Archive for February, 2007

Why Some Ideas Stick

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007


The Christian Science Monitor has a review of a book by Chip and Dan Heath entitled “Made to Stick…”

Says the article:

“It didn’t matter whether the ideas themselves were good or bad, just that they’d ’stuck.’ (Not only is the Great Wall of China not the sole man-made structure visible from space; it isn’t visible from space at all. And still…)

What the Heaths discovered was that the stickiest ideas, regardless of intrinsic merit, had a lot in common. Or, more accurately, the ways they were presented had a lot in common.

Each of these ideas, as conveyed, could be described using one or more of just these six à la carte attributes: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and story-containing. Line up the first letters of those characteristics, add a lower-case “s” (poetic license), and you’ve got the handy acronym SUCCESs.”

Story-containing. Why am I a wee bit gratified, and not too surprised?

I’d argue, too, that the five adjectives besides “story-containing” might properly be thought of as elements of a good story, themselves.

Image: Christian Science Monitor

Elizabeth Gilbert on Leonard Lopate

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

This bracingly cold day in New York City just got a little less chilly (well, a little brighter, at least)—Elizabeth Gilbert, beloved of SMITH, has appeared on the Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC, discussing Eat, Pray, Love, her memoir of a post-divorce journey across Europe and Asia. SMITH excerpted it back in June.

If you’re looking for an excuse to get out into the cold this evening—or trying to stave off cabin fever—Elizabeth Gilbert will be signing books tonight, February 6 at 7pm, at Temple Israel, on 112 East 75th Street (between Park and Lexington Avenues).


Monday, February 5th, 2007

This week’s question:

When did you realize that — for better or for worse — you needed a “surge” to try to save your ass?

Next week’s question:
Some say smear campaigns are just proof Obama’s a contender. What’s the most patently untrue thing ever said about you?

Your answer goes here (in 100 words or less, please). We’ll post our favorites on the front page of SMITH.

Home Brewed: The Photography of Joe Fornabaio

Monday, February 5th, 2007

Go to the photos

Joe Fornabaio now lives in Manhattan’s East Village, but he keeps his camera close to home—which is wherever his extended family can be found. Christmas, Halloween, first communion, birthday parties—if there’s family, cake and a “bajillion course Italian meal” to be had in the Fornabaio family, you can bet your seven fishes that Joe and his camera will be there, too, both as participant and documentarian. “On any occasion I’m there in celebration with them, but they’ve become comfortable with my camera by my side so I get to shoot without drawing a glance,” he says. He takes photographs both for love and for a living using his Mamiya RZ 67. The 37-year-old photographer shares a few of his very personal pics with SMITH, and his thoughts on what makes him click.

What makes a good image to you?
I like different images for different reasons. Sometimes I like an image for its visual strength, sometimes for its content. The cream of the crop is when you’ve got both in one photo.

Who first inspired you to take pictures?
My high school art teacher, he didn’t inspire me so much as bring photography to my attention. I’m forever grateful to him for seeing the boredom I had in his class.

What’s the most important quality of a photo for you?
I need to like it whether it’s content or just visual strength. If I don’t like it I’m not going to look at it again.

What do you consider off-limits?
For me, I can’t shoot the depressing side of life when people are at their most difficult time, so I admire photojournalists who do by covering wars and human interest pieces that focus on the sadder parts of life that we need to be aware of.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen through the viewfinder?
Let me put it this way: nothing that’s kept me from shooting, but I am eagerly awaiting that moment when someone will have to call an ambulance because I won’t be able to breathe from laughing so hard.

What’s the fish that got away—the photo you saw but didn’t have a camera for?
I see ’em everyday but I don’t sweat it. I can’t capture every moment of my waking life so I’ve learned to appreciate every moment regardless whether I’ve captured it or not. I’ve learned to not beat myself over the one that ‘got away’ because there are way too many moments in life that I find interesting. So I always carry at least one of my point-and-shoot Yashica T4’s with me so I at least have something on film.

From whom, what, or where do you derive inspiration?
Everything. People, places, things. Cliché? I don’t care, it’s the truth, and there’s too many to list.

What’s the picture you’d most like to take?
Actually, this is sort of the ‘one that got away,’ a self-portrait with my point-and-shoot camera at arms length atop the Twin Towers overlooking New York City in the background.

If anyone could take a picture of you, who would it be?
Lorenzo Giustini, my four-year-old nephew. What a great name, Lorenzo Giustini, sounds like some great pioneer/turn of the century photographer. He’d probably shoot it with his parents’ point-and-shoot digital camera. Why? Because he has no preconceived notions of what a photo should be, so he would shoot endlessly the boundless curiosity he has with a camera that instantly gratifies him. No rules, no ego, pure enthusiasm.

Where are you happiest taking photographs?
Wherever I’m standing. As long as there’s a breath in my body and I’m fortunate enough to have the strength in my arms to lift a camera and the eyes to look through a lens then I’m happy. I consider myself very fortunate to love what I do for a living, which also enables me to keep doing my personal work. So it’s a double whammy: I love to shoot and get paid for it!

Below are some of Joe Fornabaio’s favorite family photos.
Click on an image to enlarge.

Easter at my mother’s house. My cousin Ann Marie taking a picture of some of us in the back patio. The weather was gorgeous that weekend so we set up a long table outside in the backyard patio to accommodate about 12 of us.

Easter at my mother’s house. Left to right: my cousin Francesca’s husband, Michael, and my brother Donato sneaking a peek at some dessert. My brother is pulling the box open.

Cousin Ralph getting a haircut by Anthony of Artistic Image on Staten Island. This is part of another project I’ve begun on barbershops.

Christmas at my mother’s house. Left to right: My cousin Nancy’s son Sal sitting on the couch bored out of his skull while she has a conversation with my brother Anthony’s girlfriend, Antonia.

Easter at my mother’s house. My cousin Ralph fixing bicycle for his daughter Diana.

Easter at my mother’s house. Left to right: My cousin Francesca’s son Michael, my cousin Tommy’s son Giovanni eating, and my cousin Nancy’s son Joseph, with my cousin Filomena in background.

My Aunt Ida’s sixtieth birthday. Left to right in front at table: Diana, Victoria, Aunt Ida, Sophia, Aunt Maria. In the background: Aunt Antoinette, cousin Tina and mom all looking on.

Easter at my mother’s house. Back of my brother Anthony’s head as he talks to his girlfriend Antonia.

My cousin Joe’s daughter Antonia’s christening at the Knights of Columbus on Staten Island. The man’s head is my Uncle John.

Sam (my cousin Filomena’s son) wrapped up in toilet paper at my cousin Santo’s son Nicholas’ first birthday. We have lots of kids at family gatherings now, so they hired this DJ who specializes in entertaining kids; one of the things he had them do was wrap each other up in toilet paper.

Barely skipping a beat to eat, my brother Anthony eating as my Aunt Ida is putting a lobster bib around him with a tray of baked clams and lobsters in the foreground. In an Italian household like mine, Christmas Eve dinner is all fish.

Food coma sets in on my brother Anthony sleeping next to a doll after a Thanksgiving meal at my Aunt Antoinette’s house. Don’t ask me how the doll wound up there.

At my cousin Tommy’s son Giovanni’s first communion party. Left to right: Filomena laughing as she looks on, John with his Blackberry and his wife (my cousin) Francesca both looking puzzled at an email he’s received.

Joe (my cousin Nancy’s son) at his Aunt Filomena’s wedding looking not too excited about the stiff suit.

Easter at my mother’s house. Mom showing cake to my cousins. Left to right: Ann Marie, Christine and my brother Anthony’s girlfriend, Antonia.

Left to right: My cousin Francesca’s kids Victoria and Michael. I was doing some formal pics of the family and the kids were dying to put on their Halloween costumes. We finally obliged, and I just let them go wild. Then it happened. She was moving the chair when my cousin John and I noticed her stockings were around her knees. (We hadn’t seen it earlier because her skirt hid it.) That’s when Michael leaned in to see what we were laughing at.

Left to right: Cousin Joann’s husband, Joe; Uncle John; and Uncle Sal’s brother-in-law Enzo sitting on wall at cousin Santo’s engagement party at his parents Zia Dolores and Uncle Sal’s house in Brooklyn.

More of Joe Fornabaio’s work can be found on his site

The Theory of the Little Bite

Sunday, February 4th, 2007

8398096_deab1d6482.jpgToday’s New York Times has the kind of piece that was born to be devoured, dissected and blogged: Sharp Bites, Allen Salkin’s breezy profile of the new breed of restaurant bloggers in NYC. It’s a solid overview for the Sunday Styles set (and on a personal note: perfectly timed to the end of my month-long detox; man, am I hungry), one that I bet zips up the most e-mailed stories list (prediction: it rests comfortably at the #7 spot).

Still, the stomach rumbles with a few questions:

• How can a piece about food bloggers fail to mention the original gangsta of gastronomy, Chowhound founder Jim Leff? Or has a month without red meat left me grumpy … and that indeed not to kiss the Chowhound ring in a story about our wide Web of food is indeed as fresh as a parsnip in a winter stew?

• Are there any non-white food bloggers out there? I’m not being PC, I’d just like some guidance as to where to find the best bahn mi from Chinatown and beyond—and I want to hear it from a 26-year-old with a six-figure book deal for her hotly anticipated debut memoir, Banh Me: My Journey From the Hills of Ho Chi Minh to the Backrooms of the Lower East Side.

• Finally, is there a blog out there exclusively dedicated to the pursuit of bacon in the five boroughs? If not, hands up if you’d inhale that. Thought so.

Big hungry bonus: if you like the piece about food bloggers, you’ll love SMITH’s new diary, Out of the Frying Pan, Tim Riley’s diary of the weird, funny, and all-true journey of a fancy chef just out of cooking school.

- - -
man eating bahn mi>> Flickr>>Creative Commons>>Telstar*

*Check this: To make this post prettier, I went searching on Flickr, as I often do, for shots labeled “creative commons” (meaning, in most cases, available for non-commercial use). I found a scant 111 results, but one of them was of a familiar face. Is that Spencer, I thought? Clicking through, I saw this caption from our mutual pal Todd Lappin, aka CEO of Telstar Logistics: “Spencer, with the most delicious sandwich in the world, and a pretty good view.”

This Week, A Video Tribute to Our Editors

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

The dirty little secret here at SMITH — hell, it took me months to figure it out myself — is that damn near all of us happened to go to the University of Pennsylvania. In tribute to that, and to the general inability of folks like us (except, of course, JahFurry) to dance, I’m proud to present this week’s video. Sent to me by yet another Penn alum (I can’t escape!) it shows one proud Penn student showing the denizens of the New York City subway how to dance. Join us for this beautiful experience, won’t you?

Call Submissions: Online Dating Stories on Huffpo

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

35012883_c2d295b2fe_m.jpgFrom now till V-Day, The Huffington Post and Virginia Vitzthum (author of the new online dating book I Love You, Let’s Meet) are looking for your stories about love online. Send 200-500 words about your perfect disaster or fairytale ending to The first 15 entries in decent English will win a signed copy of I Love You, Let’s Meet. The best of the lot will be posted on February 14 on HuffPo as well as Virginia’s blog.

Heart hand>>Flickr>>Creative Commons>>Oshkoshposhjosh

Dressing for my home office

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

147344060_71301641bc.jpgImagine a workspace where you can wear your PJs to the office, make your own hours, and actually enjoy good coffee without paying $3.00. Well, for some Americans that’s already a reality thanks to telecommuting. Sadly, most of us aren’t allowed that luxury except when blogging for SMITH (currently sipping my yummy Porto Rico coffee with jammies on). But according to an article in The Christian Science Monitor, Congress (believe it or not) is actually devoting some time to this idea.

Recent hearings in Congress focused on telecommuting as a way to deal with traffic, terrorism, oil dependency, and global warming. Some participants noted that remote employees make it possible for offices to operate during a serious storm, terrorist attack, or other emergency.

I’m slightly suspicious here because why would our government want its citizens to work from home. Evidentially, they haven’t taken man’s laziness into account.

So, seriously, what are they thinking?

Some points from the story: (more…)

The Story of Joel

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

riskybusiness4_1.jpgI’ve always found the notion of meeting someone with your same name more entertaining that perhaps the real randomness of it deserves (or maybe it’s because of it–hard to say). Back in the day, one of my all-time favorite stories from Might Magazine, was a dispatch from writer Phillip G. Campbell about the annual meeting of Phil Campbell’s from around the world in Phil Campbell, Alabama. (It’s brilliant and you can find it in the Might book.)

That’s all an unnecessary preamble to the following true, potentially life-changing statement: The Joels are getting together! Our friends from The Hype Agency want you to know this, and they want you to join them for Super Joel Saturday (SJS) in which a whole lot of Joels and not-Joels alike will gather to celebrate the launch of a Not Your Average Joel (a name which lost out by a hair to LonelyJoel15), a video series staring, yes, Joel. SJS gets rolling this Saturday, February 3 at 10pm at NYC’s Rififi, 332 E. 11th Street. In the words of the hypesters: “This Joel is not average. The party will not be average.”

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