Author Archive

Back Home From Iraq: Soldiers’ Stories

Monday, November 12th, 2007

vet_cartoonjpg.jpgIn honor of Veteran’s Day, I thought I’d mention some highlights from some of the work I’m most proud of at SMITH, Michael Slenske’s outstanding Back Home From Iraq series. For the past 18 months, Slenske has engaged some of the United States’ most controversial, interesting, and intense vets in long conversations about their time serving in Iraq—and their life back home. In his most recent interview, Slenske talks to Cpl. Jacob Schick, a 24-year-old machine gunner who served with the 1/23rd Marines, Bravo Company, and one of the soldiers profiled in HBO’s Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq. (A soldier’s “alive day” is the day they barely escaped death on the battlefield.). Earlier this year, Slenske’s talked to Todd Bowers, a Marine reservist whose slideshow, Iraqi Graffiti, is a look at the war unlike any I bet you’ve seen, John Bruhns, the winner of a MoveOn video contest, and soldier-turned-playwright Sean Huze. They are just of few among many other colorful characters with personal, unpredictable war stories to tell, all of whom SMITH has been honored to showcase.

Vet cartoon via Flickr user goeatsmsht.

Is There a Nurse in the House?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

189816757_ff0520bb94_m.jpgI’ve got a thing for this nurse. Nope, she’s not one of the many “sexy nurses” who paraded through my neighborhood this past Halloween, but the real deal—and since September she’s been blogging at My Midlife Nursing School Adventures, the tales of a 46-year-old nursing student. This sharp and funny nurse-in-training mixes insider stories about brain surgery with revealing details of day-to-day life (yeah, you do get used to the smell of pee), with a few shots of old-fashioned school girl gossip. All of it from the perspective of a brassy woman who’s seen more in life than most of her much younger classmates, yet is still seeing nursing school through the same virgin eyes as her peers. Her most recent post includes a list of medical terms that describe everyday events and situations. Such as:

bezoar - I have a hair ball
dysgeusia - everything tastes funny
dysmenorrhea - My periods are horrible
epistaxis - My nose is bleeding. AAAAHHH! MY NOSE IS BLEEDING!!
hematuria - there’s blood in my pee
hirsutism - I am a woman with a moustache
menometrorrhagia - I bleed like a stockyard hog
pectus excavatum - I’m a dude who’s chest is caved in instead of out and therefore I never take my shirt off in public
piloerection - I’m so scared that my hair is standing on end

As a blogger, she’s a natural, mixing her personal experience with the macro world of nursing school, and peppering her posts with playful photos and comics. Here’s hoping she turns into an RN who’s just as good. And if you like stories about people in wild professions and/or unusual situations in life, check out the SMITH Diaries, currently featuring the diary of a working dominatrix in New York City.

Classic nurse from Flickr user kafkan.

Break it Down: The World in 100 Words or Less

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

snacks.jpg Sad but probably true: if you wanted to launch The New Yorker today, you probably couldn’t get it funded. So we’re in a bit of a pickle. Long-form storytelling is a tough proposition online, and magazines are increasingly in trouble in a culture where information wants to move fast and the notion of waiting 30 days for the new issue of Esquire to arrive seems more and more antiquated each month.

I’m not sure if a new web site called Brijit is good or bad for storytelling. Something like The Week meets DIGG, the site boils down best long-form content (magazine, TV, radio) into abstracts of 100 words or less, “providing busy, omnivorous, and increasingly mobile readers with rich, qualitative summaries as well as better guideposts for what to read, watch or listen to now.” And, naturally, the abstracts are done by a community of freelancers who earn between $5-$8 per entry. So then what? Will these 100-word dangles delight us to read the whole piece? Or will readers be satiated with a series of 100-word snacks?

Photo credit: Flickr user M0les

Twitter and A Tweet for Help

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

From the recently liberated pages of The New York Times (no need to log in or have a subscription to read the stories), comes a piece on a Twitter user who tweeted his feelings of despair, and how his network of friends responded. Here’s a snippet:

[Nick] Starr, who was driving around near his hometown, wrote in Twitter’s characteristic staccato, stream-of-consciousness style about picking up some chicken wings and getting a new haircut. Then his postings took a darker turn.

At 6:02, he sent out a note about a nearby bridge: “Maybe I should jump from it?”

At 8:17, bemoaning his lack of close friends, he speculated about being the first “Twitter suicide.”

The lengthy piece goes on to discuss how when users at spots like Twitter and Tumblr miniblog the dramatic turns of their day—from the above thoughts of suicide to a breaking up with their partner–”they often take the network along in real time.” Nothing many SMITH readers don’t know, but the Times piece is a good overview of one way miniblogging has changed the way we tell the stories of our lives—one character at a time.

Shooting War’s World Tour

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

SW_cover.jpgWhat started as a serialized webcomic on SMITH, soon became an online sensation, and now says the likes of USA Today, Penthouse, and The Wall Street Journal, is the most anticipated graphic novel of the season. We’re talking about Shooting War, Anthony Lappé and Dan Goldman’s near-future story about a blogger in war-torn Iraq who wants to get the real war story, save the world—and party like it’s 2011.

SW_UKposter.jpgAnthony and Dan are about to head to London to celebrate the release of the UK version of the book (check out the poster Dan created on the left), come back in time for a November 19 U.S. release party at NYC’s Sutra Lounge, then hit the road for a national book tour.

This week, New York Magazine is running three excerpts from the book, which you really should buy as it’s longer and in many ways different from what you first read on SMITH. Long story short: Shooting War rocks. Congrats to the authors!

A Sweet Little Superhero Story

Monday, October 29th, 2007

403370602_970f07fe91_m.jpgHere’s a piece with a wonderful storyline that I stumbled upon in the metro section of The New York Times . It’s about a superb group of do-gooding eccentrics who have created their own superhero society as a part of their efforts to clean up their city. Enjoy: Dressed for Halloween? No, to Clean Up Times Sq.

Happy superhero from Flickr user NYCArthur.

Lauren Hutton

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

Warm Hugs and Cold Beers with Lauren Hutton
By Albert Stern

I met Lauren Hutton in front of my apartment building in Miami Beach, about 15 feet from the spot where, a few years later, Gianni Versace would get shot. She sat with my friend Adam on the coral rock veranda of the Amsterdam Palace, an edifice with a singular, irreproducible charm that so beguiled Versace, he bought it and reconstructed it from top to bottom.

lauren_BIG_Cover.jpgThe fetchingly gap-toothed supermodel wanted a tour of the place—supposedly modeled on Columbus’s villa in Santo Domingo—and I was proud to act the docent. An astronomer’s observatory overlooked the verdant Spanish-style courtyard. Bas reliefs of personages like Plato, Moses, Lenin, Florence Nightingale, and Mussolini adorned the walls. Though ramshackle, the place amazed.

Lauren enjoyed bantering with Adam and me, and she joined us for several beers, regaling us with stories about the modeling industry and giving us warm hugs when we parted.

About a year later, I was changing planes at Dulles Airport, and found myself queued up behind Lauren Hutton. Why not say hello?

“Excuse me, Lauren,” I said. “You may not remember, but a year or so ago, my friend and I showed you around my place on Ocean Drive, and then we had some beers.”

Her lip curled and she made a point of looking at me in the eye, then said: “Why would I ever have done something like that?

Would that it all have been over then, but she was seated in First Class on my flight, and sneered at me as I passed her on my way to the narrow seats with less leg room.

Wildfire Stories—Blogs, Twitter, Photos, Videos

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

socal_fire.jpgReading the blogs and clicking through the many photos may not bring the West Coast wildfires any closer to home, but it sure provides an intense, personal take on a tragedy in a way that the daily papers and wire services just don’t.

Our friend and Girl’s Gone Child blogger Rebecca Woolf writes beautifully on everything that lands in her lens; and as an L.A. resident and San Diego native she’s been feeling this fire’s pull. Her post, Things We’ll Never Lose in the Fire, belongs in this tragedy’s time capsule. The blog And Still I Persist provides a personal perspective with lots of maps and graphics and links to breaking news about the fires. Cat Dirt Sez combines information with anger. From Slashdot, we find a link to Jim Forbes’ ForbesOnTech, a blog typically devoted to “mobile computing, gardening and occasional fishing strategies” that he’s now turned into a space to blog about what he’s witnessing at the evacuation center near his home.

Here’s a collection of YouTube videos from Southern California.

SMITH’s Kathy Ritchie has scoured Flickr for shots of the fires and created this set of a handful of intense shots; you can see search results for “California” and “wildfires” here.

Lots of folks are providing quick, short updates on Twitter, including Doggpound, zenchoas, and in an interesting sign of the times, the L.A. Times. The site has a good rundown of SoCal Twitter fire followers.

Finally, here’s a google map of the fire.

Publishing Pet of the Year: SHOOTING WAR

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

PH_SW.jpg The reviews for Shooting War (the book), the graphic novel created by Anthony Lappé and Dan Goldman and first serialized on SMITH, are starting to roll in. The Wall Street Journal and USA Today recently give the book props. The UK’s Financial Times says, “Dan Goldman … employs the computer to the full, overlaying figures on photo backgrounds and manipulating everything with software effects. The result is an eye-frazzling, mind-warping collage, like a sequence of Banksy murals, all aglow with doomy orange hues.”

And we’re all hot and bothered about a full-page rave in Penthouse:

“[W]e are drawn into this cruel action almost against our will. Written by journalist and filmmaker Anthony Lappé and vividly rendered by artist Dan Goldman, this astute, timely graphic novel exposes the brutality of war as well as the insipid way mainstream media reports it.”

Shooting War publishes on November 19 in the U.S., a few weeks earlier in the UK. Pre-order your copy here.

Join us on November 19 at NYC’s Sutra Lounge to celebrate the book’s release. More details coming soon via the SMITH Newsletter.

Why is this woman naked?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Writer Cole Kazdin is no stranger to the business of taking it all off. Her one-woman show, My Year Of Porn, about her time producing a documentary on the porn industry, was an off-off-Broadway sensation. So when she sent me a note wondering if SMITH had any interest in an essay on her traumatic experience as a nude model, I was all over it (so to speak). So take a ride on over to SMITH’s Memoirville section, where we feature personal essays like Cole Kazdin’s, memoirs-in-progress such as Jason Thompson’s piece of his upcoming book on his mother and mental illness, and excerpts from just-published books like Gonzo, an oral history about the life and times of Hunter S. Thompson. It’s one big storytelling stew—and it’s delicious.

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