Archive for October, 2006

Galileo Fandango Magnifico

Saturday, October 14th, 2006

The October 14-20 issue of New Scientist features what may be one of the strangest revelations ever published in a science weekly. Apparently Brian May, the lead guitarist of Queen, took that job instead of pursuing a promising career as an astrophysicist.

Now, however, he has returned to school to finish his doctorate and has co-authored a book titled Bang! The Complete History of the Universe.

What inspired you to return to your PhD after all these years?

You get to this age and you think, I’m still alive when some friends aren’t, and you ask yourself, “Why am I here? What should I be doing?” So there’s that. But a crucial event was inviting professor Francisco Sanchez to the opening of our musical We Will Rock You in Madrid. He had been a kind of extra supervisor for me in Tenerife. Francisco asked, “Are you going to finish your PhD?” and I said, “Yes!” I felt the strands of life coming together again. Crucially, Francisco said I could submit my thesis to the University of La Laguna.

What was it like working on the book?

We had a third collaborator, Chris Lintott, a whizz-kid astronomer from Cambridge. He happened to be at our first meeting and it was immediately clear that he knew a lot more about modern cosmology than we did. I said, we have to include him as the third author. The three of us would meet at Patrick’s house in Selsey on a Friday night, do a little gentle writing, have a couple of drinks, then hunt for Patrick’s cat, Ptolemy, who is an accomplished escapologist. When we got up the next day we were in the mood for serious work. Patrick shocked us by writing the first draft in two weeks. We all then spent the next two years rewriting it. He was good about it. He didn’t mind at all.

The Love’s A Little Late This Week

Friday, October 13th, 2006

But don’t you worry — the love is here. Oh, the love is here.

This is the only video that could possibly hold claim to the spot this week. It’s the founders of YouTube announcing the recent sale of the company to Google and proving, once and for all, that even when you’re a billionaire, you can make awkward, embarrassing personal videos.

He Wins— Lucky #1000

Friday, October 13th, 2006

A few days ago I noticed that 992 people had signed up for the SMITH newsletter, so of course started obsessing over hitting 1,000. I checked the stats late Wednesday night and — hot damn! — we hit 1000. Then I got curious: Who was Mr. or Mrs. 1000, and why are they here? E-mail ensued.

Ladies and gentleman of SMITH Nation, introducing Brian McDonough, a reader and subscriber who we couldn’t have scripted any better if we actually had a marketing deparment (and I am always dubious when the billionth-type customer notice arrives). Brian is a writer, editor and producer who lives in Hollywood, and just finished writing The Powers of Story: How to Catch and Keep an Audience. He has his own blog, which he says, “tracks my progress from the beginning of writing the book (very honestly).” Brian also has his own newsletter which you can sign up for here. He says he’s never won anything and was pleased to discover I was not trying to sell him online meds when he received my “winner’s notice.”

OK, so we’re still far from our goal of having all 300,000 million of us sign up for SMITH, but we’re on the way. To Brian, we’re sending a SMITH tee (as that’s pretty much what we have to give away). To the many thousands more of you who read SMITH, we say: please sign up for the newsletter, soon to be arriving more frequently with a delightful new format. And our deal to you is this: sign up 10 friends for the newsletter (and prove it by sending their emails which we can then verify) and we’ll send you our limited edition “make art, not schwag” t-shirt. It would be our pleasure.

We Win

Friday, October 13th, 2006

SMITH has won an Outstanding Achievement honor from the Interactive Media Awards, a prize (well, certificate .. but still) based on content (where we earned a 98 out of 100), design feature functionality, usability, and standards compliance & cross-browser compatibility. Thanks to all our contributors. And if you want to play, check out our writer’s guidelines and please come on in—SMITH is better with every story. And everyone has one.

Rocketbelt Daze (The Video … Reprise)

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Welcome Boing Boing readers (SMITH loves you—we hope you stay and check out the site). Here’s John Carnett’s video of Hal Graham on the ukulele that David Pescovitz mentions in his BB write-up. Also check out John’s video he took for Slate that brilliantly sums up the whole weekend. My story for Slate is here.

Oliver Stone

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

By Bilge Ebiri

Mr. Stone, Your Turk Is Ready
My freshman year of college the Yale Political Union, renowned for hosting big-name speakers, invited Oliver Stone to come speak. (This was on the heels of the JFK controversy, and as he was preparing his Vietnam epic Heaven & Earth.) The YPU had a tradition of taking its speakers out to dinner the night of the event. Knowing that I was a big movie nerd and a film major, my roommate — who had some in with the heads of the YPU — wrangled us invited to a small dinner in honor of Stone. It was about seven or eight students, plus Oliver Stone and his lovely assistant, the two of whom proceeded to get soused, partly thanks to the fact that they didn’t touch their food.

Being the shy, hesitant type, I spent the whole dinner on the opposite side of the table from Stone, chatting it up, ironically, with the head of the Party of the Right, with whom I shared a few knowing looks every time Stone said something particularly weird (at one point, the director advocated — and insisted he was completely serious as he did so — bombing the annual conference of the American Society of Magazine Editors).

Still, my roommate could tell that I wished I could say something to Stone as I was a real admirer of his work, especially Salvador and JFK. For a budding leftie teen with filmmaking dreams in the 80s, Oliver Stone was God.

Unfortunately, at the moment, much of the man’s time was being capitalized by a stoner who kept asking him stoner questions like, “Mr. Stone, dude, is it true you dosed your dad when you were in high school?” (It also added to the effect that this stoner guy had a comical, raspy stoner voice.)

Finally, someone mentioned Midnight Express. An opening! “Funny that you mention Midnight Express,” said my roommate, seizing the moment, “because we have a Turk right here.”

The table went silent. The people between Oliver Stone and me leaned away, so we could look in each other’s eyes. Beat. “You’re Turkish?” he asked, hesitantly. I nodded yes.

“What do you think of that movie?”

For a Turk, as I am sure you might imagine, Midnight Express is a touchy topic. For years and years, especially until the tourism boom of the mid-to-late 90s, that film was the extent of contact most people in the West had with Turkey. Whenever I told somebody I was Turkish, the response almost always involved someone asking me what I thought of Midnight Express. This gets old, and annoying. While our mortal enemies the Greeks were being depicted as having sun-dappled beaches and a mighty zest for life, we Turks had to live down our reputation as a bunch of ass-raping psychopaths. To be able to confront that purportedly-fact-based film’s Oscar-winning screenwriter in person was an opportunity many of my fellow countrymen would have paid good money for.

Except I had never seen Midnight Express. I just hemmed and hawed.

“You know, the Turkish government renews its offer of a million dollars to me every year to burn that film,” Stone said, perhaps sensing I had little to offer and graciously helping me out of my corner. That was it. The folks in between leaned forward again, and the conversation returned to JFK, Viet Nam, and how best to torch the magazine editors. The dude from the Party of the Right gave me a sheepish, commiserating look. My roommate nodded.

Stone and I never spoke again.

Bilge Ebiri is a filmmaker and critic who directed New Guy and blogs for Nerve.

Bloggers on Cory Lidle

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

SMITH contributing editor Michael Slenske says: “I watched Lidle pitch his last game” …. which is actually not related to his next that idea that “this blogger’s post presents a pretty good POV on how the mainstream media totally missed (or overblew) the story here.” Here’s a little slice.

As soon as Cory Lidle’s plane crashed into that that apartment building on the UES, the first thought that came out was “was this terrorism?” or “no word whether this was an act of terrorism” or “no link to terrorism found YET” or the best - courtesy of Wolf Blitzer “How could this happen just five years after 9/11?”. Are you fucking kidding?! Give me a goddamn break, a man farts on the the train these days and its a fucking act of terrorism!

Street Vendor Project Video

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

I recently posted about the Vendy Awards coming up this Oct. 22. Wanted to post this video that documents what a vendor goes through as she tries to legally set up shop on the streets of NYC. The person explaining the situation and introducing the vendor is Sean Basinski, who runs the Street Vendor Project.

Zonkers Away! Doonesbury’s New Milblog

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Too bad Generation M doesn’t seem to devour Doonesbury, still one of the best commentaries on politics and culture this side of the Daily Show (maybe we do read it, but I haven’t much talk about Trudeau’s strip, or its excellent site on Slate, which is a good way for newbies to catch up on the strip). Now Trudeau’s launched The Sandbox, a compilation of posts he’s culled from the actual blogs of soldiers at war at this moment. It’s a decidedly simple and brilliant notion. The creator writes:

The Sandbox’s focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment — the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. The Sandbox is a clean, lightly-edited debriefing environment where all correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted. And contributors may rest assured that all content, no matter how robust, is currently secured by the First Amendment.

Here’s a report on The Sandbox’s launch from the Daily News.

Here’s a link to an interview with soldier/milblogger/author Paul Riekhoff, part of SMITH’s Back Home From Iraq series, written by Michael Slenske. Here’s a previous post on milblogs.

I Don’t Really Hate To Say “I Told You So”

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Not to be, you know, rabidly egotistical or anything, but I was right and everyone else was wrong.

“No way could YouTube ever sell for $1.5 billion,” they said. “Those arrogant young techies — they always overvalue themselves. Well, we know the real scoop,” they said.

Well, I guess it is technically true that YouTube didn’t go for $1.5 billion. Actually, Google is going to pay $1.65 billion.

Your kudos for my stellar predicting skills - not to mention your naked obsequiescence and/or cash - are all accepted.