Archive for April, 2007

Who’s That Guy?

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Most New Yorkers know that Gothamist is the place to go for updates on weather, local sports, city politics, accidents, protests, and other news you can use. I imagine the same is true for the “ist”s in other cities, from Austin to Shanghai.

But my favorite part of Gothamist is the frequent interviews with notable New Yorkers on all levels of the fame spectrum; anyone with a passion and a project is fair game. Past interviews include lots of folks we know and love, as well as the kind we’d like to, from iPod filmmakers to Scrabble champs.

If you click here, you might just see a familiar face, a chap called Larry Smith who spoke with Rachel Kramer Bussel about his vision for a storytelling magazine that blends user-generated content and light editing to tell every kind of story in every way imaginable.

We’re awfully proud to join the ranks of Gothamist interviewees, and awfully proud of the accomplishments and aspirations revealed in the Q&A. Got opinions, suggestions, or submissions? Tell SMITH.

Idol Worship

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

omgsong.png I admit, I was stunned (a little) when I realized that American Idol wasn’t just an anglo phenomenon and has already spread to more than 30 countries, not counting the unofficial copycats. There’s clearly something to this karaoke business. :)

I can’t even remember how I stumbled on this site, but if you’re not sure you’ve got the chops for national TV, or your musical tastes are a little more eclectic, try OMGSong Karaoke on for size.

The OMGsong.NET jargon describing what the members of its community are, is ‘Karaoke Failure’. Though this is a literal description of the majority of us, there actually exist a good amount of talent participating on this site as well =). However the purpose of OMGsong is not to produce all ‘10′ ranked songs. The purpose is self expression. All too often in today’s modern societies, we pent up our emotions and just need a nondestructive way of releasing it.

The premise is simple, sing along to your favorite (often anime theme) songs, upload the results. Members vote on the songs they like, and leave constructive and supportive comments.

My Ex: A Photo Essay By Lauren Fleishman

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

A New Yorker to the core, Lauren Fleishman’s work has appeared in The Fader, New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, The Sunday Times, Time, and ELLE. But it was her incredibly personal photo essay, You Would Have Loved Him Too, that caught SMITH’s eye. “The series is about the loss of a relationship with a person that I met when I was very young,” says the Brooklyn-based photographer. “He was very attractive and charismatic—everyone loved him and wanted to be around him. That’s where the title comes from.” Using her own photographs and letters he had written her, Lauren created a book which contained images and collages chronicling the affair. “I’ve always kept journals and this gallery started in that style when the relationship ended.”

Named one of the Photo District News’ 30 young photographers to watch in 2003, Lauren is now a finalist for the American Photography 23 and an award recipient in the 2007 PDN Annual for her series, Sixteen Candles, which appeared in Time.

Lauren talked to SMITH about her craft.

Can you tell me your name, the brand of camera you’re using, and how long you’ve been taking pictures?

I have been taking pictures since my sophomore year in high school. We had a photography program that started us in black and white and then moved into color. It was fantastic because we could develop our own color film.

I use a lot of different cameras depending on the job, but I started with 35mm. Now, I mostly use the Hasselblad H1 and the Contax 645. For digital, I like the Canon 5D.

You Would Have Loved Him Too is a very personal and compelling photo essay. Why did you decide to capture this moment in your life?

I had been in a small town in France with him and I left for Paris alone, which is when I started to put the images together. I did it because I thought it was an important point in my life. I used my own photographs with his handwriting. I would work in this hotel room where I was staying and paste everything together in a book and make pages. The original consists of a combination of 60 images and collages.

What has the response been like from friends and colleagues to the series?

The series was first edited and published by Whitney Lawson at Nerve. She was the one that came up with the name for the gallery. There was a comments page and most people thanked me for being honest. Someone wrote something about how the work was mediocre and self-obsessed and I can respect that opinion. I work mostly as a magazine photographer and I would probably be really hurt if someone said that about my editorial work. But these pictures came from a different place, so they will always hold something for me. I continue to show the story because people seem to respond to it, but it is so much harder for me to show personal work.

What makes a good image to you?

Any image that makes you connect with the subject or the place.

What do you consider off-limits to shoot?

I don’t think anything specific is off limits to shoot, but you have to respect boundaries.

What’s one fish that got away?

I was sitting in a one-room Amish schoolhouse with about 10 older members of the community. It was 8 o’clock at night in the middle of winter with nothing but the gas lamps for light. I felt like I had stepped back in time. The Amish typically don’t allow themselves to be photographed, and on that night I was asked not to take pictures.

From whom, what, or where do you derive inspiration?

People inspire me. My job allows me access into so many peoples homes, so many different lives. The best way I can describe it would be like when a friend introduces you to something new that turns out to be fantastic. Except in my case, this person is someone you’d probably otherwise never meet, which maybe even makes it more extraordinary. Being a freelancer can be really lonely and I need those moments to make me feel normal and connected.

What’s the picture you’d most like to take?

I hope I know it when I see it.

If anyone could take a picture of you, who would it be?

This is a tough question, but strangely enough it would probably be my father. I remember when he would photograph the family and he would step back and insist on always taking a vertical [shot], but the pictures would always be crooked.

Where are you happiest taking photographs?

In Northern Indiana.

More from Lauren Fleishman.

Also check out more “My Ex” stories.

Saving Mother Earth

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

OK, I know we’ve all seen President Al Gore’s awesome/Oscar-winning doc, An Inconvenient Truth (and if you haven’t, shame on you! RENT IT TODAY), so in honor of Earth Day, I thought I’d post some eco-friendly tips straight from Gore’s website (pass it on).

Small things we can do to keep the planet alive:

Replace a regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (cfl).

Move your thermostat down 2° in winter and up 2° in summer.

Seek out and support local farmers markets.

Try telecommuting from home (kudos to SMITH).

Turn off electronic devices you’re not using.

Be sure you’re recycling at home.

Go green.

Virginia, One Person at a Time

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

464730226_d0fa955bd5_o.jpgWhen people ask me why I started SMITH, I have lots to say. If you know me, you know I’m capable of going on and on about my desire to create a new kind of storytelling magazine (I just read somewhere that if you aren’t boring people to death with you desire to talk about your project then you’re not passionate enough; I don’t have that problem). The short answer is that inspiration came from three sources:

• My grandfather, who everyone called “Smitty,” and on those rare times my grandmother let him talk, was a great storyteller.
• Working at Yahoo Internet Life and watching the beginning of user-generated content and the thrill we all had posting a comment, forwarding a video, writing or reading a blog.
• Living in New York City during 9/11 and being inspired by one of the ways the newspaper of record chose to tell the biggest story of our lifetime: one person at a time.

And it’s with that personal preamble ramble that I encourage you to skip the video of Cho Seung-Hui, a video that’s probably the most watched in history (or will be soon), and spend some quieter moments reading through these short profiles of the men and women killed in at Virginia Tech. In plain language, person to person, this is what was lost on April 16, 2007.

How Do You Forgive?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

140927666_b340967604_m.jpgThe tragedy at Virginia Tech has many people looking for answers anywhere they can. For now, there’s the expected second-guessing, finger-pointing and political posturing; eventually, some will seek a certain sense of forgiveness, even if they’re not sure who to blame or how, exactly, to forgive. I’m always struck by stories of people who have been involved in the most unforgivable situations digging into their soul and accepting the apology, letting it go. One of the weirder but more poignant stories is from a few years back, surrounding a woman who suffered serious injuries after some punk thought it would be funny to throw a frozen turkey out of his car window. Face to face in court, where her decision to forgive her attacker dramatically reduced his sentence and certainly changed his life, The New York Times reported this exchange:

I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” Mr. Cushing said over and over again. “I didn’t mean it.” Most of their exchange was whispered, but at one point Ms. Ruvolo’s advice to him was just barely audible.

“It’s O.K., it’s O.K.,” she said. “I just want you to make your life the best it can be.”

My friend Bernice Yeung has been on the “forgiveness beat” for a while now, writing stories about people confronting each other as they attempt to deal with the most awful circumstances. Bernice does powerful pieces about people like Phyllis Rodriguez, a woman whose son died at the World Trade Center, and who came to know and grieve with Aicha el-Wafi Moussaoui, mother of Zacarias. It’s Bernice who told me about the Forgiveness Project, a nonprofit which has a mission of promoting understanding, and I suspect closure, through the act of forgiveness.
“We use stories … to open up a dialogue and promote understanding,” explains its mission statement on the site. “Many of those whose voices are celebrated on this website, also share their stories in person. We work in prisons, schools, faith communities, and with any group who want to explore the nature of forgiveness whether in the wider political context or within their own lives.”

Anyone who needs a push to forgive or forget or some combo therein should take a look at this powerful storytelling application.

Mourning dove>>Flickr>>Creative Commons>>blue dharma

All Your Miranda July Are Belong To Us

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

A radically cool web site promoting a book of stories by a crazy cool author-artist-thinker, Miranda July.

Three War Stories

Monday, April 16th, 2007


1. Sean Huze. Plot: Soldier returns from Iraq and sets up a theater company in Los Angeles. Ed Asner, among others, digs it. Read Michael Slenske’s interview with Huze.

2. Operation Homecoming. Part of a week-long series on war and terrorism, comes tonight’s debut of Operation Homecoming. Plot: the PBS doc is based on the book of the same name that tells the Afghanistan and Iraq war stories through the personal letters, journals, poems, stories, and memoirs of the men and women in the military.

SMITH had the chance to meet some of makers of Operation Homecoming at an incredible commingling of writers, photographers, and filmmakers at the Housing Works last week, including: Jarhead’s Anthony Swofford (that’s a shot from the Jarhead movie, above), This Is Our War’s Devin Friedman and Edouard Gluck, Just Another Soldier’s Jason Christopher Hartley, and others. To a creator, they are bold and badass and offer up unflinching versions and visions of war.

3. Paul Rieckhoff’s 15-Month Story. Plot: Former vet and founder of the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America reacts to the recent announcement that tours of duty in Iraq will be upped to 15 months in a piece on The Huffington Post.


Monday, April 16th, 2007

This week’s question:

April fools! What’s the most successful prank you ever played?

Next week’s question:
Congrats! You survived another April 15th. Tell us about a time when you ‘forgot’ to declare something—to the IRS or anyone else…

Five Rocks Stars You Meet in Heaven

Monday, April 16th, 2007

On the sixth anniversary of Joey Ramone’s death, Girl With Glasses author Marissa Walsh remembers a chance encounter with the punk God in one of the weirdest places you could imagine: Graceland.

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