Archive for January, 2007

Cool Project Alert

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

So imagine, if you will, a scenario:

“The machine had been invented a few years ago: a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die. It didn’t give you the date and it didn’t give you specifics. It just spat out a sliver of paper upon which were printed, in careful block letters, the words “DROWNED” or “CANCER” or “OLD AGE” or “CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN”. It let people know how they were going to die.”

fialka-front-2-250px.jpgExcept the machine’s predictions didn’t always shake out the way people thought they might. “OLD AGE” sometimes meant ‘died in her sleep after a long life’; other times, it meant ‘gunned down on the street by a homicidal nonagenerian.’

In other respects, the world in which this machine exists is just like ours.

This scenario is the premise for a short-story contest called Machine of Death, inspired by one of Ryan North’s ever-amusing Dinosaur Comics.

Ryan, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki were so taken by the premise that they’re using it as the basis of a short-story anthology for which they’re accepting entries through the end of March, ‘07.

Each story has to be titled after the name of a mode of death predicted by the machine. So if you think you might have something to say about TICKLED TO DEATH BY FEATHERS or SHELLFISH POISONING or maybe something cryptic like DROPPED, you’ll want to check out the official contest rules.

The Letters to the Editor Revolution

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Today at Salon, where I’m also on staff, writer-at-large Gary Kamiya writes a cover story about, well, our readers. It focuses on the often wild letters section at Salon, and how both Salon’s writers and Salon’s content has been affected.

This is a frequent topic among staffers — “You” are on “Our” minds all too often. And some of us are quite affected by it. Personally, I really enjoy the nasty letters sent in about me and my articles, but then, the nasty letters about me are never quite as vitriolic, never quite as personal, as those about some of our other writers, particularly the female ones.

Thought this was worth mentioning here on SMITH; this is, after all, one of the least discussed, though ultimately perhaps most influential, aspects of the personal media revolution, and I thought it worthwhile to bring the discussion here. What do you think? Tell us — just don’t call me fat.

Not a Dem or a Republican? Think Unity.

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

I think it’s fair to say that most of us are sick of the political games played by our politicians—at the local, state, and national level. And I think most of us are kind of annoyed that politics has become, in recent years, very polarized to the point where you want to strangle/cut/smash the knee caps of the other side.

Needless to say, when I first read about Unity08, a web-based movement, in The Atlantic, I was pretty excited. Although not a third party per se, Unity08 hopes to run a Unity ticket that will give Americans something more than the usual rhetoric.

What, you were happy voting for the lesser of two evils?

(In case you can’t find this particular issue of The Atlantic, it’s the one with the cover of President Bush and the cover line that reads: Why Presidents Lie?)

Unity08 believes that neither of today’s major parties reflects the aspirations, fears or will of the majority of Americans. Both have polarized and alienated the people. Both are unduly influenced by single-issue groups. Both are excessively dominated by money.

The goals:

Goal 1 is the election of a Unity Ticket for President and Vice-President of the United States in 2008—headed by a woman and/or man from each major party or by an independent who presents a Unity Team from both parties.

Goal 2 is for the people themselves to pick that Unity Ticket in the first half of 2008—via a virtual and secure online convention in which all American voters will be qualified to vote.

Goal 3, our minimum goal, is to effect major change and reform in the 2008 national elections by influencing the major parties to adopt the core features of our national agenda.

I suspect no C-average students in this bunch.

Love, International Style

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Elizabeth_eating_at_Gonpachi.JPGWe are so thrilled to present Elizabeth Koch’s The World Tour Compatibility Test, a 10-part series in which the writer travels the world with her boyfriend, visiting exotic places while trying to figure out whether to break up or move in together. TWTCT is presented by Memoirville and overflows with more than a few of our favorite things: travel, food and sex. Elizabeth finds a way to take us to that often uncomfortable place between knowing what you want and not knowing at all, getting there with humor and honesty and all the warts that come with the most personal of writing. And the sex is good, too.

Her most recent entry finds her and Todd in Nara, Japan. The series begins here in Shanghai.

Although she’s now living in San Francisco, Elizabeth pops into this week’s New York Press with a super smart and very funny essay on the new census report revealing that married couples are now in the minority. She weaves in personal history, hard data, current trends, and her hysterical mother. (So there’s a lot we can all relate to.) Here’s a little piece.

We seem to be stuck at a crossroads. Folks are entering life-long contracts, but aren’t committed to the sacrifice. Mom was right. You can’t drive down both streets. What will it be, the comforts of loyalty and commitment, or electric, rip-roaring mystery? Marriage seems to be losing its allure, and the breeziness with which couples shuck their marriage vows like an itchy wool sweater proves it.

There’s a simple, rational explanation for this development: Excessive Stimulation. Between Facebook dating, MySpace gawking, X-box when we’re giddy, YouTube when we’re bored, hormones to make us younger, shots to numb our pain, skin-tightening collagens to make us smooth and plucky as a teen - titillation is a given. (more…)

Be Your Own Pollock

Friday, January 26th, 2007

7088859_8f0498b23f.jpgIn honor of Jackson Pollock, who, in the words of VeryShortList (the place where I saw this site), “might have turned 95 this Sunday if he hadn’t died at 44 in a drunk-driving accident,” comes Created by artist Miltos Manetas (and based on technology he tweaked from an another programmer), the concept is simple, playful and addictive. Go on to the site and just start moving your mouse this what and that way and–voila!–instant expressionist painting, likely falling somewhere between what you did on a paper plate in pre-school and a work of art hanging in the MOMA. My nephews are going to love this.

Pollack>>Flickr>>Creative Common>>Dana Rocks

DEBUT! Al-Cuties

Friday, January 26th, 2007

We’re thrilled to be the first to present Josh Gosfield and Alex Sherwin’s new flash animation, Al-Cuties (OK, along with an up-and-coming site called YouTube, but they sent it to us first). An artist, photographer, filmmaker, and guiding light behind The Saint of the Month Club, Al-Cuties is Gosfield and Sherwin’s latest adventure into Flash animation. It’s also an inspired form for expressing an opinion on the state we’re in. Says Gosfield: “I swear on the Qu’ran that it is based on a true story.” I’ll say no more. Just click. Trust me.

The Next Lonelygirl?

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

Below is what is either the most horribly offensive or bestest video ever. This has been burning up certain parts of the blogosphere since late yesterday; it’s a video made by a man named “Donnie Davies,” and it’s called “The Bible Says.” Basically, the message is that the Bible says gay people are bad — and it says it in pretty harsh language. It’s already been pulled from YouTube, but it remains, for the moment, available on MySpace.

So here’s the question that’s on pretty much everyone’s mind: is this real? Andrew Sullivan and Dan Savage seem to think not; I tend to agree, especially as there’s a distinctly jokey element to this whole thing, and, in the list of “Safe Bands” that won’t make you gay on the website of Davies’ record label, “Love God’s Way,” Cyndi Lauper is included. Tell us what you think — the video is below, as is a list of all the sites involved in what I’m pretty sure is a very elaborate bit of performance art, probably designed, like Lonelygirl, as promotion for some upcoming project. (And yes, I tried Whois searches on all these sites; I came up empty.)

Love God’s Way — the record label
Donnie Davies’ website
Evening Service — the band playing in the video along with Davies
MySpace pages for Davies and Evening Service

JahFurry 24-7-365

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

2007_01_newelt3.jpgThe word “one of a kind” gets tossed around a lot, mainly by me. But when I say, “the inimitable JahFurry” those who have encountered the creative creature also known as Jeff Newelt know exactly what I’m talking about. SMITH’s comics editor and minister of propaganda is one of the great mashup artists of our time, a maestro who commingles his massive passions–comics, design, music, alt.judiasm, odd celebrity encounters–into a never-ending symphony that opens your eyes and raises your spirits.

JahFurryLogo.jpgI am pleased to announce that with today’s publication of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s deep and delightful interview with Jeff Newelt in Gothamist, today is officially JahFurry Day.

The first person to mention JahFurry Day tonight at Mo Pitkins, where Shooting War creator Anthony Lappé will be hosting “The War Room,” his no-holds-barred political variety show about the war in Iraq, gets a free plate of potato latkes (we’ve run this special before; we love it). This week the War Room features recent vets answering your questions about their experience, as well as the music of Jenn Grauer. It all goes down tonight at 7pm at Mo Pitkins.

The State of the Union in 30 seconds

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

254460772_72941ca3a7.jpgIn case you missed (or in my case, fell asleep) President Bush’s State of the Union address, I thought some key points might be in order this chilly A.M. courtesy of The Arizona Republic.

ON IRAQ: Bush faces lawmakers skeptical of his Iraq troop—increase strategy. “We went into this largely united,” he says. “I ask you to give it a chance to work.”

ON ENERGY: Bush’s goal is to reduce gas usage by 20 percent over projected levels in 10 years by increasing use of alternate fuels and requiring greater efficiency in cars. (more…)

You are not your Grande Latte

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

203314924_afba1b98cc.jpgIt seems Starbucks has landed smack-dab on the sh*t-list of Rui Chenggang.

After Chenggang, a well-known talking head on Chinese state TV, posted a blog demanding Starbucks be evicted from its prime spot in China’s Forbidden City, the response has been well, overwhelming.

Chenggang’s post has since received more than half a million hits. Not too shabby.

Of course, this entry isn’t really about one man’s dream of seeing the demise of Starbucks (think Fight Club, baby!), it’s about the growing power of the blogosphere in controlled states like China.

Check it:

The appeal of blogs in a country where the traditional media are strictly censored by the government which uses them to propagate approved information and opinions, lies in both the relative freedom they enjoy, and in their interactivity. (more…)

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