Archive for September, 2007

Haiku Journalism

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

111064400_633b70a974_m.jpgThere’s erotic haiku, there’s haiku for Jews, I’ve even known a dusty poet or two to trade crafty passersby a beer-4-haiku in my day. But one of the original haiku artists was Félix Fénéon, who penned thousands of pint-sized reports in French newspapers called faits divers. Marilyn Johnson reviews Fénéon’s Novels in Three Lines, compiled and translated by Luc Sante.

The first three SMITH readers to send us a three-line take on the war, O.J. Simpson, the pennant race, Dan Rather, or the economy will receive a copy of this book. Send your miniature news reports to news at smithmag dotnet.

*Whose book, The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituariess, nous adores.

Haiku from Flickr user glindsay65.

Capturing a Neighborhood, one click at a time

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

I find that often when I’m wearing one of my other career hats, I run into things I want to sharetattoo.jpg with SMITH readers. As an arts journalist (fedora, maybe?) I meet people doing their personal storytelling on stage, screen, or CD. This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Clayton Patterson, the legendary local photographer who has shot or videotaped every major happening in the Lower East Side since 1978, from riots to poetry slams, community board meetings to rock concerts. Along with his partner Elsa Rensaa, he’s chronicled the creative, poor, marginalized, and disenfranchised folks that gave the area its vitality for so many years, as well as the recent changes threatening that culture. An exhibition from his archives is showing at Kinz, Tillou + Feigen gallery, but even a trip to their website offers many artistic and documentary pleasures

What Did You Do On Your Summer Vacation?

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Or, rather, what did you do that you weren’t supposed to be doing, and couldn’t quite tell your class in grade school? The popuLIST wants to know. Which is to say, listen up class, as this week’s reader question is:

What did you do on your summer vacation that you could never have told Teach about?

Send your answer to Rachel [at] smithmag [dot] net (in 100 words or less, please). We’ll post our favorites on the blackboard called SMITH’s front page.

Here’s what I did on my most recent summer vacation. Funny thing is, it was a working holiday. Really.

Friday Viral Video: Prison Food, A Riot

Friday, September 14th, 2007

Today, I shall be your Guest Viral Video poster as Alex Koppelman has not been heard from since the Larry Craig scandal broke (coincidence?). Plus, I found this video, which is an excellent primer on how we feed our prisoners, from Slate—and Koppelman’s boss at Salon doesn’t like him putting his fingers in the enemy’s pot.

Even if you’re not a prisoner of love, I promise you this is the absolute best video you shall see all week. Maybe next week, too.

Two quotes found within:

“The average prisoner can be fed for about $2.25 per day for three meals. We not looking for exactly grade A type products; you know grade B, which is fine. It’s all about price with the prisoners.”

“They get a lot of good food.”

Six Picks: “Poet in the city: pretty, gritty.”

Friday, September 14th, 2007

1378087027_d1b8279731_m.jpgThat’s the sweet six-word memoir of a New Yorker in London, who just blogged about our six-word memoir project, as well as about other spots to share your stories online. Six words also received a shout out from’s recent mention of the six-word memoir project as a part of its Adult Education situation. Who knew?

Another six pick: In the spirit of the six-word memoir, SMITH has proposed a panel at the famed and fun South by Southwest Interactive conference. It’s like this: conference attendees propose many of SXSWi’s panels. Then, anyone can cruise through the list of panels and vote on what sounds good (and you can do so even if you haven’t been to the conference or even plan on attending). Our panel, Best Thing I Learned: Six-Word Lesson from the Past Year, is pitched as a way to hear from tons of entrepreneurs and media makers about what they’ve learned via our fun and effective six-word form. It’s like a six-word poetry slam for geeks. Read more about it, register (it’s free and I promise you takes 30 seconds), and, please please please vote for six!!

Six pic from Flickr user Leo Reynolds.

Tonight: Get Your WebComic On

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

193122043_6dd92a44e7_m_2.jpgIn what the first Lady of Comic Criticism, Heidi McDonald, calls “a significant show” in her Publisher’s Weekly column, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) has a new exhibit, “Infinite Canvas: The Art of Webcomics.” Among a who’s who in the current webcomic explosion are SMITH’s own Dan Goldman (who, besides his amazing feat that is Shooting War, was called 6480712.jpegone of the medium’s best-looking artists by Gawker) and Josh Neufeld (whose A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, is now officially our second smash hit and whose latest creation answers, in gurgles, to the name Phoebe), as well as a list of luminaries: Penny Arcade, PhD, Sluggy Freelance, User Friendly, Diesel Sweeties, Mom’s Cancer, Supernatural Law, Questionable Content, Something Positive, Scary Go Round, Achewood, Narbonic, Goats, Scott McCloud; many ACT-i-VATE artists, including Dean Haspiel (above, with Goldman), Tim Hamilton, and Jennifer Tong.

The show opens to the public on September 14, and runs through mid-January. Join the crew for the opening reception tonightGoldman and Haspiel shot, totally lifted from Flickr user, and we suspect friend o’ SMITH, rhcooper.

September 11: Stories That Bind

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

flickr-photo-download_-ground-zero-nyc-1.jpg So here we are. The sixth anniversary of 9/11. September 11 fatigue seems to be kicking in for many of us, and surely the big media will do their best to cover it. But in the end, there remains no more powerful way to tell, and retell, 9/11 stories than from the most personal (compared to, say, political) perspective. It’s how the story started, after all. In truth, one of my inspirations for this very site was how the “Newspaper of Record” chose to tackle this story: one person at a time.

We tell stories to remember what happened. And whether firefighter, family member of victim, resident of downtown Manhattan, or total stranger to the city, everyone has a 9/11 story. And, just as six years ago folks reached out in extraordinary ways (simple acts such as sharing cabs went a long way), perhaps today you can use the anniversary to reach out and ask the person next to you in the elevator or the burger line, “So, what’s your 9/11 story?”

It’s not a new idea. It’s not even news, really. But for today, this day, when perhaps you don’t want to look at another thousand tragic photos or read another thousand words about why we still haven’t found Bin Laden, I’d like to think that sharing a story with your neighbor—because we are all that, if nothing else—is one of the most honest and heartfelt ways to remember.

Photo credit: Flickr user crossfirecw

Just Published: The Unheard by Josh Swiller

Monday, September 10th, 2007

mainpage1_06.jpgWe’re so pleased to publish an excerpt of Josh Swiller’s just-published debut memoir, The Unheard. Here, SMITH’s memoir editor Rachel Fershleiser, writes in an intro to our excerpt:

Deaf since childhood, Swiller always perceived the world a little bit differently than everyone else. And post-collegiate indecision hits a bit harder when you’re looking for a place beyond deafness. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia, Swiller found a place where, if his deafness wasn’t irrelevant, it was at least not the most unusual thing about him. He worked at a health clinic, facing universal poverty and disease, and later, personally focused violence. In his new memoir he proves it is not just his worldview that is unique, but his literary voice.

Swiller also recently wrote a stirring Lives essay, adapted from his book, in The New York Times, and he’ll be on NPR’s Weekend Edition this Saturday, September 15. To the first-time memoirist, we say: congrats, enjoy your book release party tonight, and here’s to many happy reviews.

“Reckon I’ll be crying soon”

Monday, September 10th, 2007

adp1_12.jpgThere’s nothing that makes us happier than when we hear from New Orleans and Gulf Coast locals that A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge rings true and in some way resonates with their own story. The second anniversary of Katrina brought quite a bit of attention to A.D. but it’s extra special to see a discussion about our webcomic on the popular blog Metafilter. Here, posters offered sentiments like, “[A.D] captures the spirit of the city, its neighborhoods, and the people in a way I’ve not seen elsewhere, and with great economy” and “I’m halfway through chapter 2, and even though I know what happened - in the general sense, at least - I have this ohgodwhatsgoingtohappennext feeling. Reckon I’ll be crying soon.”

As the thread continued, some readers were moved to tell their own Katrina stories. Our motto at SMITH is “Read a story. Write a story.” That’s the hope, really, that some of what you read here, whether it’s about Hurricane Katrina or an odd job you once had, inspires you to tell your story. After all, everybody has a story.

Also on the New Orleans storytelling tip: friend o’ SMITH and filmmaker (Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price) Robert Greenwald has a new film (more…)

Obsessed! Flickr’s Favorite

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

Back when photo-sharing site Flickr launched in 2004, Rosemea de Souza Smart MacPherson was all over it. But she wasn’t just another obsessive uploader of pictures from her daily life. The 57-year-old Northern Virginia attorney had a photographic eye that won fans from the online photo community—they voted her images best on the site in 2004. SMITH spoke with the Flickr favorite member via email. —Rich Knight

SMITH: How did you first get into Flickr?
Rosemea: I started on Flickr because I used to publish my photos at Fotolog. I still have an account there, but I don’t have time for it, so I seldom publish. I had started on Fotolog was because my niece had an account there and I just wanted to be a part of her life—just chat and see her face. But Fotolog had too many technical problems and Flickr started about that time and a lot of people from Fotolog moved to Flickr.

What kind of camera are you using?
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT 350


  1. Sigma: macro, 50mm.
  2. Sigma 70-300 mm.

I just bought a Nikon / Coolpix S10 because it has lithium battery and substitute the Nikon Coolpix 2220 because I needed to keep changing batteries. I still have it and post old photos that I took when that was my primary camera.

Have you ever done photography full time?
Photography is just a hobby. Even so, it has taken over my life in many ways. Full time, I am a researcher/attorney/writer, but wife is my favorite title. And right now, I’m enjoying my life more than pursuing a career at this stage in my life. But yes, it would be fantastic to be a professional photographer and get paid to just have fun!

Say somebody read this article and decided that they wanted to take your title away and have the best photos on Flickr. Would you feel the urge to compete with them?

Flickr has many other popular people and sites, and I am personally friends with many of them, such as Gary*.

But I think my popularity has to do with my sense of humor and creativity. One has to be willing to visit other people’s sites and be fair on the comments and give favorites with fairness.

I am the best that I can be, and that is all that I can do. Other people can be the best of who they are, but I don’t compare myself with other people, and people shouldn’t compare themselves with me. And let it be known that I didn’t choose the title: The best pictures on Flickr. But I am very flattered and humbled by it. Mostly because there are a lot of very talented people on Flickr. A lot.

But there is also a lot of friction about who has the most pictures on Explore, and people fight all the time to be in the top four in different groups. Personally, if I feel a hint of hostility, I quit the group and remove all my pictures. I am on Flickr to have fun and laugh with my friends—and not to compete.

Would you say you’re obsessed with Flickr?
I used to be obsessed with Flickr. I’ve read your piece on eBay and think Flickr is just as addicting as eBay. I am less and less obsessed about Flickr now, but more obsessed than I would like to be. Flickr is more than pictures. I get hundreds of emails, and people share their personal problems with me. Sometimes I feel like a therapist, and that takes a lot of time. But Flickr is a community very similar to a family. Now, I’m not saying it’s a perfect family, but it is a family, nonetheless.

Do you use Flickr as a way to tell personal stories?
That is not my goal, but sometimes I tell personal stories. If I think I have a funny story to tell I will share it. And when a photo reminds me of a situation, a line of music, or a famous line from a movie, I’ll use that, too. I have a self-depreciating sense of humor sometimes, and I usually laugh when I am writing something I feel people will also laugh about.

How do you use Flickr to document your life?
I try not to use Flickr to document my life at all. Actually, I try to avoid it. But photos do tell a lot about who we are, places that we’ve gone to. I love the change of seasons, like Christmas, and in that way, a lot of my life is revealed through my pictures.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I was born drawing and painting, and I get my inspiration from the same source. Sometimes, I might see a shadow on the wall while I’m eating breakfast and it will result in a creative picture with good composition. I feel that taking pictures of famous mountains, or rivers, or buildings is not as creative as a macro, a reflection, or a shadow. Because anybody can see a mountain, but not everybody notices reflections.

Also, my husband and I go out taking pictures over the weekend. I love where I live, I love my surroundings, I love life. I don’t even think much when I’m taking pictures. I can take over a thousand in just one afternoon and not even notice it.

Was there a photo that you ever wanted to take but got away?
Yes. I have been involved with The James Redford Institute for Transplant Awareness in the last 10 years, and last year, my husband and I were supporters of the fundraising at Sundance, Utah.

Here’s the scenario: I am in line waiting to be introduced to the press and talk to James Redford, Bob’s son who had two liver transplants and we were told not to take pictures of people, you know, to just stick to the trees and nature. Well, suddenly Bob and his daughter Amy Redford came and stood right before me. One of the people from the Institute apologized and said: This woman has someone in their family just going through a transplant. I was staring at Robert Redford’s neck. When he turned, we were face to face. I pointed my camera at him and said to myself: “I’m stupid if I don’t try.” But as I tried to take the picture, I go, “Oh, no! Battery exhaustion.” Bob said: “Too bad!” I spent hours laughing, as it was such an ironic moment.

What’s your six word memoir?
She laughed about everything, especially herself.

Previous Obsessed! with Web 2.0 Articles

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

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