Author Archive

You’re going to die. So, what’s on your list?

Friday, January 11th, 2008

2035748576_1c15eba0d7_b.jpgAt SMITH, we have a thing for lists. From random to-do lists—here’s how mine reads for today in no particular order: 1) edit test 2) SMITH blog 3) gym 4) write pitch 5) deposit check 6) call editors about missing checks—to New Year’s resolutions (face it, we all have more than one) and, of course, the master list, the king of all lists: the things-to-do-before-you die list.

Ah yes, my point: a new movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman hits theaters today and its all about the master list. Aptly titled, The Bucket List (like before you kick it), the film is about two terminally ill patients from two totally different worlds. You see where this is going. Freeman and Nicholson become best buds and the duo decided to bolt from their hospital beds and live out what’s on their bucket list. Think skydiving, traveling the globe, and driving a race car. So far the film has gotten some not so nice reviews, I think the words “sappy” and “geezers” were thrown around in one review, while another called the screenplay “mediocre.”

Still, I’m inclined to see this movie because, despite the predictability of it, a) I know I’ll enjoy it and likely shed a tear (what can I say, I have a soft spot for sap cinema) and b) there’s something about those bucket lists that inspire me, especially when I read about someone who’s actually crossing stuff off their before-I-die list: Get laid off, go to India. Check.

So, what’s the number one thing on your bucket list?

Bad Santa

Friday, December 21st, 2007

318261241_f2d63e20c0.jpgTis the season to be really mean. We allow ourselves to overindulge in everything from chocolate and candy to eggnog and Champagne (Screw it! Make a New Year’s resolution to work out more. Problem solved.). We spend entire paychecks on gifts like electric toothbrushes (who doesn’t want an electric toothbrush; hygiene is hot?)!

Above all, we love to point and laugh at little children who scream in horror while sitting on Santa’s lap. This is probably the only time when even parents can’t help but laugh out load and photograph their baby as they struggle to free themselves from Santa’s cruel grip. To prove this point, I went onto Flickr’s Creative Commons and found photographic evidence, past and present, of kids screaming while Santa forces them to reveal their wish list.

2126396405_8be210c64a_o.jpgMan, why don’t you just waterboard these kids—you might actually get something out of them. “I just (gasp, gasp) want a Dora the Explorer lunch box!!!! Mommmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy”

You can check out some of the pics here. Consider this our gift to you. Happy Holidays SMITHs!

Moving on. Unemployed this holiday season? Looking for that dream job? Into finding out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice? Then becoming a professional Santa Claus might be the gig for you, once you pass the background check and grow out your beard. FYI:only men can apply. Although, an exception might be made if you’re a really hairy woman. A SMITH T-shirt to any female who tries!

From a story that appeared in Slate,

While would-be Santas can apply to smaller shopping centers directly, national staffing services farm out talent to the larger malls. Noerr Programs Corp. serves as the North Pole’s version of central casting: It supplies St. Nicks to 169 major malls across the country. At Noerr, aspiring Santas are carefully interrogated about their willingness to travel, experience with kids, and, if applicable, their own memorable moments playing Santa. One key question: What does Christmas mean to you? Preferred answer: It’s all about the children. Santas can be of any ethnicity—certain malls prefer African-American or bilingual Santas—but they must be male, in keeping with tradition. Having a natural beard is also a prerequisite.

If you don’t think you can handle screaming, clawing munchkins all day long, perhaps a job as Santa’s elf might be more up your alley. Think Will Ferrell. You can listen to David Sedaris (bro of my personal idol, Amy) talk about his experience as a Macy’s elf here.

Have a happy and healthy holiday and a fantastic New Year!

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…)

Inside, Out: The Self-Portraits of Guillermo Riveros

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Go to the Photos

Guillermo Riveros isn’t afraid of a little T and A—especially if it’s his A. His series Corrupta is an examination of gender identity with Guillermo as the star of every shot. The images are jarring, even disturbing—seemingly shot with zero hesitation. Images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ can be found in Corrupta and throughout his other work, which is often intensely sexual and occasionally quite violent. But don’t get the wrong idea. Guillermo, a 25-year-old illustration student at Manhattan’s Parsons The New School for Design and transplant from Bogota, Columbia, isn’t some sexually repressed kid who was raised by his overly strict Catholic mother (though he does concede that his time at a parochial high school might have pushed him to work in more aggressive ways, and that may explain his interpretation of these beloved childhood characters). What fascinates this rising star is the relationships and perceptions that exist between what he calls subcultures (a la drag queens) and the more “moderate” culture.

Corrupta is currently on display at Bogota’s Museum of Modern Art and the Santa Fe Gallery, which is part of the Bogota Planetarium. Guillermo talked to SMITH about body fluids, changing perceptions, and his mini-celeb status back home. —Kathy Ritchie

When did you start taking pictures?
I began taking pictures when I was in my second year in college—that was back in 2001. I graduated from an art school in Bogota and then I came here to study illustration.

What kind of camera are you using?

I use a Kodak P880. It’s a professional digital camera.

How’s photography going so far as a career?
I think its very interesting. I have a very specific subject mater, which limits me in terms of commercial work. But I think it’s great. I walk through the city looking for more opportunities to show my work. I’ve done well in my city, but there’s not a lot of public for this kind of work, this subject matter.

What is Corrupta all about?

The series was made for an event that is currently going on in Bogota. I was invited to participate in this event at the beginning of year, and began working on the series in March. It’s a take on a previous work—I was working with body fluids. I tried to take some of those ideas and [incorporate them into] the photographs.

The series is quite jarring. It’s very sexual, very violent—what’s the reaction you’re trying to elicit?
I’m always looking for various reactions. I like when people are shocked by my work, then discovering the aesthetic values in an image they see, and hopefully they change their mind. It has happened before, and I really love when they have that kind of reaction. At first, they might feel threatened by the image; when they get closer to it, they start liking it.

You call yourself the “protagonist” in your own photographs. So what story are you trying to tell?
I’m putting myself in these photographs as an anonymous body and every time I recreate these kind of characters, I’m making myself the star of each story—it resembles in a miniature way how this whole dynamic of gender identity construction happens; so it’s about the conflicts, what’s going on around [the characters], the way they are dressed. In Corrupta, especially, I constructed symbols around them because I wanted to use the body fluid as the symbol.

What are the fluids symbolic of?
They’re symbolic of what the body rejects. The body fluids are symbolic of what the body needs to release, what’s disposable. They also become a metaphor for people who feel outside of society, who are kind of disposable—or not quite disposable, but rejected outsiders.

Since you’re the star of your own photographs, who’s taking the pictures?
For most pictures, I set up camera and use the timer.

Wow, you’re good.
I’ve been practicing for a long time. I’ve been working on a series of self-portraits, just building up everything so far for sometime; I trained myself to do it. But in some cases it’s too difficult, like for example the vomit pictures; I needed help, so my boyfriend helped me take the picture. That one, and the one on the grass (Orines).

What’s the funniest or strangest thing that’s happened to you while you were working?

Orines is the first exterior I had ever done. I always shot inside a house or a room or a set that I built. This one I was outside in the field and it was really hard because I was just wearing a thong and high heels and wig, and my boyfriend was helping me take the pictures and there were people moving around us, there were people staring, and the grass was filled with ants and they were biting my feet. And every time my boyfriend was taking the picture, I still have to go back to the camera and see how it’s looking—I have full control of everything. It was funny, I got my heels stuck on the grass, almost fell. I had to run back and forth and we had very strict time restriction because I wanted a very high yellow sunset sun, it gives you less than an hour to work. We were laughing the whole time.

What makes a good image to you?
I would say something that makes you have a reaction and gives you thoughts after. I think that’s basically what you want in an image.

Your work is incredibly provocative. That being said, what do you consider off-limits?
I don’t think I have anything that’s off limits. I tend not to be politically correct in that sense. I don’t censor myself at all.

Who are some of your favorite artists?
Pierre et Gilles; David LaChapelle; John Waters; Pedro Almodovar; James Bidgood; Cindy Sherman; Yasumasa Morimura; Anthony Goicolea; Austin Young

What’s your six-word memoir?
Quiero ser el rey de todo. Which translates to: I want to be the king of everything.

Click on photos to enlarge; mouseover for previous and next.

Family secrets

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Most families have secrets. Mine is certainly no exception. Of course, secrets are hard to keep. You hear bits and pieces—gossip, fragmented memories from a long time ago, whispers—and then you’re left to fill in the blanks, ultimately coming up with your own (often misinformed) version of events.

Such was the case here—sort of, but this story has a happy ending and I just love that.

More than a decade ago, author Bliss Broyard learned her father, New York Times book critic and essayist Anatole Broyard, harbored a secret:

“Your father is part black,” her mother, Alexandra, blurted out to Ms. Broyard and her brother, Todd, when their father couldn’t muster the words.

Broyard tells The New York Times that she thought she was like every other WASP living a posh life in a posh part of Connecticut. She says that she attributed her father’s olive complexion and dark hair color to his French ancestry (an earlier Times article about the book states that Broyard had a feeling that there was more to her father’s story). Although his secret hardly seems like a big deal today, it certainly was when Mr. Broyard decided to keep the fact that his parents were Creoles on the DL.

His secret also meant something else that went beyond skin color: Family, alive and well, living in New Orleans. In the early 90’s, Broyard, the daughter, decided to write her family’s story (now titled, “One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life—A Story of Race and Family Secrets.”) so she packed up and moved down to The Big Easy where she found other Broyards in the phone book.

In fact, many cousins who convened at the family get-together last month had known about Ms. Broyard and her father long before she contacted them. Even though they kept his secret, they talked about him among themselves. Anatole Broyard had been their high-achieving superstar. Occasionally, a Broyard aunt would clip one of his reviews and pass it around town.

Ms. Broyard learned the Creole word for the way her father had lived: passablanc. To this day virtually all Creoles are related to or at least know people who have tried to better their prospects by abandoning family and denying any black heritage to pass as white.

“‘That’s my cousin’ was something you often said in a whisper,” Jennifer Broyard, 51, a Creole audiologist, said.

You can read the entire Times piece here or you can dish your family’s secrets.

Happy Halloween (so what are you going as?)!

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

1809190586_655fc80334.jpg HAPPY HALLOWEEN SMITHs!

Ok, Ok, I know we have the SMITH’s righteous PopuLIST going, but this blogger wants to know what you’re dressing up as TONIGHT. Me? Well, I’m going as that girl sitting at her local bar watching the annual Halloween Parade on TV with a glass of Pinot. Not very original, I did the same thing last year.

Come on, give us the scoop. Best costume gets a high-five from Larry Smith.

In the meantime, check out these adorable Halloween costumes courtesy of flickr’s Creative Commons. I considered scary, but got suckered in by cute. What can I say? I’m weak.

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Happy Boss’s Day Larry SMITH

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

LS_headshot_SMITHtee.JPGThought I’d send our fearless leader, Mr. Larry Smith of SMITH (our Leonidas, if you will) a quick Happy Boss’s Day note.

Dude, you’re an awesome friend and editor. I always appreciate your help and patience—especially when it comes to the technical stuff. Yuck. Thank you for giving me a shot!

BTW: Thank you Jeffrey Yamaguchi for the incredibly helpful reminder!

Don’t forget to send you happy thoughts (and a beer) to the L-man today!

Weird Job: The Dalai Lama

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

736535619_7aff8b97d1.jpgI went to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama give a public talk at Radio City in NYC on Sunday. (And my blogging pal, John House, had his own brush with the Dalai Lama a while back. )While it was sometimes difficult to understand His Holiness (English is not his first language), the Dalai Lama is totally on the level. I mean, he gets it and didn’t over-complicate any of his points, which included the importance of cultivating inner peace and inner prosperity (just because you’re financially well off, doesn’t mean you lead a very rich life). Some other great and very simple points (FYI, this is in a nutshell): prayer is great, but if you want to change something, YOU have to be the force behind change—prayer won’t always cut it. We are all connected. We are the same: human beings. Compassion rocks, we should all try to be compassionate. Non violence is a good thing.

The Dalai Lama is also an honest man. At the very beginning of his talk, he made it clear to his audience that if you’re looking for a miracle, you’re essentially barking up the wrong tree—His Holiness doesn’t do miracles and he can’t cure you. (more…)

Happy Furry Friday

Friday, October 5th, 2007

857929775_966e2c1b8b.jpgHere’s wishing everyone a Happy Friday… or rather a Happy Furry Friday. Flickr users have posted some awesome “Happy Furry Friday” pics that I just had to share. Plus, if you’re having a lousy day at the office, these will definitely put a smile on your face.

Unless you hate cats.

Sorry, I’m a cat person, but I did include two pooches, you know to be nice.

Here’s a question: do you have special voices for your pet, like when you’re making them “talk?” Discuss amongst yourself—or, better yet, tell us!

Happy Happy Furry Friday SMITHs!


255533588_2e6be1e855.jpg (more…)

Weird Job: The Book Man

Monday, October 1st, 2007

1225274637_85fac883b1_1.jpgHere’s my theory on why people hate their jobs so much: we never get the chance to embrace our passions. That and a lot of people, sadly, follow a very linear path to “success,” never exiting the straight and narrow to revel in one of life’s many exciting detours. I.E. 1) Graduate high school. 2) Go to college. 3) Major in something that has the potential to earn you a pay check. 3) Graduate college. Get Job ASAP, those student loans aren’t going to pay themselves. 4) Get married. 5) Start to realize you hate job. Change job. 6) Realize it’s not your job. It’s your career. 7) Succumb to societal pressures—and mother or mother-in-law—and have a baby, because the birth of a child always makes things better. 8) Panic and misery set in.

OK, OK this is extremely grim, but you get my point. We all want to make money—enough to retire on an island somewhere or send our kids to college. But I often wonder how much damage do we inflict upon ourselves (and others we love) when we stay at a job we hate simply because it pays well. Do we make good parents, husbands, wives, domestic partners, brothers, sisters, or friends if we’re miserable five and a half days a week (face it, if you hate your job, Sunday evening is totally shot because you’re dwelling on how much you HATE your job and your boss).

Well, I think this latest Weird Job speaks to this idea, that it’s not always about the dough. Now, now, don’t get me wrong; I’m all about the Benjamins (and health insurance) too—but balance is a beautiful thing.

Meet Russell Wattenberg, founder of The Book Thing of Baltimore, a non-profit organization that gives books away—for free.

In an interview to The Christian Science Monitor:

“At no point did I consciously think I was going to give away books,” says Wattenberg. Nor was he animated by an epiphany of some sort. It was more like a benign impulse, such as that felt by someone holding a door for someone in need: no big thing for the door opener, important for the one enabled to pass. (more…)

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