copyrighted material. Still, once again, I think the record companies are being self-destructive here — is it really a bad thing that I can watch the same video I can watch on MTV again and again if I like the song? Won’t that ultimately lead me to, I don’t know, buy the song? Or is that just me?

Adrian Holovaty: Redefining Story

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Amid the general clamor that newspapers and old Media are dead/not dead, it’s the more shadowy corners of the Web where you’ll find the most interesting discussions taking place — where people who are actually invested in creating the future (not just yapping about it) are working out the ideas that will inform tomorrow’s media.

One of the more important people you’ve never heard of is Adrian Holovaty. He’s a programmer/journalist and future generations might know him as one of the guys who saved the newspaper industry. Holovaty currently works at as editor of editorial innovations. He is lead developer Django, an open-source programming framework that makes Web development faster and more flexible.

What Holovaty is trying to do is explode the old notions of what newspapers should be. His recent post, A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change, makes his point very clear: “Newspapers need to stop the story-centric worldview.”

For Sure

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

I was talking recently with a friend who said he was amazed at all the memories I have, memories of driving around with my father, of conversations with my mother, of playing with my friends, of growing up in a small town in the Northeast. The memories are very specific, and usually include both audio and video. I can play back, if asked, what my neighbor answered on a summer afternoon when I was eight and hollered “Hey, wait up!” as I tugged my go-kart up the street that ran east-west in front of our corner house.

My friend said he had, at most, three or four vivid memories from childhood. I told him I was surprised to hear that not everyone is haunted—quite literally—by the past.

For instance: A week ago, I was looking in on a neighbor’s cats and saw on a shelf a six-pack of Ensure. It was like a madeleine in a can.

The last time I thought about Ensure was in a parking lot near Heritage Village. My mother was dying of cancer. Cigarettes and the subsequent surgery and radiation had claimed her throat, but she was thirsty and hungry. So I went into a store and bought two cans of Ensure, which we drank in the car before heading for home. It was one of the last times I saw her upright and out of a hospital bed.

Ensure for me now is synonymous with a time when I was mostly a caretaker, and the sight of it conjures up the whole spectacle of impermanence.

Is this really so unusual?

The End of Lonelygirl?

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Well, it’s all over. The not-so-secret secret of the identity of YouTube superstar Lonelygirl15 has finally been cracked. The New York Times‘ Virginia Heffernan reports:

The woman who plays Lonelygirl15 on the video-sharing site has been identified as Jessica Rose, a 20-ish resident of New Zealand and Los Angeles and a graduate of the New York Film Academy. And the whole project appears to be the early serialized version of what eventually will become a movie.

Matt Foremski, the 18-year-old son of Tom Foremski, a reporter for the blog Silicon Valley Watcher, was the first to disinter a trove of photographs of the familiar-looking actress, who portrayed the character named Bree in the videos. …

The masterminds of the Lonelygirl15 videos are Ramesh Flinders, a screenwriter and filmmaker from Marin County, Calif., and Miles Beckett, a doctor turned filmmaker. The high quality of the videos caused many users to suspect a script and production crew, but Bree’s bedroom scenes were shot in Mr. Flinders’s home, in his actual bedroom, typically using nothing more than a Logitech QuickCam, a Web camera that retails for about $150.

Together with Grant Steinfeld, a software engineer in San Francisco, Mr. Flinders contrived to produce and distribute the videos to pique maximum curiosity about them.

Sigh. It was too good to be true, I suppose.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this — on the one hand, it’s a creative thing to do. On the other hand, it’s a betrayal of the whole idea of YouTube, of personal media, and in some ways, of Bree — this wasn’t, ultimately, the story of a “lonely girl” who saw personal media as her only outlet. It was crass commercialization. (Sort of.) I can’t quite decide yet, but I’m pretty sure this whole thing sticks in my craw. I’m interested to hear what you all think.

The War Was Hell. The Sex Was Worse

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

By Nicole Janson

Note: Some names have been changed due to national security concerns.
Have a story about an ex? Tell us here. Some of SMITH reader stories will appear in the debut issue of our print magazine.

I have loved Steven since we were both 16, over half my life. He was tan, dashing, barrel-chested like a 5’s movie star — even in high school — with this warm, Kennedy grin. I was a semi-goth, chain-smoking drama-geek, but our worlds intertwined when we were both cast in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

He played Lysander— the dashing, romantic lead. I played Mustardseed, also called Fairy #4. In the play, Lysander falls madly in love with Helena. In rehearsal, Steven fell madly in love with Jennifer Kaiser, who played Helena and had red hair. Nobody fell in love with Mustardseed.

But Steven and I became good friends. We exchanged letters all through college — he was halfway across the country, doing ROTC to pay for school. There were visits. Lunch in Chicago when he passed through to see his brother. Salsa dancing in Austin when I was there for work and he was stationed at Ft. Hood. And while we each dated others over the years, I always held my high school crush. He was so different from the bad-news-musicians I gravitated towards. He was kind, stoic and old-fashioned. I realized: This is the kind of man I should marry. But nothing ever happened between us.

And then one recent Friday afternoon, he emailed me:
Are you around? … I’m coming to NY to see friends. I just got called up to active duty. In support of current operations. Not sure exactly where or when, but I got a pretty good hunch.

He was still in the Army Reserves. I had no idea … panic …. I called immediately … His voice was steady, as always … How about dinner tonight?

I hung up the phone and it crystallized in my mind: I am conveniently single; Tonight’s the night.

I MEET HIM AT PENN STATION and I look good. We haven’t seen each other in years and for the first time, I feel beautiful and confident and worthy of him. He’s heavier than I remembered, more gray hairs … but gorgeous as ever; that warm smile, his strong arms embrace me.

One Italian dinner and bottle of red wine later, we are at my apartment. He’s going to sleep on the pull-out sofa. Kiss me, I try to tell him telepathically. I don’t want to make the first move; I want this to come from him. I start making up the sofabed. Again, telepathy: Kiss me. Nothing. Are you really going to make me go through the motions of making the bed, when we both know what’s supposed to happen next? This is absurd! You’re going to fucking Iraq — KISS ME.

But I say nothing and I smile and give him a pillow and we hug goodnight.

I lay in bed, wide awake, my heart pounding. Is this it? Should I get up and pretend to go to the bathroom? I feel the loom of Iraq, I think of him dying, I think of our 16-year history. I feel immobilized. Maybe he just never liked me. And then — a knock on my bedroom door. I leap up. YES?! He asks me if I have another blanket. This must be a move, right? Or does he really need a blanket? Is this how he plans to approach his military endeavors … a hesitant knock on the door of an al Qaeda bunker? STORM ME! TAKE ME NOW! I am so tired of this dance — yet I pretend to look for a blanket, knowing full well I have none. And, finally, I say, why don’t you just sleep in here. I barely finish my sentence when those arms which had, hours earlier, embraced me at Penn Station, are now hungrily enveloping my entire body. He kisses me — my lips, my face — there’s this relief, this freedom, in finally having the green light.

He backs me in to my bedroom, kissing me all the while … How long I have been waiting for this…

We make love.

It is horrible.

It is quite possibly the worst sex I’ve ever had. Steven is inept and awkward and the whole five minutes of it is so unsatisfying. But I can’t say anything — he is going to Iraq — I might never see him again. And, of course, in the final seconds, the condom comes off which he kind of fails to tell me until it is over.

As he’s holding me so lovingly after, all I can think is: I’m pregnant. As he traces lines on my back with his fingers, I imagine myself being interviewed by a CNN reporter as I stand on the port with a thousand other wives, waiting for his ship to come in … Holding a stupid sign in one hand: “Welcome Home, Steven,” holding his child in the other. He’s kissing my hair and telling me how beautiful I look and I think: tomorrow’s Saturday — will my doctor be in?

The next morning, he visits college friends, leaving his suitcase in my kitchen. I call my gynecologist.

I’m pissed. I’m pissed the sex was so bad. I’m pissed I might be pregnant. But I still love him. My doctor tells me it’s “highly unlikely” I’m pregnant, but prescribes Plan B to be safe. I spend the entire day trekking around the city to find a pharmacy that will fill the prescription. I buy saltines and ginger ale to ease my stomach as I brace for the vomiting that friends who had taken the pill warn me of.

I go home. I cancel my dinner plans. I look at the calendar. Highly unlikely that I’m pregnant … just to be safe. I take the first pill. Plan B is two pills taken at 12-hour intervals. They sometimes give you a third in case you vomit up the first. I stare at his stupid suitcase in my kitchen as the pill works its way through my body. I go to sleep. I wake up. I take the second pill.

Steven comes over the next morning. I killed your stupid baby, I want to say. But there is no baby. I’m being dramatic. I say nothing. When I see him, I melt. I love him. I don’t want him to go to Iraq. I want to take care of him. I want to make him soup.

Over lunch he talks about everything he has to do before he leaves. See his parents, cancel his cell phone … It is suddenly so real. That he might not come back. He kisses me and I kiss him back and he carries me into the bedroom.

The sex is still bad. I pretend it isn’t. I want to be close to him and this is the closest we can be. I feel a little like a whore. Not in a good way.

When he leaves, the goodbye feels real. He kisses my lips and then my forehead and we both start to cry. I want to tell him I love him even though I know I don’t love him the way a woman loves a man. I love him as a friend, which is really all we ever were. “Until next time,” he says. Until next time? What the fuck is that? I’m pissed again. But I let it go. Because he’s going to war.

This Is a Funny Story About Cancer

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Jeff Yamaguchi recently blogged about The Stories We Do Not Tell, asking if readers “have written stories or posted blog entries where they really weren’t sure that it was a story they should tell?”

CancerVixen.jpgA few weeks later I met Jeff for a drink and he handed me a book about a topic no one seems to want to tell, of if they do, don’t quite know how to tell it. But when 43-year-old successful cartoonist and hipster-hottie-bachelorette- about-town Marisa Acocella Marchetto got cancer, she decided to take on the C-word in the form she knew best: images, with some words around them.

The result is Cancer Vixen, her funny, ballsy, all-true Sex in Cancer City tale told as a graphic novel. Read an interview with Acocella Marchetto about her book, her cancer and her lack of health insurance on The Huffington Post here.

Portraits of Grief, Five Years Later

Monday, September 11th, 2006

A few days I wrote that one of the inspirations for SMITH came from the New York Times’ Portraits of Grief series, those compact life stories of unknown people who died in the attacks that told the biggest story of our day in perhaps the simplest possible way: one person’s life story at a time.

Today the Times revisits the Portraits by going back and talking to the families of the victims. The paper introduces the section as such:

For a year after Sept. 11, reporters for The Times offered capsule portraits of 2,400 victims. Their families have now had five years to reflect, to mourn, to recover. Interviews with a sampling of them found that, while they were at markedly different stages in the healing process, many have found constructive ways of embracing life without forgetting. Widows and widowers have remarried. Children have gone on to college or begun first grade. Some people have settled into new homes, new geography. And a few, while still struggling with their loss, have arrived at surprising places that they could never have foreseen.

Personally, I find the Portraits best read via paper and ink, but should that medium not be available to you, they’re here.

Fearless Fliers

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Welcome Back, Kotter is one of those shows that are actually a lot more painfully bad than you remember—though I have to say that the sight of the DVD unexpectedly popping up in my Amazon cart, and the realization that my wife put it there, made it too delicious to pass up (the disc is now in a player at a friend’s summer beach share, where it shall reside indefinitely). Yet the theme song remains the greatest (especially the remix by Mase), and thus we dedicate it to Maer Roshan and the whole zoo crew at Radar magazine, now approaching its latest reincarnation as a print magazine, preceded by a relaunch of the Web site. Unlike Kotter, Radar is better than I remember it. SMITH wishes Radar a long and fun third life.

Radar, like SMITH, has lots to learn from the off- and online sensation Arianna Huffington, whose Huffington Post has been one of the great Web success stories since it’s debut last May. Arianna’s MO is all about obsession and passion and promotion—and it works. HuffPo (where a few SMITH editors occasionally blog) continues to expand its reach beyond pure politics with the launch of a new section, Becoming Fearless. Just a week old, it reads so far like a more blogger-powered version of Salon’s Life (b. “Mothers Who Think”), with a bit more of a “you go, Guerilla Girl” vibe. That the section is named after Arianna’s just-published book, Becoming Fearless, is either another brilliant stroke of HuffPo-sitioning or a little over the top. SMITH wangled an invite to her book party tonight in San Francisco, so we’ll have to ask her about this. What we will not ask her is if we look fat in these pants.

9/11 Within Our Sites

Monday, September 11th, 2006

At last count there more than 63 billion sites* about September 11. These 11 made us stop, click and think.

*slight exaggeration

By Michael Slenske

Michael Slenske writes SMITH’s Back Home from Iraq Column

What if - as ur-blogger Andrew Sullivan imagined recently for New York magazine - 9/11 had never happened? If Al Gore were president? If Al Qaeda unleashed attacks on 30 separate New York subway stops (instead of four planes)? If the war on terror were more than a photo-op in Afghanistan? Would any of us be any safer? Maybe.

But playing “what if” games five years ex post facto is a thorny proposition: 9/11 did happen. And whether the catastrophic events of that quiet fall morning did or did not unfold as we’ve been informed by the administration, the damage has been done. In part, because the blogosphere - much like the mainstream media - let its eyes (and words) drift away from the hallowed grounds - into the rabbit holes of TomKat, Plamegate, John Mark Karr, and others - over the past five years.

Luckily, there are a handful of personal media movers who’ve kept a constant vigil over the sites, and some who’ve risen from their ashes, to remind us what it is our troops are still dying for.

Where Were You?
Were you “nine months pregnant sleeping on a couch next to my mom,” “engaged in a sexual act and couldn’t go once you heard of the carnage,” or “in class…facing the towers” as they fell? No? Well, some folks were, and they shared those experiences on , a user-generated project started by three teenagers (Geoffrey Hick, CA ; Lane Collins, NC; Marie Pelkey, VT) on September 15, 2001. Over a year the trio collected more than 2500 9/11 recollections from around the world, which are still as raw and powerful today as they were five years ago. Feeling left out? Don’t. The similarly titled - which has collected more than one thousand personal stories since its December 2001 launch - is still taking submissions.

Kristen Breitweiser on HuffPo
If you’re the scorn of Ann Coulter you must be doing something right. At least that’s true in the case of 9/11 widow-turned-HuffPo blogger Kristen Breitweiser. Since spring of 2005 the “Jersey Girl” has filed extensive posts on everything from Giuliani intruding on the victim’s impact hearings at the Moussaoui trial (”Which family member did Guiliani lose in the attacks?”) to the NSA wiretapping program (”Our intelligence agencies held a treasure trove of intelligence on the 9/11 hijackers, intelligence that was gathered through their initially unencumbered surveillance. President Bush should busy himself by investigating why that information was not capitalized upon to stop the 9/11 attacks.”). Be sure to pick up her new memoir Wake-Up Call (complete with a note to Ann) this month.

The Art Project
Everyone has an opinion about 9/11, but how many communicated them via images? For those of the visual persuasion there’s’s virtual exhibition, which gauged the artists’ response to terrorism (from September 2001 to December 2002). While closed to submissions, this provocative disastoplex (of paintings, sculpture, and photo installations, complete with image-based call-and-answer discussion boards) continues to prompt dialogue by remaining online indefinitely.
In the last five years over 250 proper 9/11 memorials (incorporating WTC steel) have popped up around the world, except, of course, at Ground Zero. This clearinghouse of 9/11 commemoration - from Shanksville to New Zealand - is courtesy of mountaineering guru Roger Rowlett, who keeps track of all the latest memorial news and scandals. In other words, Michael Arad and Larry Silverstein must hate it.

Flickr: Post 9/11 Project
In order to see “how life has changed - or not - since 9/11,” every year on the anniversary of the attacks this community group calls on Flickr members to share as many words and photos from their September 11 experiences as possible over a 24-hour blitz. Get ready for the deluge.

Paul Thompson and Matthew Everett’s 9/11 Timeline
The Wiki-like calls itself “an experiment in open-content civic journalism.” The jewel of this spot is an extensive September 11 timeline - which pulls material from the 9/11 Commission Report, American Airlines employees and 80 new posts, among others, from the two researchers - and is now the subject of the documentary 9/11 Press For Truth. If you can’t slog through all 2216 entries in one sitting there are plenty of diversions on the CR’s wide-ranging Iraq and Katrina timelines.

The 2996 Project
Started by L.A.-based writer D. Chancellor Roe, the 2996 Project aims to “join together 2,996 volunteer bloggers on September 11, 2006 for a tribute to the victims of 9/11…by remembering their lives, and not by remembering their murderers.” Among the participants are National Center for Public Policy Research prez Amy Ridenour and hawkish blogger Michelle Malkin.
Firehouse magazine’s site posts audio, video, photo, and blog entries - from initial radio dispatches by a Brooklyn firehouse to news that 283 WTC rescue workers have developed cancer (33 have died) since the attacks - in their 9/11 news section. In the coming week the site will reopen their “Victim Database” and serve as a Ground Zero for first responder bulletins from the last five years.
“The rebuilding process has been marred by scandal, controversy, and squabbles over power. I just wish that the hole in the ground can be filled by something worthy of the site sooner rather than later,” writes this New Jersey legal buff who’s kept a hawkish vigilance (a 164-part series, in fact) over the ongoing “Battle for Ground Zero” since 2004.

“George Bush had better be fucking right” is how IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff begins his war memoir Chasing Ghosts. With 2973 troops already killed in action, and 20,666 wounded it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. Fortunately, Rieckhoff, along with vet-bloggers “Mad Mike” Zacchea, Ray Kimball, and Perry Jefferies, is keeping the administration’s feet to the fire over a war in a country the President, himself, admitted had “nothing” to do with the 9/11 attacks. With any luck they’ll help us avoid a second “2996 Project.”
Perhaps the most widely known of the sites on our list doesn’t disappoint. Directed by Imagine Entertainment (Cinderella Man, The Da Vinci Code) president Jim Whitaker, Project Rebirth has been documenting the resurrection of Ground Zero - with six 35mm time-lapse cameras - since March 11, 2002. In that time the crew has assembled an extensive news archive - from recent pieces in the Times about EPA whistleblowers exposing the danger of the site’s dust to a 2005 editorial from Freedom Tower architect Daniel Libeskind. For overhead shots - of Ground Zero and the Pentagon - check out’s “September 11: One Year Viewed from Space” feature. While they only offer a year’s perspective, its satellite, IKONOS, was the only hi-res commercial camera in orbit over WTC and the Pentagon immediately following the attacks.