November 11, 2006
Solo Native — by Thomas Lux
Suppose you're a solo native here
on one planet rolling, the lily
of the pad and valley.
You're alone and you know
a few things: the stars are pinholes,
slits in the hangman's mask.
And the crabs walk sideways
as they were taught by the waves.
You're the one thing upright
on hind legs, an imaginer,
an interested transient.
Look — all the solunar tables
set with silver linen!
This is where is where you'll live, exactly
here in a hut on the green and gray belly
of the veldt. You'll be
a metaphor, a meatpacker,
a tree dropping or gaining
its credentials. You'll be
a dancer with two feet dancing
in the dirt-colored dirt. All this,
and after a few chiliads,
Got Designer Wood? If it ain't Estonian, it ain't ....
This past Thursday's (November 9, 2006) Washington Post Home section story by Jura Koncius brought the news that the firewood of choice in glossy magazines and show houses comes from Estonian birch trees.
In a market-driven response, the worlds of clearcutting and commerce combine to bring to a supermarket near you these very same Estonian logs (above), ready to prop in your fireplace for your next photo op.
Here's the article.
- Isn't It Good? Estonian Wood.
Birch logs, as you may have noticed in glossy mags and show houses, are the firewood of choice for decorators. They prop the peeling, white-barked logs on hearths and arrange logs in tasteful baskets. But unless you live near a northern forest, birch can be hard to come by, and expensive.
Now, direct from the forests of Estonia to a supermarket near you, come white birch logs. The Baltic timber is split in the traditional European style to a compact length of 12 inches, bark on, then kiln-dried to eliminate mold, mildew and insects and shipped in containers from the Estonian capital of Tallinn.
"They're made to fit into wood-burning European stoves, but New Yorkers are finding them perfect for their apartment fireplaces," says Leonard Gannet, a partner in Estonian Forest, which imports the logs.
Netted bags holding about 12 logs are selling for $6.99 at the 16 Whole Foods stores in this area. But after all that chopping and drying and shipping and care, who'd actually want to set them aflame?
I find it astounding that the cumulative costs of
1) Cutting the wood
2) Kiln-drying it
3) Transporting it to the dock
4) Loading the container and ship
5) Shipping it across the Atlantic Ocean
6) Unloading the ship and container, and
7) Transporting the wood to individual stores
allows Whole Foods to buy it wholesale cheaply enough that it can make a profit by selling a dozen pieces for $6.99.
Clearly, there's much I don't know about the world of business.
Better stick to anesthesia.
Experts' Experts: World's Best-Lighted Restaurants
After you've wrapped your package ever so perfectly, you'll want to display it under the very best possible conditions at any of the following:
• The Four Seasons (above) — New York
• The Modern — New York
• L'ami Louis — Paris
• Teatro Armani Lobby Bar — Milan
• La Colombe d'Or — St. Paul de Vence, France
• Harry's Bar — Venice
What time did you say our reservation was for?
[via Charlotte Druckman and the New York Times Magazine Fall Living supplement]
My newest website
You didn't think I was gonna put all my wood behind the flagship bookofjoe arrow, did you?
DumbGadget represents my response to the many, many funny, hostile and over-the-top emails and comments that come in — mostly between the hours of 12:15 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time; I wonder why that is? — concerning this or that absurd item which somehow managed to get through the exhaustive vetting process here and make it onto the big stage.
Still in beta, but coming — oh, you clever devil, you know me so well — real soon now.
Vaporstream.com — 'Mission Impossible' Email
"This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds."
Why so slow?
How about as soon as it's been read?
VaporStream's new technology lets someone look at your email just once before it's disappeared into hyperspace — forever.
And forget about forwarding, saving or printing it out: ain't gonna happen.
Paul Taylor wrote about it in yesterday's Financial Times, as follows.
- This e-mail will self-destruct in — oh, it's gone
In the late 1960s, Mission Impossible introduced millions of TV viewers to the idea of self-destructing tape messages.
Now, 40 years later, cunning minds at Void Communications have come up with the electronic equivalent — recordless e-mail messages that "vaporise" after being looked at. Void launched VaporStream this year to provide a secure way for business people to communicate without leaving an electronic trail to be picked up by snoops.
The $40-a-year service (www.vaporstream.com) is a web-based online communications service that is like a cross between e-mail and IM (instant messaging) to use.
What makes "stream messaging" different is that it leaves no record on any computer or server while using existing e-mail addresses. Messages cannot be forwarded, edited, saved or printed.
The VaporStream network separates the sender's and receiver's names and the date from the body of the message so they are never seen together. Both sender and receiver must subscribe.
Here is how it works. Enter a recipient's e-mail address and it disappears before you start typing the main body or message stream. On being sent, the message goes into a temporary storage buffer space. When the recipient calls up the message in the VaporStream in-tray, it is removed from the buffer space. The name and e-mail address of the sender vanish before the body appears. A VaporStream message can be looked at once before disappearing without trace.
There are limitations. For example, VaporStream subscribers can send only plain text messages. VaporStream is designed to complement e-mail and is aimed primarily at corporate users.
Its developers say it is ideal for ensuring that sensitive internal information stays confidential, for example on delicate issues such as human resources, medical matters and intellectual property.
Messages and headers are never hosted on the subscribing companies' networks, eliminating the risk that employers could intercept their employees' stream messages. Advocates claim it could, therefore, help reduce the corporate risk and liability associated with e-mail systems that record every message.
However, the service is not appropriate for, say, Wall Street brokerages or any other organisation required by regulators to record all electronic communications and produce them on request.
Can unsavoury individuals — or even terrorists — use VaporStream? Void emphasises that, as a US-based company, it complies with all US laws and regulations, and can be required by security forces to allow monitoring of VaporStream messages.
For the moment, VaporStream is available only to desktop users but Void plans to develop versions for Research In Motion's BlackBerry devices and Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system so smartphone mobile subscribers will be able to access it.
Remote Control Rescue Vehicle Pen
For those times when things get a little slow at school or the office.
And don't reply, "When are they not?"
Been there, done that.
From the website:
- Remote Control Rescue Car Pen
Our mini rescue cars race to the scene when kids use the controls built right into these amazing pens!
Off duty, the cars store inside the domed lids.
Button cell batteries included.
Refillable black ink.
For ages 5 and up.
That last bit of product information is great news: it means nearly 75% of my readers can safely own and use this superb new cross-platform technology.
Your choice of (from left, top) Police Car, Ambulance or Fire Truck.
*See, the ink pen is one platform (writing, language, etc.) and the remotely-controlled vehicular interface is another, using wireless technology.
What Teri Horton can teach us about life — if we listen very carefully
Who is Teri Horton (above) and why should we care?
Long story short: She's a 74-year-old retired truck driver who, in the early 1990s, paid $5 for a curiosity (below)
in a San Bernardino, California thrift shop.
Turns out that it may very well be a Jackson Pollock original.
She's already turned down $9 million for it because she is determined to sell it for the going rate for one of Pollock's great drip paintings — at least $50 million.
But what she can teach us is far more important than how to sniff out a masterwork in unlikely surroundings, or connoisseurship.
No, the lesson here is one of understanding what it is that makes life worth living.
Because, let's face it, for a woman like Ms. Horton, who lives in a mobile home in Costa Mesa, California and depends on her Social Security checks to support herself, $9 million and $50 million are the same number: whether she receives one sum rather than the other won't make an iota of difference in terms of her actual life after cashing the check.
But cashing the check — ah, that's another story entirely.
Because once the painting departs from her life, she might as well be dead: possessing it and forcing the "experts" to acknowledge it as an original is what she does and who she is.
People conflate value and money.
Ms. Horton, though she may well have no idea who Oscar Wilde is, understands him far better than those who disdain her in their condescension.
Randy Kennedy explored the long, strange trip of Ms. Horton and her painting in a story that appeared on the front page of the November 9, 2006 New York Times Arts section; it follows.
- Could Be a Pollock; Must Be a Yarn
After retiring from truck driving in 1987, Teri Horton devoted much of her time to bargain hunting around the Los Angeles area. Sometimes the bargains were discovered on Salvation Army shelves and sometimes, she willingly admits, at the bottom of Dumpsters.
Even the most stubborn deal scrounger probably would have been satisfied with the rate of return recently offered to her for a curiosity she snagged for $5 in a San Bernardino thrift shop in the early 1990s. A buyer, said to be from Saudi Arabia, was willing to pay $9 million for it, just under an 180 million percent increase on her original investment. Ms. Horton, a sandpaper-voiced woman with a hard-shell perm who lives in a mobile home in Costa Mesa and depends on her Social Security checks, turned him down without a second thought.
Ms. Horton’s find is not exactly the kind that gets pulled from a steamer trunk on the “Antiques Roadshow.” It is a dinner-table-size painting, crosshatched in the unmistakable drippy, streaky, swirly style that made Jackson Pollock one of the most famous artists of the last century. Ms. Horton had never heard of Pollock before buying the painting, but when an art teacher saw it and told her that it might be his work (and that it could fetch untold millions if it were), she launched herself on a single-minded post-retirement career — enlisting, along the way, a forensic expert and a once-powerful art dealer — to have her painting acknowledged as authentic by scholars and the art market.
She is still waiting, defiantly, for that recognition and the payoff it could bring. But as a kind of fringe benefit, her tenacity has made her into a minor celebrity, a pantsuited David flinging stones at the art world’s increasingly wealthy Goliaths. Now it has also landed her the starring role in a documentary scheduled to open next week in New York and later around the country, called “Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?” (When Ms. Horton asked this of her art teacher friend, the original question included a word that cannot be printed in this newspaper nor, apparently, blown up on movie marquees.)
The movie, directed by Harry Moses, a veteran television documentarian, was produced by him; Don Hewitt, the creator and former executive producer of “60 Minutes”; and his son, Steven Hewitt, a former top executive at Showtime. Mr. Moses said he first became aware of Ms. Horton’s quest when he was approached by Tod Volpe, a high-flying art dealer who fell to earth, and landed himself in prison, in the late 1990s for defrauding several of his celebrity clients, including Jack Nicholson and Barbra Streisand.
Mr. Volpe, who has harbored dreams of breaking into movies, proposed collaborating with Mr. Moses on a 10-hour documentary mini-series about corruption in the art world, a subject he said he knew well.
Mr. Moses said he thought the idea was too outlandish and that it would never sell in the American television market. But he was struck by Mr. Volpe’s account of Ms. Horton, especially after learning that she, with the help of a Canadian art restorer named Peter Paul Biro, had found a fingerprint, in paint, on the back of her canvas and that Mr. Biro said he had matched the print to one he found later on a paint can in Pollock’s Long Island studio, now maintained as a museum.
Mr. Moses approached Don and Steven Hewitt with the idea of a theatrical movie about Ms. Horton, something Mr. Moses had never tried. Both were interested, but the elder Mr. Hewitt said that the project hinged on whether Ms. Horton could, in essence, sell it.
“You can only make these things work,” Mr. Hewitt said in an interview in the corner office he still maintains at CBS, “if you find people who are better at being themselves than an actor or actress would be at playing them. And I took one look at Teri and I said, ‘My God, she’s Elaine Stritch.’ And she is. You couldn’t do better than this lady.”
Mr. Hewitt, who at 83 is still busily casting about for projects to forestall his retirement, then called Michael Lynne, the co-chairman of New Line Cinema, which was in the process of forming Picturehouse, a new division for art and independent-type movies. A deal was struck, and Ms. Horton became the unlikely leading lady for the division’s first documentary.
The filmmakers were initially fascinated by the science-versus-art angle of Ms. Horton’s story, about how forensics may be starting to nudge the entrenched tradition of connoisseurship from its perch in the world of art authentication. But as they spent more time with her, they began to see the movie as being about something more important than whether the painting was a real Pollock, a question left very much for the viewer to decide.
“It became, really, a story about class in America,” Mr. Moses said. “It’s a story of the art world looking down its collective nose at this woman with an eighth-grade education.”
In the movie, which has the earnest feel of an extended “60 Minutes” segment, the filmmakers seek to place Ms. Horton, 74, fully within the grand tradition of stubborn, we-know-better folk heroes, somewhere between Will Rogers and Wrong Way Corrigan. She is arrayed against a formidable team of establishment skeptics, including Ben Heller, an early Pollock collector, and Thomas Hoving, the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who examines the painting in somewhat dramatic fashion, tilting his head and almost touching his nose to the canvas before pronouncing it “dead on arrival.”
Later in the movie Mr. Hoving says that Ms. Horton has no right to be bitter about her treatment by the art world and adds sternly, when told that she would vehemently disagree: “She knows nothing. I’m an expert. She’s not.”
In Ms. Horton’s campaign to publicize her battle, there are few places she has not tried. In 2004 she shared the bill on an “incredible but true” edition of “The Montel Williams Show” with a guest who had survived having a knife plunged into his skull and a boy who was once trapped inside an arcade game at a Piggy Wiggly store. She appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. This week, to promote the movie, she took a red-eye flight to New York to appear on David Letterman’s “Late Show” alongside her painting, which will be accompanied at all times, she noted, by herself and two armed guards.
Interviewed over drinks in the back booth of a bar near her hotel on Tuesday, Ms. Horton was clearly having fun in her now-enlarged role as self-appointed scourge of high-dollar high culture, which she calls “the art-world conglomerate conspiracy.” She said, though, that she remained completely confident that she would see herself vindicated, and that she would sell her painting at her price — no less than $50 million — within her lifetime.
And if that does not happen?
She clicked a long, lacquered fingernail on the tabletop.
“Before I let them take advantage of me,” she said, smiling broadly, “I’ll burn that son of a bitch.”
Tell you what: I can't hardly wait to see "Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?"
iRocker Interactive Sound Chair
From the website:
iRocker Interactive Sound Chair
The i250 is the benchmark in audio furniture.
With a "Made for iPod" 30-pin docking station and 4" high powered full-range speakers, this is truly the chair that rocks.
• A premium 15-watt amp. and integrated speaker system play surround-sound audio through the chair while you relax
• Works with all players and includes infrared remote designed for iPod docking stations
• Wireless remote control — volume, track advancement, power on/off
• Lounge comfortably while surrounding yourself with your music
• Sewn in storage pocket for iPod or MP3 players
• Made of durable microfiber fabric
• Sturdy tubular steel frame
• Four recline positions
• 42"L x 29"W x 36"H
• Plastic drink holder
• Stylish colors
I wonder who was there first — Adonis Furniture, the interactive chair folk, or the techies over at Talking Panda, currently offering their iRocker for a lot less: $29.95, to be precise.
Of course, theirs is a software download that lets you play guitar along with your iPod's songs rather than a comfy chair.
Cold comfort, indeed, to the Talking Panda and Adonis lawyerbots, licking their chops and hyperventilating at the thought of all those billable hours to be spent chasing after nothing.
The chair comes in Pink (above), a very stylish bookofjoe
A bit rich for your blood?
I can see how that could be the case.
For you, there's the iRocker i100, a bare-bones version in blue or red priced to fly out of the warehouse at $169.
[via Meaghan Wolff and the Washington Post]