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May 18, 2006

'Apex Hides The Hurt' — by Colson Whitehead


Everything Whitehead touches turns to originality.

He's that pure and gifted a writer.

The first couple paragraphs of his debut novel, "The Intuitionist," grabbed me and didn't ever let go until I'd finished the book.

It was so strangely different from whatever else is out there masquerading as original fiction.

Whitehead is the real deal.

"Apex Hides The Hurt" is the story of a nomenclature consultant, a man whose rare talent is finding just the name to set a product soaring into the stratospheric heights of the economy and the collective needful unconscious.

As a connoisseur of words and names — both the right and the wrong — I was in heaven from the get-go.

    From the book:

    He came up with the names. They were good times. He came up with the names and like any good parent he knocked them around to teach them life lessons. He bent them to see if they'd break, he dragged them behind cars by heavy metal chains, he exposed them to high temperatures for extended periods of time. Sometimes consonants broke off and left angry vowels on the laboratory tables. How else was he to know if they were ready for what the world had in store for them?

    Those were good times. In the office they greeted each other with Hey and Hey, man and slapped each other on the back a lot. In the coffee room they threw the names around like weekenders tossing softballs. Clunker names fell with a thud on the ground. Hey, what do you think of this one? They brainstormed, bullshitted, performed assorted chicanery, and then sometimes they hit one out of the park. Sometimes they broke through to the other side and came up with something so spectacular and unexpected, so appropriate to the particular thing waiting, that the others could only stand in awe. You joined the hall of legends.

    Sometimes he came up with a name that didn't fit the client but would one day be perfect for something else, and these he kept away from the world, reassuring them over the long years, his lovely homely daughters. When their princes arrived it was a glorious occasion. A good name did not dry up and get old. It waited for its intended.

    He was watching an old black-and-white movie on the television, the kind of flick where nothing happened unless it happened to strings. Every facial twitch had its own score. Every smile ate up two and a half pages of sheet music. Every little thing walked around with this heavy freight of meaning. In his job, which was his past present and future job even though he had suffered a misfortune, he generally tried to make things more compact. Squeeze down the salient qualities into a convenient package. A smile was shorthand for a bunch of emotion. And here in this old movie they didn't trust that you would know the meaning of a smile so they had to get an orchestra.

    He loved supermarkets. In supermarkets, all the names were crammed into their little seats, on top of each other, awaiting their final destinations.

    He said to himself: Bottle a certain musty essence and call it Old Venerable. Spray it around the house and your humble abode might smell like the Winthrop Suite of the Hotel Winthrop. The man at registration had told him that President So-and-so had slept there, one of those presidents that nobody has ever heard of, or everybody always forgot was a president at some point. Board of Ed types were always a bit dismayed when they needed to name a new high school and realized that all the favorite workhorses were taken, and were forced down the list to the sundry Pierces and Fillmores. As he looked around the room, he had to admit that it was quite possible that one of those so-and-so presidents had stayed there, after a listless stump speech. It was a good place to make a bad decision, and in particular, a bad decision that would affect a great many people.

    He landed Apex because he was at the top of his game. The bosses would call him into their office to chat, to reassure themselves, to count the lines on his brow as they ran an idea up the flagpole. One day he stifled a burp and his pursed lips put an end to Casual Fridays. The other folks in nomenclature came to him with their problems, they bought him cocktails and he offered obvious solutions to dilemmas. He wasn't exactly taxing his brain. He didn't squander names that could have been used for his projects. What he gave them were slacker names. He lent out malingerers.

    He attracted clients through word of mouth. Some clients he passed off on younger, hungrier colleagues and e-mailed apologies. He was all booked up. His generosity increased his estimation in the eyes of the lower ranks and his exclusivity won him still more clients. With the assignments he did take, he was getting faster and faster with his naming. He wasn't at the point where he could just look at something and know its name, but the answer generally came quickly and he had to sit on the name for couple of days and pretend to ponder long and hard, or else he'd look superhuman.

    Market research bore out his impressions. The only people who used the product lived in small hamlets where everybody believed Truman was still the president; on visiting their homesteads the mailman shoved in pitches for land deals in Florida and sweepstakes guarantees and little else. Mummies that they were, they didn't need Dr. Chickie's Adhesive Strips anyway. What was there to sop? What they needed were brooms, to sweep up the dust that fell out of the nicks in their bodies. These people were not the kind you tried to seduce through advertisements in tony magazines.

    "Peep This" swaggered from the jukebox, and people shrieked as they recognized the opening sample. Every couple of years a hip-hop song invaded the culture with such holy fervor that it revealed itself to be a passkey to universal psyche, perfectly naming some national characteristic or diagnosing some common spiritual ailment. You heard the song every damned place, in the hippest underground grottoes and at the squarest weddings, and no one remained seated. "Peep This" possessed exactly such uncanny powers, and in the way of such things completely killed off a few choice slang words through overexposure. When grannies peeped this or peeped that from the windows of their retirement-home community aeries, it was time for the neologists to return to their laboratories.

    Just a few bars into "Peep This" and leis were bouncing off the ceiling. That sublime and imperative bass line, he told himself. Truth be told, like everyone else, he loved "Peep This." It had taken months of brief exposure at the corner bodega before he realized that the song had attached itself to his nervous system. He was more or less powerless against it, a blinking automaton.

    Isn't it great when you're a kid and the whole world is full of anonymous things? Everything is bright and mysterious until you know what it is called and then all the light goes out of it. All those flying gliding things are just birds. Once we knew the name of it, how could we ever come to love it? He told himself: What he had given to all those things had been the right name, but never the true name. For things had true natures, and they hid behind false names, beneath the skin we gave them.

    A name that got to the heart of the thing — that would be miraculous. But he never got to the heart of the thing. What is the word, he asked himself, for that elusive thing? It was on the tip of his tongue. What is the name for that which is always beyond our grasp? What do you call that which escapes?

    He adjusted quickly to the recluse lifestyle, which was much more complicated than it appeared to outsiders, who enjoyed their invigorating jaunts outdoors and frequent social interaction without considering the underlying structures holding everything together. Keeping away from people, that was easy. Neglecting one's physical appearance, that wasn't too difficult either. The hard part was accepting that the world did not miss you.

May 18, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Portable Jacuzzi — Aqua Spa Hydro Massage Pool Lounger


A lot going on in the water space.

From websites:

    Aqua Spa Hydro Massage Lounger

    Recline in custom-fit comfort while enjoying a therapeutic massage

    Connect the Aqua Spa Hydro Massage Lounger to your pool return with the included 12-foot-long hose and feel your cares melt away.

    The lounger floats freely around the pool sending aerated water to six powerful and adjustable jets.

    Cool and relaxing hydro-massaging water jets soothe your upper back, mid-section and lower lumbar areas.

    • Constructed of durable, highly puncture-resistant polyethylene to resist the effects of sun, wear and water

    • Includes adapters and swivels to fit most common return line connections

    • Fully adjustable to provide a comfortable, relaxed position

    • Three-way folding system for easy handling

    • Requires no battery or AC power source

    • Assembles easily without tools

    • 34"W x 15"H x 64"L

    • 28 lbs.





May 18, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

TypingTest.com — 'Assess your personal typing skills in minutes for free'


That's right: no tricks, nothing to buy, nothing to do but roll up your sleeves, flex your fingers and prepare to let them dance atop your keyboard.

The website has a disclaimer that "This TypingTest.com service may be used solely for personal assessment" — they want you to purchase their AssessTyping.com service if you plan to use the test to hire people.

bookofjoe tip: don't bother — sit applicants down in front of your computer during the interview and test them with the freebie version.

Perfect is the enemy of good.


[via Nell Boeschenstein and C-Ville Weekly]

May 18, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Grip N' Flip Spatula


From the website:

    Easy Grip Spatula

    Because this spatula works as tongs and flipper it lets you easily grab, turn and flip what you're cooking.

    Like an extra pair of hands, it reaches in to grip and flip eggs, pancakes, burgers, even hot dogs with absolute perfection!

    Heat-resistant plastic.




May 18, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'Professionally Preserved Human Skull For Sale' — Some things you just can't find on eBay



Above, an ad that went up last month on NSMatch.com, a message board/forum for neurosurgeons, neurosurgery residents and medical students interested in the specialty.

[via Ingrid S]

May 18, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Therma-A-Snap Bags — Episode 2: The Readers Strike Back


At 1:19 p.m. yesterday afternoon — just 2 hours and 18 minutes after Episode 1 appeared — reader Robert Phipps furnished a link to a website selling the smaller (12" x 15") bag (above) for $2.99.

True, I purchased mine for $1.99 at Kroger but this way if you live in a place that doesn't have a Kroger you can still own one.

Reader Jennie Horn noted in a comment that went up at 11:47:09 a.m. yesterday that the Therm-A-Snap website I linked to in the 11:01 a.m. post sells the bags.

True enough — but you have to buy a minimum of 50.

Shawn Lea commented at 2:45:18 p.m. that a far more stylish version of the bag (below)


is available for $4.20.

From that website:

    Insulated Hot/Cold Bag

    Cool, flashy silver thermal bags, another example of how something normally mundane and unnoticeable can be turned into something glamorous and beautiful.

    Great for carrying ice cream and drinks, hot or cold; padded, which means they are a good way to wrap fragile objects or a quick way to wrap a gift.

    Alternative uses: great for camping, to signal the search and rescue plane or blind the bear who is coming just a little too close for comfort.

    Photographers: wrap your assistants in them, they make great human reflectors.

    Office workers: use it to catch a few rays at your desk.

    If that is not enough for you to want to buy a lifetime's supply, they are manufactured by a 70-year-old man who has been in business for 40 years.


Finally, reader Cliff Marsiglio was disappointed in the performance of my crack research team and myself in re: the 8 year delay in bringing to your collective attention the existence of the Therm-A-Snap bag.

He expressed his dismay in no uncertain terms in a comment that went up at 1:36:21 p.m. yesterday.

In accordance with bookofjoe's customer satisfaction guarantee I have (cheerfully, I might add) refunded Cliff's bookofjoe membership fees from the get-go in their entirety.

I also sent him a $100 gift card spendable at a mall to be named later.

Sorry, Cliff, for letting you down.

We'll try to do better in the future.

And that's all I have to say about that.


Unless, of course, I find something else to say.

In which case I may — or may not — say it.

May 18, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Sin City'


I watched it on DVD last evening, in all its glowing black-and-white-with-splashes-of-color glory.

Gives a whole new 21st-century, post-modern meaning to the term film noir.

Who isn't in it?

Off the top of my head it features Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Alexis Bledel, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Jaime (formerly James) King and Devon Aoki.

Looking at the back of the DVD case I see it also has Elijah Wood, Nick Stahl, Michael Madsen, Carla Gugino and Michael Clarke Duncan playing various parts.

Quentin Tarantino served as "Guest Director," whatever that means.

If you don't like blood spurting out of severed body parts then you might not enjoy this film.

True, it's cartoonish but it's also awfully realistic in its own peculiar fictive way.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller himself, the author of the "Sin City" series of graphic novels.

You can watch the film's trailer here.

May 18, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blue Cheese — Episode 2: Eau de Stilton Perfume


Just in yesterday from reader Michael Hoffman.

Below, the Ananova story:

    Stilton launch blue cheese perfume

    The makers of the famously pungent Stilton blue cheese have launched their own perfume [top].

    And they have approached Cat Deeley (below)


    to be the face of Eau de Stilton.

    It claims to "recreate the earthy and fruity aroma" of the cheese "in an eminently wearable perfume".

    The perfume, blended by a Manchester-based aromatics company, features a "symphony of natural base notes including yarrow, angelica seed, clary sage and valerian".

    It was commissioned by the Stilton Cheesemakers' Association as part of a campaign to persuade more people to eat their product.

    Nigel White, of the SCA, brushed off suggestions that it might not be the most alluring of scents.

    "Blue Stilton cheese has a very distinctive, mellow aroma and our perfumier was able to capture the key essence of that scent and recreate it in what is an unusual but highly wearable perfume," he said.

    "While we don't have quite as generous a budget as some of her other endorsements, we would love Miss Deeley to be the face of Eau de Stilton and look forward to hearing what she thinks of the scent."


[via Michael Hoffman and Ananova]

May 18, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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