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May 20, 2005

The Dangerously Delicious Pies of Rodney Henry

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When Rodney Henry (above, with two of his pies) was a little boy he loved to bake pies.

He kept on baking as a hobby while he tried to make it big with his rockabilly band.

But the pies proved more popular than the band.

So in 2003 he opened Dangerously Delicious Pies in Baltimore, Maryland.

The shop's sign sports a pie and crossbones.

And the pies are real home–made pies: no artfully crimped edges or pastry embellishments.

They're also without the gelatinous syrup that seems de rigueur in store–bought fruit pies these days.

Henry's pies are entirely handmade and use only real fruit and natural ingredients.

The only frozen fruit he employs are blueberries, which Henry freezes himself in June.

His crust is the real article, made from lard, salt, baking powder, milk and a little sugar.

His pies are now carried at Dean & DeLuca's Washington, D.C. store.

They cost $20 for a 10" pie except for cherry, which is $24.

If you stop by his shop (2400 Fleet St. in Baltimore; Monday–Saturday 7 a.m.–7 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.–3 p.m.; tel: 410–522–7437) you can buy single slices for $3.50 apiece.

When Henry opened his shop he offered seven pies; he now has 35 offerings, along with an increasingly popular line of savory pies including steak chili, which he says is "bigger and nastier than any other pie out there."

Can't make it into Baltimore?

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No problema: order from the shop's website.

[via Christianna McCausland and the Washington Post]

May 20, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Personal

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Out yesterday from the mad programmers at Google's skunkworks is Google Personal.

You go here and click on the "Personalize Your Homepage" link on the upper left and you're off to the races.

Here's my personal page as it exists at this moment:

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May 20, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Real–time online California earthquake forecast map

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Scientists yesterday launched a website, updated hourly, that calculates the probability of earthquakes in California over the next 24 hours.

Now you can go online anytime from anywhere and see what the likelihood is of "the big one."

Perfect for those nights when you're anxious and can't sleep.

[via Nature magazine]

May 20, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Free public bathroom locator

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Out today, it was compiled by guidebook pioneer Arthur Frommer.

Frommer told USA Today he was at first reluctant to take on the project, but now he's on a soap box agitating for more and better public restroom facilities.

"The U.S. is horribly behind Europe and other countries in making restrooms available," he said.

The free booklet pinpoints desirable pit stops in 19 top leisure travel destinations and four national parks.

Good beginning.

You can also download and print out an "I Need to Go Now" card (below)

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to gain access to bathrooms that might otherwise be off–limits to the general public.

Get your free guide here.

Get your "Stop and Go" card here.

No computer?

No problem: if you're in the U.S. call (toll-free) 877–786–7465.

May 20, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Doodoo on a cube fails to sell — $50,000 offered not enough

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David Segal's only faintly tongue–in-cheek article in yesterday's Washington Post Style section about the auction of two works by Massachusetts artist Tom Friedman at Christie's last week was extremely entertaining.

The sub–head of the article read,

"At auction, bidders are not moved by Tom Friedman's feces on a cube"

And it gets better.

Turns out Friedman had two works offered in the show: "Feces on a cube" and "Starting an old dry pen on a piece of paper" (above), a 12" x 18" piece of white paper with a faint ink squiggle on it.

The latter sold, after fierce bidding, for $26,400.

Read the article (below), it's truly great.

    They Do Know Squat About Art

    At auction, bidders are not moved by Tom Friedman's feces on a cube

    It's little more than a scribble, a quick slash of ink on a 12-by-18-inch piece of plain white paper.

    If you saw it at the office, you might ball it up and toss it into the trash, or fold it into an airplane and fling it down the hall.

    It is unlikely you'd do what Christie's auction house did last week: try to sell it for $20,000.

    That was the low end of the estimated price for this "ink on paper," as it was dryly described in the Christie's catalogue, by an artist living in Massachusetts named Tom Friedman.

    It was on display last week during the preview for the house's annual spring auction, where potential buyers and interested gawkers get a chance to sniff over the merchandise before it hits the block.

    Even in the often mystifying alternative universe of contemporary art -- where you occasionally can't suppress philistine thoughts of the Wait, I could have done that variety -- this piece stood out.

    There it was, amid the Warhols and Basquiats, not more than 100 feet from an Edward Hopper, hanging with the titans.

    "Starting an old dry pen on a piece of paper," explained the Christie's catalogue.

    Which is to say, this thing is exactly what it looks like.

    And 20 grand seemed reasonable compared with another Friedman piece being sold at the same auction.

    This one, also untitled, is a two-foot white cube with a barely visible black speck set right in the middle of the top surface.

    Would you like to guess what that black speck is?

    You're advised to think outside the box.

    To again quote Christie's, it is ".5mm of the artist's feces."

    Yes, Tom Friedman put his poop on a pedestal, and last week Christie's tried to sell it, with bidding to start at $45,000.

    Auction season in Manhattan is a two-week spending spree of paddle-waving rich people and art dealers in Prada suits, all of them vying for highbrow booty at Christie's and its archrival, Sotheby's.

    The regulars were asking questions like "How much will the Hopper fetch?" and "Which house will gross more?"

    But if you'd never visited Planet Expensive Art, you didn't care about that, not after you spotted those Friedmans.

    After that, all you could wonder is: How does an artist peddle his doody, not to mention his doodle?

    And here's another stumper: Who would buy it?

    When it's showtime at Christie's, as it was last Wednesday night, the streets around Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan are crammed with black limousines.

    Nobody walks to a fine-art auction, or takes the subway or a cab.

    You get chauffeured to the event, then walk up a flight of stairs, and if you're a heavy hitter you're given a bidding paddle and a reserved seat, near the front of an expansive room.

    There's a row of bidders along one wall, all of them on the phone with collectors who are either too busy or too publicity-shy to show up in person.

    The art appears on a turntable at the front, or, if it's too large to fit or too small to see, on a video screen nearby.

    The auctioneer stands before everyone, to the right of the goodies, at a lectern.

    "And one million two hundred thousand dollars starts it," said auctioneer Christopher Burge, selling a piece by artist Jeff Koons called "Small Vase of Flowers."

    To the untrained eye, this piece looked a lot like a small vase of flowers.

    The wonder of this spectacle flows largely from the massive sums involved and how quickly the money is spent.

    In a busy 10 minutes, $15 million will change hands here.

    It's just like in the movies: The bidders motion so subtly that you hardly see them move, and when the numbers get large enough, the room starts to buzz.

    "One million seven hundred thousand, one million eight hundred thousand," Burge said, motioning around the room.

    "Against you now," he added, pointing at someone.

    Against you now.

    That's a prod to the underbidder that roughly translates to "Are you going to cough it up or not?"

    Like every house, Christie's earns its commissions -- a sliding scale that starts at 20 percent on the first $200,000 -- by turning these events into a sort of roller derby for the rich.

    Except that none of the rollers emotes or says much of anything.

    "It's important to try to keep a level head," says Harry Blain, a London-based dealer and gallery owner who last week bid on multimillion-dollar paintings on behalf of several clients.

    "Otherwise you'll get caught up in the emotion and forget about the value, which is what the auction houses would like to have happen. It's not accidental that the whole thing is set up to be so theatrical."

    While the bidding escalates, a huge electronic tote board behind the auctioneer instantly translates the figures into yen, euros and other currencies, giving the whole affair a very James Bond international flavor.

    "Fair warning" is offered when the bidding slows to a halt and then Burg slams that rocklike thing in his hand against the lectern, adding a little tally -ho! flourish with his arm when he really gets excited.

    Every piece has a reserve price, which eBay users know is a figure set by the owner of the art, below which he (or she) won't sell.

    So Christie's might start the bidding at, say, $1 million, but if the reserve is $1.3 million and the high bid is $1.1 million, the auctioneer says "passed," and the item stays with its owner.

    It's always a little awkward when things don't sell, so good auctioneers sort of mutter "passed," or they say it as they bang the gavel, so it's not all that obvious.

    Last Wednesday, there were only a handful of passes.

    That was the night that big-ticket contemporary art went up for sale, including works by Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and Lucian Freud.

    Total take for the evening, including commissions: $133.7 million.

    Tom Friedman's pieces went up for auction the next day, during the Thursday afternoon session, along with roughly 100 other items.

    The estimates for these pieces are far lower -- some eventually go for as little as $15,000 -- but being bought and sold in the secondary art market at this level is a big deal, and at 40, Friedman is among the youngest.

    It turns out he's already been exhibited in the world's most prestigious galleries and contemporary art museums.

    How did that happen?

    "I guess it's a slow process," he says from his studio in Amherst.

    If you're expecting a prankster or someone guffawing behind the back of his admirers, Friedman is a surprise.

    He's an earnest guy and although he recognizes that a lot of his art is funny, he isn't joking, nor is he playing for laughs.

    About his work, he's entirely candid and, frankly, the more he explains it, the more compelling it seems.

    "I'll either have an idea that will lead me to a material, or I'll see a material that will lead me to an idea," he says.

    He tends to use stuff that you'd find around the house (glue, paper, Play-Doh), so that hey-I-could-do-that response is no accident.

    That squiggle aside, most of his work is obsessively composed.

    He once carved a self-portrait on an aspirin. (And it looks like him!)

    He made a perfect sphere out 1,500 pieces of bubble gum he chewed, which he then wedged into the corner of a wall.

    Another time he placed his pubic hairs on a bar of soap, arranging them in perfect circles, like the rings on a radar screen.

    His rise to prominence happened fast.

    While he was at the University of Illinois getting a graduate degree in art, a teacher praised his work to a New York gallery owner known only as Hudson.

    Among the pieces Hudson saw during a visit to Chicago was a spiral made of laundry detergent.

    "It seemed to me that he had an open-ended area of investigation and a finesse with materials, or a dialogue with materials and how to get them to work and to resonate," says Hudson.

    "I was really impressed also with his ability to edit his own work, and to present it in a professional but not fussy manner."

    Hudson's gallery, Feature Inc., held a Friedman exhibit in 1991 and the show caught the eye of Chuck Close, a painter of considerable renown.

    Endorsements like that are invaluable in the art world, and in 1995 the Museum of Modern Art came calling for a show it was putting together.

    You'll find Friedman's art in some well-known collections, too.

    For a while, the pedestal was owned by Charles Saatchi, one of the world's most famous collectors.

    "I wanted to find a material that you could present the smallest amount of and it would have the most impact," Friedman says of the piece.

    "I was really interested in minimalism then and with minimalism there's this sense of purity, of clean forms and geometry. I really liked the juxtaposition. The cube is logical and clean. The feces is regressive and insane."

    The first time he exhibited the piece, someone at the gallery thought it was a stool.

    Scratch that.

    Someone thought it was a seat and sat on it.

    Friedman saw it happen and yelled "Stop!" but too late.

    He was unable to find the small, crucial part of the piece.

    "I had to go home and make some more," he says.

    On their big day, the Friedman items came up early.

    A fight for the ink scrawl started at $14,000 and within about six seconds it had sold for $26,400, including commission, to a guy in a fuchsia sweater.

    Then it was time for the poop on a cube, or Lot 416 as it was called by auctioneer Barbara Strongin.

    "Lot 416, now showing on the screen," she said.

    "And $45,000 to start here. At $45,000. $48,000, at $50,000. Any advance from 50?"

    It might seem like someone was bidding from the way the price went up but that apparently was just the auctioneer trying to gin up interest and give the sale some forward momentum, an accepted and common tactic.

    There were no bidders.

    Strongin paused for a moment, then gave up.

    "Down it goes, at $50,000," she said.

    And as the white cube and the teeny dropping vanished from the screen, Strongin added a word that never in the history of fine art has ever rung so true:

    "Passed."

May 20, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Viral Flashlight

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Glancing through a catalog this morning I stopped turning pages when I saw the tricked–out [Don't you think he uses that term along with "but I digress" way too often? Yes, but what can we do? He just doesn't seem to listen or, if he does listen, he doesn't seem to care enough to change his behavior] flashlight pictured above.

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Looks like an ordinary yellow flashlight until ta–da!, you slide the ring on the end down and unfold the legs into a handy–dandy tripod that supports a red electric flare with one–mile visibility.

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The only thing I'd have done differently is add a flashing function to the switch to make the red light even more noticeable.

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Uses two C batteries (not included).

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$19.95 here.

May 20, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wearing red increases your chance of winning

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In yesterday's Nature magazine, scientists from the University of Durham's Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group reported that competitors in the 2004 Athens Olympics who wore red uniforms were more likely to win than opponents wearing other colors.

    The magazine summarized the article as follows:

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    The colour red is a sexually selected sign of male quality in rhesus macaque monkeys, mandrill baboons and several fish and bird species.

    And in some cases artificial enhancement of the red display can increase a male's dominance.

    Should the colour of sportwear be taken into account to ensure a level playing field?

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Wear your steroids.

May 20, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Folding Wine Glass

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OK, so shoot me because folding isn't really the right word for what this tricked–out travel wine glass does.

The bowl and the stem unscrew, then fit together for compact packing and travel.

Made of nearly weightless, indestructible Lexan® (also used for bulletproof glass), the glass looks like crystal.

Holds 10 oz. and weighs 3 oz.

You get a set of two along with a handy mesh travel pouch.

$19.85 here.

May 20, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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