Archive for July, 2007

Linda Troeller’s Chelsea Hotel

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

ethanhawk.jpgLive in New York City long enough, and you’ll hear a story (or ten) about the Chelsea Hotel, the famed spot where artists of every flavor—from Arthur Miller to Sid Vicious and every Corso, Ginsberg and Kerouac you can conjure up—took up residence at one point in their lives. Naturally a site and blog have long been born around this storied spot.

troeller_chelsea.jpgThe latest in the Story of the Chelsea Hotel canon is Atmosphere: An Artist’s Memoir of the Chelsea Hotel by artist and photographer Linda Troeller. The book is self-published on Blurb, and Troeller’s point of view is intimate and personal; after all, she’s lived there herself since 1994. The Village Voice offers a stunning slideshow from Atmosphere here.

For more from Troeller, whose book The Erotic Lives of
SMITH contributing editor Rachel Kramer Bussel gives her RKB sex writing seal of approval, check out her site.

Mmmm, Succinct.

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Gotta love the fact that the divers (yes, I said divers — look it up, it’s a word, and I used it; I think I may have even used it correctly) video sites on the Intertubes can all be summed up in one short video about a bad blind date.


Friday, July 20th, 2007

71917774_64b31d1fbe_m.jpgThank God It’s Friday. Actually, in my case it doesn’t really matter that it’s Friday since I’m a struggling freelance writer—I never actually have to sit my butt down in the torture chamber, a.k.a the cube.

Still, I really dig Fridays because most everyone is in such a good mood—it’s all about the positive vibes, man. So, to get your Friday off on the right foot, if it’s not already, I decided to see how our pals at Flickr decided to honor the big day. Random thought: Did you know that the word “Friday” comes from the goddess of beauty? Like, that totally makes sense.

Check out this entry from Wikipedia:

The name Friday comes from the Old English frigedæg, meaning the day of Frige the Anglo-Saxon form of Frigg, the Germanic goddess of beauty. In most Germanic languages it is named after Freyja—such as Freitag in Modern German, vrijdag in Dutch, fredag in Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish—but Freyja and Frigg are frequently identified with each other. The word for Friday in most Romance languages is derived from the name of Venus such as vendredi in French, venerdì in Italian, viernes in Spanish, and vineri in Romanian. In Hindi, Friday is Shukravar, named for Shukra, the Sanskrit name of the planet Venus.

OK, back to my original point. Scroll down to see what Friday means to these random SMITHITES:




How do you honor Friday?

Obsessed! Newsvine’s Newshound

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Newsvine launched in March 2006 as a new kind of community news site, one in which its readers suggest news stories, and even write them. The stories range from Iraqi bombings at an all time high to a principal throwing feces as students. No surprise then that Newsvine quickly became populated by frequent posters. And none post with the fervor of Chris “Killfile” Thomas, a 27-year-old web application developer from Christiansburg, Virginia. SMITH chatted with the newshound via email.
—Rich Knight

SMITH: What’s Christiansburg, Virginia like?
Chris Thomas: It’s a small town just outside of Blacksburg (home of Virginia Tech). For me, this is “enemy territory” in a sense. I graduated from UVA (Tech’s big rival) in 2002 and find myself introducing myself as the guy who went to the “other” Virginia University a lot. Old collegiate rivalries notwithstanding, it’s a nice little town.

Why the urge to write so many entries on Newsvine?
ChrisThomas.jpgWhen I graduated from UVA with a BA in History, I’d completed a degree in what I loved doing—writing and learning. But as I learned shortly thereafter, no one will pay you to write about the economic development of the post-Lenin Soviet Union unless you have a PhD. So, I went back to school and got a degree in computer science so that I could program, which, as it turns out, people will pay you for.

But, I still loved writing. For a while there, I had my own blog that no one really read. But when I stumbled upon Newsvine back in 2006, I found a community that enjoyed the same things I did. In that sense, it is not so much that I write many articles for Newsvine as that I write a lot and Newsvine has given me a place to put them and an audience to read them. I even get a cut of the ad proceeds from my column.

What kept you coming back to Newsvine?
The communal aspects of the site are more than a little bit addictive. Getting immediate feedback on everything you write, even comments and off the cuff remarks, really cements the notion of community and encourages participation. For me, that and the discovery of a group of similarly inclined writers, was enough and I was off to the races.

What was the first entry you ever wrote? Can you remember?
I can’t, but Newsvine can. It was entitled The Myth of Modern Communism (a rebuttal) and is still available on Newsvine. In a sense, it’s fitting that my first entry on Newsvine was a clarification of Marx, as that has been a battle I’ve fought over ever since. A lot of people have some very strong opinions about Marx and Marxist thoughts, but very few have actually taken the time to read his work. I don’t claim to be an expert on the matter, but I know enough to be dangerous.

What do your friends think of all the time you spend on Newsvine?
They’re very supportive and at least pretend to read my articles. I think they’re a little amused and a little curious about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I used to think they didn’t really take my writing seriously or pay that much attention. But when the Virginia Tech shootings happened on April 16, I did a running column as events broke on the scene. Most of my friends remembered that I write for Newsvine and expected that I’d be covering the shootings given my proximity, and they checked in on my column to see if my wife (who’s a post-grad at Tech) was OK. My friends outside of Blacksburg checked it throughout the day for information—often well ahead of the mainstream media. My friends in Blacksburg kept me posted on what they could see on Tech’s campus. I think we all saw some of what social media is capable of that day.

If somebody found out you had the most entries and wanted to beat your record, what would you do? Would you pull all-nighters to retain your crown?
That’s already happening. Newsvine recently absorbed the regulars from the New York Times‘ forums and one of the new users from that influx, epiphany sorbet, is setting new standards for volume of work. It won’t be long now until she blows past me at her current pace, and honestly, I don’t mind. Newsvine consists of two types of user submitted content—seeds and articles. Articles are where I feel I’m strongest at and where I get to really have fun. Seeds are more of a “I found this, and it’s important” type of thing—like a link to a web site or a breaking news story covered elsewhere.

Since epiphany sorbet showed up on the scene, I’ve been slacking off on my seeding since she gets to most of it first anyhow. So I’ve been concentrating more on my writing instead. In the long run, that’s probably best for Newsvine; even though it will probably see me dethroned as #1 on Newsvine’s leaderboard in a few months. On the other hand, obsessive seeding is what put me at the top of the leaderboard in the first place. So, yeah, it’s a little frustrating to see everything I encounter in my morning news sweep already tagged, cataloged, and posted. Que sera sera.

Do you have any obsessions besides Newsvine?
I’d say no, but my wife will tell you “yes.” I’m a PC Gamer, but I refuse to get into the Massively Multi-Player stuff like World of Warcraft. I still love and enjoy history, particularly Cold War history, enough so that my cats are named Nikitty Khrushchev and Fidel Castro. I also work a lot with a group called Special Love that provides services to children with cancer. Given how far I drive for that and how often I find myself going, that might count as an obsession too.

Do you think Newsvine is a better source of information than your nightly news?
There’s an old acronym from the early days of computing that really sums up Newsvine. GIGO—Garbage In, Garbage Out. You get what you put in. If you just show up, read the front page and read some stories, you’re likely to get something on par with the nightly news though differently focused. If you really participate, argue, comment, write, seed, and get involved in the community, though, you’ll vastly expand your awareness.

That said, a huge chunk of Newsvine’s content comes from mainstream media. For every citizen journalism story that breaks something big, there are a thousand seeds to media outlets and stories by professional reporters. A lot of people will tell you that that social media is going to change the world, and that might happen someday. For now sites like Newsvine aggregate the news. They don’t often break it.

To that end, Newsvine serves much the same roll as the nightly news—a roundup of the day’s stories. But unlike the nightly news, if you want to dig deeper, you can.

Tell us a story about yourself that you haven’t told anybody in a long time.
Some time back, I used to work phone support for DISH Network. The discount satellite TV provider has a technical call center located in Christiansburg, VA. For a year and a half, my 750 best friends and I staffed the place, typically for the evening shift. If you or someone you love is considering a career in phone support, let me urge you to reconsider. I have never worked a more unpleasant and spiritually draining job in my life.

What’s next for you on Newsvine?
That’s a tough one. With the Democratic Congressional victory in ‘06, I find myself leaning pretty hard into the Democrats to keep their campaign promises and that’s making me an agitator from the far political left. I’m not sure how I feel about that status. At the same time, there are the primaries coming up and the race of ‘08 is starting to heat up now, too. Honestly, I don’t have a plan. I respond to things as they happen and, if something comes my way, I’ll address it as best I can. News is, as they say, the first draft of history. Being in the middle of it all, it’s very hard to see the big picture. Looking back over my work as part of this interview, I’m struck by the sort of meandering path I’ve taken thus far. I think trying to plan it would take some of the spark out.

What’s your six word memoir?
Life is short; eat dessert first.

Image Source Courtesy of New York Times

Previously Obsessed with Web 2.0 Articles

Richard Farmbrough, the Wizard of Wikipedia.

Map Mashup of the Human Heart

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

google_earth.jpgFrom Slate, which seems to be getting its video act together (given the coffers over there, we expected a little more, a little sooner), a weird tale about a guy who stalks his wife via Google Earth. This piece’s initial impact yields to a feeling that it’s more of a gimmick than a great story, but gets you thinking about a brave new world where one can recount the narrative of one’s life one coordinate at a time.

CALL FOR ENTRIES: Camping Disaster Stories

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

LS_LeoCamping.jpgI’m going camping for the first time in years later this summer, and admittedly I’m a little rusty. Camping is one of those activities I do with a certain consistency, yet continued lack of mastery. And I can tell you stories. And if I don’t, my friends will. They love mocking my many messy forays into the great outdoors.

Among their favorites is the time I lost it in Yosemite. This was the mid-90s and four men hungry for bonding were excited about a long-planned trek. Our embarkation was delayed by yet another talking to from my then-girlfriend—the guys were shocked I even made out of her place alive, much less was still allowed to go. Eventually we got in our cars and drove four hours to the trailhead.  Now we were caught in the heat of the day. I was equipped with a way-too- heavy, way-too-cheap, ergonomically awful backpack, and announced within about 30 minutes into it that I didn’t feel so good. I proceeded to lean myself against the mountain’s side, at which point I fell asleep standing up, pack still strapped to my back, which had gone out–which at least helped me forget about the sunstroke I was experiencing. That was day one of a three-day trip—and easily my third best camping disaster story. The best one ends with my best friend Lenny and I (pictured above, in better camping times) being gay bashed in a trailer park in Oregon while, um, ’shrooming, and for what it’s worth, not actually being gay. But let’s save that true tale for other time. It’s best told over beers.

Courtesy of our pals at 52 Projects, I saw this call for camping disaster stories from Ten Speed Press. To wit:

Calling all city gals (and guys) who like to follow the call of the wild! To celebrate the publication of Let’s Get Primitive: The Urban Girl’s Guide to Camping, we’re giving away a snazzy red & white, 2-person Coleman tent along with a lightweight, unbreakable polycarbonate and acrylic COCKTAIL SET (glasses and cocktail shaker) and a copy of the book. Email your very best camping disaster story of 500 words or less to between July 1 and August 31, 2007. Author Heather Menicucci, who has overpacked, started late, gotten lost, and battled armies of insects in her transformation from urban girl to outdoor aficionado, will select the best story to win.

Enter the contest and post your stories here as well. We’ll give our favorite camping disaster story a limited edition SMITH T-shirt, which looks as smart and stylish with a pair of hiking boots as it does under a suit jacket.

The Magnificent Andersons

Monday, July 16th, 2007

Them Anderson boys got themselves some nifty side projects. First, writer Kurt Andersen P1010131.JPGstarted brightening my days with the clever recommendations of the pleasantly procrastinatory Very Short List. Then Wired EIC Chris Anderson launched (not to be confused with the backbone of my social life, Will I ever work again? is a free online service designed to connect writers and audiences. During my secret, sordid, former life as a book publicist, I was constantly frustrated by the separate channels required to reach bookstores, libraries, reading series, book clubs, classes, corporate gigs, JCCs, and Junior Leagues—nevermind regular old readers.

In collaboration with Kevin Smokler (a book-net-buzz-making machine, who also wears great T-shirts, tells great stories, and edited a smart book about writing in our webby, webby world), Anderson is bringing all the author appearance markets to one hub where writers, publishers, and publicists can tell them everything they need to know. Readers, in turn, can check the daily reading options as easily as tv listings or movie times. Hear more about it here.

Check back soon to track appearances for Not Quite What I Was Planning. Edited by Larry and me, the book is actually written by hundreds of you, so it’ll be a tight squeeze on the author tour Winnebago. And like any web 2.0 venture, will be only as good as its community of users—may they be as lucky as we’ve been…

There’s YouTube Etiquette Now?

Friday, July 13th, 2007

I can barely remember which fork I’m supposed to use for which course, or not to sneeze in people’s faces, and now I’m reading about e-mail etiquette and being told about YouTube etiquette?

Sigh. At least it’s funny.

Call me SMITTY

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

This week’s question:

Scooter, Dubya, Brangelina-bet your nickname’s better. How’d you get it?

Next 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?

Weird Job: MLB groundskeeper

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

I love finding people who work unusal jobs for a few reasons: 1) I’m anti-cube and folks who work weird gigs typically don’t sit behind a desk. 2) These peeps are the few who actually like going to work in the morning (or evening or whatever). Quick tangent: I really believe employers/companies need to rethink the cube. It’s awful. It’s torture and I really get more work done sitting at home or at Barnes & Noble with my laptop. Personally, I think if you’re going to force me to sit in one of those beastly spaces, there should be a water feature, a Buddha statue, some bamboo, and no fluorescent lighting, please!

Anyway, back to my point. The Christian Science Monitor had an awesome story about a woman living and thriving outside the cube. Heather Nabozny is one of 30 head groundskeepers at Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park. Translation: girlfriend mows the lawn for a major league baseball stadium.

Ms. Nabozny grew up in Brighton, Mich. As a kid, she worked at her dad’s lawn-care company, which is where she first fell in love with grass. At the age of 10, she mowed the family’s lawn with a tractor.

Yet it was a lawn-care seminar she attended with her dad that got her seriously thinking about taking care of sports fields for a profession. “I said, ‘Wow! They have a school for this?’ ” she recalls. Years later, she graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in sports turf management.

See, this piece further proves that if you pursue the thing you love most, or at least like a lot, the money will follow. As an aspiring freelance writer, I seriously hope this is the case.

So, are you working the dream?

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