Archive for June, 2007

Guest Blogger: Neal Pollack, Father, Blogger, Animal

Friday, June 15th, 2007

fathersDay.jpgIn honor of Father’s Day, we’ve enlisted our own personal Father of the Year, Mr. Neal Pollack, aka Alternadad, aka founder of the blogging network Offsprung, aka father of Elijah, aka guy Regina makes take out the trash … to tell us about some of his top daddy sites and sounds online. Earlier this year Pollack and another pop we love, Michael “If I’m not in the Gaza Strip, dude I’m so totally at your bachelor party” Finkel had a rollicking conversation for SMITH, Help Alternadad! I Seek Your Guidance, an important piece in the daddy canon that examined on the joys and sorrows of fatherhood in all its hazy, confused glory.

Questions about Father’s Day or any other day of the year? Ask the Alternadad.

I hand you over to Neal Pollack.


neal_pollack.jpgIf I could sum up the contemporary daddyblogger in six words, those six words would be: Well-Hung And Ready To Party! Wait. Is Well-Hung one word or two? Stupid frackin’ hyphens. Regardless, I’ve beaten that joke into the dirt. Actually, what I wanted to say about contemporary dads is this: Really, we’re trying to understand. We may sweat too much and occasionally leave skid marks in our underwear, but we still want to do our nurturing part. And we also want to teach our children many important things. So here are some good examples of our attempts to counteract the still-surprisingly-strong propaganda of dad as lazy, careless roustabout:

• The men of Dad Labs try out a breast pump.

• Paul Nyhan says that even SpikeTV is getting into the act.

• Rebel Dad stands up against stereotypes.

• Geek Dad extols the glories of Air Hogs.

• Finally, while this isn’t really related to anything I’m talking about above, I hope that some day my son respects my work as much as Frank Zappa’s son respects his.

Happy Father’s Day!

Neal Pollack

B&W father and son from Fiickr’s aka Kath.

Your Post-Sopranos Little Steven Fix Is In

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

LittleSteven.jpgI’ve been waiting for an excuse to hype Little Steven’s Underground Garage, the best show on terrestrial and online radio. And now I’ve got one: the end of The Sopranos (see how sharp we journalists can be). Every Sunday, Steven van Zandt—alias Little Steven in Springsteen’s E. Street Band, alias Silvio Dante—hosts his hour-long show that digs into the roots and most exciting new sounds of garage rock. It’s a show that’s heavy on early Beatles, always includes a healthy dose of Dylan (his recent show timed with Dylan’s b-day might be my all-time favorite; check it out on the archive), is full of intense, passionate, rock from anyone and everyone from the Strokes to the Stooges—and includes brilliant snippets from newsreels and interviews from the past 50 years. Imagine having your coolest friend, with the best musical taste, play records for you while commenting on why the music he’s picked matters to him, and telling stories about many of the people you’re listening to. It’s personal, passionate media that goes well with a scotch on the rocks.

One more story: a friend of mine who spent a year in prison said that waking up on Sunday mornings and putting on the cheap headphones she bought in the prison commissary and tuning into a local station that miraculously carried the Underground Garage was one of the things that kept her sane those months. Now, with the freedom to listen to it online whenever she wants, she clicks on the show and cranks up the volume whenever she’s cooking. And when she’s good she’s in a good mood.

This week’s show is called Bikini Beach. The man formerly know as Silvio writes on his site:

Oh man have I got some fabulous news for you! It’s summer baby, and we are celebrating life itself in the Underground Garage with the first summer dance party of the season! We got the Rascals, the Stones, the Beatles, Aerosmith, and the Turtles. New music from the Stooges, the Len Price 3, Hawaii Mud Bombers, the Woggles, the White Stripes, and even a rare track from U2. Find out what Arthur Conley, Frankie Avalon, and Tony Sheridan have in common. It’s the first rock and roll summer dance party, this weekend in the in the Underground Garage.

Do yourself a favor and get lost in the music.

Girl Crush

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Today I got my very own copy ofchicklit.jpg Death by Chick Lit, the mystery-chicklit-satire hybrid everyone’s been a-buzzing about. It’s by Lynn Harris, who never fails to make me laugh with her popuLIST contributions about making out over Bar Mitzvah albums, crying over guacamole vessels, and achieving wispy-bang perfection for the eighth grade dance.

Read her HuffPo interview with Rachel Kramer Bussel if you want some personal stories behind the novel, or if you just value a well-mixed smart/silly cocktail as much as I do.

At that awkward age

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

This week’s question:

SMITH is stuck on Stuck in the Middle. What’s your most vivid middle school memory?

Next week’s question:
John Sellers’s Perfect From Now On tells a life as the sum of indie-rock influences. What was your first live concert like?

Googling yourself

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

OK, I don’t know if I’m the only one who does this on a regular basis or maybe I’m the only one who’s stupid enough to admit this, but I have a serious problem—yes, in addition to my fascination with Posh Spice and Katie Price, a.k.a Jordan:

I Google myself a lot. Like daily. I suppose it could be worse. I could be addicted to those silly gossip sites.

While I’m super psyched that the first “Kathy Ritchie” to pop up in a Google search is moi, I started thinking a lot about the other Kathy Ritchies out there. Take Kathy Ritchie of Ritchie Secretarial Services, for instance. Girl gets a lot of play on Google and Google Images. Like, there are seriously 10 images of this chick and only one of me—courtesy of SMITH and that dude in Bryant Park who took my picture.

Anyway, this whole Googling me, I mean Kathy Ritchie, got me wondering who else shares my name and what’s their story?

A quick rundown of just some of the Kats’ out there:

There’s a Kathy Ritchie from Rhodesia (or is it Zambia?) living in Canada.

A Kathy Ritchie, Ph.D—no big shock there, the name Kathy Ritchie simply oozes intelligence.

A Kathy Ritchie from Indiana who is renovating a public library.

ABC7 News interviewed a poll worker named Kathy Ritchie in Redwood City, CA.

Kathy Ritchie, a mother of four and volunteer for the San Lorenzo Valley School District.

Kathy Ritchie the dart player. She won $300 in a Women’s Singles Tournament!

Kathy Ritchie, author of the book, Decorative Painting: Fruits, Vegetables, and Berries.

So, who shares your name on Google?

The Love is Late, but the Love is Here

Monday, June 11th, 2007

Oh, technical difficulties — always fun, especially when they prevent you from getting a Friday video up on, you know, Friday. (Who said Macs were better? Certainly not me.) So as a thank you for your patience, here are not one but two videos to brighten your Monday.

First up is a song advertising a gathering of YouTubers here in New York, coincidentally right down the street from my office. I’m still thinking about whether or not this scares me, but I bet getting all those people who’ve only ever seen each other online together will at least be interesting.

Since our first video was all about actual personal media news, after the jump is one you can enjoy for its pure topical stupidity/humor.


500 words for $1,000

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

buddhas.jpgSo many stories, so many word counts available to memoirists these days. To sort this all out, here’s a round up, in order of rumination.

For $0 and a chance to be in a future SMITH Magazine book of six-word memoirs, you can write six words.

For $0 and a chance to be in 400 Words— which has a snazzy new redesign and is edited by SMITH contributing editor Katherine Sharpe—you can write 400 words. Current topic: work stories.

For a chance to appear in Opium Magazine and win $1,000, you can enter its 500-word memoir contest. (Opium’s the co-obsession of SMITH’s wonderful World Tour Compatibility Test scribe Elizabeth Koch). And in meta-moment #763, the judge of the contest is one of our six-word memoirists Daniel Handler. Like the best of the short, short life stories we’ve received, his could only be his: “What? Lemony Snicket? Lemony Snicket? What?”

One thousand Buddhas from Flickr’s JB55.

Dispatches from the big, big Book Expo

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

As most sentient (or at least LitBlog-reading) beings seem to know by now, last weekend was258024409_a4ed9d9b36.jpg Book Expo America. It was my first time at the annual publishing industry conference/tradeshow/extravaganza, although I was once sent to a similar event thrown by the American Library Association, which I thoroughly enjoyed. BEA was a bigger and a little slicker. There were fewer fanny packs, but also no private night at Universal Studios, so you could say it was a toss up.

In general, I was struck by two things. One, it was really, really corporate. I guess there’s no reason it shouldn’t be—it’s an industry trade show. But a tiny part of me wanted musty, dusty, charming, mahogany-paneled, latte-sipping, cigar-smoking, let’s-don-our-ascots-and-have-civilized-discourse-on-the-future-of-literature. Two, it was freaking hot in there. Shouldn’t the upside of corporate evil be impeccable heating and cooling systems?

All bitching aside, it was a great mix of big publishers and small and university presses, plus representation from kiddielit legends (There’s a sequel to Stargirl! E.L. Konigsburg is still alive!), comics, plays, art books, cooking, erotica, and a self-published ghetto in the basement.

Beyond the Hoods: The Abu Ghraib Images of Daniel Heyman

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

The hooded figure. That’s the image of Abu Ghraib that began living in our heads when The New Yorker published photographs taken by American soldiers along with Seymour Hersh’s historic Torture at Abu Ghraib article three years ago. By this point, the image has been significantly deadened—flattened and stylized into angry, well-intentioned iconography, the stuff of editorial cartoons and T-shirts. In becoming a symbol, it’s been detached from the gut-wrenching detail of its own origin story.

“I tried to use that image as a shorthand to comment on torture,” recalls artist Daniel Heyman , who began working on renderings of the hooded figure into silkscreen prints and etchings shortly after The New Yorker publication in spring 2004. “But it started to become ubiquitous, and I think it lost its ability to have much impact.”

Click on photos to enlarge; mouseover for previous and next.

The above portfolio includes drypoint prints from Heyman’s work in Amman and Istanbul, as well as watercolors from Istanbul. For more information on Heyman and his Abu Ghraib work, visit

Its initial impact, however, was never lost on Heyman, who became fervently engaged in anti-war political debate. And then came an opportunity to throw back the hood of symbolism in his artwork and bring the stories of Abu Ghraib front and center.

A serendipitous meeting with Susan Burke, lead attorney in a reparations lawsuit against civilian interrogators and translators at Abu Ghraib, led to an invitation for Heyman to join Burke’s legal team on a trip to Amman, Jordan. There they would take depositions from former prisoners, and Heyman’s work could move beyond symbol and into story.

Heyman spent six days in hotel rooms in Amman during March 2006 listening to a dozen men and one woman recount abuse and humiliation. He also joined Burke’s legal team for a second set of depositions in Istanbul that August. Working quickly onto copper plates from which he would later make prints, Heyman captured words as well as images.

“I began drawing their faces as the interviews got under way, listening to the reporting of biographical information through the translator, the number of children they had, where they lived, but mostly concentrating on getting a good start on the portrait. They were often in prison many months, and the nature of these interviews was a recitation of the entirety—as much as they could remember—of all that time. So I had to listen, and wait and pick a moment to start writing that might capture the essence of their experience. As soon as I started writing, often with just a few lines established in the portrait, I focused completely on the words.”

“When I have made portraits of people in the past, I was never as concerned with the inner history of the sitter,” says Heyman. “I used the sitter’s image to convey a separate aesthetic idea. Years ago, I made larger narrative paintings that had particular stories attached to them, the sitters in front of me inhabited characters much the way an actor becomes someone else for the duration of a play.”

“But these particular people’s human identities had already been removed twice: first as wrongly accused and brutally tortured prisoners, second in the photos their captors took of them, hooded and faceless, where they became global icons but lost their individuality. I wanted the Iraqis to regain their humanity, to regain their faces and their voices.”

Nonetheless, says Heyman, his own perspective is embedded in the work: In drypoint etching the copper plates to make the prints featured in this portfolio, he had to transcribe his subjects’ words in reverse so they would be readable when pressed onto paper. The stories Heyman shares were written as if in a mirror. —Jim Gladstone

Long Hot Summer

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

zzzzcouple.jpgJust in time for the hottest season of all, I stumbled across this public service from New York magazine: Week-long sex diaries from six real, live New Yorkers. It’s from their recentish sex issue. I wish that I’d bought the whole thing.

My favorite diary? “The Frustrated Single Girl,” naturally.

“DAY 3: 8:30 A.M. Have long, inappropriate conversation with male colleague. Am proud of myself for doing as magazines say and practicing flirting on a less attractive man.
NOON: Construction worker screams a comment about my ass. I yell obscenities.
2:30 P.M. Read e-mail from a one-night stand from the U.K. Is coming for a visit in May. Put in saved-box.
3:45 Who am I kidding? I respond that I would be happy to “meet up.”
6:00–11:00 Grade papers.”

That’s so real it hurts.

In all seriousness, features like this remind me about the value of this kind of sociological journalism (anthropological story-collecting?). Knowing other peoples’ stories around the things that matter simply makes us all feel more sane, and those stories have to be collected, distilled, and distributed anew, decade after decade. So thanks New York, for the slice.

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