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September 26, 2004

Donald Trump - the fragrance


Annys Shin wrote about The Donald's latest venture in Friday's Washington Post.

For only $60, you too can exude the sweet smell of bankruptcy - oops, I meant success.

Here's the story.

For the Sweet Smell of Success, Lauder Offers an Eau de Trump

If real estate mogul and television star Donald Trump were distilled into a fragrance, what would it smell like?

Champagne? Newly minted bills?

Try a hint of mint and cucumber mixed with the scent of pepper and wood.

Donald Trump, the fragrance, will be making its debut at a Macy's or a Bloomingdale's near you, just in time for the Christmas shopping season.

The cologne for men, developed by Estee Lauder, will come in a skyscraper-shaped 3.4-ounce bottle - large by industry standards - capped by the golden Trump logo.

It will retail for $60.

"People want to become him, have a piece of him. The volume of books he sells is an indication. He's selling water," said Fabrice Weber, president of Aramis and Designer Fragrances, a division of Estee Lauder.

He was referring to "Trump Ice," Trump's line of bottled water.

And what is fragrance after all, but scented water?

Since "The Apprentice" has become a reality television hit, Trump has wasted little time churning out his own version of product tie-ins: books, a board game, a clothing line.

And there is more to come.

The 58-year-old billionaire has applied to trademark "You're Fired!" to use on clothing, games and casino services, and "Trump University" for a planned online business and real-estate-related educational services.

Trump could use the cash.

His casino business, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, is in debt $1.8 billion and has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Talks on a proposed bailout deal were reported to have dissolved yesterday.

A need for green could explain Trump's zeal to license his name to products that have little to do with his core real estate and casino expertise - a strategy that could later backfire, experts say.

Until now, Trump products "all deal with the world of business... A fragrance is such a leap from what he is known for," said John Allen of Lippincott Mercer, a brand consulting firm.

"You can go from being an iconic brand to - not a joke, but you dilute it so much you're just a huckster."

September 26, 2004 at 09:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The rise of the Internet sticker - 'Visual narcotics'


You've seen it, perhaps: an image of what Che Guevara and Darth Vader's love child might resemble.

It was created by Derek Fridman and Heather Alexander of urbanmedium.com,


the first website to enable easy home production of stickers.


Many sticker artists trace the origins of the current movement to Shepard Fairey, who created a sticker of Andre the Giant, the professional wrestling star, in the early 1990s and posted it at the website obeygiant.

Soon he was shipping the stickers to people all over the world.


Now there're tons of "culture jammers": bomit, woostercollective, 20mg, and streetstickers are just a few of the many out there.


[via Samantha Storey in today's New York Times]

September 26, 2004 at 06:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Q. What's 11 feet long, weighs 280 pounds, has 60 pieces, and costs $11,000?


A. The new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

But you better hurry, 'cause after November 30, the price is going up to $13,000.

Just completed after 125 [!] years, the 60 volumes contain 60,000 pages and some 60 million words.

More than 10,000 contributors have written a total of 54,922 essays on the movers and shakers of British history.

Virginia Woolf's father, Sir Leslie Stephen, began it, and produced the first edition between 1885 and 1900.

Then it was periodically updated throughout the 20th century, until 12 years ago when editor Brian Harrison of the Oxford University Press decided to produce an entirely new version.

If the price is a bit steep for you, or you don't have quite enough space on your bookshelf, there's also a CD-ROM, or you can subscribe for $295 a year and read it online whenever you like.

The electronic versions are designed for finding or cross-referencing almost anything in a flash.

Here's Thursday's excellent New York Times article by Geoffrey Wheatcroft.


A Biographical Behemoth Is Ready to Bend Shelves

Walk up St. Giles, the great piazza that runs north of St. Mary Magdalen's church here, with St. John's College to your right and the Ashmolean Museum to your left, and before long you come to an inconspicuous Georgian house.

Inside is no more glamorous, altogether a light-year from the glitzy modern abode of a New York book corporation.

And yet this is where the publishing achievement of the year - maybe of the decade - has been accomplished.

In Brian Harrison's office, arrayed in the simple livery of the Oxford University Press, dark blue with gold lettering, sits the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

This is a work which makes superlatives superfluous.

Running 11 feet along the shelf and weighing in at a healthy defensive end's 280 pounds, the D.N.B.'s 60 volumes contain 60,000 pages and some 60 million words.

More than 10,000 contributors have written a total of 54,922 essays on the worthies (as well as the worthless) who make up the fabric of British history.

It has been more than 12 years in the making.

A special batch of indestructible acid-free paper was ordered from a Swiss paper mill. The Butler & Tanner printing works in Somerset were fully occupied for months printing, folding and binding.

Each set requires enough sewing thread to go from one end of a football field to the other and back.

Mr. Harrison is the editor, and along with Robert Faber, the project director, he explains its 125-year genesis, from the original Dictionary of National Biography, itself one of the grandest feats of Victorian scholarship, and national energy.

The English have demonstrated a special flair for reference works, from the Ordnance Survey maps, to the original Encyclopaedia Britannica before it crossed Atlantic, to the Oxford English Dictionary, which William F. Buckley Jr. once called the moon landing of the English people.

The O.E.D. had a sibling, begotten by Sir Leslie Stephen, don, critic, journalist, mountaineer, rowing coach and father of four, one of them Virginia Woolf.

With that slightly demonic energy of his age - it was an empty week if he hadn't written three essays of at least 5,000 words each - he began the D.N.B.

He worked with the publisher George Smith, and Sir Sidney Lee (born Solomon Lazarus), a bachelor scholar, ardent Shakespearean and, in Mr. Harrison's view, "the real hero" of the first D.N.B.

Between them they produced their vast work between 1885 and 1900.

It was updated throughout the 20th century in supplementary volumes, while it passed into the hands of the Oxford University Press.

In 1992, the editors of the D.N.B. took a deep breath and plunged.

A fresh start would be made to produce a "New D.N.B." comparable to the Second Edition of the O.E.D. published in 1989.

Mr. Faber paid tribute to those who had the courage and foresight, notably Colin Matthew, the editor of the Oxford D.N.B. from 1992 until his sudden death at only 58 in 1999, and the historian Sir Keith Thomas, who was chairman of Oxford University Press's finance committee when the decision to start afresh was made.

An immediate £3 million (the equivalent then of $5.5 million) in seed money was invested, part of it from the British Academy, along with a modest annual £250,000 subsidy extracted from the government.

Nobody quite knew then that the total cost of the project would come to more than £22 million (nearly $40 million today), and as Mr. Faber said with faint smile, it might not have gone ahead if they had known.

When the new project was sketched out, the whole field of British history was broken down into research topics and into periods, assigned to separate editors, several of them still working in Oxford like Henry Summerson, who dealt with pre-1600; Matthew Kilburn, for the 18th century; and Alex May, for the later 20th.

Mr. Harrison, himself a historian of repute, was enlisted to take over the editorship when Mr. Matthew died.

Some of the existing essays were judged inferior to begin with, and historical research had made others obsolete.

On the whole, shorter and more recent essays have survived, while the longer ones were rewritten: every British prime minister has had a new essay, with some of them - Stuart Ball on Stanley Baldwin and Roy Jenkins on Harold Wilson - being particularly notable.

As the essays flowed in (some more punctually than others, Mr. Harrison sharply mentioned), they were edited and computerized.

Once every word had been written and edited, keyed and coded, the work of producing the physical object began.

With Louise Edwards as production director, typography was settled upon and paper with the right combination of opacity and lightness selected.

"We wanted the volumes to feel like books and not slabs of concrete," she said.

In the compiling of the DNB, most choices were obvious, but there were problems of definition.

While the 20th-century volumes included people like De Valera and Nehru who had become famous as leaders of independent countries but had spent much of their lives as British subjects, the original D.N.B. ignored the first and most important of all such rebels against the crown.

Now America's Founding Fathers are all in.

And by the inclusion of people from groups previously neglected, imperial history finds some unlikely heroes.

The first black man to be awarded the Victoria Cross was William Hall, the son of freed slaves. (He won the cross during the Indian Mutiny for storming a mosque held by insurgent forces, which has an uncomfortably contemporary ring.)

Some essays are sheer entertainment.

Like Thomas Jefferson, Pamela Harriman ended as an American citizen and an American ambassador, but she was English by birth.

That might or might not account for "great skill as a mistress," says the entry, which "lay in her malleability."

While some ill-wishers carped at her behavior, "the French were impressed by her looks (which had been improved by time and surgery)."

Other innovations include essays on people who did not exist - the archetypical, like John Bull, or the quasi-mythical, like Robin Hood - along with numerous "collective biographies" like Norman Tanner's learned essay on Lollard women.

A contributor who toils away over one of these essays, after months of reading, writing, editing and fact-checking, may finally receive a gratifying word of praise from Brian Harrison - and a check for just about enough to buy lunch in one of Oxford's more pretentious gastro-pubs.

The project would have been impossible if commercial rates were paid to contributors, and no one writes for the D.N.B. for the money.

For that matter, no one would publish the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for profit. Oxford University Press expected to take a loss on the project, and, one of the editors said, "their expectation is likely to be gratified."

It is doubtful the likes of the new D.N.B. will ever be seen again.

Many public libraries in England, and in the United States, have the old D.N.B. on their shelves.

But the 60 volumes of the Oxford D.N.B., which are scheduled for release on Thursday, retail at $11,000 until Nov. 30, and $13,000 after that, a huge chunk of most libraries' acquisition budgets.

The D.N.B is also available on CD-ROM, and online at the annual subscription of $295.

The electronic versions are designed so that you can look up or cross-reference almost anything.

You could, for instance, search for British personages who spent some of their lives in New York, bringing up a long list, ending a little anticlimactically with "Hervey, Frederick William John Augustus, 7th Marquess of Bristol (1954-1999), wastrel."

Seeking eminent Englishmen who died in Greenwich Village produces the wondrous duo of Thomas Paine and Sid Vicious.

For Oxford University Press, the difficulty is that most libraries, let alone individual buyers, are going to prefer the electronic versions.

As for the future, it's more than likely that no such work on this scale will ever again be produced in book form.

To stand before those 60 volumes may be like waving goodbye to the last Atlantic liner, on a glorious last voyage.

September 26, 2004 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MIT scientists invent spinach-powered computer


No, not a prank story from The Onion; this news was reported in June in NanoLetters, a publication of the American Chemical Society.

Alexander Goho nicely deconstructed the jargon for an article in Science News, which appears below.

Protein Power: Solar cell produces electricity from spinach and bacterial proteins

Inspired by the efficiency with which plants convert sunlight into sugar, researchers have fabricated a solar cell that uses photosynthetic proteins to convert light into electricity.

Although the prototype device can't yet rival commercial solar cells made of silicon, it demonstrates a new strategy for making longer-lasting photovoltaic cells.

To make the solar cell, a team of biologists and engineers led by Marc Baldo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) harvested photosynthetic proteins from spinach and the bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides and deposited the proteins onto a glass support.

Because the proteins naturally reside in an aqueous environment inside a cell membrane, it took some creative chemistry to keep the approximately 2 billion isolated proteins functional on a solid surface.

Consider the new material that MIT molecular biologist Shuguang Zhang developed to stabilize the proteins.

It consists of synthetic peptides that self-assemble into structures resembling cell membranes.

When embedded in the synthetic membranes, the photosynthetic proteins retain their function.

The MIT group placed a thin layer of this membrane complex on a glass surface coated with indium tin oxide, which served as a transparent electrode.

The researchers then added a soft layer of an organic semiconductor and topped it all with a silver electrode.

When the researchers shone light of certain wavelengths onto the device, the photosynthetic proteins absorbed the photons and shunted excited electrons through the semiconductor layer and into the silver electrode, creating a current.

Baldo and his colleagues describe the working device in the June issue of Nano Letters.

"This is very exciting work," says Peter Peumans of Stanford University, noting that the new strategy opens many possibilities for making not just solar cells but also other protein-based electronic devices.

However, he says, to make a useful solar cell, the MIT team will have to dramatically increase the device's efficiency.

To boost the solar cell's power output, Baldo and his colleagues are exploring ways of packing more photosynthetic proteins into their 1-millimeter-by-1-millimeter device.

One potential way of achieving that goal is to roughen the glass to increase the amount of surface area that can hold the proteins.

Even if Baldo and his colleagues can't boost their new solar cell's efficiency to match that of commercial photovoltaic devices, there could be other advantages to a protein-based design.

For example, many solar cell materials degrade over time, but a protein-based solar cell could be self-repairing, says Baldo.

Just as living plants replenish their photosynthetic proteins by swapping out the old copies for new ones, it might become possible to flush a solution of fresh proteins through a solar cell to replace the photosynthetic molecules as they degrade, Baldo explains.

Stephen Forrest of Princeton University says that experiments such as Baldo's could also give researchers a greater understanding of the mechanisms underlying photosynthesis.

"Nature has taken a very long time to optimize solar energy collection and conversion," he says, "and it has many strategies for doing that."

Here's the legend for the figure up top:

In this prototype solar cell, photosynthetic proteins (spheres embedded in yellow peptides) absorb light and pump electrons (e–) into a silver electrode.

September 26, 2004 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'How the Internet Came to Be' - by Vinton Cerf


He described the invention of the internet in the book "The Online User's Encyclopedia."

Luckily, he also put it online here.

I found this account, by the man who was at the very center - ground zero - of the web's genesis extremely interesting.

And no, Al Gore's name didn't come up once.

I knew you'd ask.

September 26, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MorphWorld: House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert into Michael Moore


Have Hastert grow a scruffy beard and put on a baseball cap, and he'll easily be able to pass.


September 26, 2004 at 06:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Fact-Checker's Bible


The shortest known interval of time in the universe is that between when I saw this book reviewed in Friday's Wall Street Journal and my heading to my computer to buy it at amazon (only $10.40!).

I mean, I am passionate about being accurate in what I write and say.

I will go to extreme lengths to do so.

That the author of this new book, Sarah Harrison Smith, was once a fact checker at the very persnickety and fussy New Yorker, and now is head fact checker at the New York Times Magazine, is plenty good enough bona fides for moi.

Ooh, I am so excited about this book's imminent arrival.

In the book, she discusses how to judge the accuracy of various sources and where to find reliable facts.

I'm am so swooning with delight.

She points out that all errors erode a reader's or viewer's trust.

She writes, "When that happens, the presumption of good intentions and integrity of the author - particularly the investigative reporter - will begin to disintegrate."

I may have mentioned in the past that few things delight me more than finding an error in an old bookofjoe post and then going back and correcting it.

I realize that anyone who's this excited about this book is a defining example of a nerd.

Hey, I'm down wit dat.

September 26, 2004 at 03:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Manolo Blahnik for $45 new


Alas, it's not a shoe, but merely a polished, cast aluminum shoehorn.

But it is a Manolo Blahnik original.

It's a start.

Blahnik designed it for the British home furnishings chain Habitat.

A number of well-known people outside the world of industrial design were invited by Habitat creative director Tom Dixon to create products for the home.

All 22 of the original creations, by people as diverse as Deepak Chopra, Daft Punk, Issey Miyake, Solange Azagury-Partridge, Philip Treacy, and Louis de Bernières, are available online at the company's website.

Tip: for the shoehorn, type "Manolo" in the search box. "Shoehorn" or "Blahnik" won't do it.

September 26, 2004 at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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