Archive for November, 2007

Home for the holidays

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

This week’s question:

Giving thanks can give you an ulcer. What was your worst experience at the family holiday table?

Next week’s question:
With the stagehands back on and the writers holding out, we wondered—job, friend, or relationship, when did you walk out?

Is K-Ville Real or a Faux Gumbo?

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

leo.jpgEditor’s note: As the first season of the New Orleans-set K-Ville wraps up, we decided to ask Leo McGovern, a character in our webcomic A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge for his review.

Speak to a New Orleanian who’s seen the series K-Ville and he’ll say one of two things: I love the show and embrace its deficiencies like a Saints fan does a blowout loss—even if the end result isn’t pretty, it doesn’t matter as long as we have a good time along the way. Or: I hate the show and chalk up its cheesiness to the show’s writers being lazy and a slap in the faces of the citizens who are sticking it out every day and aren’t clichéd representations. A television shows hasn’t been as polarizing since American Idol.

kville_1.jpgI grew up in the New Orleans area and have seen the gamut of emotions that our citizens have; the feeling about K-Ville is that’s it’s another example of mass media patronizing New Orleans and fabricating a sense of corporate sympathy. (more…)

Halle or Andie? Who’s the Most Beautiful Pregnant Woman, Ever?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Halle_preg.jpg Andie_preg_bad2.jpg
Among the many upsides of being known as a guy who celebrates pregnant women is that many of your friends make sure you don’t miss Maxim’s important new feature, The Nine Hottest Pregnant Women, Ever. No surprises here: Halle Berry is almost too beautiful to bear whether she’s on her way to the Oscars, attempting to look downtrodden in Monster’s Ball, or beginning to pop. Naomi Watts big as a boat? Still a babe. Angelina Jolie and Heidi Klum glow even brighter with child, if that’s even possible. No news here. Which is why at SMITH we point our lens at the real women with life stories perhaps a little closer to yours and mine. And real women have great curves. To which we submit: Andie or Halle? Lara Swimmer in sunglasses or Brooke Burke by the pool? Who is the most beautiful pregnant woman, ever? And might she be walking among us?
Lar_Lara_preg_1.jpg BrookeBurke_1.jpg

Thanksgiving is over. It is Monday. I am tired. I am hungry. I like to read. I like to write.

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Most Monday mornings, it’s all I can do to wrap my mind around six words. (Lucky thing, then,six.jpg that six words can say so much.) But this morning, fresh off a holiday weekend, and fortified with family, friends, and tryptophan, I’m feeling a little more ambitious.

Enter this lovely, lit-y, little blog, where I can indulge in all the wonderful stories that can be told in an expansive six sentences. Don’t miss the contributor bios, which are just as varied and interesting, describing community college kids, lead singers, biology profs, parents, and Pushcart winners.

As thousands of you are finishing novels, I’m assigning myself a slightly smaller challenge—six sentences by December. Who’s with me?

“Your Father Ruined The Soup!” (an other explosive Turkey Day Tales)

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

A wonderful, stumbled upon, perfectly timed tale for Turkey Day: Andy Raskin’s story from This American Life about his father’s attempt to mess with a cherished squash soup recipe, the squabble that ensues, and the familial battlelines drawn. In these eight perfect minutes, this silly little soup story encapsulates so much of the emotion, drama, insanity, and love that we feel around this time of year, a time when we put all our cards, and sometimes soup, on the dinner table (I think I need to listen to this every year, along with Alice’s Restaurant). And if talky, much-ado-about-soup storytelling doesn’t butter your roll, then maybe a video of an exploding bird will. Turn up the volume, press play, and have a happy holiday.

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Happy Tofurky Day!

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

304060439_6270aec4f6.jpgGobble gobble gang! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays (besides my birthday, which is really a month long celebration of me) because I love to eat—and Turkey Day is one of those days where I stuff obscene amounts of food in my mouth without feeling totally guilty. I’m also willing to accept the consequences of too much stuffing, turkey, and pie on my digestive system.

Still, while I love picking at a giant bird with stuffing coming out of its derrière on this most wonderful American holiday/kick-off to Christmas/warm-up to Black Friday, I’ve been having a personal mini-meat-crisis. With so many stories out there detailing the horrific treatment of livestock raised for food, growth-promoting antibiotics, and food recalls—it’s the stuff that makes you cringe and reconsider your diet. That said, I wondered if the vegetarians and vegans eat what Robin, my vegan pal since high school, eats: a little something called Tofurky.

On a more embarrassing note: I thought she was making that up when she said it—in fact, I think I laughed, told her that was a clever word combo and that she should trademark it. (more…)

Coming Soon: GARCIA Mag

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

jerry.jpg Gaeljpg.jpg
Demographics is destiny, as my friend and occasional Spanish translator Marlene Braga reminds us. As counted by the Census and reported in The New York Times, even as Smith remains the most popular surname in the land, with 2.4 million of us, our ranks are indeed in decline.* Meanwhile, many Spanish surnames on the move. Hot on the heels of Smith are Garcia (No. 8, up from the 18th spot) and Rodriguez (all the way to No. 9 from 22nd place—and one of them has quite a big contract). Says the Newspaper of Record:

Demographers pointed to more than one factor in explaining the increase in Hispanic surnames.

Generations ago, immigration officials sometimes arbitrarily Anglicized or simplified names when foreigners arrived from Europe.

“The movie studios used to demand that their employees have standard Waspy names,” said Justin Kaplan, an historian and co-author of The Language of Names.

“Now, look at Renée Zellweger,” Mr. Kaplan said.

Exactly. And so to Ms. Zellweger and the Garcias of the world we say: Todos tenemos una historia.

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*SMITH ranks, however, are in the rise.

Jerry Garcia from Flickr user Janesdead.

Gael Garcia Bernal from Flickr user Osei.

Shoot Out the Lights

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Thanks to everyone who celebrated the U.S. release of Shooting War with a reading at Barnes & Noble and then a rockin’ party at the always sultry Sutra Lounge. Anthony Lappé and Dan Goldman take their show on the road with a seven-city U.S. tour now—details here. You can cruise through Dan’s photos here. Check out today’s fantastic plug for the book in Daily Candy and this dynamite feature in Newsweek.

Books for Story Lovers (or: solve your holiday shopping problems here)

Monday, November 19th, 2007

When I left traditional magazines, I figured I would never have to hear the phrase “holiday shopping guide” again. Yet here we are in mid-November, 2007 and I am about to format the follow sentence in bold: Attention holiday shoppers who love great storytelling and hate shopping!

That’s right friends, welcome to SMITH Magazine’s first and possibly annual guide to the best books to give as presents. In the tradition of these things, I’ve categorized these books to make it super, super easy. Five clicks and five problems solved. Why? Because we love storytelling. We love these books. And we’re here to help.

SW_cover.jpgFor the political animal and/or comic-loving geek and/or guy in your life you just can never figure out what to get: Shooting War by Anthony Lappé and Dan Goldman debuted on SMITH and is now being hailed everywhere from USA Today to The Wall Street Journal as the most-anticipated graphic novel of the year. The Huffington Post says we’ll all look smart if we put it on our coffee tables. Give Shooting War to anyone you want to help look smart.
Also receiving votes:The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming

Red_Cover.jpgFor the smart, angsty teenage girl in your life, or pre-teen who, let’s face it, will enter a world of weirdness and misunderstanding soon enough: Red: The Next Generation of American Writers—Teenage Girls—On What Fires Up Their Lives Today, in which 60 teenage girls write with guts, emotion, humor, and the raw brilliance that comes with being a teen about the likes of love, loneliness, learning to rock climb, and starting a rock band. It’s edited by friend of SMITH Amy Goldwasser, which is one reason we know it’s dynamite. The young women she’s unearthed are 60 more.

StoryCorpsBook.jpgFor your mother, your grandmother, or anyone else who listens to way too much NPR: Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project by David Isay. From NPR’s StoryCorps, the folks who set up the oral history recording booths in Grand Central Station and elsewhere, comes the most compelling life stories from among the 10,000 StoryCorps has collected.
And another powerful take on the power of listening: The Unheard by Josh Swiller, a wonderful memoir about the author’s deafness, the Peace Corps, and finding one’s place in the world.

todo_book.jpgFor the obsessive-compulsive and/or secret Santa with a $20 cap: To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us by Sasha Cagen. A book of, yes, to-do lists ranging from delightfully disturbing (a spreadsheet mapping out a family’s plan for their stay in Disney World) to the disturbingly delightful (the stuff one woman wants to “get out of her head”). It’s sociology discussed as ephemera—and it works.
If you like To-Do List, You’ll Love..: A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book by Frank Warren, the latest book from the brilliant online experiment in voyeurism, secrets, and probably some lies, PostSecret.

NonRequired.jpgFor the big-lit lover who would rather read than talk to you or anyone else in the family:The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007, edited by Dave Eggers, with an intro by Sufjan Stevens. An anthology of wonderful, smart and surprising nonfiction, fiction, comics, blogs, and, according to Amazon. 6WORDMEM_yellow_blue.JPG“anything else that defies categorization”—which we suspect means the selection of six-word memoirs found on page 12 that have been excerpted from SMITH’s forthcoming book from HarperCollins, Not Quite What I Was Planning: And Other Six-Word Memoirs from Writers Famous and Obscure … which is not out until February, but why not get a jump on your Valentine’s Day shopping?

YouTube and Ron Paul — Because Crazy is Fun

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Forgive me for my continuing obsession, but is anyone else still alternately fascinated and repulsed by the legions of Ron Paul fans polluting just about every forum everywhere? Seriously, it’s like they’re getting more strident and more spammy as the primaries approach. These days, you can write a blog post about the Argentinian soccer team and you’re guaranteed to see at least one commenter reminding you that Ron Paul is the only man who will restore the Constitution. Seriously people, we get it. Go away.

Anyway, what’s cute is the YouTube videos these people make. (And in a larger sense, what’s interesting about all this is not just the YouTube videos, but the Paulites’ use of the Internet generally — it’s like people power only, you know, nutty.) Here’s one good one, a particularly desperate attempt to make the damn facts stop lying.

SMITH Magazine

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