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March 25, 2005

Daft Punk — 'One-hit wonder' label not threatened by new album

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Eight years after Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homen disguised themselves as otherworldly musicians capable of highly danceable grooves, their new album, "Human After All" confirms that for all that, they'll never be #1 again.

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They hide their faces, they disguise their voices behind digital software effects, but "One More Time" — or anything remotely as great — doesn't look like it'll be happening again anytime soon.

March 25, 2005 at 04:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MorphWorld: Konstantin Mazurevsky into Donald Judd

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The Russian designer showed his new armchair, pictured above and entitled "Vishner," at "Created in Russia," a recent competition in Moscow for Russian designers.

It closes into an aluminum box quite reminiscent of minimalist sculptor pioneer Donald Judd, one of whose works is pictured below.

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You can't afford a Judd, but you could probably pick up one of Mazurevsky's armchairs for a relative song if you were enterprising enough to make a trip to Moscow and commission one.

[via Jane Withers and the New York Times]

March 25, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Be Piero Fornasetti's house guest

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But how can that be possible, you ask, since the legendary artist and designer (above) died in 1988?

Simple: his son Barnaba, who now runs Fornasetti, has opened part of his family's villa to paying guests.

Located in a quiet residential area in Milan, the three-room guest apartment is filled with the decorative motifs that made Fornasetti senior so famous.

Below is the kitchen, inspired by Fornasetti's early painting "Venditrice di Farfalle" (The Butterfly Seller).

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The rooms also contain many personal artifacts of the late designer, including his favorite Piranesi etchings, his collection of Biedermeier glasses and a writing desk he created with the architect Gio Ponti.

Sandra Ballentine wrote an article about this unique lodging for this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine supplement.

She noted that Karla Otto, a European fashion publicist and no stranger to stylish hotel rooms, found the décor "enchanting."

The apartment rents for $450 a night, cheap considering.

If you're interested, email info@fornasetti.com.

March 25, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'I wouldn't take a serious trip without it' – Paul Theroux

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No, he's not talking about penicillin but, rather, his trusty Sony ICF-SWO7 shortwave radio (above and below).

He wrote a short piece which appeared in the New York Times this past Sunday, March 20, about having everything he owned stolen during his "Dark Star Safari" travels in Africa a few years ago.

The first thing he replaced was his shortwave radio, the exact model that had been stolen.

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Theroux wrote that ever since his first journey abroad as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1963 he's carried a shortwave radio, trading up over the years as the radios became smaller and more efficient.

"Nights can be very long for the solo traveler in a remote place, where the only evening pleasure is listening to the radio."

It's the only electronic appliance he carries when traveling.

"A shortwave radio is instant access to the wider world. It's enlightenment, security and amusement."

Give one of these to everyone in North Korea and the country would implode within a week.

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As it is, it won't be a whole lot longer.

The radio costs $400 here; you can find it other places online, including Amazon, for around $350.

March 25, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Islam Goes Multimedia

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Samir Alicehajic created Koran 7.10 for Windows.

It's available as a free download here.

You get animated graphics with which you can read the Koran on your Windows PC, as well as hearing it in MP3-quality sound in a variety of different languages.

You can also print out whatever material you choose.

It will not play on your iPod.

Then there's a version for the PocketPC, which you can read but not listen to: it's available for free here.

The Koran is also available on DVD.

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For $48 you get a 3-DVD set suitable for playing on DVD players and computers.

Read and listen to the Koran.

My question: why hasn't some entrepreneur yet created an iPod version, akin to the BiblePod?

Won't be long, would be my best guess.

March 25, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'The Unknown Soldier' — by Gerald Seymour

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I've been reading this at bedtime the past several weeks and should finish it tonight.

It's a superb thriller, told by a British author some of whose previous work I've read but found formulaic.

It's been a number of years, though, and this new one got great reviews, so I took a flyer.

Engrossing beyond belief.

The story concerns the journey of a potential suicide bomber, born and raised in Britain but turned by events into a hater of Western civilization, as he makes his way around the world attempting to elude a dragnet employing every bit of Western technology and humint available to track him down before he takes possession of his weapon for his mission of terror.

Much of the story takes place in Saudi Arabia's "Empty Quarter": the events there are so absorbing, so realistic-seeming, that you feel as if you have a small sense of what it might be like to actually be there.

But, judging from the unbelievable harshness of the place as so vividly described by Seymour, I emphasize the word "small."

I put this book in the pantheon of post 9/11 terrorism-related tales, along with Lorraine Adams' superb "Harbor."

I now rank Seymour with John le Carré as the two finest living writers of spy thrillers.

Charles McCarry, whose 1974 book "The Tears of Autumn" is still the best fictional treatment of the assassination of John F. Kennedy I've ever read — and I've read countless such novels — has sadly lost his way and devolved into writing amusing, outlandish, picaresque tales with only a modicum of spycraft.

March 25, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Richard Maxwell's 'Anti-Theater'

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That's how Financial Times critic Sarah Hemming described the work of this singular American playwright-director who is just now becoming known outside the U.S., where he's won an Obie Award and cult status.

Hemming wrote a lengthy profile of the young artist (he's 37) for the March 7 Times and yesterday reviewed his new production, "Showcase," playing in London at the Barbican and performed by his company, the New York City Players.

Maxwell's style is to have actors deliver their words with a minimum of expression, action or inflection, just the opposite of what your high school drama teacher demanded.

Maxwell finds himself frustrated with what normally passes for good acting.

He said in the March 7 story, "I was taught in college as an actor, essentially, to make my work convincing: to be believable and to be real."

"That whole idea is something that I've come to find totally unnecessary. I never ask the actors to pretend that what people are seeing is real. the reality is that we're doing a play."

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He continued, "Because it's a live performance there is an exchange happening between the audience and the performer, moment by moment. Realism in theater seems to me antithetical to what live performance is. I feel like most of the time it's reflexive, that kind of acting. I find a lot of that invented psychological approach to acting redundant."

Maxwell does not ask the actors to perform in a deadpan manner; rather, he asks them to make moment-by-moment decisions about how much they need to do.

Talk about quantum theater. But I digress.

Said Maxwell, "I notice, watching these performances with different audiences, that they'll shape what that moment could mean by their reaction. So it can be very funny or very sad. I like the fact that it can be open like that. There is a responsibility when you go to see something — it's not like watching television."

Maxwell remarked that working in this way makes him keenly aware of how much acting we all do in everyday life.

I am reminded of the great Polish director Jerzy Grotowski's observation, "Daily life involves endless pretexts."

Hemming wrote, "Maxwell gives voice to the unspoken dismay that can suffuse mundane life."

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Here's yesterday's Financial Times review.

    Showcase, Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel

    Strange things go on in hotel bedrooms but there can be few as bizarre as this. For Richard Maxwell's Showcase (presented by the Barbican as part of BITE:05) we meet our fellow spectators in the lobby of a smart hotel. We are then ushered up several floors to a darkened bedroom, where we squeeze on to a bed and line the walls like resting moths waiting for a flicker of light. Gradually, as our eyes become accustomed to the dark, we make out the shape of a couple of bodies on the second bed. We wait in the warm, dark room. Nobody dares move a muscle.

    Suddenly one body sits up and turns on the light. He is stark naked; his companion is completely encased in black. This is Jim, a peripatetic businessman, and the silent masked figure in black is his "shadow" - perhaps his conscience or alter ego. Jim starts to talk: a rambling monologue about his fever and sleeping patterns, the deal he has to cut, his contempt for taxi drivers. Breaking into his thoughts over and over again, however, are unresolved, painful feelings about a relationship. Is he cracking up? He rises from the bed and gets dressed, still talking. You can almost feel his clammy forehead and dyspepsia, his guts struggling with last night's Chinese meal.

    Richard Maxwell's shows often eavesdrop on people's quiet despair and lack of fulfilment. Here, sitting too close for comfort to a naked man, listening to his half-digested thoughts, we feel we are peering inside his head at his battling feelings. James Fletcher's striking performance has more expression than those in Maxwell's earliest shows, yet it is still muted, which produces a strange intensity. It also adds to the feeling that we are privy to his character's thoughts in some early form, before they find the level of animation and coherence that conversation demands.

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    It is an intriguing and unsettling show, sometimes suddenly funny. Because the thoughts we are hearing are so elusive, it is also a rather unsatisfying experience - perhaps deliberately so. But it confirms Maxwell as a writer and director still pushing at the boundaries of theatre, upending expectations and teasing your imagination. You leave feeling as though you are shaking off a peculiar and vivid dream, and you look twice at the businessmen congregating in the hotel lobby.

March 25, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Personalized Wall Calendar from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London

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You select the images you'd like to appear on your calendar.

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Choose from 61 different works of art, including those shown here, all displayed on the website.

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The artists: Monet, Renoir, Rubens, Pissarro, Modigliani, Manet, Lotto, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas, and Cezanne.

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You can even specify the month you wish the calendar to start, i.e., May 2005—April 2006: no longer are you bound to start in January even if March is nearly gone.

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And if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, no longer will you have to look at wintry scenes in January after you come in from your frolicking on Bondi Beach.

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After you make your selections, choosing the image you want for each month, you pay online — it costs $28 (£15).

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The Courtauld professionally prints it, then ships it right to your door.

March 25, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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