Archive for July, 2007

What Is Heidi Wearing?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

189851787_0bfbb3f6e9_m.jpgIt’s been a while since I checked in with The Heidi FAQ-–my first blog crush, and it seems to me one of the first blogs ever. I just saw that Heidi Pollock herself is speaking at the Future of Web Aps conference in London this fall, and has left a gig coding for Twitter to launch her own company. But I trust and know that no matter how much fame and fortune Heidi finds, her four questions will always be there for her fan base, an anchor in a Web gone wild. The genius, as Walter tells the Dude, is in the simplicity.

Heidi and the Duke via Heidi on Flickr.

Blogher is for Lovers

Monday, July 30th, 2007

945096622_321b9abb2b.jpgI’m quite comfortable in the company of women (I’m the middle child of two sisters*). Still, I felt a little nervous heading to the Blogher conference in Chicago. But my date with hundreds of Bloggers, web junkies, and one lover of Cuban jazz just when I needed one was incredible: an ambush of new people overflowing with ideas—some even making a living doing what they love.

Overheard within my first hour at Blogher:

“My name is Sheila. I blog about family travel and motorsports.”
“My name is Dave Wescott. I blog about blogging. … I’m sorry.”

Sitting down to take in a panel of online communities, I met Gabrielle Blair, aka the DesignMom, who’s also the cofounder of SK-RT, which I’m calling the hot idea at the conference (or, as we like to say, this season’s Twitter**). SK-RT is like a cross between DIGG, Real Simple, Lucky, and Daily Candy—a peer-to-peer story recommendation site for women. It’s brilliant.

I immediately SK-RT’d our Beautiful Pregnant Women series. If you love the beauty of pregnant women, and want more people to know about SMITH, go to SK-RT and vote the story up.

Here are some pics of my peeps—especially my incredible copilot Rachel Fershleiser, the confession obsessed Romi Lassally and her partner/Girl’s Gone Child rare gem Rebecca Woolf, and the final “R” in the picture, ever eros-minded Rachel Kramer Bussel.

No trip would be a SMITH trip without coming home with a few more six-word memoirs. Susie Bright delivered hers with her typical tour de force and delight; we also nabbed the short, short life story from another Woman We Love—but I’ll let Rachel tell you later in the week.

For me, Blogher, in six words, was “not quite what I was planning” in many ways and even better than I expected in others. Still, it’s good to be back on my own home turf, a place where the coffee is stronger, the banter’s a bit more bitter, and I’m just another blogger in the crowd.

* Which also means I never, ever leave the seat up.
** Which just closed a round of financing—congrats Twitter!

SMITH Blasts Into Page Six

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Picture33.jpgToday marks an entertaining turning point in SMITH’s short and yet storied history: our debut on the gossip column of note, Page Six. And who would have thought we’d bust into the hallowed halls of gossip because of a story on Iraq? The New York Post’s Page Six picked up on our Iraqi Graffiti photo essay, which features war vet Todd Bowers’ images from the frontlines. Each of Bowers’ shots in his series includes a playful, sometimes ironic caption—one of which tickled the fancy of the editors at probably the best-read column in New York City journalism.

“Iraqi Graffiti” is both an homage to a style used by his uncle for a series of photos he shot while serving in Vietnam (dubbed “Vietnam Graffiti”) and firmly within the hyper-current and hilarious style of I Can Has Cheezburger. Thanks to SMITH’s war coverage guru, Michael Slenske, for bringing Bowers and his one-of-a-kind project our way.

So what, precisely, is our dish-worthy item? Here’s a hint: it has to do with thighs and a certain infomercial queen. Let’s get to Page 6.

How To Make a Paper Airplane (No, Seriously.)

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

I’m often asked how I find the videos I put up here, so a small peek behind the curtain today: I found this video today because I did what I often do, which is search for a word that has something to do with what I’m thinking about or what the day is. So, for example, the reason I found this video is because I wasn’t able to post yesterday because I was flying back from the West Coast all day, so I searched the word “airplane” and came up with this.

It’s sort of cool, actually; according to the video’s actual page on YouTube, the man making the plane is the father of the cameraman, and has been trying for 30 years to teach his son how to make these, so they decided to go to YouTube and show everyone.

My Political Crush

Friday, July 27th, 2007

This week’s question:

You may not have a crush on Obama, but what’s the most outrageous thing you ever did to impress a love interest?

Next week’s question:
The world is effin’ scary lately—what was your near-death experience?

Dying to Write

Friday, July 27th, 2007

433957355_12deee73dc_m.jpgOne of our storytelling obsessions here is obits, the last word (officially, at least) on someone’s life story. To mark her fourth year on the job, the obituaries editor of The Economist has been keeping a journal on how the death beat has changed her way of seeing life. “I don’t know what other people’s first thoughts may be on Monday mornings; but mine, as the jabber of my husband’s radio crawls into my dreams, is ‘Has anyone died today?’” Ann Wroe offers in the first of her entries. “It was never so before I became The Economist’s obituaries editor, four years ago. But death comes naturally now. It is matter-of-fact. I keep a list, very incomplete, of those who are creeping towards it. I notice its mark on people, not so much in wrinkles or stooped backs but in a certain frailty and luminosity acquired by the very old before they die.”

Later she continues:

In this strange age―where we fear death from left-behind back-packs and parked cars, and where we watch the deaths of strangers on the evening news but shrink from attending the deaths of our friends―obituarists have the easier cases. I deal generally with natural mortality in lives full of years and doings. But whether death comes slowly and privately, or randomly and publicly, its cause is not what most interests me. The vital question is, what next?

Speaking of heady stuff, earlier this week I hung on every word of Michael T. Kaufman’s obit of the controversial psychotherapist Albert Ellis. Whether you’re in therapy or not, believe shrinkage brilliant or bunk, you’ll find a spin through this man’s life a trip.

Obit image from Flickr’s Anna Banana.

Patrick Demarchelier

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

By Molly Crabapple

Until I saw Billy’s studio, I never suspected his highfalutin connections. But when I exited the service elevator to see a sweeping Chelsea loft, bedecked with blown up Zink covers and cardboard Cindy Crawfords striding off to some invisible tomorrow, I began to suspect there was more to Billy than met the eye. A short, dour Japanese man, Billy led me over to the mini-bar and opened his portfolio. I immediately lost my head around the folds and swirls of cooters, a veritable Sahara of black and white, three-foot high cunts. I doubt my boyfriend could pick mine out from the pile.

“Billy,” I asked, catching a breather from the Georgia O’Keefe action, “is this your loft”

“No. P’s.”

I gazed around at the magazine covers, books of the collected works of Patrick Demarchelier, the 20-foot soft boxes and the probable $20,000 rent, and realized that I was in the great fashion photographer’s studio.

Then Billy led me over to the bed.

PatrickD.gifA self-designed vagina photographing bed sounds gynological. It really isn’t. Rather, resplendent in red velvet, I lay back with my knees parted. Billy had also built a miraculous camera, with huge bellows and two feet pieces of film. Were my position less clinical, I would have felt like I was posing for Man Ray.

As it was, I took a deep breath. I contemplated my education. Then, I said the only thing worth saying. “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”

A flash of light. I’m immortal.

I don’t model any more. I’m a bourgeois illustrator and email jockey, and I refer to my posing days with a bit of a sneer.

But sometimes, if I’m in a swank club, or surrounded by some Manhattan media vultures, I want a little bit of glamour. In that case, I just tell them I was photographed in PM’s studio.

I just don’t reveal what part of me was shot.

Weird Job: Aerosol Artist

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

774690715_9bcdab9de1_m.jpgFunny thing about New York City. The only two boroughs that seem to get any attention are Manhattan and Brooklyn. Manhattan? Sure. Makes sense. Brooklyn? Hmmm. Worst of all, pubs like Time Out and New York seemed to give BK so much love both inside the book and on their covers that I decided NOT to renew my subscription to either mag. It was total overkill. Plus, there is life outside of Brooklyn. Sorry, dudes. I live in Queens—you know, one of the other boroughs that make up New York City.

Anyway, I was super psyched to read a story about a cool, must-check-out site in Queens/”veteran graffiti artist,” Jonathan Cohen in The Christian Science Monitor. Finally. Cohen plays “volunteer curator” for a section of Long Island City (Yup, in Queens), known as 5 Pointz, where graffiti artists or “aerosol artists”—evidentially, that’s the PC word—can legally show off their work on the walls of a 200,000-square-foot warehouse. Love it. An artist living outside the cube in Queens!

“These days, the thin-faced, hazel-eyed Cohen is always on call, which may explain why his five o’clock shadow is closer to 10 o’clock. When he’s not answering his cellphone or making sure the building isn’t tagged illegally, he gives tours to interested onlookers. And every Sunday afternoon he teaches aerosol art to a class of 10 kids—after they earn their keep with two hours of scraping walls, painting them, and picking up trash. (more…)

The Personal and The Political

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Some of you may have noticed that I’m a big fan of
Elizabeth Koch. Many of you loved
The World Tour Compatibility Test too, and whether it was her raw, honest prose or her exotic destinations that hooked you, you’re in luck. Koch recently went to Russia for a writing conference, and guess what? She wrote about it. You can find it at the group blog The Nervous Breakdown. I’m crossing my toes that I’ll see Elizabeth tonight at the Opium Park Lit Literary Deathmatch. If you’re in New York and you like live storytelling, or enfants terrible, or The Crier, or atypical readings, or sack races, maybe I’ll see you too.

In bigger news, YouTube is making history again, and this time it ain’t just for rolling in moola. This week, the Democratic presidential candidates answered questions submitted by webcam. In September, the Republicans will do the same. Now, I’ve been known to gush about the internet’s democratization of media, but usually I just mean that any schlub with a numa numa song and a dream can find an audience. This is actual democratization of democracy, and it makes me unabashedly (if inarticulately) giddy. Next time Granny derides those crazy kids and their MySpace, ask her the last time she was invited to ask a question at a presidential debate.

Iraqi Graffiti: The Photos of Todd Bowers

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

By Michael Slenske

SMITH contributing editor Michael Slenske's last story was a "Back Home from Iraq" feature on MoveOn's VideoVet winner John Bruhns.

Go to the Photos

As far as Iraq war vets go, Marine reservist Todd Bowers might be the luckiest. During a routine patrol on the outskirts of Fallujah in the fall of 2004, his civil affairs unit was called to a firefight. There, amidst heavy fighting with insurgents, they spotted three civilians caught in the crossfire. Bowers’ unit attempted to rescue them, but the skirmish was too intense. “There was some gunshots kicking up around me, I saw where they were coming from, so I dropped to my knee, fired back a couple times, then BOOM!,” recalls Bowers. “A bullet literally missed my head by an eighth of an inch. It hit the scope [an advanced combat optical gunsight, or ACOG, which Bowers' father bought for him with his own money]. I’ve still got a bunch of chunks of metal in the left side of my face.” Although he had blood pouring from his head, Bowers refused to be medivaced from the site without the civilians. “I threw them in the back of a Humvee,” he says. “Then jumped in the driver’s seat with my eye all bandaged up and drove over to Bravo Surgical to get them treated.”

Amazing? Sure. But Bowers returned home with much more than a crazy souvenir and a wild story. Knowing he’d face these kinds of indescribable experiences in Iraq, before deploying he planned to mirror a project his uncle Kendall undertook as an Army surgeon in Vietnam. When Kendall wasn’t saving lives, he was taking photos—graphic snapshots of wounded soldiers and close-call incidents in the MASH—that he later turned into a slideshow, dubbed Vietnam Graffiti. To offer context to the slides for the vets who viewed them back home, Bowers’ uncle added quotes he’d heard during his tour. “He felt the time you hear the most honesty from people is when they do graffiti on bathroom walls or port-o-johns and they write it anonymously,” says Bowers. “When I took a picture I knew that moment would be the one time I would hear what people really felt.” During his two tours Bowers snapped some 1,400 photos. His images offer an intimate view of the war: from immediate pics of Jessica Lynch’s convoy after it was attacked to ironic shots of the Fallujah Career Retention Center to panoramas of the Straits of Gibraltor sailing to Kuwait for the initial invasion.

“We deployed so quickly I was using little disposables at first. They actually worked pretty well. My favorite pictures are from the Ziggurat of Ur, the birthplace of Abraham. You can tell someone what it’s like on top of it, but unless you can actually show them it’s hard to imagine,” says Bowers. “I even got pictures of when they delivered Thighmasters [to Fallujah]. We were getting humanitarian aid sent and we got in a bunch of Thighmasters—official, Made in Taiwan, Suzanne Somers Thighmasters.”

Two months after his second deployment, he made his own slideshow while he was living in Los Angeles, “sofa-surfing” at friends’ homes. Although he showed his project, Iraqi Graffiti, to a dozen or so people, and later to a couple Washington, D.C. art galleries, Bowers wasn’t comfortable taking the project public. “I got the vibe from people where they were like, ‘Oh this is so awful, the war is so wrong’ and I just didn’t want to get into that debate at all,” notes Bowers, who says the salve of time has helped him get comfortable with letting people into his world. “Things are not going well in Iraq. Everybody knows that. But all we see are the guns, bombs, and explosions. It’s hard to get a feel for what the dynamic is—where one second you’re playing soccer with kids and the next second your vehicle is blown up. I want someone to be able to watch this and say, ‘Okay, I have a much better understanding of what it’s like to be in Iraq now.’ No politics, just being able to understand what soldiers and Marines experience when they come home.”

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

Fallujah, August 2004 "How the hell did I get here?" - Marine Jolan Park, Fallujah, January 2005 "Playgrounds can also be battlegrounds." - Iraqi Interpreter Fallujah, November 2004 "There goes the neighborhood." -Marine Outskirts of Fallujah, September 2004 "The smiles make this all worthwhile." -Marine Fallujah, December 2004 "We destroyed the enemy and someones home. Hard to say who wins." -Marine Outskirts of Fallujah, October 2004 "Think there is any hope for these little ones?" - Eritrean Interpreter North of Fallujah, November 2004 "Books, Pencils, RPGs, AK-47s. All the basic school supplies." -Marine Fallujah, February 2005 "Does the "V" stand for peace or victory? Or just Bugs Bunny ears." -Sgt. Bowers Fallujah Career Retention Center, September 2004 "I bet business is slow." -Marine Jolan, Fallujah, November 2004 "We are going to need more brooms." -Marine Outskirts of Fallujah, October 2004 "I think he is scared of us?" -Iraqi Interpreter The Infamous bridge in Fallujah, November 2004 "This is where it all started." -Sgt. Bowers Fallujah, February 2005 "Sir, can we take this one home?" -Marine Fallujah, November 2004 "This place is like a ghost town but the ghosts are real people." -Marine Fallujah, January 2005 "Hi. I am here to help rebuild your school. Do not mind the rifle and grenade launcher." -Sgt. Bowers Jolan, Fallujah, November 2004 Fallujah, January 2005 "I hope these kids have it better than their parents did." -Iraqi Civilian Fallujah, November 2004 Fallujah, January 2005 "These kids are eleven going on forty." -State Department Employee Fallujah, December 2004 "This book is more powerful than we will ever be." -Marine Outskirts of Fallujah, August 2004 "Some of these kids do not smile very much. I guess I would not either." -Marine Fallujah, December 2004 "I hope the owner is doing better than her doll is." -Sgt. Bowers North of Fallujah, November 2004 "Sorry we destroyed your city. Here, have a bag lunch and twenty bucks." -Marine Marine Camp outside Fallujah, September 2004 "I have got to make it home." -Marine Fallujah, November 2004 "How will I tell anyone about days like this?" -Marine Fallujah, January 2005 "These people hate us but they love our money." -Marine Jolan Park Election Site, January 2005 "I have seen polling lines before but never any wrapped in razor wire." -Marine Fallujah, February 2005 "There will never be enough soccer balls to hand out." -Iraqi Interpreter Fallujah, March 2005 "I am going to miss this place, and the people." -Sgt. Bowers Fallujah, March 2005 "I am not sure where home is anymore." -Iraqi Civilian Jolan Park, Fallujah, December 2004 "Suzanne Somers is hot and all but why the fuck is she sending Thighmasters to Fallujah?" -Marine Nasiriyah Iraq, June 2003 "Abraham was here. Not Lincoln you shit pants." -Marine Southern Iraq, July 2003 Nasiriyah Iraq, June 2003 "Abraham was here. Not Lincoln you shit pants." -Marine Baghdad, May 2003 "All Donne Go Home. They could have at least have spelled done correctly." -Sgt. Bowers

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