October 19, 2004
DuraBooks - Waterproof books from Melcher Media
Charles Melcher last month received a patent for his method of creating waterproof books.
Now you can read in the tub without worrying about a catastophic event - and I've had many.
The idea came to him five years ago when he was reading an article in the New York Times about people who like to bathe as opposed to showering.
It occurred to him that the type of person the Times described matched perfectly the demographic profile of avid book buyers.
And so was born his quest, now bearing serious fruit, what with a very nice article in yesterday's Financial Times and I'm sure many other mentions.
Amazon's got his entire line of WetWare, as it were.
Melcher envisions his next market to be beach blanket readers; to this end, he's already planning his waterproof spring offering: "The Beach Reader," a collection of literary fiction.
BehindTheMedspeak: 'The bleeding always stops'
Perhaps my favorite of the zillions of wonderful, pithy, often-harsh apothegms I've heard in my years in medicine.
Others that are right up there?
"Try a Florsheim maneuver" [kick him to see if he's dead or faking]
"We won't know until the autopsy." [actually spoken on internal medicine rounds by a resident when I was in med school, in response to the question, "What's he have?"]
"The patient is the one with the disease." [said to oneself to calm yourself down when you start to get all worked up about how messed up someone is]
"The first thing to do at a Code Blue is take your own pulse." [helps to settle you down and let you think more clearly]
"You know you've become a good surgeon when, instead of saying "Oops," you say, "There."
Back to the bleeding.
It's a powder made of a hydrophilic [water-loving] polymer and potassium salt.
You pour the stuff on a wound, blood activates it, and the whole mess hardens into scab.
They've even got a brand-name for the scab: Hematrix.
Like a generic scab, the Hematrix drops off after a few days.
QR also works as a disinfectant, so you don't have to use an antibacterial on the wound.
It doesn't damage the skin.
Supposed to be especially useful for hemophiliacs and others prone to excessive bleeding.
Eric Waters, the Washington Wizards [pro basketball] head trainer, was quoted in today's Washington Post as saying he likes it and uses it a lot.
Said Waters, "Game-time cuts can be treated all in one move - in 10 seconds, really. QR stuck to the sweat really well."
Sounds good to me.
Comes in four fomulations: Urgent, Nosebleed, Sports, and Kids.
Available without a prescription at CVS, Wal-Mart, Albertson's and the like for $5-$8 a pack.
PawSense - Winner of the Ig Nobel Prize in Computer Science
This clever invention is a software program that detects when a cat walks across a computer keyboard and makes a noise to shoo it away.
Chris Niswander, a computer programmer in Tucson, Arizona, won an Ig Nobel Prize in 2000 for his creation, which he continues to improve.
Version 2.1 is now available.
[via The Financial Times]
Jorge Posada wears nail polish
A bookofjoe exclusive.
Last night, during that epic 14-inning Red Sox-Yankees playoff game, I noticed that the superb Yankee catcher's fingernails seemed very, very bright and easy to see as he flashed signs to his pitchers.
I started watching really closely and sure enough, there's no question in my mind that Posada has put white fingernail polish on the nails of his right hand to make it easier for his pitchers to see his signs.
Take a look at the two pictures accompanying this post; they're the best I could do online re: showing his right hand.
Granted, these two pictures are not conclusive evidence, by any means; I urge you to watch what should be another gripping tilt, tonight's game 6, at 8 p.m.
When the center-field camera zooms in on Posada as he's giving his pitcher signs, watch the darting fingers of his right hand.
You'll be convinced.
And to think I picked this up with my less-than-perfect eyes, on a regular old Sony tube TV....
I cannot imagine what fun I'm gonna have once I get my 61" HDTV flatscreen.
Sure hope Sports Illustrated gives me credit when they report this news.
And how about that rocket of a perfect throw Posada launched to get Red Sox speedster Johnny Damon stealing?
Man, you could almost hear that frozen rope crackling through the air.
The tainted spas of Japan - 'We have sinned'
Japan's milk-hued hot springs of Shirahone, where for a thousand years legions of Japanese have repaired to bathe communally, are being rocked by scandal.
It seems spa owners began secretly adding dye to the usually cream-colored waters in the 1990s after the springs began mysteriously losing their natural hue.
The country's psyche has been shaken, and heads are rolling.
Toru Tsuzuki (above), general manager of a hot spring resort in Shirahone, who for years has been adding white dye to his spa, could only say, "We have sinned."
Having lived in Japan for a year, and knowing the nature of its people to that limited extent, I can only compare their sense of betrayal in this matter to how we in the U.S. would feel if we were to learn that the original U.S. Constitution in the National Archives is in fact a fake.
Here's Anthony Faiola's story from yesterday's Washington Post.
Exposed, Japan's Hot Springs Come Clean
Tainted Spas Spoil a Beloved Bathing Ritual
The milk-hued hot springs of Shirahone have for a thousand years lured legions of stressed-out Japanese, who traversed mountain passes and paid small fortunes to wash away their troubles in the steaming thermal baths.
But in a scandal that has precipitated a nationwide crisis of confidence in Japan's beloved onsen, or hot spring resorts, a national magazine this summer reported that spa owners were secretly conning their customers.
Shirahone village leaders came clean in July - admitting they added artificial white dyes to baths after several springs had mysteriously begun losing their coveted natural cream color during the 1990s.
The deception created an uproar in Japan, where few things are more cherished in life than stripping down to your birthday suit for a group dip in scorching thermal baths.
Government authorities, media outlets and citizen groups scoured the nation's treasured 22,000 hot springs for evidence of other cheats.
Three months of investigations and at least one police raid later, officials have uncovered fraud at scores of onsen nationwide.
The deception seems bottomless: Some proprietors even clandestinely boiled tap water and passed it off as coming from Japan's natural springs.
The tainted hot springs in at least 20 resort towns include several whose waters had been celebrated for centuries in epic poems, fables and woodblock prints.
Worse, the disclosures have stained one of the most precious and highly developed rituals of Japanese culture - group bathing.
The affronts have generated scathing newspaper editorials and dominated television news.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Shirahone has been forced to resign in dishonor.
More than reputations are at stake.
Some fear that the resulting loss of tourism revenue may cripple the rural economies of dozens of towns just as Japan is emerging from a 13-year economic slump.
Already, fuming Japanese are staying away from several of the resort villages involved, tourism officials and business owners reported.
"We have sinned," said Toru Tsuzuki, son of the former mayor of Shirahone and general manager of an onsen that took part in the ploy.
"Perhaps it is not something a foreigner can fully understand, but we know how much the Japanese love hot springs and how much they feel betrayed by us."
For centuries, onsen have ranked among the most bemusing aspects of Japanese life for foreigners, whom the Japanese accuse of being unable to take the heat.
Dave Barry, the famed humor columnist of the Miami Herald, once wrote after a skinny dip with a group of naked strangers in Japan that the water temperature preferred by the locals appeared somewhere in the neighborhood of "17,000 degrees Fahrenheit."
But in a hygiene-obsessed nation, where taxi drivers wear white gloves and teenage girls sometimes carry disinfectant to spray handrails in subway cars, such bathing is actually seen as the ultimate expression of cleanliness.
Through the portals of onsen, friends and strangers join one another for escape from the pressures of daily life in one of the world's most competitive societies.
In Shirahone, for instance, men and women separate, shed their clothes, scrub their bodies raw with soap and rinse vigorously before immersing themselves in sulfured waters.
Nationwide, innovative proprietors have created both outdoor and indoor bath themes, ranging from Hawaiian fantasies to the bullet trains.
Bathing is frequently viewed as an act of group bonding.
Even at home, young families - including at least one parent and small children - bathe together, relaxing and sharing the news of the day while submerged in a steaming tub.
Onsen remain the highest expression of that bath culture, and such springs are said to be curative.
Nihon Shoki - or Chronicle of Japan, the nation's oldest official historical text - describes a wounded snowy heron that miraculously recovers after bathing in spring water.
Today, the Japanese insist that their springs, naturally heated by one of the most volcanically active geographies on Earth, can ease the pain of everything from arthritis to skin disease, as well as an especially bad day at the office.
"The Japanese people love to be clean, and our historic connection to thermal baths dates back more than 1,000 years," said Yoshiaki Yasuda, head of the Japan Hot Spring Society, an association of scholars who research hot springs.
"The Japanese are also a high-stress people, and we find few things more relaxing than a hot bath. So there is almost nothing we love more than onsen - which is why this deception has deeply hurt us."
Hot spring resorts escaped Japan's economic downturn, which began in 1991.
The number of onsen increased 20 percent in a decade, evolving into the single biggest slice of Japan's huge domestic tourism industry, according to government statistics.
Today, more Japanese towns rely on onsen-based tourism than on car factories for their financial livelihoods.
Top government officials recently labeled onsen expansion as vital to boosting domestic consumption - still a big concern as Japan's economy emerges from its slump.
Activist groups have set out to tighten Japan's hot springs laws and force thermal spas to post their ingredients, both natural and artificial.
"This fraud has undermined the public trust, and the economic and emotional damage to the nation will take some time to overcome," said Tomino Hirano, head of an onsen watchdog group and a noted travel writer.
Nowhere is that more clear than in Shirahone, an ancient resort village about 120 miles northwest of Tokyo nestled dramatically amid the jutting cedar forests of the Japanese Alps.
The Shirahone public bath, which once lured 19,000 people a month, is now shuttered, awaiting further reviews by authorities after the Weekly Post magazine published photos of a city employee adding dyes to the water under the headline: "Shirahone spa was colored! Don't be fooled by the onsen boom!"
The milky color was a byproduct of natural minerals that had been in Shirahone's hot springs since time immemorial.
No one is quite sure, however, why some of the springs began to lose their ancient color - no scientific tests were conducted on the water to determine this.
Some of the water sources did remain milky, while others went clear.
The shame of the scandal has cast a pall on all the townspeople, most of whom lowered their heads and spoke softly when asked about the situation.
Privately, several business owners admitted that most of Shirahone knew about the secret white dyes, which began to become obvious almost a decade ago when several of the local water sources began spitting up clear water instead of the normal milky brew.
After their plot was exposed, embarrassed town officials withdrew advertising nationwide and destroyed thousands of pamphlets and posters promoting the doctored baths.
At Ebisu-ya soba noodle shop, the owner, Toshio Saito, said he had furloughed one full-time waitress and a couple of part-time staffers because business was down.
Inns, which typically charge $160 or more a night, are reporting cancellations and occupancy rates that have dropped by as much as 50 percent.
They have also received letters and e-mails from furious clients, including many demanding refunds.
"People had became so fond of that milky water - it just cried out, 'I'm healthy! Come here and bathe!' " said Kazuyoshi Sato, a taxi driver.
"It's such a shame it had to come to this."
The inns are trying to recover with an "honesty campaign," posting the ingredients of their baths and tapping mainly those remaining hot springs still producing the natural milky white water.
Tsuzuki, the son of the former mayor, hasn't given up yet.
"We know it will take some time, but we hope people will give us another chance," he said.
Quantum politics - or why I'm glad my annual eye examination is this afternoon
See, yesterday I read the above-headlined story on the front page of USA Today.
Then, this morning, I read this headline/story:
on the front page of the New York Times.
Needless to say, I'm confused.
Can a person be 8 points ahead and tied at the same time?
Can I have read both papers correctly?
Or is it time for a new prescription?
Or are both papers filled with self-referential nonsense to keep us occupied and help us avoid thinking about things that we'd really rather not deal with?
Bob Dylan, back in the day, said he thought Time magazine was a comic book for adults.
I thought so then, and I think so now.
Color-coordinated sink swivel sprayer
Yes, here's one more Christmas must-have for that freakezoid you bought the dishwasher rack touch-up paint for.
These very stylish sprayers come in your choice of blue, silver - "perfect for a stainless steel sink" - gold, black, or green.
But wait - there's more! [Isn't there always? But I digress]
For only $21.98, you get a swivel sprayer PLUS "a matching decorative sink strainer-stopper."
The strainer-stopper by itself costs $11.99, so you save $2 by buying the matched swivel sprayer/strainer-stopper set.
The way I see it, if the lucky recipient doesn't like her/his Christmas gift, they can always use it as a tree ornament.
Unlike me - I usually do the same - his trouble sells for $1 million a pop - and up.
What makes me unhappy is that I only learned of his existence last week, when I read Calvin Tomkins' New Yorker profile of the man.
I mean, I do read a bit, and yet, in the years since 1989, when he created what he considers his first legitimate work of art, not once have I come across mention of him or his work.
I love trouble.
I love troublemakers.
So there's no way I wouldn't remember him if I had heard of him, 'cause he's major league.
Consider some of his works:
• "La Nona Ora" - a full-size wax sculpture of Pope John Paul II in papal regalia, lying on his side, crushed to the ground by a jagged meteorite
• "Him" (below) -
a lifelike Adolf Hitler, reduced in size and kneeling in prayer
• Likenesses of three adolescent boys with ropes around their necks, hanging from a branch of an oak tree in a public square in Milan, Italy [this sculpture was only on view for 27 hours before a public outcry caused it to be taken down]
• A wax bust of supermodel Stephanie Seymour, mounted trophy-like on a wooden wall plaque [I've got to give Peter Brant, Stephanie's billionaire husband, who commissioned the work, credit for being able to laugh at himself and his acquisition of the ultimate "trophy wife"]
• Tethering a live donkey beneath a crystal chandelier at the Daniel Newburg Gallery in New York, where it remained, braying and excreting, until officials from the Department of Health closed it down
• Taping his Milan dealer, Massimo De Carlo, to the gallery wall with several layers of heavy-duty duct tape, a tableau vivant that had to be deconstructed short of its planned three-hour time frame when De Carlo found that he could no longer breathe
• Having exact duplicates made of every work at a show in a gallery next door to his, then displaying the copies as his, with the same prices and press release
• An oversized, papier-maché caricature of Picasso's head that he had made for a "projects" show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1998. The head was worn by a professional actor or actress who circulated inside and outside the museum, signing autographs and posing for snapshots like a Disney World character
• "Charlie Don't Surf" - a 1997 sculpture consisting of a school desk, a chair, and a child mannequin who sits at the desk, his hands nailed down to it by two pencils [man, does that sum up my mood throughout my days in school]
• "Bidibidobidiboo" - a squirrel that has just committed suicide sits slumped at a tiny kitchen table, near a sink full of dirty dishes, with a squirrel-sized revolver lying at its feet
• "Super noi" - a 1992 piece made up of 50 portraits of Cattelan by a police sketch artist, based on verbal descriptions by other people
• "Mini-me" - a miniature Cattelan looking down from a bookshelf
• "Charlie" - a three-year-old Cattelan on a remote-controlled tricycle that zipped around the grounds of the 2003 Venice Biennale, causing startled viewers to jump out of its path
• Not Afraid of Love" - his first show (2000) at his current American dealer's gallery (Marion Goodman in New York), which consisted of a plastic-and-resin baby elephant covered by a white sheet with holes cut out for its soulful eyes
• "Frank & Jamie" - a 2002 work (above) consisting of mannequins of two uniformed New York policemen, turned upside down and propped against a wall
The artist lives alone in New York City in the same two-room apartment in the East Village he rented 10 years ago.
The furnishings, according to one of the few friends allowed into it, include a cot, a table, a stereo, and not much else.
He buys a new set of clothes every year and throws out the old ones.
He keeps fit by swimming laps for 70 minutes every morning at a public pool downtown, and by riding his bike, which he refers to as "my girlfriend."
His studio is the telephone, and he is constantly on the phone with one or another of his international band of friends and collaborators.
They provide counsel, criticism, and other unpaid services.
All have jobs and careers of their own.
Cattelan's works bring very high prices these days.
The "Mini-me" sculpture recently sold for $355,200.
"La Nona Ora" (The Pope laid low) brought just under $1 million in 2001.
"The Ballad of Trotsky," a sculpture of a horse, suspended from the ceiling, went for $2 million at Sotheby's in the spring of this year.
[via Calvin Tomkins' and the New Yorker]