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October 11, 2005

'Floating Mountains, Singing Clouds' — The sculpture of Mei–ling Hom

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This Chinese –American artist takes chicken wire

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and a needlenose pliers and creates

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a floating world.

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Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C. through March 5, 2006.
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October 11, 2005 at 05:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak — World's Best Dental Floss: Glide is flossizzle

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It's not even a contest.

My teeth are very tightly spaced, so much so that regular floss, even the extra–fine variety, shreds and tears repeatedly when I use it, so much so that flossing becomes an ordeal requiring maybe five or six attempts with as many fresh lengths.

Until I discovered Glide.

This stuff is the flossizzle.

At the dentist's this morning for my check–up and cleaning the hygienist mentioned, when I told her offhandedly that I used Glide, that she had instructed the office manager to order only Glide, no matter that it cost much more than other varieties.

She said the increased cost was easily made up in less time and effort for her and her colleagues and less patient discomfort due to the same problems I had with other brands.

I like mine in the cylindrical flip–top as pictured up top.

$6.89 for 100 m (109.4 yards/328 feet) here.

Full disclosure: I own no stock in Procter & Gamble, which recently purchased the Glide brand. I have never spoken to anyone at Procter & Gamble nor any ad agency affiliated with that company or Glide.

October 11, 2005 at 04:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Wikipedia: Errors in the Encyclopedia Britannica that have been corrected in Wikipedia

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Matt Penning sent this link my way early this morning in a comment on one of yesterday's posts.

Like him, I found it absolutely fascinating.

The power of many is beyond comprehension.

I mean, look at what happened when a bunch of random cells got together and clumped up.

Next thing you know they're walking around on the moon like they own it.

October 11, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Mini Purse Eyeglass Case

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I like versatile things.

This little item:

• Serves as an eyeglass case — has a soft lining to protect from scratches

• Can double as a mini purse

• Is perfect for cosmetics and/or your cell phone

• Comes with a small glass mirror under the flap for touch–ups, etc.

• Has a magnetic flap closure

• Features a handle that's riveted on — perfect for sketchy street life

• Has a separate (removeable) zippered pouch inside that attaches with a snap — for change, a contacts case or whatever suits your fantasy.... wait a minute — that's not right.

• Goes into a larger bag whenever circumstances change

Case dimensions: 6" x 2.25" x 0.9".

Pouch dimensions: 5.25" x 2.25".

In raucous red or basic black.

$9.90 here.

October 11, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Pumpkin Patch May Be a Potemkin Village

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Julia C. Mead, in a front page story that appeared in Saturday's New York Times, blew the top off of one the dirty little secrets of Halloween: the pumpkins in many U–Pik–It pumpkin patches were placed there after having been grown elsewhere.

The photo above, which accompanied the Times story, shows Hank's Pumpkintown in Water Mill, New York, where "some pumpkins... were placed... after being picked elsewhere."

I know how much it hurts to hear this.

I feel your pumpkin pain.

Here's the sad but true story.

    Psst! You Pick It, but They Grow It Someplace Else

    Warning to parents: The following could be disturbing to children who, Linus-like, believe in the Great Pumpkin.

    Or at least the Great U-Pik-It Pumpkin Patch.

    Look closely at those so-called pumpkin patches, those flashy roadside attractions with corn mazes, wagon rides and spooky decorations that parents and elementary-school teachers herd children to each fall.

    Chances are, the stems of those pumpkins are broken off and pointing defiantly upward.

    Nary a pumpkin is attached to its vine, right?

    Some farmers will tell you that they purposefully clip their pumpkins off the vine as a service to customers, making it easier and safer for them to select and walk off with the perfect pumpkin.

    Not necessarily so.

    Many of those alleged pumpkin patches are fields staged to catch a child's eye.

    The pumpkins are trucked in, laid out artfully and there you have it: Curcubita pepo and its corpulent cousin, C. maxima, the equivalent of props on a Hollywood set, the better to lure pumpkin shoppers and make some bucks during the harvest season.

    There is even a name for it: agri-tainment.

    Not since 1948, when microfilm hidden in a hollowed-out pumpkin led to Alger Hiss's indictment on espionage charges, has there been such a whiff of pumpkin intrigue. Plenty of roadside pumpkin patches are the real deal.

    And, in some cases, pumpkins are just trucked in when the home-grown supply runs low.

    But for many families, that authentic pumpkin-picking experience is fake.

    Case in point: Hank's Pumpkintown in Water Mill, N.Y., which attracts throngs of visitors each autumn.

    On Montauk Highway, the main route through the South Fork of Long Island, Pumpkintown is the scene of frequent vehicular near-misses as cars packed with kids suddenly veer off the asphalt when the patches of orange are spotted.

    Admission is $6 a child and $7 per adult just to pass through the gate.

    Inside are wagon rides, hay bales to scramble over, a maze cut into the cornfield, pony rides - and wheelbarrows to fill with "pick-your-own" pumpkins.

    Activities cost extra, and pumpkins are sold by the pound.

    But one recent Saturday morning, hours before the happy hordes descended on Pumpkintown, farm hands were spotted in the patch, unloading pumpkins from a truck and carefully arranging them among the withered, well-stomped vines.

    One worker approached the field as a work of art, placing one pumpkin on its side then stepping back to gauge the effect.

    A few feet away, he stood another upright and leaned a third against its neighbor.

    Two more truckloads of pumpkins sat in a barn across the highway, ready when the patch needed replenishing.

    Sorry, Linus.

    Most of the pumpkins "picked" at Pumpkintown don't grow there.

    But the children on a quest for the perfect jack-o'-lantern have no idea they might as well be squeezing tomatoes in Pathmark.

    "Hey, it was a lot easier for me when I just sat there on a tailgate and sold pumpkins out of the back of a truck," said Lynne Kraszewski, who, with her husband, Hank, owns Pumpkintown.

    "Now, we're entertaining people for a whole day."

    She said their pumpkin patch was picked clean after just two weekends and confirmed that they have a secret stash of pumpkins that are grown elsewhere in Southampton.

    Mr. and Mrs. Kraszewski still also grow berries, corn, vegetables and flowers on their 400 acres, but potatoes used to be the family's livelihood.

    When market prices fell in the early 1990's and then the low-carb Atkins diet craze left potato sales languishing, the Kraszewskis hit on the idea of Pumpkintown.

    Their bank balance has looked better ever since.

    Long Island isn't the only area where the pumpkin patches are less than authentic.

    Barbara Gravesen confirmed that her husband, who operates Then Some Farms in Ridgefield, Conn., has bought more pumpkins from a supplier in Wallingford this season than in years past.

    "Aha, so you're on to them," said Jessica Chittenden, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Agriculture.

    She said she was aware of the practice not only because she'd stopped at such patches herself but also because she grew up on a farm.

    "I know what goes on there," she said.

    Diane Eggert, the executive director of the Farmers Direct Marketing Association, a statewide trade organization based in Syracuse, at first said that farmers only pad their patches when crop yield is low.

    When told that 12 out of 14 farmers interviewed in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey admitted to doing it, and not just this year, she switched course: "Where consumer pressure is greater, the farms will run out, and they're going to need to keep the customers coming," Ms. Eggert said.

    "They are business people, and they do what they have to do."

    Yield does make a difference.

    Meredith and Jeremy Compton, who own Peaceful Valley Orchards in Pittstown, N.J., said they had a bumper crop and didn't need to fake it.

    Still, Ms. Compton, who is a consultant to Rutgers University's cooperative extension and an adviser to many farmers, said both she and a growing number of consumers were aware of the spreading incidence of sleight of pumpkin.

    She often receives e-mail messages from parents concerned with authenticity.

    "They ask if the pumpkins are still attached to the vine," she said.

    "I have to tell them that my husband cuts them because they're impossible to get off by hand."

    Alfred Finocchiaro, the manager and auctioneer at the Hightstown Wholesale Produce Auction in Hightstown, N.J., said he had moved more than 100 tons of pumpkins so far this year at prices ranging from $85 to $125 per 800-pound bin.

    Farmers from New Jersey, downstate New York, Maryland and Delaware go to the auction three nights a week because it's cheaper to buy pumpkins wholesale than to grow them.

    "Especially this year," said Joe Gergela, the executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

    Long stretches of hot, dry weather created one of the worst droughts there in 60 years and burned the blossoms right off the vines, he said.

    High real estate prices and rising property taxes create a need to cut costs and generate new forms of revenue, he said.

    That's the reason agri-tainment - or agricultural tourism, as it's known in government circles - is increasingly popular.

    "It's ironic, because people go pick their own pumpkins and pay $3 for an ear of roasted corn when they sure wouldn't pay that in a supermarket," he said.

    Ms. Compton said customers wouldn't come to her farm if she didn't offer entertainment: a corn maze, hay rides, even pig roasts.

    "People would call and ask about pick-your-own pumpkins and then want to know what else we had for them to do."

    So, in addition to the sheep, goats and chickens in their petting zoo, the Comptons bought a "moon bounce," an inflatable contraption for children to jump on.

    It's shaped like a John Deere tractor.

    "So it kind of fits in with the farm theme," she said.

October 11, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Faucet Fun — Brita AquaView™ Filter let's you 'see what you're missing'

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Videre est credere* said the Romans and it still holds true two millennia down the line.

A recent New Yorker ad for Brita's new AquaView™ faucet water filter (above) caught my attention: it showed a picture of the filtration fibers visible through a window at the side of the device (below).

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The filter's viewing window (below)

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can be covered by a white plastic insert (top photo, to the left) if you prefer not to watch.

Peter Sellers, call your office — your filter is in.

But I digress.

Even if the thing lets all manner of nasties through it's still got to be fun to watch the thing gradually darken with the dreck and garbola it does manage to extract which would otherwise have entered the sanctum sanctorum of your physical self.

There's an entertaining video on the company's website for those who prefer their entertainment moving instead of just visible.

The filter retails for $45.99 on the Brita website and it's $39.99 at amazon.

I can get it for you for a cool $34.65 here — just keep it quiet, OK?

*Seeing is believing

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

Moscow Cats Theatre — 'Non–stop action by a troop of talented felines performing original and astounding acrobatic feats'

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Back from the USSR for a howlingly exciting Off–Broadway run at the TriBeCa Performing Arts Center is the 20–strong Moscow Cats Theatre, now in its 35th year of being led by founding impresario Yuri Kuklachev.

I don't know about you but I'm impressed that such a thing even exists.

I mean, teaching cats to do tricks?

They are said to perform acrobatic feats: for all I know they even demonstrate ten summersets they undertake on solid ground.

You're talking about a quantum leap beyond horse whisperers and their ilk.

The show is currently four weeks into what was originally a six–week run; it's now been extended through December 29 due to overwhelming demand.

The show's promotor, Hugh Hysell of HHC Marketing, told Andrew Adam Newman, in an October 3 New York Times story, "We can make money at this, but we don't have houses in the Hamptons."

Just wait, Hugh — once this post goes up you won't be able to print tickets fast enough.

Here's the Times story.

    Herding Cats? Try Herding People to Cat Shows

    Promoters for the Moscow Cats Theater, in which 20 cats perform acrobatic feats, faced a challenge: the show, currently halfway through a six-week run at the TriBeCa Performing Arts Center, is an impressive ensemble piece, sure, but not likely to draw the same single-malt-sipping theatergoer as, say, the new David Mamet.

    ''As with any show, we try to find the audience that would be interested,'' said Hugh Hysell, owner of HHC Marketing, which is promoting the show.

    So, Mr. Hysell identified veterinarians not as mere ringworm treaters, but as cultural power brokers.

    He said his firm sent tickets -- and stacks of fliers -- to more than 50 Manhattan veterinarians in the hope that they would ultimately make small talk during Fluffy's bloodwork, like, ''I saw a cat like yours in the show. Does your cat do tricks?''

    This is not the first time that Mr. Hysell, who teaches a course on theatrical promotions at Columbia University, has appealed to the medical community.

    He has also sent free tickets to pediatricians for shows oriented toward children, including this one.

    The firm is also promoting the show to the Friskies set with a fund-raising performance (that has yet to be scheduled) for the North Shore Animal League, and ticket giveaways with Have a Heart Adopt a Pet Foundation, petfinder.com and petaholics.com.

    Along with raising the performance's profile with pet lovers, the partnerships also may serve to mollify would-be protestors, who may construe a cat walking upside down on a tightrope as animal abuse.

    Mr. Hysell said that promoting through both nonprofit and commercial concerns was easy when his client was putting on a show.

    ''Theater is the No. 1 attraction in New York City, so by aligning with a popular entertainment, they're raising the level of excitement about their brand. If I was pushing Michelin tires or Pamprin, it would harder to get people excited.''

    Of course Mr. Hysell's ingenuity is born in part by puny marketing budgets for many productions.

    ''If I was working in tires, we'd be getting a pretty penny,'' said Mr. Hysell, who was able to recall without checking that each ticket-and-fliers shipment to a veterinarian cost exactly $3.75 in postage.

    ''We can make money at this,'' he said, ''but we don't have houses in the Hamptons."

Read a review here.

Get tickets here.

October 11, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Rubber Band Chair

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British designer Tom Dixon, above with his signature Rubber Band Chair, says "simplicity is best."

Yo, Tom — you're preaching to the choir here.

But I digress.

His new chair consists of an ultrathin galvanized steel frame wrapped in off–the–shelf rubber bands.

Sure, you're thinking, you could do that — but you didn't.

So stop congratulating yourself.

Dixon told Ernest Beck, in a story in the October 6 New York Times, that the chair "is for low–tech people everywhere."

You can slip the rubber bands on or off and rearrange them to your heart's content.

Beck noted that, if you prefer, you can replace the rubber bands with string or belts.

Yikes!

Tell you what: here at bookofjoe headquarters we're about no–tech, not low–tech.

That's why our default chair is the Gymnic Exercise Ball (below).

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The blue 65 cm model pictured — which I've been using for many, many years now with nary a problem — costs $24.95 here.

Bounce your way through the day: it's the only way to fly — or sit.

However, if you prefer something in a more conventional seating appurtenance, the Rubber Band Chair costs $195 at Property (14 Wooster Street [at Canal Street] in New York City; 917-237-0123).

Or you could contact Tom Dixon directly at his website; I'm sure he'd be more than happy to sell you one and if you ask nicely I'd bet he'd even sign it for you, creating an instant collectible.

October 11, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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