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October 19, 2005

'Embankment' — by Rachel Whiteread

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One of the world's greatest sculptors, Whiteread's highly–anticipated new work (above and below, with the artist)

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for London's Tate Modern Turbine Hall opened last week to rave reviews, with many declaring it the greatest work of her already noteworthy career. Whiteread (below)

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filled the enormous empty space (below)

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with 14,000 white cast polyethylene boxes, creating an indoor Arctic of sorts — but with a peculiar warmth instead of chill.

In a superb interview with Lynn Barber that appeared in Sunday's Observer the 42–year–old Whiteread, short–listed for the Turner Prize in 1991 at 28 and its winner two years later, went back and reflected on her inspirations, working techniques, the effect of becoming a parent at 38 — she told Barber that motherhood "made me feel whole" — and the transformation of her world view from dourness to an anticipatory enthusiasm.

Her work will remain up through April 2, 2006, after which the boxes will be ground into bits and made into bollards.

Like her Turner Prize–winning "House" (below),

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it will exist only in memory and photographs.

Just as with each of us and, in the end, as memory fades and photographs crumble, it will be as if it never happened.

It never did.

October 19, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Cutlery Chair

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Created by Osian Batyka–Williams (above, seated on it), a design student at Kingston University in London, this chair (below) caused an immediate sensation when he unveiled it as his senior project this past spring.

It's made from over 150 knives, forks and spoons discarded by restaurants and charity shops in South West London and patiently collected over a six–month period by Batyka–Williams.

It went from Kingston's annual Faculty of Art, Design and Music Degree Show directly into [Re]design's exhibition at this year's London Design Festival, one of 100 objects chosen as "good as well as gorgeous."

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Heck — I'd be happy with either one.

October 19, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bagels in Tokyo

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Who knew?

Andrew Morse wrote a nice story for yesterday's Wall Street Journal about one Miho Inagi, a young Tokyo woman (above) who last year opened Maruichi Bagel in Tokyo.

Her bagels have become so popular that when she sells out customers are willing to wait 15 or 20 minutes until the next batch of 18 is ready.

Talk about artisanal.

Here's the article.

    An Entrepreneur Finds Tokyo Shares Her Passion for Bagels

    Five years ago, Miho Inagi quit her job as an office assistant to pursue a passionate dream.

    On a trip to New York, she had fallen in love with the city's bagels and yearned to open her own bagel shop in Tokyo.

    Never mind that bagels were barely known in Japan and that most Japanese expected bread to be soft and moist, not hard and crunchy.

    Determined to learn the trade properly, Ms. Inagi talked her way into an apprenticeship at New York's Ess-a-Bagel.

    From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., she took orders, cleared trays and swept the floor. On Saturdays and Sundays, the shop's exacting owner, Florence Wilpon, let her make dough.

    Six months later, when she felt she had the hang of it, Ms. Inagi returned to Japan.

    Last year, Ms. Inagi opened Maruichi Bagel, a tiny sliver of a bakery wedged between a coffee shop and a hair salon in an upscale Tokyo neighborhood. (Maruichi means No. 1 or, literally, the numeral one in a circle -- a symbol that resembles a just-baked bagel.)

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    She bakes her bagels in an oven that fits 18 at a time.

    Her bagels have become so popular that when she sells out, customers often will wait 15 or 20 minutes until the next batch is ready.

    "Before I opened this store I had no goals," says Ms. Inagi, 29 years old.

    But now, she says, "I feel so satisfied."

    The timing was fortuitous.

    Ms. Inagi found her niche just as Japan was about to experience a bagel boom.

    Today, local food magazines tout them as a health food and bagel stores are opening everywhere.

    Connoisseurs rate shops on a Web page called @bagel cafe (scroll down halfway), a kind of nationwide clearinghouse for bagel information in Japan.

    One guidebook to New York even gives instructions on how to order and pay for a bagel sandwich.

    The bagel store was an unexpected career change for Ms. Inagi.

    After studying computer sciences in college, she joined a software subsidiary of electronics giant Hitachi Ltd., where she hoped she'd be able to hone her programming skills.

    But then in December 1998, she was visiting New York with college friends and had her first Ess-a-Bagel -- a plain with raisin-and-walnut cream cheese.

    She was instantly enamored.

    "I just didn't think anything like a bagel could taste so good," she said.

    A year later, she flew back to New York.

    Unfazed by her limited English language ability, she persuaded Ms. Wilpon to let her spend a week at Ess-a-Bagel to get a taste of the business.

    She spent her vacation sweeping the floor and, before returning to Japan, she decided she wanted to learn more.

    Back home, Ms. Inagi's parents tried to talk her out of returning to New York to study baking.

    They told her Japanese consumers wouldn't buy such hard bread.

    When she persisted, her father told her, "We must have done a bad job raising you."

    In February 2001, she found an apartment in Brooklyn with four Japanese students.

    Ms. Wilpon was surprised when Ms. Inagi showed up at Ess-a-Bagel: She hadn't expected to see the young woman again.

    For six months, Ms. Inagi spent ten hours a day at the shop, receiving no pay and using up some of her savings along the way.

    "She was absolutely determined to learn," said Ms. Wilpon, who has occasionally hosted students from around the world, including a South Korean baker.

    "She learned very fast."

    Back in Japan once more, Ms. Inagi bought bagel-making equipment from discount stores, including a $3,300 oven and a $1,100 refrigerator to store the dough.

    To make ends meet, she took a job doing computer work for an online watch seller.

    By early 2004, Ms. Inagi was ready to start her shop -- but she had only $20,000 and needed another $30,000.

    She ruled out banks, on the advice of a friend, who thought it would be difficult to get funding for such an unconventional project.

    In the end, she turned to her parents, drawing up a contract detailing the terms of the loan.

    Her parents, resigned to their daughter's ambitions, gave her the cash.

    Maruichi Bagel struggled when it first opened in August 2004, in part because no one knew it was there.

    But then, in October, a customer posted a review on @bagel cafe (scroll down halfway), the bagel Web page.

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    As more people discovered her shop, Ms. Inagi developed a reputation for authenticity.

    Now, the store draws crowds of loyal customers and turns a modest profit from sales of about $10,000 a month.

    Some months, Ms. Inagi can earn $2,300 after expenses, about the same as she was making when she was a company employee.

    She brought on a full-time staffer last month.

    Unlike some of her competitors, who cater to Japanese tastes by making bagels with toppings like sweet beans, Ms. Inagi makes few concessions to the local palate.

    She offers eight classic flavors, including plain, poppy, cinnamon-raisin -- even "everything."

    Her toppings are limited, including plain cream cheese, smoked salmon and egg salad.

    A plain bagel costs about $1.65.

    Ms. Inagi's day starts at 5 a.m., when she pulls a tray of doughy, uncooked bagels from the refrigerator and starts boiling them in a 70-liter pot.

    Because her oven is so small, she can't open the store until 11 a.m., when she usually has about 200 bagels made.

    Her day can stretch until 10 p.m., when she finishes making the dough for the next day and cleans up.

    A few weeks ago, she showed up at 5 a.m. but was so exhausted and stressed that she wrote up a quick note saying she was taking the day off.

    At 3 p.m. on a recent Friday, a line of eight customers -- including a mother with her two children -- waited to buy the last 18 bagels Ms. Inagi had.

    When the supply began to dwindle, the customers pared down their orders to leave some for the rest of the crowd.

    "These are without a doubt the best bagels in Tokyo," said 25-year-old Satomi Oba, who says she has been to almost every bagel shop in the city.

    "I make a special trip to get them."

In Charlottesville there's really no reason to bother with bagels from anywhere except Bodo's, a local company with three locations run by my friend Brian Fox and his trusty sidekick John C. Kokola.

The place is sensational: great food, super prices, wonderful service and the best vibes and atmosphere you'll ever feel.

Don't miss it if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

But perhaps mademoiselle finds herself in Tokyo.

No problema: here's a map

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that will take you right to the front doorstep of Maruichi Bagel.

We do it all here.

October 19, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'The Rough Guide Book of Playlists'

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What's this?

David Honigmann's "Brain Waves" column in today's Financial Times recounted the many happy hours he'd spent this past summer listening to his old CDs along with a review copy of "The Rough Guide Book of Playlists," just out in the U.K.

It won't be published in the U.S. until November 21.

He wrote, "The book contains 500 lists, divided by artist, by genre, by subject: songs about rivers, songs about birds, songs about the colour blue."

He continued, "Suitably for such a trainspotterish exercise, Nick Hornby, the patron saint of listmaking after 'High Fidelity' and '31 Songs,' himself picks '10 great songs you might not know.'"

That's when I stopped reading and headed for the computer to purchase a copy of the Rough Guide from amazon uk.

I am so eager to learn what those ten songs are and then listen to them.

I love Nick Hornby's taste and consider him an "Experts' Expert" in terms of pop music.

Constant readers will know that I have long considered it one of the seven wonders of the modern world that with the advent of the internet and amazon uk I can now, from my breezy patio here in Charlottesville, Virginia, while the leaves turn colors and fall all around me, sit comfortably, completely unwired, with my PowerBook and with one click order a book from amazon uk and have it arrive in a couple days, as quickly as if it had come from amazon here in the States.

Truly amazing.

Oh, but it's a glorious day here — it just can't get any better than this.

October 19, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

epoch–3™ — 'The number one performance golf tee on tour'

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Nothing is too small or too big for us here.

The epoch–3™ golf tee is a nod toward the wee end.

You wouldn't think that what you used to tee up a golf ball would matter a whole lot as long as the ball didn't fall off while your downswing was in progress.

But all that shows is that you're not a serious golfer.

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Golfers obsess about everything and will do anything to give themselves even the smallest advantage — especially if it requires no effort beyond the purchase of some piece of kit.

Just as Thomas Mann wrote that "Life is a hospital in which each patient believes he will recover, if only he is moved to a different bed," so with golfers and their equipment.

Evolve Golf, the creator of the epoch–3™ tee, claims that it reduces surface contact with the ball by 93% versus traditional wooden tees, helping to increase ball–launch speed and reduce backspin and sidespin, increasing accuracy and distance.

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From the website:

    There has been no significant performance improvement to the wood golf tee since its commercial introduction in the 1920s.

    Its surface imperfections and grain irregularities result in deflection and structural failure at impact, making it an inferior launch platform for modern golf equipment.

You say that's the silliest thing you've ever read?

Fine — but more than 300 golf pros, whose very livelihood depends on their performances, have switched to these tees.

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15 cost $4.95 here.

October 19, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Tipping Not Permitted' — Time for change at bookofjoe?

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So yesterday afternoon I was just sitting here, doing something close to nothing... when in came an email from TypePad, my blog hosting service.

They said I should add a TipJar (above) to bookofjoe and wrote, "If ads aren't your thing, then let your readers say 'thanks' by giving you a tip."

Wait a minute — didn't I just muse yesterday afternoon on the subject of revenue and bookofjoe's seemingly Bizarro World rejection of same?

Thought so.

I wonder if TypePad's got some sort of AI robot

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that reads all the blogs it hosts and then sends targeted emails to idiots like me who bring up the always–sensitive subject of money?

Anyway, if anyone deserves a tip it's my readers for putting up with this nonsense as long as they have.

The email continued, "Add a PayPal–powered donation button to your blog and use the funds to pay for your TypePad subscription or for that new iPod Nano you've been coveting."

Ya think?

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I'll pass.

October 19, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Doormat Slippers

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Wear your doormat.

Now, I've heard of people being called doormats but this is ridiculous.

Or is it?

From the website:

    Shoe Brush Traps Dirt Before It's Tracked Inside

    Place these heavy-duty, coir-and-steel "slippers" next to well-traveled entryways for shoe/boot-cleaning service and smiles.

    Sturdy bristles surround shoes and brush dirt off all sides before it's tracked into your clean house.

Of course, that assumes your house is clean....

But that's not my problem, is it?

It is?

Oh, all right.

16"W x 13 1/2"L x 6"H.

Oh, yes, one more thing: they're attached with a sort of umbilical cord at the heel so if you'd rather wear them around you'd best cut the cord first — especially if you plan to go up or down the stairs.

Just a suggestion.

$29.95 here.

October 19, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Treetent

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Dutch designer Dré Wapenaar created this singular construction in 1998 for British activists so they could sleep among the branches of trees they were trying to save.

Made of steel, canvas and plywood, a Treetent measures 15 feet high by nearly 9 feet in diameter and is large enough for a family.

A Dutch campground now rents the tents.

You can see a Treetent at the just–opened show "SAFE: Design Takes On Risk" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

I wish I had one.

October 19, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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