Archive for December, 2006

Lists and Lists and Lists

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

40581471_7355b38795_m.jpgSo many lists. Here are some lists that lead you to spots making headspinning work of storytelling tools.

Giant Magazine’s 10 best movie trailer mashups (e.g. “Martin Scorsese’s Sesame Streets”).

iFilm’s most viral videos.

BoingBoing’s most popular posts of the year.

Plugged In’s top podcasts for 2006.

The Year in Pictures, with audio, from MSNBC.
DJ Spooky’s Best of 2006 for SMITH.

Tip of the list to NPR’s Melody Joy Kramer and Marc Silver, who have a great list of odd lists here.

List shot>>>Flickr>>jm3

“Internet Famous, For What That’s Worth”

Friday, December 29th, 2006

That’s the six-word memoir of a certain R. Hogan, and an apt title for a blog post hyping our hype. I’m always a little torn as to how much to pat ourselves on the back—but it’s been a good week, so here goes.

SMITH’s comics editor and PR machine Jeff Newelt, aka JahFurry, riffs and rolls about his many projects and passions on LVHRD, the blog of our pals at The Happy Corp.

And I talked with Alex Cohen on American Public Radio’s Weekend America about all the amazing six-word memoirs we received for our Six-Word Memoir Contest. You can hear the segment here (it’s fun … and short … trust me). Although the contest itself is over—we’ll announce the winner next week and cough up that iPod—keep your six-words coming as we’re still taking submissions for consideration for our six-word memoir book that’s being published by HarperCollins in early 2008.

Plus: You’ve still got time to submit your six-word resolution for our newest contest .

LonelyGirls, Scary Pickles & You … YouTube Videos of the Year

Friday, December 29th, 2006

BoingBoing’s Mark Frauenfelder gives his take on the top 5 YouTube video’s of the year on ABC News.

It’s great to see the spikey-haired Net culture guru Frauenfelder all cleaned up and on network news, and his picks are delightful (that pickle vid from Maury Povich is awesome, see below), if unsurprising. When our own YouTube guru Alex Koppelman returns from his European vacation, we’ll get his take too—and promises to take you beyond the ABCs of YouTube.

There were, apparently, other forms of media besides online videos in the past year. To help you navigate the rest of the best of personal media, we turn to the one and only DJ Spooky who unfurls his Best of 2006: A Guide for the Perplexed exclusively for SMITH.

And click below for pickles.

America the Beardiful

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

So if I were a journalist looking to pen the next quirky documentary-style book about an obsession (think Word Freak, say), or a photographer in search of a subculture to take a suite of photographs of, I’d book my ticket for Brighton, England, today. That’s where the World Beard and Moustache Championships will be held this coming September.


From Beard Team USA’s website:

Beard Team USA competes for the United States at the bi-annual World Beard and Moustache Championships. Our primary goal is to promote the worldwide appreciation of beards and moustaches. Other goals include making the United States competitive in the WBMC, promoting and publicizing the WBMC, and facilitating the attendance of members and others at the championships…The team is actively recruiting new members in the hope of fielding the strongest possible squad for the next championships, which will take place in Brighton, England, on September 1, 2007.

The site continues:


Unlike the Olympics, with its highly-competitive qualifying tournaments, strict drug regulations, and gender testing, this truly unique, off-beat public event is open to everyone willing to support his or her country. Well, at least everyone with a beard or moustache. In fact, it is almost unpatriotic not to grow a beard or moustache and enter the competition. The German beard clubs who started the WBMC have long dominated the competition. The Germans’ domination can be attributed to their superior organization and the large number of active and enthusiastic participants.

Hell, if I were hormonally and chromosomally enabled, maybe I’d grow a beard myself and document the competition from the inside. I always wanted to stay in the Olympic Village…maybe it’s like that, but with more hair, less muscles? Or something. I’m calling on the men of America: someone go, and tell me what it’s like.

Images: Beard Team USA.

Hat tip: Dr. Charles

Garcia Marquez, Leaving

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

marquez.gifI first read One Hundred Years of Solitude at the insistence of a roommate who herself had read it while feverish in Ghana. She said she hallucinated the whole novel. Which is probably the proper way to experience it.

The book’s author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is dying of cancer and has retired from public life.

“If for an instant God were to forget that I am a rag doll and gifted me with a piece of life, possibly I wouldn’t say all that I think, but rather I would think of all that I say. …

“I would walk when others hold back, I would wake when others sleep. I would listen when others talk, and how I would enjoy a good chocolate ice cream! …”

More can be found here.

Utopia For Book-Lovers

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006


Today’s Very Good Idea award goes to BookMooch, a site where book lovers can unload titles they no longer need, and search to see whether anyone else is getting rid of something they’re looking for. In its frugality and community-mindedness, the BookMooch model is like freecycling, but with a luscious interface and a stylishly geeky persona all its own.

The perfect way to find the things I didn’t get for Christmas, I say, while rinsing the greasy film of holiday consumerism off to boot!

DJ Spooky’s Best of 2006, “A Guide for the Perplexed”

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

DJSpooky.jpgDJ Spooky is a revolutionary thinker, mixmaster and author of Rhythm Science. SMITH asked him for a list of personal media projects and passions that blew his mind in 2006.

I get asked to list my “best of” a lot. Considering there’s a glut of boring stuff in the world, my usual response is—why more? The main issue is that there’s a howling emptiness out there in the world, a vacuum left by so much of which that happens to be lame: people don’t get multi-culturalism in the digital media scene, they don’t get dynamic art, they don’t get the fact that digital culture has blurred the lines between creativity and participation to the point that the viewer is part of the process of creativity, the list goes on…New_Sticker1c.jpg_2.jpg

As America moves more and more into a world where truth and fiction have changed places, and become a blurred mirror reflection of one another, I hope my Best of 2006 can serve as something of a guide for the perplexed. My hope here is to play the role of “DJ as storyteller,” and talk about how we record collectors are story collectors, with some key updates of late. Forget the old school concept of the bard going from town to town singing songs, or the Griot in West Africa who would play the songs of the villages in his realm: this is the 21st Century rollover—count your cell phone minutes—flow with the flow, ’cause it’s good to go.

November 7th, 2006 was the day that set the U.S. on fire—the Republican reality distortion machine—the war in Iraq, the war at home, games they played with “cultural values,” the hypocrisy, lies, and flat out state of denial (to name a few)— led to massive election losses. That catapulted November onto my “best of” for 2006. Now watching the Republicans struggle with the fact that they had deceived themselves as well as the world has made the results all the more satisfying (and making the month of December a close runner-up).

MOMA DadaThe Taliban’s destruction of the Buddha’s of Bamiyan in Afghanistan was a world tragedy of historic proportions, highlighting the fact that religious conservatives everywhere are a real drag. One of my favorite projects of 2006 is the proposed reconstruction of the statues as laser projections by the Japanese artist Hiro Yamagata, who will be using a series of lights that will project multiple images of the Buddhas onto the cliffs where the statues once were. The lasers will be wind and solar powered, and the excess electricity will be diverted to help the small villages of the people of Bamiyan.

Yoko Ono’s speech for the Turner Award this year put it all in perspective—leave it to her to bring out the real meaning of so much of what is going on these days. Go Yoko, go! Tomma Abts is the first woman to receive the award. Can you believe its 2006?

Joseph Kosuth’s A Labyrinth into which I can venture (a play of works by guests and foreigners) exhibit at Sean Kelly Gallery. To understand this amazing installation, you need to think about the way that people process language and create stories. The show is a mix of bits and pieces taken from works that were given to Joseph, and woven into a gallery installation. Kosuth’s work is always lyrical, and this is one of those scenarios that seems to mirror the way we live now. It’s art as collective process, narrative of many, distilled by one.

TaeuberPatti Smith’s The Pythagorean Traveller at Robert Miller Gallery. From visiting the graves of poets and philosophers, to actually making a bed of poetry, Patti Smith is one of my favorite artists working today. So many of us travel, but who actually observes? I’m in a different city almost every couple of days, and all I can say is: Patti, I can relate!

MOMA’s Dada Show speaks for itself.

Roselee Goldberg’s Performa Biennial. Art and culture aren’t just about objects, it’s about the people who activate and relate the whole scenario.

Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion reconstructs a healthy skepticism that I think humanity needs so desperately right now—it’s one of the best books of the year, if only for that. But it’s also an excellent read.

Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Read it and eat anything at your own risk.

Jonathan Lethem’s Promiscuous Materials Project. As usual, Letham is doing something cool and interesting. Here, you can remix and adapt storylines he’s made up and released under the Creative Commons banner. Smart, dynamic, and above all, hey, it’s from a writer who really embodies what Picasso said so long: minor artists copy, great artists steal! At $1 a piece, these stories are a real steal.

Ian Inaba’s American Blackout looks at the vortex of race, politics and voter suppression that’s driven much of American history—and reminds us know that it’s still here, running strong. What was that phrase Santayana mentioned a while ago? Those who can’t really examine the past are doomed to repeat it.

Lupe Fiasco. Yeah, yeah, I know he’s a protégé of Kanye West, but his debut album Food and Liquor has a couple of classic tracks: Daydreamin’ is slammin’, non-normal, non-boring hip-hop. On the other hand… Yo! Why is it that Young Jeezy has to rhyme about being a really good cocaine dealer? Hasn’t anyone read Thomas De Quincy’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater? If that’s too much to handle, I recommend the essay posted on AlterNet, Confessions of an eBay Opium Addict.

I also loved Trojan Records this year, a label for me which defined the year of dub. I have to admit I’m bored by most of the music coming out of the electronic art/experimental scene, and even a fart by Lee Scratch Perry or King Tubby is more creative than half the tracks you hear these days. The real art of sampling began with Jamaican style tape manipulation, loops, and cut up tracks, and yes, people like Steve Reich or Pierre Henri are white guys doing the same thing. But who do you think had the funk first?


From the first panel to the last, Anthony Lappé and Dan Goldman’s Shooting War (presented by SMITH, where I write this—but do so with no prompting) is a graphic novel that takes “cyberpunk” themes from William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, and spits them out into the near future—actually, Iraq about six years from now. Shooting War was the download of the year for me—a free online comic that was uploaded episode by episode. Sure beats Lonelygirl15.


Flava Flav!!! Flav Flav!!! Flava Flav!!!

The Flavor of Love, Flav’s TV show, just shows us how far we haven’t moved since the days of Bert Williams. Compare the two, and you can see how eerily Flav updates the minstrel show theme. After all, minstrel shows were America’s first pop culture. Check the vibe, and update the scenario, and—voila!—you have Flavor of Love. Flow with the flow ’cause you’re good to go!

Christmas Stories We Love

Monday, December 25th, 2006

Merry Christmas SMITH-ites!

Below, I found a few stories I thought would: a) bring a smile to your face; b) make you laugh out loud; or c) remind you that there’s no reason to be a Bah Humbug—at least for today.

Beliefnet: Christmas Around the World

New York Times: Jewish in a Winter Wonderland

Arizona Republic: Belief in Miracles is Matter of Faith

Slate: How to be a Shopping Mall Santa

asap: Christmas on the Battlefield

LA Times: The War on Hanukkah by Joel Stein.

Put Your Junk In That Box

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Yes, yes, I’ve gotten you allllll excited with my post title, and don’t worry, I’m not screwing with your mind. We’ll get to it, I promise.

In the meantime, though, a real sample of personal media, from “YourTube News.” This one’s a well-crafted (if long) opinion piece about the “phenomenon” — you’ll see why I have that in quotes — of new, Lonelygirl15-esque, video series. I think it’s pretty well eviscerated here.

After the jump, as a very special holiday gift to all of you—my dick in a box.


I spy

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

94481649_30d7e70b53.jpgEver wonder what other people around the globe think of you, the American? I do. Of course, me being the nosy type, I also wonder what it’s like to be the other person living, breathing, eating, and playing in Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Portugal or Denmark, which is one reason why I love the Web so much. It’s a great way to snoop.

Today, I’m spying on Ahmed al-Omran. He writes one of Saudi Arabia’s most popular blogs called Saudi Jeans. What piqued my interest you ask? The kid sticks out like a sore thumb in one of the most conservative countries in the world—at least according to a recent article in The Christian Science Monitor.

Ahmed al-Omran… is easy to spot, sitting in a Lebanese kebab restaurant in the city’s downtown Olaya district. Purple T-shirts aren’t that common. He’s definitely not the thobe type, he says, a fact underscored by his late-model jeans and Pumas.

Ahmed’s blog has already received lots of attention from new organizations both here (obviously The Christian Science Monitor and others) and there—think Al Hayat in Saudi Arabia, Gulf News in Dubai, and Arab Times in Kuwait.

Be sure to check out Saudi Jeans. Ahmed’s got a lot to say and it’s pretty interesting—plus, you can see what a Starbucks in Riyadh looks like.

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