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September 12, 2004

Alessi and the Architects


Back in the early 80s Alberto Alessi, head of the eponymous style-conscious Italian manufacturing company, invited 11 international architects to design a collection of home accessories.

His chosen theme: coffee and tea paraphernalia.


Now, he's presenting "Tea and Coffee Towers," a collection of 20 avant garde tea and coffee sets designed by the cream of international architectural talent, opening this week in London.


Limited editions of 99 individually numbered sets in each design, inscribed with the architect's name and date of production, will be available to order from Alessi's London shop [22 Brook Street, London W1, tel: +44 20 7518 909] at prices ranging from $4,560 to $57,000.


Among the architects participating: Zaha Hadid, Denton Corker Marshall, Dominique Perrault, Jean Nouvel, Will Alsop, and Alessandro Mendini.

September 12, 2004 at 09:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



Eric Olsen, the majordomo of Blogcritics.org, sent me here when I was having trouble finding an obscure album.

He said if you can't find it here, you won't find it anywhere.


September 12, 2004 at 06:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Armand Albert Rateau - Unknown master of Art Deco


His 1919 bronze armchair sold for $970,700, a world auction record for a 20th-century chair, at Christie's New York this past June.

Yet he's almost unknown in the U.S.

Because almost all his clients were private, his work was rarely seen during his lifetime.

The Vallois Gallery of Paris will have over two dozen Rateau pieces for sale at its booth at the 22nd Biennale des Antiquaires, opening this Wednesday in Paris.

All of the pieces are from the collection of 1920s French couturière Jeanne Lanvin, with most from her Paris apartment at 16, rue Barbet de Jouy.

Here's Wendy Moonan's story, from this past Friday's New York Times.

A New Sheen for an Art Deco Designer

It was big news in June when Christie's New York sold a single bronze armchair, designed around 1919 by the French Art Deco designer Armand Albert Rateau, for $970,700, a world auction record for a 20th-century chair.

Nearly $1 million for a 20th-century chair? Rateau?

Rateau is barely mentioned in the Penguin Dictionary of Decorative Arts or in the catalog for the "Art Deco, 1910-1939" exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The Manhattan gallery DeLorenzo, which bought the chair, has long been the main United States source of Rateau's work.

But Rateau is scarcely known in America, even though one of his major clients in the 1920's was a New Yorker, George Blumenthal, a senior partner in Lazard Frères, and his wife, Florence.

The chair that Christie's sold, Model 1793, was one of six commissioned by the Blumenthals for the patio of their indoor swimming pool in Manhattan.

Its seat and back are lattices of little bronze fishes, linked head to tail and fin to fin, and there are chains of bronze scallop shells for armrests.

Coincidentally - or maybe not - the Vallois gallery of Paris will have more than two dozen Rateau antiques in its booth at the 22nd Biennale des Antiquaires, the Paris fair that opens on Wednesday and continues through Sept. 28.


It is considered a great coup for the gallery.

This Rateau furniture is from the 1920's collection of the French couturière Jeanne Lanvin.

It includes Lanvin's personal oak drawing table, a desk with her initials, her bronze andirons, a set of two armchairs and a sofa in carved and gilded oak, three alabaster-and-chiseled-bronze floor lamps, a set of six armchairs in carved oak and a set of garden furniture in patinated bronze.

Almost all the pieces are from Lanvin's Paris apartment at 16, rue Barbet de Jouy.

Rateau decorated the entire place, from the maid's room to the famous bedroom-and-bathroom suite that is now in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris.

The pieces for sale overflow with bird and floral motifs.

Bronze bird heads peek out of the floor lamps like baby chicks trying to leave the nest.

Carved-oak swans arching their necks serve as armrests on a sofa and chairs.

Other chairs are festooned with daisies. (Marguerite, French for daisy, was the name of Lanvin's daughter.)

As a designer, Rateau was an oddity in the Art Deco movement. Born in 1882, he was older than his more famous colleagues.

And he never sought his own exhibition space at the 1925 exposition of decorative arts in Paris that gave Art Deco its name.

He merely lent examples of his works to other exhibitors in the Grand Palais.

Nor was his style remotely like that of other Art Deco masters, like Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, who sheathed geometric furniture carcasses in exotic veneers of Makassar ebony and Amboyna wood, then decorated them with inlays of ivory and shagreen.

In terms of form and shape, Rateau seems to have been inspired more by examples from antiquity, and his preferred materials were solid bronze and oak.

The quality he did share with his contemporaries was an insistence on the finest craftsmanship; the Art Deco period is widely considered the end of the era of incomparable 18th-century-quality workmanship in France.

That tradition stopped after the Depression, World War II and the industrialization of the furniture industry.

Rateau, a native of Paris, was the son of a shoemaker.

He attended École Boulle, a crafts school.

"There he learned all the classical techniques of the French cabinetmakers and sculptors and gained a solid formation in art history," said Cheska Vallois, co-owner with her husband, Bob, of Vallois, at 41 rue de Seine in the Sixth Arrondissement. "But he didn't want to be a traditional cabinetmaker. He wanted to be an artist and creator."

When Rateau was 16 he was apprenticed to a Paris ceramist and decorator named Georges Hoentschel, who was working on a pavilion in the Art Nouveau style for the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900.

The fair had a major influence on Rateau.

"He discovered the Wiener Werkstätte, presented in Paris by Josef Hoffmann, and he saw Art Nouveau creators doing entire houses, from architecture to furniture to accessories," Mrs. Vallois said.

Rateau learned gentlemanly manners from Hoentschel, and they later served him well with clients like the Duchess of Alba, Countess Beaurepaire and Baron and Baronne Eugène de Rothschild.

"The reputation Rateau obtained by his collaboration with Hoentschel led to his being hired by Alavoine, one of the most renowned decorating houses in Paris," Mrs. Vallois said.

"By 1908 he was named director of the company. There he met French and international society, including the Blumenthals, who were his first clients after World War I."

In 1914 Rateau and his wife went to Italy with their good friend Louis-Joseph Cartier, the jeweler.

He visited Pompeii and Herculaneum and saw antique bronze furniture for the first time.

"It has been said this trip and this discovery were the sources of Rateau's inspiration, but even if he was impressed with what he saw, he still invented his own style," Mrs. Vallois said. "His creations always look vaguely antique but are never directly inspired by antique pieces."

When World War I broke out, Rateau, then 32, immediately enlisted as a soldier and remained in the army until 1919.

"During the war he continued to sketch everything he saw," Mrs. Vallois said.

After the war he declined an invitation to rejoin Alavoine.

He happened to meet the Blumenthals in 1919 on an ocean liner on his way to Paris from New York.

"Eight days of crossing gave them the time to speak and to imagine a project for the ballroom and interior swimming pool in their New York town house," Mrs. Vallois said. "It was the first time Rateau had the chance to develop his own ideas."

Back in Paris, Rateau went into business for himself.

He set up a workshop with specialists in cabinetmaking and paneling, lacquering, bronze work, gilding, weaving and embroidery.

"Even if his creations have a very luxurious look, he always limited the mix of materials," Mrs. Vallois said.

"He paired oak with black marble, as in the pedestal tables we will present; bronze with alabaster, as in our floor lamps; and bronze with pear wood, as in our reading table. His imaginative motifs would not allow him to be too fancy in the use of materials, though he used the best ones possible."

In the early 1920's Lanvin was probably Rateau's best client, and he did several projects for her.

This led to clients like Lady Baillie of Leeds Castle in England.


Rateau died in 1938. Because almost all his clients were private, his work was never widely known. That may well change next week.

September 12, 2004 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Chinese author Qian Fuzhang publishes his latest novel - on cellphones


China this past week became the first country in the world to enable an author to publish a novel on cellphones - and get paid for it.

Qian Fuzhang (whose real name is He Xingnian), considered by some the Chinese version of Gabriel García Márquez, published his new novel, "Out of the Fortress," on tens of thousands of Chinese mobile phone screens Friday morning.

Weighing in at a mere 4,200 characters, the book was published for its audience of cellphone readers 70 characters at a time, 30 screens a day, in two daily installments, the first Friday and the second yesterday.

Other "readers" can call the "publisher," hurray.com.cn, a short text-message distribution company, to listen to a recording of each day's story as it unfolds.

The reader or listener pays a small fee, charged, like any text message, to the reader's mobile phone account.

The author received a $20,000 advance for his book from hurray.com.cn.

That's an enormous amount in China.

Another company in Taiwan has offered him an even larger sum for the publishing rights there.

I believe the internet hasn't even begun to show its potential for content creators.

This is simply an opening salvo.

Here's Howard W. French's excellent story, from yesterday's New York Times.

The Novel's Latest Version Pops Onto China's Cellphones

As a critically acclaimed writer of dense, doorstop-size novels, Qian Fuzhang said he had finally developed a guilty conscience.

Moreover, as a writer in a country that tends not to pay its authors very well, he faced a challenge immediately familiar to writers everywhere: how to make a living cranking out prose.

Now, at 42, the author, whose real name is He Xingnian, and whose highly inventive, imagery-laden work has earned him comparisons here to Gabriel García Márquez, thinks he has found a solution to both problems.

The author's answer, titled "Out of the Fortress," showed up on tens of thousands of mobile telephone screens on Friday.

It is the text-message novel, a new literary genre for the harried masses in a society that seems to be redefining what it means to be harried.

Weighing in at a mere 4,200 characters, "Out of the Fortress" is like a marriage of haiku and Hemingway, and will be published for its audience of cellphone readers at a bite-size, 70 characters at a time - including spaces and punctuation marks - in two daily installments.

Other "readers" may choose to place a call to the "publisher," hurray.com.cn, a short text-message distribution company, to listen to a recording of each day's story as it unfolds.

All this for a small fee charged, like any text message, directly to the readers' mobile phone accounts.

"When I worked in advertising, I learned to think for the customers, and as a writer, I have learned to think for the readers," Mr. He said in a telephone interview on Friday.

"In this age, with a flood of information, I thought it was cruel to force readers to wrestle with a 200,000-word book."

"Out of the Fortress" made its debut at 10 o'clock this morning.

The first words paraphrased a famous literary passage from another author, Zhang Ailing, a coded message between two lovers arranging their secret rendezvous: "Meet the one you met for thousands of years, in the borderless wilderness of the time, neither a step before nor a step behind. Be there right on time."

The idea of publishing his book by telephone evolved naturally, said Mr. He, a native of Inner Mongolia who now resides in the southern city of Guangzhou.

"My last book, 'Red Horse,' was published on Sina.com in installments, and I found it very comfortable to read it online," he said.

"I thought with the change of technology there could be new ways of reading, and then I thought of my cellphone, because I am a huge cellphone fan. It has become an indispensable electronic organ for me."

His mobile telephone will become an important source of income, too.

With the publication of "Out of the Fortress," Mr. He has become a media star, with more than 100 journalists interviewing him recently.

Mr. He said he had received an advance of 180,000 Chinese yuan, or more than $20,000, for the book from hurray.com.cn.

Another company in Taiwan has offered him an even larger sum for the publishing rights there.

Asked to describe the novel in 70 words or less, Mr. He failed woefully, speaking for several minutes before being informed he had exceeded his word limit.

"The word fortress is a metaphor for marriage in Chinese," Mr. He said, among many other things. "People on the inside want to get out. People on the outside want to get in, meaning having extramarital affairs.

"My book is about two people who have a passionate affair, which is not supported by morality or law, but is very understandable."

If Mr. He's explanation of his book's theme ran on a bit, his timing is impeccable, when e-mail has replaced old-fashioned letters only to be replaced in turn by text messages in much of the world.

With its phenomenal economic growth and huge ambitions, China is in the throes of change.

Many of the urban landscapes here were not even blueprints a decade ago, and the zeitgeist seems to be, "Why bother with itsy-bitsy evolutionary steps when you can build something new altogether?"

Though others will dispute whether he truly invented the short-message novel form, Mr. He had an understanding of how fast cellphones are changing life here, and a keen grasp of marketing.

Besides the usual functions, like e-mail, Web surfing, restaurant reservations, dating and global positioning-aided directions and maps for the lost that are already commonplace in East Asia, China's mobile phone world has become the latest frontier of individual enterprise.

Self-styled comedians sell jokes to the humor-challenged.

Others sell pickup lines and romantic advice to the bashful or socially awkward, like this pearl: "Stop always asking your boyfriend to accompany you shopping. Men seldom like shopping, and forcing it can trigger rebellion."

There is even a cellphone service offering advice to those who are clueless about contraception, or perhaps too embarrassed to see a doctor in person.

Indeed, another author, a Beijing television and radio personality, Dai Pengfei, claims to have published a text-message novel a few weeks before Mr. He, after having started out as a text-message columnist.

"Perhaps I am boasting, but I am said to be No. 1 among China's short message writers," said Mr. Pengfei, who is 30.

"Qian Fuzhang is more successful at turning this into money, though, and I respect him for that."

So far, critics have been divided on the value of the new form, with some issuing scathing reviews, calling it a cheapening of literature.

"As a linguistic art, a novel is to be read, and through reading, you savor the characters and appreciate the atmosphere," wrote one critic, Ye Yu, in the People's Daily.

"If it's only information you're after, reading news would be better. The speed of communication shouldn't overwhelm the feeling that one gets from reading novels."

Another critic in the same newspaper, though, called the novels, "a miraculous combination of Chinese characters, which use a lot of metaphor, puns and palindromes."

For his part, Mr. He dismissed any suggestion that he is writing banalities.

"Of course the storytelling is totally different from the traditional novel, because the technology only allows 70 words per message, and limiting yourself to that length is very challenging," the author said.

"One might ask can you attain the same literary depth? But I don't think literary merit is decided by the number of characters.

"Poems in the Song Dynasty had very few words, but they were very deep."

September 12, 2004 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Home Defibrillators


Does everyone need a defibrillator at home?

Or is this overkill? (Poor choice of words, that).

In any event, the FDA is poised to approve their sale to anyone without a doctor's prescription.

Just click here to order yours.

Some say the device makers will make you feel you're derelict if you don't have one.

Arthur Kellerman, M.D., chairman of emergency medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said, "This is a marketer's dream: It's dramatic, sensational - it's very slick. What the FDA's been asked to do is authorize the sale of very expensive [$1,000-$3,000] lottery tickets."

Philips Medical Systems, maker of the popular HeartStart machine, estimates sales could grow 50% a year over the next few years.

They expect to sell 7,500 units this year, up from 2,500 in 2003.

I'm getting one, and keeping it in the trunk of my car.

That way, maybe I can multiply its chances of being used.

Here's Alicia Ault's insightful, balanced story, which appeared in Thursday's Washington Post.

Need for Home Defibrillators Questioned

The Food and Drug Administration is poised to approve nonprescription sales of a heart-shocking device called an automated external defibrillator, which could trigger a flood of direct-to-consumer marketing pitches asserting that no home is safe without the $1,000-to-$3,000 machines.

Automated defibrillators can reverse sudden cardiac arrest if applied quickly and have been shown to save lives in public settings such as airports, but experts say it is less clear how many Americans are at risk and that it would be worthwhile to have the devices in homes.

"We're going to see, I will predict, ad campaigns that are likely to be more frightening than they are realistic," said Arthur L. Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, "because you really can manipulate this into getting people to believe they need one."

Arthur Kellermann, chairman of emergency medicine at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, agreed that manufacturers are likely to overplay the value of the machines as a matter of life and death.

"This is a marketer's dream: It's dramatic, sensational - it's very slick," Kellermann said.

"What the FDA's been asked to do is authorize the sale of very expensive lottery tickets."

The defibrillators work only for a cardiac arrest, when the heart's regular beat dissolves into a random flutter that is too fast or too slow, causing it to stop pumping blood and leading to immediate loss of consciousness.

The abnormal rhythm can be brought on by blocked arteries, a weakened heart or inherited conditions.

It is not the same as a heart attack, though a heart attack triggers the chaotic rhythm in as many as half of arrests.

According to oft-quoted statistics, there are 350,000 to 400,000 sudden cardiac deaths a year -- 80 percent in the home - but two recent studies have suggested that this estimate may be too high by one-third or more.

The devices tell users with step-by-step voice prompts where and how to apply two "paddles" to analyze the heart rhythm and shock it back to normal, if necessary.

If the problem cannot be treated with a shock, the machine will not deliver one, and the user is prompted to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation and call 911.

Philips Medical Systems is seeking FDA clearance to sell its HeartStart machine over the counter.

If the agency agrees, Philips said it is not planning a media blitz but will advertise through infomercials on cable TV and on health Web sites such as WebMD.

FDA officials do not comment on their deliberations, but Philips executives said, based on their meetings with the agency, that they believe approval is imminent.

The company, a subsidiary of the Dutch giant Philips Electronics NV, and several other manufacturers are clearly betting that over-the-counter approval will expand the market.

Philips Vice President Deborah DiSanzo said sales could grow 50 percent a year over the next few years.

Defibrillator sales to the public now account for 1% of the $275 million worldwide market, said Raymond W. Cohen, CEO of Cardiac Science, an Irvine, California-based manufacturer that is also likely to seek FDA approval for over-the-counter sales.

Experts say cardiac arrest occurs often in people with no sign of heart trouble.

In 40% of cases, there is no warning until the person collapses, said Graham Nichol of the University of Washington, who chairs an American Heart Association task force on automatic external defibrillators.

One just-published study suggests that the often-cited number of deaths may be overstated by as much as a third.

The yearlong study, being published Wednesday in the journal of the American College of Cardiology, closely tracked the number of deaths from cardiac arrest in Multnomah County, Ore.

It counted 353, compared with 1,007 deaths recorded a year earlier through less rigorous methods.

Though the study was in only one community and for a limited time, it suggests that current statistics need to be reevaluated, said lead author Sumeet Chugh of the Oregon Health and Science University.

"If their results are accurate, past studies significantly overestimate the incidence of sudden cardiac death," Douglas Zipes of the Indiana School of Medicine, past president of the College of Cardiology, said in a statement.

In a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine in August, investigators said a three-year study of defibrillator use in public areas turned up only half the expected number of cardiac arrests.

"What has not been demonstrated is whether having [defibrillators] available without a prescription in the home will make a meaningful difference in the overall survival rate," said William Maisel of Boston's Brigham & Women's Hospital, a member of an FDA panel that evaluated HeartStart.

Though one is in the planning stages, there have been no studies of defibrillator use in homes, a factor that led the heart association two years ago to withhold judgment on direct-to-consumer sales.

The group has since shifted its stance on the grounds that requiring prescriptions prevents wider use of the technology, Nichol said.

The change "means we think they are safe," he said.

"We have not come out and said everyone should have these."

Safety is not an issue, Maisel said.

But there are other concerns - including whether panicked home users will remember to call 911.

Caplan worries that the device will be used on a victim whom no one saw collapse, and whose brain may have been deprived of oxygen for many minutes.

Historically, about half of arrest victims live if shocked in the first two minutes. By 10 minutes, only 5% live.

The same could happen with delayed CPR, Caplan said, but "creating hundreds if not thousands more people in a persistent vegetative state or near-persistent vegetative states in nursing homes and hospitals will create an enormous emotional burden on families and much additional cost for a system already reeling from the results of the inappropriate use of life-saving technologies."

In the New England journal study, 26.7 % of survivors given CPR and a shock had mild to moderate cognitive impairment.

Cardiac arrest survivors and friends and relatives of those who have died are among the most passionate backers of increased access to defibrillators, which they say should be viewed in the same light as fire extinguishers and smoke detectors: crucial home safety items.

But Kellermann and other physicians said the money would be better spent on a gym membership, cholesterol-cutting drugs or other ways to prevent heart disease.

September 12, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



Built-in 3x magnifiers let you study all kinds of bugs, leaves, and even fish in the watertight container.

The crystal-clear container lets you continue your observations even when you're resting your eyes, and the lid has air holes so all your fauna can breathe.

Built-in carrying handle is perfect for the budding Darwin, and the secure snap-on lid keeps that black widow spider where you want it.

What's not to like, for only $7.95?

September 12, 2004 at 06:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Random Image Generator


This is so far beyond my level of computer/technical expertise/understanding, I might as well be a native of deepest Amazonia trying to comprehend an LA freeway.

If you know about this sort of thing, however, it would appear useful, fun, and interesting.

Of course, you could always visit random.com


and find random webpages if that's your preference.

September 12, 2004 at 03:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cloudscapes - are the new U.S. postage stamps part of a massive government black-ops project?


Diane Harvey and Bruce Conway think so.

They write that over half the 15 new stamps replicate the results of the top-secret Chemtrail spraying program, an ongoing "global atmospheric geoengineering program."


I guess if this post disappears or bookofjoe crashes, we'll know it's true.

In the event these things don't happen, the stamps are scheduled for release in early October.

September 12, 2004 at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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