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April 24, 2006

Indian Larry: Larger than life in Ellenville, New York — As seen by an angel

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Larry Desmedt, better known as Indian Larry, died in Charlotte, North Carolina on August 28, 2004.

When I reported his death here on September 3 of that year it drew more comments than any post in the previous history of bookofjoe.

Hundreds of people from around the world, bikers and those who'd never even seen a tricked-out chopper, paid their respects.

Roger Baker, an artist and sculptor in Ellenville, New York, since 2000 has annually created a gigantic portrait in grass in the landing field of the Ellenville Flight Park, where he's been hang gliding since 1975.

The gargantuan annual portraits — so far they've ranged between one-half-million and one million square feet in size — began with one of the Statue of Liberty and have since featured Albert Einstein, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis.

You don't see much from ground level but once you're aloft they're magnificent.

Peter Applebome wrote in yesterday's New York Times about how Baker came to feature Indian Larry (below)

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in last year's portrait (top).

Here's the article.

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    Where the Canvas Is a Hayfield, and Lawn Mowers Do the Brushwork

    Perhaps this will be the year Roger Baker cuts a half-million-square-foot portrait of John Coltrane, musical notes pouring out of his tenor saxophone, into a hayfield in the shadow of the Shawangunk Ridge and invites 1,000 saxophonists to show up and play.

    It is, after all, the time of year when he has to start planning for what must be the world's largest annual portrait, but he isn't at all sure what he'll do this year.

    Still, as he contemplates this year's model, people are still reflecting on last year's — the subject of a quite remarkable documentary film that will have its premiere here next Sunday.

    After creating similarly gargantuan field-art renderings of the Statue of Liberty, Albert Einstein and Jimi Hendrix, and a beyond-mega-size million-square-foot Elvis, Mr. Baker seemed to take something of a departure last year in paying homage to Larry Desmedt, a New York-based custom motorcycle builder and biker, better known as Indian Larry.

    Mr. Desmedt died in August 2004 when he fell off a bike and hit his head while doing a stunt at a show in North Carolina.

    But then, maybe it was not a departure at all, instead a perfect distillation of Mr. Baker's combination of art, inspiration, lawn mowing and weed whacking, another reminder that life in and around Sullivan and Ulster Counties has long since become something other than the borscht belt of old.

    "I was all set to do Coltrane," said Mr. Baker, an artist and sculptor who paints motorcycles, creates antique-looking signs for businesses, and fabricates commercial sculptures when not creating his colossal portraits in the landing field of the Ellenville Flight Park, where he has been hang gliding since 1975.

    "I wanted 1,000 saxophone players playing between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. when the sunlight would glint off all the saxophones, and then they could all walk the streets of Ellenville playing what they wanted."

    And then, both from conversations he heard while working on bikes or from snippets of television reports, he became interested in Mr. Desmedt, a cult figure in the cycle world and an artist in his own way.

    "I said, 'This Indian Larry guy, is he fieldworthy?' " Mr. Baker recalls asking a friend.

    And things went from there.

    He designed the portrait, with details as exact as the tattoos on his throat, from pictures of Mr. Desmedt taken by the photographer Timothy White.

    Then he mapped out the field and the cutting schedule, and worked with friends and helpers using a tractor, power mowers, hand mowers and hand-held weed whackers for perhaps three weeks.

    Mr. Desmedt's friends and family, many on motorcycles, showed up in Ellenville around the first anniversary of his death, and those closest to him flew over the site in four vintage open-cockpit biplanes and a Cessna 172.

    It was all captured by the New York filmmaker Gary Planken for an eloquent documentary that will have its premiere at Ellenville's Art Deco Shadowland Theater.

    All this began rather casually.

    Mr. Baker was sitting with Tony Covelli, who owns the landing field, one day in 2000, and the conversation turned to the bull's-eye they had carved for hang gliders to land on.

    Why not something grander, a picture of some kind, Mr. Baker suggested.

    Almost instantaneously they came up with the idea of the Statue of Liberty as a piece of art to mark the millennium.

    And so it began.

    "It was just meant to be," Mr. Baker said.

    "Everyone who flew over it just went nuts."

    Mr. Baker, who has a laconic, unaffected quality, seems remarkably low key about his annual epics.

    What he likes most, he says, is the purity of it — a bit of transitory majesty, something carved into grass, disappearing even as it's being created, no chemicals, no paints, no residue, just a bit of fleeting magic soon overtaken by grass, bugs, rain and snow.

    And that, he said, would have appealed to Mr. Desmedt, not a monumental figure like Einstein or Elvis, but a man who took his own private passion and turned it into something akin to public art.

    "He was the real deal, not pretentious; his life was his art," he said.

    "It just seemed perfect. I think he would have loved the impermanence of it."

    As for this year, well, it could be Coltrane.

    It could be Leonard Bernstein.

    It could be one of about 16 others, some just ideas, some already sketched out.

    All, he says, icons who carry an emotional charge for him.

    "I like people who are legends, people with serious fans and serious toys," he said.

    And then, if he gets tired of mere half-million or million-square-foot cuttings, here's his really big idea: a series of maybe five or six giant cuttings, running up and down the valley from Wurtsboro to Kingston.

    "It would be a great thing to do," he said, a bit wistfully, and added, "But when do you put the brakes on?"

April 24, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Velcro Buttons

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Designed for the disabled but excellent for everyone.

Seems to me the perfect solution for small children who want to dress themselves but whose hand and finger skills haven't yet caught up with their heads.

From the website:

    Velcro Buttons

    Replace the buttons on your shirt with Velcro

    Velcro fasteners eliminate the struggle with shirt buttons.

    One-handed buttoning couldn't be easier.

    If you have shirts that have buttons but getting the button through the hole is a problem for you, these special buttons may be just the alternative you've been looking for.

    It's easy to convert your shirts:

    • Put the Velcro-backed button through the button hole and sew the backing onto the shirt (on the button hole side)

    • Remove the old button, then sew the second Velcro piece onto the shirt positioned where the button used to be (opposite the first piece of Velcro)

    • The fasteners allow you easy closure simply by pressing the Velcro tapes together.

    • They fit most standard button holes and are machine washable.

Note that the buttons are only available in white.

However, many craft stores offer button covers that simply snap onto the existing button.

"Another idea is to decorate the buttons with hobby paints."

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A pack of 10 white buttons affixed to Velcro costs $9.99.

April 24, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hacker Power — Are they bigger than Google?

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Judging by my current stats page (above) there's no doubt about it.

What the heck is hackaday?

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It is what it says: "hackaday serves up a fresh hack each day, every day, from around the web...."

Today's was the Woz (below, left) playing Segway polo:

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Eliot Phillips, grand panjandrum of hackaday, linked to my post of April 4, 2005 and that lit the firecracker.

Bonus: the Woz himself was the very first commenter on my post about his Segway polo jones.

You could look it up — it follows the post.

w00t!

April 24, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Diptyque Black Baies Candle

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Originally made as a one-off but it
proved so popular it's now part
of Diptyque's core collection.

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Made from black paraffin wax
hand-poured into a black jar
with silver graphics.

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The scent is of black currant
leaves and Bulgarian roses.

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3" diameter x 3.75" tall.

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Burns for 50-60 hours.

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$52.

April 24, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Who will save your soul? God v treadmill

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Jennifer Huget, in the April 18 Washington Post Health section, wrote about a new scientific study suggesting that weekly religious attendance might "extend your life nearly as much as regular exercise or statins...."

Which got me to wondering: what if some gym owned by a conventionally religious individual decided to hold a Saturday or Sunday morning service, with a priest or a preacher or rabbi or whomever, in which you were allowed to get on a treadmill or use the stairmaster or elliptical or weights or whatever you liked while you worshipped?

Free to all comers.

I predict the place would be packed.

And you can bet it that as soon as they heard about it in LA — assuming it didn't start there — attendance among the Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan/Madonna crowd would be de rigueur — in a New York minute.

Here's Huget's Post story.

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    Exercising, Religiously

    Could weekly religious attendance extend your life nearly as much as regular exercise or statins?

    That's one way to view some new research by a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center physician, published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

    The study jockeys numbers from life expectancy tables and mortality studies to suggest that weekly worship may add two to three years to life.

    That compares to three to five years for regular exercise and 2.5 to 3.5 years for cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

    Study author Daniel Hall, who also happens to be an Episcopal priest, goes on to conduct a cost/benefit analysis.

    According to his estimate of the costs of tithing, gym membership and statins, while exercise is the best buy, religious attendance trumps statins in terms of years gained per dollar spent.

    Not So Fast: Tom Denberg, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and a member of the Society of General Internal Medicine, faulted the peer-reviewed study for failing to account for other behaviors that may explain churchgoers' relative longevity.

    For instance, religious people may be less likely to smoke.

    That, rather than religion, might extend their lives.

    Denberg labeled the study "part of a larger, troubling movement in American society to enhance the scientific credibility of [religious] concepts. . . . Certainly, religious beliefs are valuable to those who hold them," he wrote in an e-mail, "but scientific studies of the potential health benefits of religion need to go beyond the mere reporting of associations."

    Next Steps: While Hall admits that his religious beliefs might bias him, he maintains that his argument "proceeds solely on secular and scientific grounds."

    And, he adds, while religion isn't a form of medical therapy, the study -- funded by the John Templeton Foundation, which focuses on the intersection of theology and science -- sheds enough light to -- you guessed it -- warrant further research.

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I'm sure that the fact the study's author is also an Episcopal priest didn't affect his results or conclusions.

And there's no such thing as a moral hazard.

Do we really look that stupid?

Here's the abstract of Hall's study.

    Religious Attendance: More Cost-Effective Than Lipitor?

    Background: A recent meta-analysis demonstrates a robust but small association between weekly religious attendance and longer life. However, the practical significance of this finding remains controversial.

    Methods: Age specific, actuarial death rates were modified according to published odds ratios to model the additional years of life attributable to: (1) weekly religious attendance; (2) regular physical exercise; and (3) statin-type lipid-lowering agents. Secondary analyses estimated the approximate cost for each additional year of life gained.

    Results: Weekly attendance at religious services accounts for an additional 2 to 3 life-years compared with 3 to 5 life-years for physical exercise and 2.5 to 3.5 life-years for statin-type agents. The approximate cost per life-year gained was between $2,000 and $6,000 for regular exercise, $3,000 and $10,000 for regular religious attendance, and between $4,000 and $14,000 for statin-type agents.

    Conclusion: The real-world, practical significance of regular religious attendance is comparable to commonly recommended therapies, and rough estimates even suggest that religious attendance may be more cost-effective than statins. Religious attendance is not a mode of medical therapy, but these findings warrant more and better quality research designed to examine the associations between religion and health, and the potential relevance such associations might have for medical practice.

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FunFact: how Jewel came to write the song.

April 24, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

'Just One Look' Retro Clock/Timer/Thermometer/Hygrometer

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Back to the land of dials and analog style we go....

From the website:

    Dual Clock Weather Center & Timer

    Retro Dual Weather Clock and Timer lets you see time, temperature and humidity instantly on the jumbo face.

    You'll know if temperature is at a comfortable level for everyone in the room... just look at the built–in gauge above the hands.

    One glance and you can tell if moisture is in the air via the hygrometer below.

    Keep yourself on schedule with handy 60–minute timer!

    Uses one AA battery (not included).

    Classy chrome-finish PVC measures 8-1/2" x 2" x 12-1/4".

$14.99.

April 24, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

PopUrls — 'The latest web buzz'

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Kevin Kelly raved about this website in yesterday's edition of Cool Tools and that's good enough for me.

But if it's not good enough for you, here's what he had to say:

    PopUrls

    Recently I surveyed the emerging web filters which rely on consensus methods (see the CT review http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/001163.php) as a way to quickly read what was happening in the world.

    I hypothesized that soon there would be a meta-site that would aggregate all the consensus filters into one.

    The next day Thomas Marban from Austria wrote me to say that he had already written one, called PopUrls.

    I've been using it daily for the past month and it's great.

    This single page now replaces my need to directly read Digg, Reddit, Delicious, Furl, Slashdot, BoingBoing, NewsVine, Metafilter and all the others that I subscribe to.

    This one page encapsulates up-to-the-minute headlines from 15 consensus filters and top thumbnail images from the social sites Flickr, YouTube, and Google Video.

    The hive mind on one screen.

    Here's how I use it:

    • On one page I can scan the latest headlines of what the web collectively thinks is either popular or interesting.

    • A simple mouse over the headline will cleverly reveal a small box of expanded text on the article.

    • If I want even more, a click will open the original entry in the filter.

    In five minutes I can scan 18 social site sources thoroughly.

    I get an excellent feel for what is new and what is worth following up (a small amount of overlap between sources helps).

    The design of PopUrls is brilliant.

    There are two flavors, black on white or white on black.

    Function drives form, buttons are minimal.

    It feels like a well-designed command post for a concise debriefing.

    Even on a large screen, like the 21-incher I use, there's a bit of scrolling.

    But I've come to realize that I MUCH prefer this single fixed sheet to endless RSS feeds in a reader.

    In fact, the page is essentially an improved interface for multiple RSS feeds, which keep PopUrls constantly updated.

    The dashboard doesn't move, while all the streams flowing into it keep it lively.

    There's no better way to watch the hive mind.

April 24, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

LED Knitting Needles — Now you can knit in the dark

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Susan Guerrero wrote about this singularly clever and useful invention in the "Pulse" feature in yesterday's New York Times Styles section.

The story follows.

    Knitting In The Dark

    Attention, knitters.

    There you are in a theater watching the promos, when, if only you could see, you could be finishing that adorable little sweater you've been working on.

    Monica Dremann, the wife of Michael Rosenberg, the president of Imagine Entertainment, mentioned this sad state of affairs to Edith Eig, an owner of La Knitterie Parisienne in Los Angeles, and Mrs. Eig's husband, Merrill, a retired engineer, got on the case.

    The resulting partnership yielded Knit Lite: knitting needles with glowing L.E.D tips, which allow you to purl away not only in the movies, but also at night on the lawn under a starless sky or maybe even in an amusement park tunnel of love.

    "The best part," said Mrs. Eig, an actual Parisienne who has a Chanel-style suit emerging from her No. 10½ needles, "is there is no problem knitting with the beautiful black yarns."

    Available next month, Knit Lite needles in various sizes will cost about $20 a pair at laknitterieparisienne.com.

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In fact, you can order now: $15.99 a pair (batteries included).

Note to file: send a link to this post to Megan Reardon.

April 24, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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