Archive for August, 2007

I nearly bit the biscuit

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

This week’s question:

The world is effin’ scary lately—what was your near-death experience?

Next week’s question:
Scientists have identified 237 reasons people have sex. What’s the strangest reason you’ve ever had for hanky panky?

Obsessed! eBay’s Big, Big Winner

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Steve Ratner, the 52-year-old principal of creative service agency, Ivy Creative, is many things to many people—a father, a husband, a commercial producer, a print designer, a brand builder, and more. One other title to add to Ratner’s robust resume: PayPal frequent buyer. Ratner has been purchasing products on eBay since 1998. In fact, Ratner’s collection is so vast that the inside of his entire house is almost completely stocked with products bought from eBay and other consumer-based websites. SMITH talked to the Southborough resident via phone.

SMITH: Why the urge to purchase everything in your house off of eBay?

Steve Ratner: It wasn’t everything. My wife Amy and I purchased many things, but it certainly wasn’t everything. We were building a modern house, and I wanted to have a shot at putting the best quality stuff in it for the first time around. In order to do that, I went on eBay to save as much money as I could, so it was a monetary thing. You can spend $100 on a faucet at Home Depot, or, you can get a really good deal on eBay and put in a $70 faucet instead.

What drew you into the world of eBay?

I’m into modern design, and it was a way of finding items that you couldn’t find anywhere around here in Southborough. And by modern design, I’m talking about chairs, tables, stuff like that. And that’s how I started out.

What do your friends think of all the stuff you buy off eBay?

Oh, they’re fascinated. All my friends say that if they were ever going to be buying a new house, they’d ask for my help. In fact, I have a good friend in New York who’s building a house and asked me for some of the online companies I dealt with when I was building my own house.

So, what would you do if somebody read this article and saw what you did with your house and then decided that they wanted to do the same thing with theirs?

I’d think it’s a great idea. Look, eBay has really made inroads in our society and the way people buy things. I mean, you wouldn’t buy a $50 dresser on eBay and pay 100 bucks to ship it from California. You just wouldn’t do that. But, you would if, say, the item you were buying was something that you couldn’t get anyplace else. I don’t know how familiar you are with modern designers, but there’s a guy named George Nelson who created a bunch of items in the 50s and 60s and these items are the new antiques if you’re into modern design. So, eBay’s a great place to find items like that. You know, very special items.

Would you say you’re obsessed with eBay?

No. It’s just another way of purchasing. There was an incident where my wife and I went shopping for a high-end couch for the house and it was very expensive. There was only one place in Boston that sold this particular couch, and when we went there, the customer service wasn’t great. We didn’t get treated well, and it was just a bad experience. So I went home and knew I would be able to get it someplace else, even if I went to New York. So I went online and found a place in London where I could buy it, and it ended up being one-third cheaper than buying it in Boston. So I bought it in England and had it shipped here. That was a good experience.

Might you know what your next purchase on eBay will be?

You know what’s interesting? I bought some art on eBay—high-end black and white photographs—and it might be something like that. Maybe a black-and-white photograph landscape or something. There are a certain a number of galleries I’ve visited.

What’s your six word memoir?

I don’t need six, all I need is three…less is more.

Previously Obsessed with Web 2.0 Articles

Chris Thomas, Newsvine’s Newshound.
Richard Farmbrough, the Wizard of Wikipedia.

From Our Lips to Colbert’s Ears (Or is it Thighs?)

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

How do you go from Three’s Company to Iraq to SMITH to Colbert? Simple.

Picture33.jpg1. SMITH contributing editor Michael Slenske pitches a photo essay of the unusual and entertaining photos of Iraqi vet Todd Bowers

2. SMITH editor Larry Smith says: “Love it. Bring it on in, man.”

3. Said story runs on SMITH with following caption, a quote Bowers overheard from a Marine: “Suzanne Somers is hot and all, but why the fuck is she sending Thighmasters to Fallujah?”

972378981_9e033dcdfb_m.jpg4. SMITH reader and squatter Rupert Murdoch—still pissed he didn’t get—takes brief break from buying The Wall Street Journal to view all 37 photos in SMITH’s Iraqi photo essay, sees the Thighmaster shot, and texts Page Six editor Richard Johnson, who then stops the presses!

5. The next day an item called “Thigh Anxiety” appears on Page Six.

comedy-central-_-videosthumbnail.jpg6. A few days later on The Colbert Report, Colbert riffs about the Department of Defense’s funny ways of supporting the troops … with Thighmasters.

Are You Experienced?

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

It doesn’t take much to get me excited about storytelling these days. Not that storytelling is new: we’ve been telling stories to each other since a couple of cavemen grunted some juicy gossip over a fire (this was B.U.W., but those cave peeps could still be cruel). Swapping stories with each other—via grunts, in fully formed sounds, in the form of confessions, with just six or 100 words, employing timelines, or telling common tales—has never been easier because of all the cool technology at our (occasionally nail-bitten) fingertips. This is the golden age of storytelling.

Which brings us to the recently revamped Experience Project, a social networking site fueled by the notion that your public persona isn’t about who you went to college with or how many “friends” you have, but by the life experiences that make you you. The site’s organized by categories of shared experiences, from first kisses to battles with depression to the many, many folks who are extremely proud of (and clearly very experienced at) being Irish. I like to get lost in the Experience Project’s dreams area, where people post and interpret each other’s sleeping life (don’t get me started on mine). Writers can be anonymous or not, but the site’s mission is to help writers reveal the “real you” within its open, expressive community. It’s homey and high-minded and a good sign of the times. Plus, the Experience Project crew–some of whom we met at Blogher–have extremely good taste.

Dreams via Flickr’s stephentrepreneur.

The To-Do List

Monday, August 6th, 2007

891824316_2184f2f1d1_m_1.jpgI was sitting at my desk contemplating my list of accomplishments for today—Gym. Check. Clean house. Check. Make five-to-seven layer dip. Check. Blog for SMITH. Check (after I hit Publish). Research upcoming SMITH project. Check. Google self. Check. Read gossip blogs. Check. Convince myself that I am not addicted to gossip blogs by reading The New York Times. Check—when I realized how much I need my to-do list in order to feel good about myself (and that I need to add more work-related stuff to my list, like “pitch story ideas” or “craft query”).

In fact, without my to-do list, I would seriously waste an entire day doing absolutely nothing, and then I would feel like a giant poop who is a total drain on society, friends, and family. So, of course, since “blog for SMITH” is always on my list, I thought it would be fun to search flickr for “To Do Lists.” Wow, what a productive day and it’s almost 5 p.m.!

It’s weirdly reassuring to know that pretty much everyone needs a list—even for some of the more mundane tasks in life (think “shower and shave”). I personally like the folks who have some fun with their to-do lists—number two on one list reads, “build fort.”

So what’s on your to do list today?






Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Continuing my now two-week long streak (Cal Ripken, watch out!) of explaining how I found a video that might otherwise make me look sort of, well, weird, you should know that I was originally searching YouTube for a wedding-related video because I’m heading off to a wedding this weekend and because I’m really just not that creative [Ed note: that's what spending all that time on a train to DC playing with your Blackberry does to you, man]. I’ve already posted the best wedding video ever, so the pickings were looking a little slim. And then, while watching one particularly bad video, something else caught my eye. It was a little like much of YouTube’s content—scantily-clad girls dancing for no apparent reason—but somehow different. And oh, so much better.

The Vagina Monologues

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

7953017_fd300950e9_m.jpgSometimes the proverbial meme pops up on SMITH. The meme of the moment*, I am thrilled to report, is vaginas (my friend Doy calls his boyfriend’s dog’s her hamantashen, but I can’t even go there). At Blogher, Bite My Cookie blogger was spreading the love with her “Vagina is for Lovers” tees (as well as her tasty cookies—no double meaning intended), while Vagina is For lovers_1.jpgartist Molly Crabapple sent in a brush with fame about spreading the love for a photo shoot in fashion photo legend Patrick Demarchelier’s place (it’s not what you’re thinking). Back when we launched, like a hundred years ago, Kathy Ritchie took us to her inner-sanctum in a very funny story about her gynecologist, Angelina Jolie, and well, just read the piece.

Hamantashen from Flickr’s roboppy.

Vagina is for Lovers from Flickr’s Girl’s Gone Child.

*Admittedly, I pretty much wrote this post so I can now Twitter out “blogging about vaginas.”

Fran Drescher

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

By Caroline Tiger

It was one of those perfect beach days. My last day off had been foggy and rainy, a total waste of a day. This combination of factors always made me especially resentful of my retail gig selling overpriced hand-hooked rugs to the bloated summer populace of Nantucket. As an old camp pal would’ve put it, my days were dead … dead as a doornail.

The highlights of my eight-hour shifts were the smoke breaks I’d try to coordinate with those of the scruffy British guy who worked as a sous chef next door. His were hand-rolled, a bit messily. I found it amazing that he never tried to lick off or wipe away the bits of tobacco that ended up stuck to his lips.

The_Nanny.jpgThat morning I’d looked forward to lunch, when I could bring my tuna salad sandwich and can of soda to the small park across the street and pore over the latest volume of Tales of the City. I was going through one about every three days, mostly during slow periods when I’d hide the book behind the cash register and tear through it.

An hour or so after lunch, the telltale honk of The Nanny cut through whatever was going on in Tales. It cut through the haze I was in that summer, and suddenly I felt electrified. Here was The Nanny, talking like The Nanny, dressed kind of sexy like she dresses on TV, walking around my store with a tall, handsome guy. She was NN-ing and ON-ing over the same ovals imprinted with bunnies and baskets of strawberries that I stared at everyday. With a bigger celebrity I might’ve asked for an autograph. In this case I felt oddly removed, like I was inside a TV episode.

She swept in and swept out, pausing for a few minutes to admire a 10 x 12-foot rug illustrated with scenes of Noah’s Ark in nursery pastels. She handed over a charge card and dropped $1K (plus shipping). It was one of my biggest sales all summer. And it was the only day all summer when I actually had something to report to my mom when I got home.

“How was your day?” she asked.

“Fine,” I said. “I sold a rug to Fran Drescher.”

Caroline Tiger is the author of many books, including How to Behave and The Long-Distance Relationship Guide. She also runs the design blog, Design-phan.

Super Heroes at Comic-Con

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

968158413_675b87fb44_m.jpgWhile some of us were representing at Blogher, others in the SMITH family were working their craft at Comic-Con, an even bigger geek-fest than Blogher.* Shooting War, our first webcomic, was up for the Best Digital Comic. We didn’t take home the gold, but that’s cool: Shooting War is still what one person recently told me, “the best thing I’ve read online in the past three years.” Word to that, and word to creators Anthony Lappé and Dan Goldman, whose incredible story will soon be an incredible book. Click here for a sneak peak. And read Lappé’s intense account of meeting Ray Bradbury, “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be: Or the Great Bradbury Bummer.” (It’s not quite the brush with fame Lappé was planning).

Pictured above: SMITH comics editor JahFurry with graphic novelist/cyberlord Warren Ellis. Check out more pics of the whole 964899645_f66ecf2c07_m.jpgcrew, including our pals Paul Pope and Molly “look out Mr. Demarchelier” Crabapple, courtesy of SoulCraft Comics.

In other breaking news, SMITH’s own comic creator-in-residence Josh Neufeld and his wife Sari Wilson just created a baby girl who answers to the name of Phoebe Feuer Neufeld.
Click here and then scroll down to see the preggy state of Sari a few weeks ago. Congrats!

* With way fewer girls.

Play by the rules or rebel without a cause?

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

Well, your response to that could well determine if you use Facebook or MySpace. In the latest issue of Newsweek (with the cover, “Slaughter in the Jungle”), writer Steven Levy (The Technologist) talks about an apparent class war between the two social networking sites.

According to a controversial study done by Berkeley researcher Danah Boyd, “The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes and other ‘good’ kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college.” Weird. The jocks in my high school were all really bad boys. And not in that good-bad way—more in that, I’m-a-real-jerk kind of way.

Of course, since all the nice kids are using Facebook, the bad ones hang out in the back alley of the internet: MySpace. Cue dramatic music. Boyd says those kids are the ones “whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school.” Her research was based on “months of interviews, field observations, and profile analysis.” As for Facebook, one reason the site is may be so hip with the richies is because it started at Harvard and spread out “from the Ivies.”

Go figure.

Natch, MySpace founders Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe totally disagree with Boyd’s findings. “We have everyone from heavy-metal bands to mothers in Portland, OR,” says DeWolfe. “How are you going to put 70 million people in a box?” Snap. Oh, and another good point: many Facebook members are also MySpace users.

You know, should I ever give in and join one of those social networking sites, I’m gonna have to join MySpace—sounds like they’ll accept me and my state school degree with open arms.