Author Archive

Most Redundant and at the Same Time Terrifying Combination of Back-of-the-Truck Signage Seen on a Road Trip from New York City to Pittsburgh in Order to Spend Thanksgiving with the In-Laws

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

On the truck’s bumper sticker:


On the truck’s roll-up rear door:


Times Two

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

Every once in a while, the New York Times shows that it is still capable of delivering something like surprise. Take today’s Op-Ed page.

Take, in particular, Nicholas Kristof’s gritty and shockingly personal (for the NYT) reply to a woman who wrote to say that he was spending too much time talking about Sudan and should focus on problems closer to home.

A woman named Marguerite H. wrote to me recently to complain about my columns on Darfur. “While the situation there is dreadful, we have plenty of needs to be filled at home,” she wrote. “You would be better off putting your energy into making a difference here at home.”

So, Marguerite, meet Halima Abdelkarim. That’s her photo above, and her life is partly in your hands. Listen to her story, and see if you still think we should put off helping her until we have solved our own problems. …
You have other priorities, I know, and so do we all. But our indifference has already allowed Halima to be gang-raped twice and her sister murdered in the first genocide of the 21st century. So, Marguerite, look Halima in the eye, and decide if you’re willing to turn away as she is slaughtered, or how many times you’re willing to allow her to be raped.

Then look down at the bottom of the page. There you’ll find a caustically subversive confection by novelist Bruce Wagner, who takes a bracing walk along the hall of mirrors that is truthiness and Juiciness:

He had many fans and supporters: the actress Vivica A. Fox said that, ultimately, he was a professional, and showed heart. Blood, sweat and tears — not just that of others — were shed. Ms. Fox said, “I especially enjoyed watching him — with the big old arms and the good booty.” Oh God, God, God.

But that was the moment I realized that my research assistant was sending me the file not of O. J. Simpson, who will star in a two-part show on Fox this month titled “If I Did It: Here’s How It Happened” (which gives details of the murders “if he were the one responsible”) but of Emmitt Smith, newly crowned champion of “Dancing With the Stars.” Still, I decided, rashly, that I had already invested too much time in my work, and that, however foolhardy, I would continue the Op-Ed propulsion, knowing full well that Mr. Smith had not committed any of the crimes that Mr. Simpson had been acquitted of — and yet, I would finish the essay as if he had.

Whose Stories Count?

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

For anyone looking for a T-Day prayer, I humbly suggest this SMITH-ian poem, the “till the principle of things takes root” of which is a killer:

Beyond the Snow Belt

Over the local stations, one by one,
Announcers list disasters like dark poems
That always happen in the skull of winter.
But once again the storm has passed us by:
Lovely and moderate, the snow lies down
While shouting children hurry back to play,
And scarved and smiling citizens once more
Sweep down their easy paths of pride and welcome.

And what else might we do? Let us be truthful.
Two counties north the storm has taken lives.
Two counties north, to us, is far away,—
A land of trees, a wing upon a map,
A wild place never visited,—so we
Forget with ease each far mortality.

Peacefully from our frozen yards we watch
Our children running on mild white hills.
This is the landscape that we understand,—
And till the principle of things takes root,
How shall examples move us from our calm?
I do not say that it is not a fault.
I only say, except as we have loved,
All news arrives as from a distant land.

Mary Oliver

Another Item for the Toolbox

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

toufee.pngIf you’ve ever wanted to tell your story with animation but found Macromedia’s Flash too daunting, you might want to check out Toufee. Through some kind of Web 2.0 magic, it lets you build Flash movies online, complete with embedded video, photos, and wacky text effects. (Just imagine how obnoxiously badass you can make your MySpace page.)

If I could assemble a bit of crap like this in just under 45 seconds, think of what you could achieve if you spent some time using it in a meaningful way.

What!! You’re Pregnant Again!! Bite Me!!

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

One of my favorite parts of the NYT Book Review is the page advertising the self-published books.

Now, don’t go thinking that I’m looking at the SMITH flashline and, after a few sips of Haterade, am starting to wonder whether everyone’s story really needs to be told. As you all heard Neil Gaiman say on the RU Sirius Show, we owe it to ourselves to tell stories.

But still. Some of these titles sound … well, oddly compelling. (As Stan Mack has said, all quotes strictly verbatim.)

What!! You’re Pregnant Again!! Bite Me!!
An inspiring and humorous story in coping with the frustration of miscarriages and infertility. This book takes you on a roller coaster of emotions. It’s a truly comedic approach to how one woman copes through her own struggles and fears; however it will make you laugh out loud.

Doctor, Patient, Object, Thing
Diane Harvey weaves an enduring story about the relationship between a charismatic, confident surgeon in his late 30s and a popular, award-winning professor. At first, the young man is her surgeon. As the story unfolds, she becomes his teacher.

Computers for Klutzes: Basics, Email & Internet: A familiarization course for older adults
A thoroughly researched book that attracted attention from New England across Canada to the West Coast and down to Florida is now available. Almost 3,000 people from 21 to 94 have succeeded with these instructions, many after failing to understand evening classes at high school and college campuses. (more…)

RU Listening?

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

gaiman.jpgYes, I’ve blogged about this before. But if you haven’t checked out the RU Sirius Show, you’re missing out on a thoroughly excellent podcast. (The companion NeoFiles series has some wonderful stuff as well.)

If you do decide to check it out, and are wondering where to start among the more than 70 episodes now available, you might want to grab Show #68, in which RU and the rest of the gang chat with writer and comic-book author Neil Gaiman.

Among other things, Gaiman talks about his work, his process, his inspirations, and a possible upcoming collaboration with Terry Gilliam. He also confesses to a perfectly SMITH-ian credo: “We owe it to each other to tell stories.”

All in all, a fascinating way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Galileo Fandango Magnifico

Saturday, October 14th, 2006

The October 14-20 issue of New Scientist features what may be one of the strangest revelations ever published in a science weekly. Apparently Brian May, the lead guitarist of Queen, took that job instead of pursuing a promising career as an astrophysicist.

Now, however, he has returned to school to finish his doctorate and has co-authored a book titled Bang! The Complete History of the Universe.

What inspired you to return to your PhD after all these years?

You get to this age and you think, I’m still alive when some friends aren’t, and you ask yourself, “Why am I here? What should I be doing?” So there’s that. But a crucial event was inviting professor Francisco Sanchez to the opening of our musical We Will Rock You in Madrid. He had been a kind of extra supervisor for me in Tenerife. Francisco asked, “Are you going to finish your PhD?” and I said, “Yes!” I felt the strands of life coming together again. Crucially, Francisco said I could submit my thesis to the University of La Laguna.

What was it like working on the book?

We had a third collaborator, Chris Lintott, a whizz-kid astronomer from Cambridge. He happened to be at our first meeting and it was immediately clear that he knew a lot more about modern cosmology than we did. I said, we have to include him as the third author. The three of us would meet at Patrick’s house in Selsey on a Friday night, do a little gentle writing, have a couple of drinks, then hunt for Patrick’s cat, Ptolemy, who is an accomplished escapologist. When we got up the next day we were in the mood for serious work. Patrick shocked us by writing the first draft in two weeks. We all then spent the next two years rewriting it. He was good about it. He didn’t mind at all.

A Walk in the Park

Sunday, September 24th, 2006

Since the start of spring this year, my wife and I have taken to walking in Riverside Park on weekend days. We get to chat with the volunteers who keep up the flower gardens south of 96th Street, stroll along the Hudson River, and visit the greenmarkets for fresh vegetables and baked goods.

This was today’s walk, at the gloomy onset of fall.

Totally Tubular

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Tuber = Main Entry: tu·ber
Pronunciation: ‘tü-b&r, ‘tyü-
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, swelling, truffle; perhaps akin to Latin tumEre to swell — more at THUMB
1 a : a short fleshy usually underground stem bearing minute scale leaves each of which bears a bud in its axil and is potentially able to produce a new plant — compare BULB, CORM b : a fleshy root or rhizome resembling a tuber

YouTuber =


Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

Sometimes, you just need to fess up. Sometimes, you just need to spill. Sometimes, you just need to talk it out. And most times, your inner circle is way too precarious for any of that.

For exactly those times, you need RandomChat.

Think of it as a way to talk things out in public and in private at the same time. In Dansk, Deutsch, Polski, and a slew of other languages. Including English.