Archive for October, 2006

Wax Man, 20-Year Lease, Up

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

That’s my six-word story about Spoony Singh, genius creator of the Hollywood Wax Museum, whose obit I just read.
The six-word story — made famous by Hemingway and borrowed by many including Wired (as well as the coming print edition of SMITH) — is a fun exercise. 123602437_60e94f6c98.jpgNot quite Haiku, not really a one-liner, it truly makes you take stock of who you are, and how you might want to be remembered should you choose to be buried and don’t have a lot of extra cash for your tombstone. So maybe it’s a fun game to do six-word memoirs based on obits we’re reading, as well as for mini-memoirs for our living selves. Right now mine feels like—
Big Hair, Big Love, Big Plans
—though, depending on the day, and who you ask, “big mouth” might be more on message. Or:
Big Hair, Big Plans, Running Late

A Hollywood Ending on November 7?

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

What’s after Rock the Vote, MoveOn the vote and the always popular Suppress the Vote? In these make-your-own-media times the answer is Video the Vote. From the people who brought you American Blackout about voter disenfranchisement in the 2004 elections, comes a citizen journalism project with vast promise.

The notion is decidedly simple: dispatch Americans with cameras to regions with a recent history of dirty voter tricks, have them document problems with the vote as they happen, and get those images to the media on Election Day. It’s like the Rodney King video meets the Beastie Boys movie meets the Butterfly Ballot meets the Butterfly Effect. SMITH contributing editor and Shooting War creator Anthony Lappé is heading to Philly with his camera, and you can volunteer to help out whether you have the video goods or not, there’s plenty to do. Here’s a link to how this very cool notion works.

Introducing … the popuLIST

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Coming to the middle column of this site soon: the popuLIST, a weekly roundup of your always brilliant and sublime answers to our sometimes smart and witty questions. Each week we’ll post a new Q and you’ll have 48 hours to send in a 100-word A. We’ll post the five funniest, oddest, most touching, horrifying, or otherwise relatable answers — and some version of some of all this will end up in the coming print issue of SMITH. It’s a plan arguably less tight than, say, the new Nano, but more thought out than our Iraq strategy. But we think this will be a quick, fun way for you to flex some creative muscles, procrastinate your other work, and come play with us and be part of SMITH.

First Q:
Kim Jong Il has nukes now. Last night on Earth — don’t lie, it’s not what you’re going to do, but whom. So tell us. Who, and more importantly, why? And where? No current partners or US Weekly cover girls. This is the end of the world, people — go crazy.

Shoot us your answers here.


Monday, October 23rd, 2006


Samiul Haque Noor, of Sammy’s Halal at 73rd and Broadway in Queens, is the winner of the 2006 Vendy Awards!

Runner-up for the second year in a row was the Thiru “Dosa Man” Kumar, who operates at Washington Square Park South at Sullivan Street.

And let’s not forget the other two finalists: The Vendley Brothers’ (Jesse, Brian and David) “Calexico” operating at Wooster and Prince Streets, and Piedad “the Arepa Lady” Cano at 79th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Queens. They represent the tastiest of the thousands of vendors that add character, falafel and one New York story after another to our streets. The event was a fundraiser for the Street Vendor Project (SVP), which advocates on behalf of vendors.

All the finalists were there serving food, and all the food was delicious. Reverend Billy gave a rousing speech just before the winner was crowned, and his enthusiasm and energy was indicitive of the entire event as a whole.Reverend_Billy.JPG

You can see some pictures from the evening here. Be sure to view the picture of SMITH’s one and only Larry Smith — I’m thinking his hunt for the perfect myspace photo is over.

* “Vendelujah” coined by Reverend Billy.

Comic Splendor

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

ComicCover.jpgNow playing: American Splendor’s Harvey Pekar and zine royalty Anne Elizabeth Moore are on tour to hype their hot new Best American Comics 2006. Publisher’s Weekly comic queen Heidi MacDonald blogs here about the tour, which makes a stop in Williamsburg’s Galapagos on Tuesday, October 24.

The San Francisco Chronicle reviews the anthology here.

Pekar’s one of the greatest storytellers of our time, and his surreal chicken’s-eye view of this thing called life is something we love to death. SMITH comics editor JahFurry says: “Must attend.”

Say no more.

I Wonder What the Other 60 Are Doing Right Now…

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

I don’t know who these people are, the designers and coders behind the How Many of Me? website, or what their mission is. Perhaps it’s to design a website that no one can hear about without going to, and maybe telling a friend about.

How Many of Me? uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau to tell you how many people in the country share a given name.

For example: “Smith” is — sacre bleu! — actually statistically the most popular surname in the United States. “Larry” is the 45th most popular first name. There are 9,038 individuals in the U.S. named Larry Smith.

“Sharpe” is the 888th most popular name in the country (tied with 74 other last names). “Katherine” is the 119th most popular first name. There are 61 people in the U.S. named Katherine Sharpe.

Last time I checked, though, I HAD THE BIGGEST INTERNET FOOTPRINT OF ANY OF THEM. That’s right, Katherine Sharpes. Where are you? Bring the noise. I mean, it’s not like you have better things to do than saturating the web with yourselves, um, right?

Hat tip: the ScienceBloggers

RU Listening?

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

gaiman.jpgYes, I’ve blogged about this before. But if you haven’t checked out the RU Sirius Show, you’re missing out on a thoroughly excellent podcast. (The companion NeoFiles series has some wonderful stuff as well.)

If you do decide to check it out, and are wondering where to start among the more than 70 episodes now available, you might want to grab Show #68, in which RU and the rest of the gang chat with writer and comic-book author Neil Gaiman.

Among other things, Gaiman talks about his work, his process, his inspirations, and a possible upcoming collaboration with Terry Gilliam. He also confesses to a perfectly SMITH-ian credo: “We owe it to each other to tell stories.”

All in all, a fascinating way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Googling His Mom

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

As a rule, especially on a Saturday when you’re on your way to a hoops game, it’s best to leave everyone’s mom out of things. … But before I go raise hell on the mean courts of NYC’s Chinatown, I took a quick glance at Slate. Good thing, too, as I found a story by John Dickerson that stopped me in my tracks.

Dickerson has just written a book about his mom, the late Nancy Dickerson, the first female network correspondent for CBS, and all-around media star in her day. Like many people researching a project, John Dickerson pressed a few buttons so that search engines would crawl the Web for anything containing the subject at hand and magically send him email alerts. That’s when his mother starting arriving in his in-box, long after she died, and even after he finished the book.

But what you keep about yourself is different from what other people keep about you. The little automated e-mail scouts were a way to screen for what might have been enduring about what she achieved. She’d been famous, but was any of it real?

Almost everything that arrived came from the period of her life I never experienced. Combined with my methodical slog through the materials she left me, the woman who was interrupting me on my BlackBerry became more real than the woman who had pasted back my cowlick and taken me to the doctor. She was authentic and natural, qualities I hadn’t seen much with my own eyes.

Dickerson barely knew his famous mom until the twilight of her life (he explains they were in a cold war for his first 27 years), one reason he felt the pull of pursuing a book about her.
That book, On Her Trail: My Mother, Nancy Dickerson, TV News’ First Woman Star comes out this week. His thoughtful piece about the process is found here.

Talking Heads

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Looks like J-school might become a thing of the past.

According to asap, researchers from Northwestern University have developed a program that turns video game character/alien-slayer, Alyx Vance, from “Half-Life 2” into a news anchor.

Katie Couric: you betta’ check yourself!

In their project, Vance is guided toward a news area — foreign events, say — and computers take over from there.

“Everything in there is automatic,” says project leader Kristian Hammond, co-director of the university’s intelligent information laboratory. “There’s not a single moment, from the begining to the end, of human intervention.”

The program scours the Web for an article that Alyx will read aloud on-screen through text-recognition technology that edits existing text for clarity, changing some passive verbs to active, for example. It then automatically inserts photos and video from related sites, along with a CBS News “Free Speech”-style segment that adds outside commentary from blogs, read aloud by a different “Half-Life” character.

Sounds super.

So, what about us journos who really have no other skills and have forgotten how to carry the one when subtracting?

Says Hammond:

“Then again, in the world of technology, he said, “Everything puts everybody out of work, eventually.”

You can read more about your demise here.

Your Ridiculously Huge YouTube Roundup

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Why just come with a single Friday video…when I can bring you an entire huge round-up?

Strap in, kiddies — we’re in for a crazy ride. Of viral videos.

Okay, so it probably won’t be that crazy. But at the very least, some of the people mentioned will be: Like Michelle Malkin, the right-wing blogger/Fox News contributor whose latest nutty crusade is against YouTube, which for some reason calls her white supremacist hate speech… what it is. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

It’s funny — I used to think conservatives believed in that whole free enterprise, laissez-faire capitalism will save the world thing. But apparently YouTube should be forced to carry Malkin’s videos, and anything else shows that they’re just liberal Muslim running-dog lackeys… or something. Conservative media watchdog Newsbusters gets in on the action as well.

Okay, I’ll get down off my soapbox now, I promise.

Bad news for YouTube — in the wake of its sale to Google (a sale that, need I remind you, I was right about. Not to rub it in or anything) not one, but two, Web sites have come up with YouTube video retrospectives. And, as we all know, once you’ve got a greatest hits album, you’re pretty much done.

First up is one done by Slate, which deviously puts a bunch of videos into its own Java pop-up, preventing a modern type person from embedding it. That’s fine, they don’t get the full amount of SMITH love — just a link.

Winning the embedding contest this week, then, is the Idolator blog, which declares YouTube dead, and presents us with this truly awesome video eulogy.

It’s really sad when they go so young.

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