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June 29, 2008

Cintra does Beretta

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That would be the inimitable Cintra Wilson (above), New York Times "Critical Shopper" columnist extraordinaire, who last week produced one of the funniest, most mordantly original pieces I've ever read in the Grey Lady.

Wilson is Tony Kornheiser in stilettos with a rapier-like wit and gimlet eye for the most telling detail.

Her June 26, 2008 column about her adventure shopping at the Beretta store in New York City is a classic, and follows.

    I’ll Take the Shiny One With Bang!

    It was panting-hot the day I shopped for guns, so I ran into Nello, a sidewalk cafe on Madison, for a bottle of sparkling water. The thick cylinder of glass gave me an inkling I was about to get soaked, but even preclenched, I was unprepared for the bill to be $18.

    Ordinarily I would flip the safety off my silver tongue and give the maître d’ a new air vent, but it stopped me cold. I wasn’t even appalled; I was tranquilized. Like a disastrous ticket from parking unawares in a handicapped Pope-only zone, this unwanted extravagance was a twist so novel as to be more a source of awe than upset; an existential dimension shift. I was forced to relocate myself on my inner GPS and to re-evaluate my entire contextual landscape in light of $18 bottles of water.

    The Italian firm Fabbrica d’Armi P. Beretta S.p.A., or simply Beretta, has been run by the Beretta family ever since Bartolomeo Beretta began making hand-hammered muskets for the doge of Venice in the mid-1500s.

    Although Beretta was granted another contract to provide M9 pistols to the United States military earlier this year, the company caters primarily to hunters. Wars come and go; the Berettas learned this lesson when orders from Napoleon’s army dried up after Waterloo.

    Fetishists and Italians alike nurture a cultural tendency to idolize objects by making them ever more baroque. The Beretta store is an ornate, sentimental shrine devoted to the hunting-lodge aesthetic and the sport of shooting things. One step inside, dirty looks from the glass eyes of a riot of taxidermy tell you that you just lost all your friends at PETA.

    His and Hers safari khakis and grouse-hunting tweeds reside on the first floor, as do Hapsburg linen suits and offerings from the Susanne von Dörmberg Country Classics line of pricey German tweeds (jacket, $975) — very Queen Elizabeth when worn with Wellingtons, an Hermès scarf and corgis. A hallowed display case contains Ernest Hemingway’s actual S03, the weapon he used for duck hunting in Venice and around Finca Vigía, his retreat in Cuba.

    Hemingway is clearly Beretta’s man-god, the embodiment of the Beretta mystique. In thrall to the image of this hero of letters and adventure, Beretta provides all the equipment a would-be Hemingway needs. Zebra throw pillows ($350) go with zebra-hide ottomans ($6,500). Horned matter from a variety of beasts decorates pewter beer steins and magnifying glasses ($75). A leather Game Book records Shoot, Guns, Bag and Remarks ($185). For the man who hates ostriches, there are wallets, as well as large eggs on an ornamental chrome stand ($250).

    Perusing the silverware and cocktail tumblers, I asked if Beretta had a bridal registry. The counterwoman was so nonplussed I was tempted to ask where they kept the weapons of feminine protection.

    On the second floor there is small gallery of framed limited-edition paintings, such as “Devoted,” a tribute in oils to the dewy-eyed obedience of the noble Labrador retriever ($895); a grouse-hunting scene is also available for your home or hotel wall. The American Waterfowlers line on the second floor is distinctly butch: Indiana Jones hats, lots of Gore-Tex and leather straps.

    On third floor: racks of rifles and shotguns (the store does not sell handguns on the premises), alongside black-and-white photos of handsome markswomen with dead cheetahs, and a photo of George H. W. Bush loading an SO6 EELL (Extra Extra Luxo Luxo) with members of the Masai.

    “So, how do I buy a gun?” I asked Beretta’s affable master gunsmith, Ed Anderson. I was fantasizing about an Xtrema2, Max-4-camo-print 12-gauge to match my Xtrema Gear Decoy Gloves and Gear Bib with 18-inch overboot cover flange and high-back kidney warmers.

    “For a rifle or shotgun, you’d have to go down to Kew Gardens, Queens, and get a permit.”

    “What about a regular handgun?”

    “You’d have to get a permit at One Police Plaza. Do you drive?”

    To my dismay, I learned that even with a permit, one can’t take one’s rifle on the subway. Good news for the staff at Nello.

    Mr. Anderson was a font of expertise and cautionary tales for the skeet shooter: “She was a very smart woman, a lawyer! I said, ‘Hey, you might not want to lay your gun down like that.’ She says, ‘But it’s only a target load.’ ”

    He rolled his eyes — my cue to cluck my tongue.

    “A target load will liquefy anything within range! I said: ‘Listen, the priest who died did exactly the same thing you just did. He shot himself in the ankle. He died because they couldn’t put the tourniquet on his leg fast enough and he bled to death.’ ”

    Mr. Anderson opened a display case and showed me an obscenely terrific $130,000 shotgun with enough minute currency-style engraving to have previously belonged to Sir Walter Raleigh. Killing clay pigeons with quarter-million-dollar guns is apparently all the rage these days.

    “All the guys on the front of the business pages are in shotgun clubs that cost $100,000 just to walk in the door,” Mr. Anderson explained. Enviable shooting is largely determined by the free time you can afford to devote to it, and customizations like the carving down of the walnut butt to minimize impact on your face during kickback.

    It is a strange romance of conspicuous consumption that Beretta indulges, but rich guys apparently love dressing up like Ernest Hemingway and shooting things just as much as little girls love to wear tutus and dance around like prima ballerinas.

    A champion marksman I know said he can shoot just fine with a $1,000 gun, but that’s beside the point. That $18 bottle of water hydrated me more than I ever thought possible. All about living the dream.

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Full disclosure: I do not know Cintra Wilson. I have never met nor spoken with Cintra Wilson. I have exchanged email with her, perhaps a year or two ago. I did buy her book, "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined As A Grotesque Crippling Disease And Other Cultural Revelations,"

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and found it totally representative of her rather, shall we say, unique take on herself and the great world. Highly recommended for those who, like me, can't get enough of that sort of thing.

June 29, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What are they?

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Answer here this time tomorrow.

June 29, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: The Heimlich Maneuver — Revisited

The other day I read the following in the autobiography of the late British businessman Charles Forte: "I had been invited to lunch there, and found myself sitting next to Lord Mountbatten. We got involved in a vigorous argument about the merits of a certain politician, whom I was denouncing loudly and he was defending. I got so carried away that I began to choke on a piece of meat. I rushed from the room, but my wife saw what had happened, followed me, and banged my back hard. The meat was fortunately dislodged. When I returned, I found that Mountbatten had taken the whole event extremely seriously. He had had a friend in India in the army who had died in such a way and he advised me always to keep a large glass of water by my plate to avoid any recurrences. When I next went to Broadlands, his home, the vital glass of water was by my plate."

Well.

In no particular order, some comments on the passage above.

1) More often than not, when an adult chokes on food in the manner described above, they've been drinking. This results in the ingestion of a piece of meat too large to be conveniently masticated which, along with the loss of coordination of upper airway and pharyngeal musculature due to alcohol's effect on the brain, can end in a potentially catastrophic anatomical obstruction as the meat comes to rest on the opening of the trachea behind the epiglottis.

2) If you suspect such a thing has happened to someone in the vicinity, DO NOT offer them a glass of water or bang on their back or ask "Are you OK?" Rather, the one question to ask (assuming they are still conscious, which will be the case if nothing is done for up to a minute) is, "Can you talk?" If the person shakes their head "No," immediately perform the Heimlich manuever (top).

3) In the event you are alone and find yourself with an obstructed airway, do not panic: you can perform the Heimlich manuever on yourself. Stand up in front of a table or chairback, then ram your upper abdomen as hard as you can against the edge. I mean really hard, so that it hurts. If it doesn't work the first time, do it over and over until the chunk of food pops out. You'll thank me for this. Trust me....

June 29, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Magnetic Paper Towel Holder

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What took so long?

This coulda shoulda been invented 50 years ago.

From the website:
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Magnetic Paper Towel Holder

Lets you have shop towels anywhere there's steel

I like trick stuff ... and this product is no exception.

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Our new Magnetic Paper Towel Holder allows you to have your favorite paper or shop towels hanging off the end of your toolbox or workbench with its super-strong magnets.

Simply mount the magnetized arms on any flat steel surface and start enjoying a cleaner work environment and dry hands.

Powerful magnets, compact design, plus it can be moved in a flash.

Supports any normal 5"-diameter roll.
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Think outside the workshop space, for example: laundry room (washer or dryer); kitchen (fridge); metal doors; etc.

Me, I'm getting one for my steel-sided anesthesia cart — w00t!

$19.99.

June 29, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Blast from the past: 'What is Man?' — by R. Buckminster Fuller

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It originally appeared here on March 27, 2005, the opening of Chapter 4 — "The Phantom Captain" — of Fuller's 1938 book, "Nine Chains To The Moon."

The original post follows.

What is Man?

A self-balancing, 28-jointed adapter-base biped; an electro-mechanical reduction-plant, integral with segregated stowages of special energy extracts in storage batteries, for subsequent actuation of thousands of hydraulic and pneumatic pumps, with motors attached; 62,000 miles of capillaries; millions of warning signal, railroad and conveyor systems; crushers and cranes (of which the arms are magnificent 23-jointed affairs with self-surfacing and lubricating systems, and a universally distributed telephone system needing no service for 70 years if well managed); the whole, extraordinarily complex mechanism guided with exquisite precision from a turret in which are located telescopic and microscopic self-registering and recording range finders, a spectroscope, et cetera, the turret control being closely allied with an air conditioning intake-and-exhaust, and a main fuel intake.

Within the few cubic inches housing the turret mechanisms, there is room, also, for two sound-wave and sound-direction-finder recording diaphragms, a filing and instant reference system, and an expertly devised analytical laboratory large enough not only to contain minute records of every last and continual event of up to 70 years' experience, or more, but to extend, by computation and abstract fabrication, this experience with relative accuracy into all corners of the observed universe. There is, also, a forecasting and tactical plotting department for the reduction of future possibilities and probabilities to generally successful specific choice.

Finally, the whole structure is not only directly and simply mobile on land and in water, but, indirectly and by exquisite precision of complexity, mobile in air, and, even in the intangible, mathematically sensed electrical "world," by means of the extension of the primary integral mechanism to secondary mechanical compositions of its own devising, operable either by a direct mechanical hook-up with the device, or by indirect control through wired or wire-less electrical impulses.
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So begins Chapter 4, "The Phantom Captain," of Fuller's 1938 book, "Nine Chains To The Moon."

This book electrified me when I read it while I was in college.

Rereading it now brings back wonderful associations as well as the magical inventiveness of Fuller's unique take on man and the world.

Well worth the $13.99 it costs here.

June 29, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Apple Dish

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Designed by Olav Slingerland.

"An ingenious take on the traditional fruit bowl, the ceramic Apple Dish is designed to specifically hold... well, apples, of course! Use the fruits themselves as an accent color for your kitchen, dining room or living room."

Confound your friends by putting green apples in the version shown.

13"Ø x 2.75"H.

Vanilla/Red (above and below) or Vanilla/Green.

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$189.

June 29, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Faux Speed Bumps of Philadelphia

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Look at the photo above.

What do you see?

Better slow down if you're approaching those, what?

No worries if you don't 'cause they're optical illusions on a piece of flat plastic on a street in Philadelphia, intended to slow down speeding drivers at a fraction of the cost of real speed bumps or obstacles.

Here's Sara Ganim's June 27, 2008 Associated Press story with the details.

    US officials try faux speed bumps to slow drivers

    Cathy Campbell did a double-take and tapped the brakes when she spotted what appeared to be a pointy-edged box lying in the road just ahead.

    She got fooled.

    It was a fake speed bump, a flat piece of blue, white and orange plastic that is designed to look like a 3-D pyramid from afar when applied to the pavement.

    The optical illusion is one of the latest innovations being tested around the country to discourage speeding.

    "It cautions you to slow down because you don't know what you are facing," Campbell said.

    A smaller experiment two years ago in the Phoenix area found the faux speed bumps slowed traffic, at least temporarily. Now, in a much bigger test that began earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to find out if the markers can also reduce pedestrian accidents.

    The fake bumps are being tested on a section of road in a business and residential area in Philadelphia's northeastern corner. But soon they will also be popping up — or looking that way — on 60 to 90 more streets where speeding is a problem.

    The 3-D markings are appealing because, at $60 to $80 each, they cost a fraction of real speed bumps (which can run $1,000 to $1,500) and require little maintenance, said Richard Simon, deputy regional administrator for the highway safety administration.

    On one of three streets tested in the Phoenix trial, the percentage of drivers who obeyed the 25 mph speed limit nearly doubled. But the effect wore off after a few months.

    "Initially they were great," said the Phoenix Police traffic coordinator, Officer Terry Sills. "Until people found out what they were."

    Learning from the experience in Arizona, authorities are adding a publicity campaign in Philadelphia to let drivers know that the phony speed bumps will be followed by very real police officers, said Richard Blomberg, a contractor in charge of the study.

    Even after motorists adjust, the fake bumps will act like flashing lights in a school zone, reminding drivers they are in an area where they should not be speeding, he said.

    "After awhile the novelty wears off, but not the conspicuous effect," Blomberg said.

    For increased nighttime visibility, the markers, made by Japan's Sekisui Jushi Corp., contain reflective glass beads.

    They are the latest in a long list of traffic calming devices in use across the country, including various types of real bumps, dips, traffic circles and roundabouts.

    Proponents say fake bumps require little engineering or planning and can work in places where real humps or dips in the road may not be acceptable — such as near a firehouse.

    Philadelphia officials said they at least want to give them a shot.

    The Associated Press interviewed about two dozen people who have driven over the fake bumps, and only a few said they braked for them.

    Al Stevens and his 17-year-old son Andrew live nearby and said they both encountered the illusions but with different results. Al Stevens saw them and kept going. His son, who has had a license for just two weeks, braked for them.

    "I thought it was art," Andrew Stevens said. "I noticed they slow you down."

    Michael Serendus said his 80-year-old father has recently found it much easier to get out of his condominium complex because traffic has slowed down. But he attributed the change to the real speed bumps nearby, not the fake ones that drivers see first.

    "It gives an extra warning that the speed hump is coming," Serendus said.

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Watch a video of the speed bumps in action here.

Julian Beever, call your office: the city of Philadelphia wants to give you the key to the city.

June 29, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Video Screen Boroscope

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What the heck is a boroscope?

The word's not in the dictionary.

Oh, now I see: "... this too has a borosilica image bundle inside."

It's a synonym for a fiberoptic scope — "boro" refers to the boron component of the glass light-conducting fibers within.

OK, then.

From the website:
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Video Screen Boroscope

One of the most useful tools you can have in your garage, it lets you see everything

When I showed my son how dirty his ears were he just about passed out.

His ears are spotless now,

With this new Video Screen Boroscope you no longer have to get things close to your eye to see the area you want to inspect.

Now, even those standing around you can see what you're seeing.

Let's examine the many benefits of having a Boroscope.

First off, before you spend thousands of dollars on an engine rebuild, put this Boroscope down your spark plug hole and verify that it actually needs rebuilding.

Use it for inspecting rust in your rockers or previous body damage behind interior panels where you can't see it with the naked eye. (Using this instrument is exactly how experts identified a "recreated" 1959 Ferrari 250 SWB.)

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But don't stop there — this tool has hundreds of other uses around the house.

Use it for pest inspection, to see the extent of clogged drains, find dry rot and lack of insulation behind walls, location of wiring and studs — the list is endless.

Teenagers lock you out of their room?

Push this under the door to see if they're smoking your cigars.

The full-color, high-resolution screen is 1-7/8" by 1-1/2" and built into the tough, impact-resistant case.

In the padded storage case is a standard composite video output jack that can connect to a PC and store low resolution video (cable not included.)

The fully flexible shaft is 36" long to reach the most remote places and the 3/8" diameter tip is small enough to enter just about any opening or crack.

The shaft tip has two bright white LED lights for working in dark recesses.

4 AA batteries, accessory mirror and small part pick-up magnet included.
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$369.

June 29, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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