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June 1, 2005

HyperSonic Sound

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The American Technology Corporation of San Diego, California has invented HyperSonic Sound (HSS).

Long story short: HSS is sound you can focus like light.

It can broadcast a message that can be aimed at one person up to 500 yards away (that's almost a third of a mile).

If used for security purposes, the beam can send a high–pitched squeal "above the threshold of pain, below the level of hearing loss," according to Ryk Williams, a company spokesman.

Erik Eckholm wrote, in a story that appeared in this past Sunday's New York Times, "Williams suggested that it might be used in a supermarket, for example, sending a 'buy Cheerios' message to a consumer in front of the Cheerios and 'buy corn flakes' to another nearby."

Internet grocery shopping can't come to Charlottesville quickly enough. But I digress.

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Life truly does imitate art: in 1929 Robert Graves published a story entitled "The Shout."

Its protagonist was a man who could kill an individual with his voice by directing a shout at them.

[via Eric Eckholm and the New York Times]

June 1, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Self–Threading Needles

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A bookofjoe great design award nominee.

How is it I didn't know these existed until an hour ago?

From the website:

    No more squinting or frustration.

    Just drape loose thread over the needle's top, pull gently and it's threaded.

Each needle has a tiny, nearly microscopic opening at the top that lets the thread slide in, yet prevents it from sliding out.

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Made of high–carbon steel with an 18k gold–plated eye.

48 needles in assorted sizes cost $3.49 here.

Genius.

June 1, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's Best Airline Phone Card Collection

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A person named Berkman has assembled a striking collection of airline phone cards on a website.

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Of the 300 or so airlines whose phone cards are listed Berkman appears to have about two–thirds.

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Pictured above and below are a few from those beginning with "A".

Airafrique

The collector writes, "can you help me to find my missing Airline Phone Cards? I try to collect one card from every airline with the picture of the airplane. For your offers, I can offer you other airlines or airplane or any other theme against yours. I can also buy cards, but please make an offer with fair prices."

Airberlin

Berkman's email: berkman@superonline.com

Airgabon

There's a companion page with phone cards from cargo airlines.

Avianca

Berkman really needs to fill out an application for the Guinness Book of World Records.

Azerbaijan

I'll mention that when I email that I've written about the collection and website.

June 1, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hand–Powered Shredder — No C.E.O. should be without one

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You never know these days, what with Eliot Spitzer running wild, when the F.B.I. and the financial crimes division of the police department will descend on your building, cordoning it off and turning off the power so you can't delete the stuff that could put you away for life.

In response to this an enterprising company has created... the hand–powered shredder (above).

It purports to help you fight identity theft but you know better.

"It safely, neatly and quietly destroys paper, CDs, and credit cards."

Cross–cut blades transform correspondence, statements and more into unreadable, crinkled strips.

One dedicated slot chops up CDs and another does the same to credit cards while papers go into the big slicer and dicer.

No office should be without one.

"The 3–in–1 shredder turns confidential papers and more into confetti!"

Have your own parade down 5th Avenue: just open a window and whoopee!, you're home free.

"Don't let important documents get into the wrong hands when discarded."

Note the arched eyebrows when the word "wrong" was inserted into the previous sentence.

"A 'must–have' at home or office."

I couldn't have said it better.

"No power required."

Measures 13" x 5" x 6.5".

$17.49 here.

Batteries not included.

But then, why would they be?

The thing's hand–powered, remember?

Just checking to see if you were still awake.

I'm not.

June 1, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Micromosaics

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I'd never heard of the word until I read Wendy Moonan's piece in the May 27 New York Times.

Long story short: micromosaics (above and below) are "pictures constructed out of minuscule bits of opaque enamel, up to 5,000 per square inch."

Read her article (below): it's fascinating.

    Intricate and Tiny Treasures With an Intriguing History

    The English word charm was derived from the Latin word carmen, which means song or incantation.

    The noun charm refers to a small ornament attached to a chain or ring, worn as a personal adornment.

    Like a song, it has within it the potential to impart nostalgia and pleasure.

    Think of gold hearts, tiny cupids, horseshoes and four-leaf clovers.

    "From colorful Cracker Jack prizes to one-of-a-kind jewels of inestimable value, charms satisfy on many levels - sensual, emotional, visual and spiritual," suggests the introduction of a lavish new coffee-table book, "The Charm of Charms" (Harry N. Abrams), by the New York photographer Jade Albert and the writer Ki Hackney.

    "A charm may not be just a decorative bauble; it may also be an amulet or talisman, an object endowed with the power to heal, protect or bring good fortune."

    Just think of the evil eye.

    Today charms are more fashionable than ever, especially antique ones, whether they depict flowers or animals, good-luck symbols or holiday souvenirs.

    "The fact is, most charm jewelry is personal, autobiographical and often sentimental - a sort of portable scrapbook of our lives that links us to family members, old friends and happy memories," Ms. Hackney writes.

    The book tracks these trinkets back thousands of years.

    "The ancient Egyptians used likenesses of body parts as amulets to protect their wearers, particularly in the afterlife," it notes.

    Greeks and Romans thought of charms as talismans.

    By the Italian Renaissance, they were more like name tags.

    "Prominent citizens wore charms to identify their family ancestry, occupation or political prestige, much the way we use sorority and fraternity pins, school emblems, military medals or family crests today," Ms. Hackney writes.

    The book traces the story of charms up to the present, with examples created by contemporary designers like Barry Kieselstein-Cord, but the charms that steal the eye, at least in this book, are the antique micromosaics that the Virginia jeweler Elizabeth Locke incorporates into her brooches, necklaces and bracelets.

    They depict the ruined temples in the Roman Forum, the doves of Pliny, scenes of Italian peasants cavorting in the countryside, butterflies and bees.

    Ms. Locke once lived in Italy and collected antique Roman micromosaics long before she became a jeweler in 1988.

    While most people are familiar with ordinary mosaics - those geometric patterns and figural pictures made of cubes of stone and glass that have been used to decorate floors, walls and ceilings since the fifth century B.C. - micromosaics are a different art.

    They are pictures constructed out of minuscule bits of opaque enamel, up to 5,000 per square inch.

    The technique was developed in the Vatican workshops in Rome in the late 16th century, when the Vatican summoned the finest glass mosaic craftsmen of Venice to work on the domes and chapels of St. Peter's.

    By the 18th century, Roman craftsman were making micromosaic pictures of a secular nature.

    The technique is astoundingly labor-intensive.

    First, one must make the material, cakes of opaque enamel called smalti.

    Chips of smalti of one or more colors are put into a furnace until they are molten.

    Then they are removed and stretched, like taffy, into long threads, known as filati.

    The range of colors exceeds 20,000 tints.

    Once a micromosaic artisan settles on a pictorial scheme, he arranges filati by color in small compartments next to the easel.

    He begins by breaking off minute bits, called tessera, and carefully placing them, one by one with tweezers, onto a copper or stone support coated with a slow-drying gum mastic.

    "Each piece of tessera functions like a brushstroke in a painting," Jeanette Hanisee Gabriel writes in an essay about the micromosaics in the Gilbert Collection in London, which has several.

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    "Because each tessera is deeper than it is wide, a cross-section of the final result would look like matchsticks standing on end, with only the tips showing on the picture surface."

    When the picture is complete, the craftsman fills the tiny crevices between the tesserae with fine marble dust, then polishes the picture surface and waxes it.

    A single picture could take years to complete - but unlike oil paintings, these pictures never fade.

    In the 18th century, the micromosaic art form spread beyond the Vatican workshops to small Roman ateliers, which made souvenir plaques to sell Europeans on the Grand Tour.

    These are the scenic Roman motifs Ms. Locke uses.

    "We don't know the names of the makers because almost no works are signed," Ms. Locke said.

    "Most of the scenes are tourist attractions, including St. Peter's, the Tivoli Gardens, the Temple of Vesta and Roman Forum."

    There were also copies made of famous Renaissance and Baroque paintings.

    Micromosaicists also depicted pets, including cats, parrots, horses and dogs.

    "The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is the most common," she said.

    "Hunting dogs and pointers were also popular."

    Ms. Locke does not buy any micromosaics made after 1870.

    "At the end of the 19th century, they started cutting corners and making the tesserae bigger," she said.

    Prices for micromosaics are rising.

    "Ever since the Gilbert Collection opened, it has been hard to find antique ones, and the prices have gone up," Ms. Locke said.

    They start at about $5,000 and often go for far more.

    Fine antique micromosaics can be found in the Gilbert Collection; the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia; and the Vatican.

    They do not often come up at auction, but Christie's in London has one in its July 7 sale of European sculpture and works of art.

    Dated 1778, it is a copy of an earlier painting of Mary Magdalene by Guido Reni.

    Andreas Pampoulides of Christie's said that the whereabouts of the original Reni were unknown but that the composition was identifiable from another replica, at Versailles.

    He noted that the micromosaic is the only documented work of Filippi Carlini, a disciple of the director of the Studio del Mosaico in the Vatican.

    It retains its original gilt metal frame, attributed to Paolo Spagna, a Roman goldsmith commissioned to make frames for two mosaic paintings a pope ordered as gifts for the archduke of Milan.

    It was customary for popes throughout the 18th century to give mosaic paintings to important people, Mr. Pampoulides said.

    Sotheby's has an antique micromosaic bangle bracelet in its jewelry sale in Paris in June.

    Copied after a famous Reni fresco of Aurora, it depicts a theme particularly popular among women on the Grand Tour, then and now.

June 1, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Binary Code Watch

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Ground control to Major Tom: your watch is here.

    From the website:

    Hard core techies and design aficionados alike are sure to appreciate the enigmatic power of this stylish binary code watch.

    Featuring the standard Base 2 number system used inside all computers, it has a green circuit board face displaying cool bluish lights that each represent a power of 2.

    A series of electrical impulses turns the lights on (1) or off (0), generating a simple formula that can tell anyone the time — if, that is, they know the code.

Face: 1.5" diameter.

Rubber watchband, steel case.

Instructions included.

$82 here.

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The time in the picture (click on the one just above to enlarge it):

8 + 2 + 1 and 32 + 16 + 2 + 1 is... 11:51.

Q.E.D.

June 1, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Big Pit — Winner of the 2005 Gulbenkian Prize for Britain's Museum of the Year

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Big news 300 feet underground in South Wales near Blaenafon: The Big Pit National Mining Museum, already recognized as a World Heritage Site, came first in this year's museum competition.

The museum (above) is an actual former coal mine where retired miners working as guides lead visitors on tours to show them what it was like to work the coal face.

It includes restored colliery buildings like the winding engine house, the blacksmith's workshop and the pithead baths, built as recently as 1939 and the first baths the miners had on the site.

The museum opened in 1983, then closed for major improvements several years ago: £7 million ($12,750,000) were spent before it reopened in February 2004.

Last year Big Pit had nearly 150,000 visitors.

Admission is free.

At the May 26 awards presentation the museum received £100,000 ($182,000) and an enamelled silver bowl designed by award–winning metalwork artist Vladimir Böhm.

A more detailed report is here.

[via artsdaily.com and the New York Times]

June 1, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Magnet Tape

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Here's an interesting product I didn't even know existed until this morning.

It's tape with an adhesive backing that instantly sticks to and magnetizes anything.

"Affix to the back of photos, artwork, notepads, shopping lists, etc. — and they instantly become magnets that you can display on refrigerators, cabinets and other metal surfaces."

Reusable.

Won't leave marks.

You could have good fun playing pranks by putting stuff on people's cars.

Temporary bumper stickers, anyone?

A 30–foot roll of magnet tape is $9.99 here.

June 1, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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