A Note Regarding the Nature of Stories About Myself and My Mother That Appear Here on This Blog.

By now, you’ve probably read about Greg Mortenson, author of the best-selling book “Three Cups of Tea.” Mortenson, according to a “60 Minutes” report, embellished, fabricated and radically altered key details in his book.

Which is a roundabout way of saying: Greg Mortenson is a liar.

I can’t prove to you whether or not Mortenson has lied  — I’ve never read “Three Cups of Tea,” and I wasn’t with him in Afghanistan or Pakistan to confirm or deny any details presented in that book — but I know he’s not alone among the accused. The list of writers alleged or proven to have told stories that were more fiction than non-fiction is growing. James Frey famously altered details for his memoir. David Sedaris has come under scrutiny for his words. All fall into a particular category of liars:

They are writers.

Writers — particularly writers who specialize in the re-creation of events that they themselves experienced — don’t always portray real-life events in the most accurate light. I’m not talking about outright lying — wholly inventing events and then claiming them as nonfiction isn’t excusable.

I’m thinking more of the nature of personal recollection. The best personal stories get told and retold, and often, they change. They become bigger than their parts. They operate in a vacuum independent of space and time.

They are, often, part-true and part-bullshit.

Everyone has a fish story — some have an entire memoir’s worth — and I’m okay with that. No one’s confusing David Sedaris for David Halberstam.

Consider this thought, recently published in the Baltimore Sun:

“Some of the allegations regarding Mortenson seem to fall into the category of poetic license — collapsing time to tell a better story. That was an issue that I discussed Saturday with James Patterson and Charles “Chic” Dambach on a CityLit Festival panel on memoirs. They both acknowledged taking some license in their books, and I really don’t mind that — but an author should acknowledge the practice in a preface or elsewhere in the book.”

I couldn’t agree more. But it shouldn’t stop at books. I think this very blog needs some sort of explainer as to the way I tell stories. I’ve seen what “60 Minutes” did to Mortenson. I don’t want to get the Steve Kroft treatment.

Here goes:


Dear danoshinsky.com readers,

The stories you will read about my mother on this blog are true. On the whole, at least. My mother really did ride a fire truck dressed as Mrs. Claus. She did hold up the ‘Hola, Dan, mi puta grande’ sign. She did once abandon me in a stroller to go chasing after a limo that was not actually driving Kevin Costner through downtown Washington. All of these things are true.

What cannot be verified as entirely, scientifically accurate are each of the conversations within the respective stories that appear on this blog. Those conversations appear here in the most complete version that memory will allow, and where my recollections differ from those of the other involved parties, such has been noted within the context of the story.

I cannot fully guarantee that every word here is exact. Some memories have worn beyond the point of recognition. There are times when I will tell one version of a story, and then, months later, I will tell an entirely different version of the exact same story. In nearly every case, the latter is a more embarrassing, degrading or absurd version of the story, and my readers have repeatedly requested stories that feature any or all of those qualifications.

I can guarantee this: these stories, in no way, have been embellished to enhance the credibility of the author (or his mother). They have not been edited to portray the characters within as overly competent or even decent.

These are my stories, and I am just doing my best to tell them. They are not meant to inspire you. They are not meant to portray life as anything other than absurd. They are here because I have lots of embarrassing stories, and other people like hearing them.

That part, I can guarantee, is true.

How Bon Jovi’s Subversive Smiley Face Would Go Viral in 2011.

I got a Bon Jovi song stuck in my head the other day. The song was “Have a Nice Day,” the title track from the band’s 2005 album. It’s got all the Bon Jovi hallmarks: those familiar power chords, Richie Sambora playing a double-necked guitar and multiple lyrics about “living my life.” All it’s missing is that signature “wah-wah” guitar riff.

But the music video for the song got me thinking about how viral campaigns work. The video starts off with Jon Bon Jovi outside of one of his concerts. A fan hands him a copy of the CD, and the singer grabs a Sharpie and draws this little doodle.

Then the fan pulls out his cell phone, takes a photo of the doodle and sends it to someone. And from there, the subversive smiley face goes viral. It’s plastered on mailboxes and billboards, tattooed onto arms and lower backs, and even cut into a corn field.

But step back a second. Let’s see where this all starts in the video.

It starts with that. With a picture taken on an old-fashioned, non-flip, Sprint cell phone. Not a Blackberry. Not an iPhone. A phone that retails today for less than $20.

Let’s put this Bon Jovi video campaign in perspective. The song came out in August 2005. The iPhone wouldn’t be released until June 2007. Twitter wouldn’t launch for another year, and wouldn’t gain popularity for another three years. Facebook was still limited to college students only, and those with accounts could only post one photo — their profile photo.

So this within-a-video viral campaign — one from a song that’s only six years old — is almost comically antiquated.

How would Bon Jovi’s smiley face go viral today? Probably like this.


Bon Jovi draws the image on a fan’s CD. The fan whips out his iPhone and Twitpics it. Then, even though it’s a doodle, he Instagrams the image, because everything looks better in sepia.

The Twitpic gets a little bit of traction at first — a retweet here, a retweet there. Someone mass @-replies the message to celebrities. @kimkardashian makes the image her profile pic.

Soon, the smiley has its own Facebook page — Can this smiley face get more fans than the Jonas Brothers?

Then it gets its own Twitter account — @SubversiveSmiley, along with dozens of impostor accounts. (@FakeSubversiveSmiley, @SubversiveFrowny, @SubversiveSmileyGlobalPR, among others.)

(The Twitter account is later republished in book form, and makes the New York Times best-seller list. The CBS sitcom based on the tweets — “Have a Nice Day” starring John Stamos as a stuck-in-the-80s Jersey dad trying to make good — gets cancelled after the third episode.)

4Chan launches a meme — #icanhazsmiley — and then the Cheezburger Network launches a site devoted to sneaking the smiley face into famous photos “Where’s Waldo” style.

HuffPo publishes a photo gallery of 21 famous smiley faces, and although mostly inane, it draws 11 million page views.

@KanyeWest retweets the initial image with the hashtag #SWAG, and announces his next album will be called “Show Me How to Smiley.”

The image jumps the shark.

Two weeks later, Bon Jovi’s album, “Have a Nice Day,” finally hits iTunes. Fans are confused as to why Bon Jovi’s album is featuring an image that’s so last week.