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June 4, 2006

I love it when it hurts so good

J_7

John Mellencamp's got nothing on the clever folk at some catalog website I bought something from just now: buried in the final order form was a fee (above) for something I'd never encountered before, to wit:

    Charge for prompt replacement of items lost or damaged in transit: $1.25

I love it: if the leveraged buyout crowd can invent a zillion and one imaginary charges and fees to pump up their take — and people are willing to accept them — I say, more power to 'em.

Likewise with this sly company: putting in the "prompt replacement" charge in the very last page of the online order — after you've gone to the time and trouble of registering with the website, filling out the online information form and giving them your credit card info, and as long as the new added levy is fairly nominal — is quite unlikely to trigger dismay strong enough for you to bag the order: you just shrug and say, whatever.

But come on — since when is the recipient responsible for paying for something never received or damaged prior to delivery?

Hlk

What a crock — but again, so beautifully executed I can only admire and learn from it, hopefully well enough to apply the lesson as masterfully in my own day-to-day affairs.

June 4, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Seasoning Hammers

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From the website:

    Seasoning Hammers — BBQ Salt-and-Pepper Shakers

    Seasoning the grill is safe when you use these salt and pepper mallets.

    Two long handles allow you to sprinkle your barbecue without singeing your limbs and the rosewood-stained hardwood shakers unscrew for use at the picnic table.

    An "S" and "P" clearly mark the seasonings so there's no confusion.

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"No confusion?"

Speak for yourself — around here that's our baseline.

But I digress.

In the Washington Post item featuring these devices, the accompanying text read as follows:

    These versatile... mallets protect your hands from the heat with their 14-inch handles.

    Metal labels clearly identify each shaker's contents....

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Odd, don't you think, that there's nothing in the product website description nor any pictorial indication there (the two photos above) that they've got those metal I.D. tags (below, the photo from the newspaper)?

Picture_1jhkjlk

No question the metal plates make them look cheesy.

Maybe that's why they're not on the website.

Ya think?

As featured in the December, 2004 issue of Redbook, so you know that — while not being as good as if they were "as seen on TV" — it's pretty much all good anyway.

$20 (salt and pepper not included).

[via Holly E. Thomas and Michelle Thomas, in their "Sunday Shopper" column in the May 28 Washington Post]

If you haven't yet twigged — we grind exceedingly fine here.

That's why long ago we adopted the most excellent motto of Surface magazine, to wit: "A mile wide and an inch deep."

That inch is pure popcorn salt.

As opposed to prairie league.

Alright, alright — that's enough.

Cut.

June 4, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

YourGallery.com — 'MySpace for artists'

Courtneytaylor_1

I read about this website in yesterday's Wall Street Journal story by Rebecca Davis O'Brien.

London gallery owner and mega-collector Charles Saatchi is behind it.

So far the website has about 2,500 artists who belong.

Once registered, artists can upload images of their work, post biographies and provide contact information for interested prospective buyers.

Sounds like a no-lose proposition to me if you're an unknown artist: sort of like tossing your penny in a wishing well, to be sure, but I've never heard of anyone losing more than a penny by doing so.

The article noted that there are other similar sites like Eyestorm.com and NextMonet.com, but the cachet — and deep pockets of Saatchi — make YourGallery.com a bird of another (read green) feather.

According to the newspaper story it does appear to have one thing in common with MySpace, FaceBook and their ilk: "Arabella Proffer, a Cleveland painter.... finds checking the site addictive. I'm afraid if I explore it too much, I'll end up being glued to the site all day instead of painting, she says."

Proffer hit the jackpot, for sure: her painting entitled "Courtney Taylor" (top) accompanied the Wall Street Journal article.

One thing I instantly liked about YourGallery is the following, on the homepage: "The order that artists appear is random and changes regularly. The most recent entries or edits go to the top, until the next random re-shuffle."

That means that the most unknown and out-of-the-mainstream artist on the site has every bit as good a chance of appearing up top in plain view of the world as the most famous individual registered.

Sort of like Google's "I'm feeling lucky" — which I don't believe I've ever used.

I mean, why would I?

Feeling lucky's my baseline, so why bother?

June 4, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Invisible Bookshelf

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From the website:

    Invisible Bookshelf

    Move over David Copperfield.

    This bookshelf appears to suspend a stack of books mid-air against a wall without any support.

    Hidden shelf solves storage/organization problems and baffles guests.

    Mounts to any wall with included hardware in minutes.

    5-1/4" x 5-1/4" x 5-1/2".

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Back on the home planet everyone's asking, "What took them so long?"

2frhthtg

"And why do they bother with the shelf?"

But I digress.

$19.98.

June 4, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Parity in women's tennis

Martina_hingis_226800c

During yesterday's French Open match between Martina Hingis and Ivana Lisjak the announcer mentioned in an aside that if the Swiss Miss (above) manages to take the championship (the only one of the majors that eluded her in what might be termed Phase 1 of her career, now that her comeback's afoot), she would be the ninth different woman to have taken each of the last nine Grand Slam tournaments.

It's fascinating to me that such parity should have somehow creeped in over the past few years, after years of single or two-player dominance.

The past eight majors and their winners:

    Australian Open 2006 — Amélie Mauresmo

    U.S. Open 2005 — Kim Clijsters

    Wimbledon 2005 — Venus Williams

    French Open 2005 — Justine Henin-Hardenne

    Australian Open 2005 — Serena Williams

    U.S. Open 2004 — Svetlana Kuznetsova

    Wimbledon 2004 — Maria Sharapova

    French 2004 — Anastasia Myskina

More on these tournaments here.

........................

Addendum at 4:18 p.m. ET Saturday, June 3: Hingis just won in straight sets in 45 minutes; she's lost only six games in her first three French Open matches.

She might just make it all the way back and take the championship if she can keep up her so-far brilliant play.

June 4, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shower Curtain with Storage Pockets

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Genius.

Especially useful for those with circular or oval showers with the curtain completely surrounding the enclosure and no tub corners to put things on.

From the website:

    Shower Curtain with Storage Pockets

    Shower Curtain with Storage Pockets compartmentalizes your messy bathroom necessities into twelve roomy pouches.

    Transparent mesh pockets let you view bathing supplies, grooming products, toys and more at a glance.

    Attaches to standard shower curtain rings.

    Vinyl and mesh.

    70" x 72".

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Bonus: the weight of the items in the pockets should serve nicely as ballast to eliminate "blow-in."

You know what "blow-in" is, don't you?

You just put your lips together and... no, no — that's not right.

Sheesh.

$29.98 (stuff in pockets not included).

June 4, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

James Conway — Co-founder of Mister Softee — is dead

Mister_softee_1

His passing last Sunday, May 28, will not go unnoticed here.

For yesterday's Washington Post Style section, Wil Haygood wrote an elegiacal front-page story about the lazy, hazy days of summers long gone by, when the distant tinkle of the Mister Softee truck's bell was enough to stop any kid fortunate enough to hear it in his or her tracks.

The caption of the 1964 photo above reads, "A little boy is about to get his licks alongside the Mister Softee ice cream truck of Vernon Havenner, who dispenses conical convivality to the young and hungry in the area."

The article follows.

    The Dime That Bought a Rich Taste of Summer

    It always began with that bell.

    That bell had a lyrical, almost orchestral tingle to it. It summoned you in the sweetest way, waking you from an afternoon nap, yanking you from the back yard, stopping you cold in a game of patty-cake with your big sister.

    The Mister Softee truck was a big, boxy thing, ice-cream white, rolling on its own time. And it was some kind of magic to a kid.

    James Conway, who founded the Mister Softee company in 1956 with his brother, William, died at his home in Ocean City, N.J., earlier this week. (William died in 2004.) The Conways' enterprise evolved into a multimillion-dollar business, operating in 15 states.

    They hardly could have imagined, in the beginning, how much of a ritual it would turn into: summertime, a truck with ice cream, the twisting legs of little boys and girls giddy with delight. As if there could be such a thing as starving for ice cream.

    Actually, there was, and you did.

    So there you were, on your front porch, the bell someplace in the distance. Wafting over rooftops, through leafy trees, coming around corners, shooting rockets of adrenaline into your 7-year-old body. Was it coming from the east or the west? You look both ways, head spinning. You better not even think about scooting over to Sixth Street to get to the truck before it gets to your house on Fifth. Mama or Grandma or Grandpa (whom we lived with) would just kill you. Vanishing from their sight! No way.

    And yet, brave friends sometimes did just that. Down off their porches, and whoosh! Gone. Six- and 7-year-olds -- a glint of truancy in their eyes -- sprinting to get their cones a block away, then walking back, past my house, tears already falling as they licked their vanilla cones because they'd spotted Mom or Dad back at the house. And they knew: Sure as dusk was coming, so was a spanking.

    You had to wait. And with the waiting came the fretting. Would Mister Softee run out of chocolate, out of vanilla, out of strawberry, out of sprinkles? Out of that milky chocolate syrup? Out of -- no! no! -- the pineapple topping?

    Rarely, if ever, it seemed.

    Looking back, of course, that was part of the drama of it all. You had to pray that by the time the truck circled Seventh Avenue, then Eighth Avenue, then Ninth, only to circle back to Fifth Street and you, that it would have enough ice cream left.

    The ritual was sacred, something you held inside yourself.

    First -- that bell having alerted your senses -- you had to start devising a way to get your hands on the 10 cents, or 20 cents, that you'd need. Never go into your piggy bank for such things: That was Christmas shopping money, school-supplies money, money for your wonderful Aunt Creola's birthday gift.

    With Mister Softee circling, it was time to go for the parent. How they loved you! How you loved them! How you needed an ice cream cone. You tugged and tugged at Mom's dress, even while she's on the phone, telling you to go sit down until she gets off the line. But you can't, you just can't, because Mister Softee is out there, and you're pointing out the window, your arm straight as a ruler.

    There were times, of course, when the answer depended on the mood in the household.

    A recent argument between Mom and your sisters? Between Mom and Dad, who lives across town, who has remarried? Aim for the minimum. Go for the dime.

    But -- the sun shining, Mom's new dress just arrived from that store in Hollywood, dinner light enough to keep her out of the kitchen for long spells (leftovers, coleslaw: summer eating) -- go for the 20 cents!

    "Hand me my purse," she'd say, her mood light, swirling a soda pop in her hands. You'd yelp, drop that arm, race for her purse, which was sitting there on the living-room chair, beside the sewing machine. Those were golden words, and they made you giddy. And there you are, emptying her purse, a nickel here, a dime there. That 50-cent piece? (They had those in 1962.) Hand that thing to Mama. She didn't even know it was down there, amid the nutmeg face powder.

    The clock's about to strike 7. Our Mister Softee always seemed to come around 7.

    And there you are, front and center, on the porch. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting. About to have a conniption fit because Terry and Marcus and Zachary and Sheila down the street are already in line where the truck is parked, and they're twisting themselves in a frenzy, Sheila with her hula hoop, luckiest girl in the world with a double cone of vanilla with sprinkles and now walking away twirling her hoop and licking her ice cream.

    Finally, here he comes, rolling to a stop (double parking) in front of 1343 N. Fifth. The trees throwing shade, the coming cars knowing to slow up, to squeeze around, Mama coming out onto the porch, handing you 20 cents. "Get me a double scoop of strawberry. In a cup."

    Other friends coming from around the sides of their houses -- they were playing marbles, they were splashing in someone's plastic pool, they were in their garages playing. We were all munchkins, in Oz for a few moments of a summer's day, happy and sticky and comfortable, surrounded by people who cared for us, who saw something orderly and tender in children, their children, enveloped in that habit of summer, staring at Mister Softee and his truck.

June 4, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Padlock Earrings

Re3tretr

Padlock itself is 0.5"L x 0.25"W x 1.25"H.

Brass and sterling silver.

$85.

If I'm smitten by someone I'm enclosing a card that reads, "You hold the key to my heart."

June 4, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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