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June 7, 2006

World's Oldest Self-Portrait?


Pictured above, it was discovered in a cave in Western France last December.

It was created about 27,000 years ago.

Pierre Sauvey of the Associated Press, for a story that appeared June 3, interviewed Jean-Yves Baratin, archaelogy curator for the Poitou-Charentes region where the cave is located.

Baratin said, "Two pieces of calcite that split were used to form the hair with two black horizontal strokes depicting the eyes. A vertical stroke formed the nose and another horizontal stroke the mouth."

June 7, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rose De-Thorner



From the website:

    Rose De-Thorner

    Thumb-depressed cutter effortlessly removes thorns and leaves from roses, carnations, etc.

    Thumb lever with spring action adjusts to all sizes of stems.

    Overall thorn remover length 2"; overall handle length 4-1/2".


June 7, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Buy Jim Dine's House and Studio


The Wall Street Journal's May 26 "Private Properties" column by Troy McMullen featured American artist Jim Dine's longtime studio in Washington, Connecticut.


Dine's work, above and below.

Here's the item from the newspaper.

    Pop-Art Pioneer Lists Studio

    Artist Jim Dine has just listed his longtime studio in Washington, Conn., for $595,000.


    The property, on five wooded acres about 80 miles north of Manhattan, was once part of a 20-acre site; Mr. Dine sold the other acres about 10 years ago, his broker says.

    Mr. Dine had the two-story, 3,100-square-foot home built in 1990.


    It includes a bedroom, full bath, porch, kitchen and great room Mr. Dine used for working.

    Carolyn Klemm, of Klemm Real Estate in Washington, Conn., has the listing.


    Mr. Dine, 70, began his career in the early 1960s and became well-known for using everyday objects such as men's ties, suspenders and hammers in his art.

    He helped launch the pop-art movement with Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.


    Mr. Dine has homes in Manhattan and Paris.

June 7, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dance Paws — 'Save your sole'


What's this?

Ultra-minimalist footwear (above).

Invented for dancers but with much wider potential application, for example among the fast-growing legions of barefoot runners.

From the Dance Paws website:

    Dance Paws®

    Prevent skin tears, blisters, and friction burns.

    Designed by dancers for comfortable, sure-footed contact with the floor.

    • Fit securely

    • Toe holes are customizable

    • Dark and light nude colors

    • Match skin color perfectly with powder make-up

    • Hand-washable

    • Handmade in the USA

$35 — by phone only: 866-326-2829.

June 7, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thomas Heatherwick takes New York by storm


His just-opened flagship store for Longchamp (above) has everyone swooning with amazement and delight.

Here's Claire Wilson's story from the June 4 New York Times.

    Undulations in Light and Steel

    When Heatherwick Studio of London was commissioned to create a sales emporium in Manhattan for Longchamp, a French producer of high-end handbags, leather goods and luggage, it didn't make a shop; it made a work of art.

    Display fixtures resemble sculptures. Ribbons of steel and wavy transparent panels make for a striking stairway to the sales area, on the second floor of the three-story building, giving an air of a theme park attraction and the promise of something fun to climb.

    The 9,830-square-foot store and showroom, at 132 Spring Street in SoHo, opened on May 24 and serves as Longchamp's flagship store in the United States. It is "a place you want to go to," said the project architect, Louis Loria, a principal at the Atmosphere Design Group in Mount Kisco, N.Y.

    "It could be a museum," said Mr. Loria, who has also designed stores for Gucci, Louis Vuitton and L'Occitane.

    The undulating staircase, which serves as the store's signature, is anchored on the 1,500-square-foot ground level that has deep reddish maple wood floors and exposed brick but houses only a small amount of merchandise.

    The staircase is built of 30 ribbons of steel, 11¾ inches wide and 1½ inches thick. Lined with rubber in a shade of burnt orange, the ribbons move in the same direction, from the street side to the rear. There is also a panel of steel ribbons that extends up the back wall of the three-story atrium.

    The ribbons are fashioned into 30 flat steps and two platforms, but the forward and upward motion is never interrupted. The stairway is attached to the wall, although it looks as if it is floating on air.

    "We hoped you would lose the sense of it being a staircase, that it turned into a waterfall of steel ribbons," said Thomas Heatherwick, a principal at Heatherwick Studio who designed the structure, which weighs 55 tons.

    Mr. Heatherwick also developed glasslike panels that were secured to the handrails. Created for the Longchamp project, the panels were made from polycarbonate, a material often used for airplane windshields and headlight lenses on many luxury cars. They were cut to size and fitted into frames, then heated to melt into something that draped slightly, according to Mr. Heatherwick.

    "There are 46 of them and every one is unique and reflects light in different ways," said Mr. Heatherwick, whose staff of 37 architects and engineers has designed projects from shopping malls and apartment towers to foot bridges for an international roster of clients.

    Ordinary, flat glasslike panels were out of the question. "It is so common now, it looks cheap," he said.

    The maple floor boards found on the ground level are used throughout the building, running back from the street to mimic the motion of the steel ribbons. Two maple counters on the ground floor do likewise; one is at the back, illuminated from below, and one is along the right-hand wall.

    Small groupings of merchandise, hanging from long hooks attached to the ceiling or high-powered magnets on adjustable shelf fixtures, break up the lines and the sparse ground-floor space. The magnets allow groups of handbags to be attached at any point along the network of steel ribbons, including the very front, where they support what is on display in the window to the street. Bags also "float" underneath the steps.

    Merchandise on the ground floor is only for display.

    "If the store is nice on the ground floor, why would I go up to the second?" Mr. Heatherwick asked rhetorically. "If we have no store on the ground floor, then everyone has to go up."

    Built and installed by Shawmut Design and Construction of Boston, the monumental staircase is awash in natural light, thanks to the skylight at the top of the atrium that cuts through the ceilings of the first two floors. The atrium is also incorporated into a third floor that was added to the 58-year-old building. The addition, measuring 1,700 square feet, houses executive offices and a wholesale showroom for the Longchamp line, which is sold in 200 stores in the United States, including seven company-owned boutiques. There are 100 company-owned boutiques worldwide.

    Like the ground floor, the third level has an exposed brick wall on which steel shelves, each a different shape and scattered unevenly, display merchandise for buyers coming in from across the country. Maple flooring is placed to meet the deck on a landscaped terrace, making the whole third floor look like a vast outdoor space.

    The play of daylight is also important in the 4,500-square-foot second-floor selling area, which has walls of windows looking out over Spring and Greene Streets. Jean Cassegrain, the president of Longchamp, which is based in Paris, said the windows, along with the busy location, were what sold him on the site. It once housed an architecture studio.

    "Corner windows on both streets give us a lot of daylight, and that is one of the great pluses," Mr. Cassegrain said. "A street-level store would have had much less light."

    Light flows unobstructed onto the sales area from Greene Street, illuminating 46 vertical floor-to-ceiling fixtures staggered along the north and south walls. Cut to various widths to hold different types of bags, each is made from multiple layers of pale American ash.

    Thomas Beyer, Shawmut's project manager, said the fixtures were built by laminating fine sheets of veneer on a curved form, then installed to look like parts of the ceiling had been cut out, peeled down and attached to the floor at an angle.

    In turn, shelves for merchandise peel out from them, the blond shade of the ash highlighting the handbags and contrasting with the deep reddish maple of the floors, the paneling on the back wall and the low glass-topped fixtures and benches at the center. Pipes, beams and electrical fixtures are exposed as part of the design. Shelves along the Spring Street side are spaced to leave windows exposed and let light filter around them.

    The new SoHo store — more artistic than commercial in design — is a radical departure for Longchamp, which has had a retail store on Madison Avenue for seven years. "We wanted something spectacular and striking that would become a New York landmark, and I think it will be," Mr. Cassegrain said.


Want to see more?

No problema.

Here's a link to a slide show with more views of the store as well as a look at some of Heatherwick's other work.

The store is at 132 Spring Street in Soho.

Heatherwick's signature Folding Footbridge in Northwest London is located in Paddington Basin, spanning the mouth of a small dock off the Grand Union canal in front of the new Marks & Spencer headquarters.

June 7, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hula Chair — 'Hips Don't Lie'


Catchy phrase, what?

From the catalog and website:

    Hula Chair

    The Hula Chair is the biggest sensation in Japan!

    Have a healthier body, better circulation and complete upper body stretched muscles.

    It's a must-have for all ages!

    Wake up naturally in the morning without coffee or unhealthy energy drinks!

    Experience better overall health with our patented Hula Chair.

    This modern miracle combines the best of ancient traditional Chinese medicine with 21st-century space-age technology.

    Improve your balance and coordination as it gently aligns your spine and improves blood circulation.

    You’ll love how it feels as it works out your abs and mid-section.

    And there’s no better way to warm up for any activity.

    You’ll never experience a more pleasurable workout!

    Simply sit upright in the Hula Chair, press the green button [below — in the right armrest]


    and let its elliptical motion work wonders on your body.

    • Operates on AC — plug and play

    • 24" x 21" x 24"

    • 50 lbs.


Where can I get one?


Oh, right here, for $199.95 — hey, thanks!

June 7, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'General Motors to hire non-English speaking CEO'


Above, a fake headline.

Its purpose?

To have you wonder for just a second or three, as I do from time to time, about how it is that Sony — far more Japan-centric than GM will ever be U.S.-focused — last year came to hire Sir Howard Stringer (right, above), a British-educated Welshman who does not speak Japanese (and has absolutely zero intention of learning the language) as its CEO.

Walter Mossberg (left, above) did a live, unrehearsed Q&A (during which the above photo was taken) with Sir Howard at last week's D: All Things Digital conference.

Excerpts appeared in yesterday's Wall Street Journal.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry as I read, fascinated.

It was like watching an accident happen, except no one gets killed — no one, that is, with the exception of Sony stockholders, who're gonna take a bath as Sir Howard shucks and jives for a while longer before Sony throws him out of the plane, to be sure with a very nice golden parachute so that at least he will have a soft landing.

My favorite line of Stringer's: "We're going to transform Sony quite radically in the next 12 months."

Stringer's just completed his first year, highlights of which include Sony's release of music CDs that surreptitiously installed malware on users' computers; folding its Qualia line of supersophisticated, grossly overpriced electronics with an accompanying loss of who knows how many hundreds of millions of dollars; letting Nintendo seize the bleeding edge in videogame technology with its upcoming, much-lauded Wii console (it just won "Best of Show" at this year's E3 Game Critics Awards — and is priced at half the $500 Sony's planning on charging for its PlayStation 3); producing an iPod competitor (the digital Walkman) so lame the company didn't even bother releasing it in the U.S. because they knew it would flop big-time; creating an online music store nobody uses because a) no one knows it exists, and b) it's too hard to figure out and has limited content; bringing out an E-book reader with great technical promise but priced far too high, with crippling digital rights management software and no WiFi capability, thus precluding its use as a tablet computer.

If past is prologue, the only transformation involving Stringer that will help this floundering, once-great company will be putting Sir Howard on the unemployment rolls.

Here's the entire published debacle.

    Shaking Up Sony

    Sir Howard Stringer Discusses Formidable Rivals, New Products; Soothing Silence in the Office

    After completing his first year as the first non-Japanese chief executive officer of Sony Corp., Sir Howard Stringer appeared last week at The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference to answer questions from Journal technology columnist Walt Mossberg.

    During the spirited session, in which he delivered a constant stream of wisecracks and jibes, Mr. Stringer discussed Sony's strengths and weaknesses, its competitors, and his efforts to shake up the giant company, which combines a major electronics business with a movie studio and a record label.

    He touched on Sony's new blockbuster film, "The Da Vinci Code"; its coming PlayStation 3 game console; its efforts to compete with Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod music player; its new Sony Reader electronic-book device; and the experience of leading a Japanese company without speaking Japanese.

    In addition, Mr. Stringer responded to Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates, who earlier in the conference had criticized the PlayStation 3, which competes with Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console, for being delayed and being too costly. Excerpts:

    Mr. Mossberg: I have to start by congratulating you on the tremendous opening of "The Da Vinci Code" ... So why didn't the reviewers like it?

    Mr. Stringer: Nobody ever built a statue to a critic. We made a deliberate attempt to follow the book as closely as we could because, with 50 million readers, alienating those readers would be a disaster. ... We've sold over $350 million box office in world-wide outside of the United States. There is a school of thought that it's a singularly European movie inasmuch as there are foreign actors and the locations are foreign and the teenage audiences that watch American movies don't like to work really hard at a movie. It also beat Xbox 3 in Europe in its second weekend...

    Mr. Mossberg: You mean "X-Men."

    Mr. Stringer (laughing): There's an obsession! Look, enough of "The Da Vinci Code." It's going to do, we think, some $750 million world-wide, and that's a success.

    Mr. Mossberg: I would say so. Speaking of Xbox ...

    Mr. Stringer: God I walked into that, didn't I ... Look, the skill of Bill Gates is he's so brilliant at his detail that when he slips in the salesmanship, most of us think: oh my God, he must be right. ... He talked on the one hand, and I loved it, he talked about [Windows] Vista [being] delayed as if delay was normal, and then he started mocking me for delaying PS3 [PlayStation 3].

    Mr. Mossberg: PS3 is going to be 500 bucks, right?

    Mr. Stringer: $499, and look it's got more bells and whistles than a 747. ... That Cell processor is extraordinarily powerful and you have nine hours of high definition on the Blu-ray disks alone...The reason it's expensive [is that] instead of concentrating on just the games player, which would have been done in the past, PlayStation 3 is designed to go somewhere else, where it's the center of the living room ... It's part of the new digital strategy to try and create a new software mentality in Tokyo because it's quite clear that we've been an analog company migrating to digital with some difficulty.

    Mr. Mossberg: Let's talk about software. I've come pretty close to writing that Sony stinks at software. I may have written that.

    Mr. Stringer: I think you did. You certainly told me often enough.

    Mr. Mossberg: It's true. [Apple Computer CEO] Steve Jobs thinks ...

    Mr. Stringer (to audience): Things were going so well. ...

    Mr. Mossberg: Consumer electronics in his [Jobs's] mind can be thought of as software in a box, and that has not been your strength. You've been primarily a hardware company. What have you done about this problem?

    Mr. Stringer: I spent a lot of my first year pushing on software. Now, Sony makes 3,000 stand-alone products and 50,000 SKUs, so part of our problem is we're this giant department store, ostensibly an analog department store, cranking out all these things that the world wants but for which we don't always get credit in the stock market. We actually have a lot of brilliant software engineers, but they create embedded software. We have had a great problem with application software. We never did it, as you know, with a digital Walkman, which we didn't even release here because we actually didn't want to give it to you.

    Mr. Mossberg: Oh, thanks.

    Mr. Stringer: We gave it to the rest of the world and retailers were very upset with it. It was a beautiful product, a purple device, wonderful-looking information on it. Very elegant in software and the two doormen in my building think it's absolutely great. But it's limited because we didn't sit down and have a systematic plan to build applications across the software-development program or software platform and furthermore, it's a weakness of Sony's ... Why am I confessing?

    Mr. Mossberg: Good, keep it coming.

    Mr. Stringer: We didn't bring software engineers into the product development at the beginning. The engineers would begin the product and then software would come after the fact. And that's because in a company that has jobs for life, the older people are at the top and the younger software engineers, of which there are many, are on the bottom, pushing up. So there's a kind of a generation gap, which we've worked really hard to eliminate in the last four months. We're going to transform Sony quite radically in the next 12 months.

    Mr. Mossberg: You've hired somebody from Apple to help you with this, right?

    Mr. Stringer: Yes, I did, Tim Schaaff, who was a vice president at Apple and he's rather perfect for Sony. You know the Japanese companies don't like really aggressive, assertive loud people. They like gentle fellows like yourself. Tim is very thoughtful, very self-deprecating, very calm and he's walked right into Sony and been accepted by the engineers which is really hard, because Sony is a very Sony-centric company.

    Mr. Mossberg: Let's talk about the [Apple] iPod for a second. Is it too late to significantly dent their share? Can you bring out a digital Walkman with the kind of end-to-end experience with the software and the service that can really go after them?

    Mr. Stringer: It's a mountain to climb. We're coming out with a device that uses OpenMG [a Sony copyright management technology], which is not everybody's favorite over here, [but] will do well in Japan. It will dent Apple in Japan mostly for nationalistic reasons I suspect ... If you're talking about delivering music, [there's] the Sony walkman phone. We sold three million before Christmas in Europe, but thanks to the confusing cellular system in America, we're only just bringing the Sony walkman phone into the United States. We're bringing out another Sony Ericsson phone that pushes email and that will give BlackBerry a bit of a headache. That's coming out this summer. I'm not suggesting this is going to have Steve Jobs sleepless, but you just have to keep coming at him, and I'm fairly convinced that the next generation of devices will master software.

    Mr. Mossberg: Let's talk about the Sony Reader, which is a new and quite different e-book device. ... This is not just a device. You have to pull off something sort of akin to iPod and iTunes with this, where you have a device people like, at a price they will pay, and very good software on the computer to handle it and then a good service with a lot of content where the DRM [digital rights management] isn't too intrusive.

    Mr. Stringer: You're right, that's a lot of pieces to put [together], that sort of end-to-end model that Gates was saying no one wants, but everyone does, actually. I've put my name on this damn thing. I'm a reader. I know that's an odd phenomenon these days, but I carry books all around the world, so when I saw this I fell in love with this device. The fact that you can store 80 books on this and more on the memory stick, the fact that its battery life is seven-and-a-half thousand pages, which means about 25 books. ... The publishers love this ... Dan Brown [author of "The Da Vinci Code"] endorsed this at the Consumer Electronics Show.

    Mr. Mossberg: I'm shocked! You made his movie, you're making millions for him, and he was kind enough to endorse it. That's incredible.

    Mr. Stringer: He was in love. ... I have to do a kind of Steve Jobs salesmanship job, which is a fairly intimidating thought. My colleagues in Japan don't believe I can make this work in the United States because they actually don't think Americans read. ... But I think the demand for this [is huge]. I get called every day about it.

    Mr. Mossberg: There has to be a lot of content there.

    Mr. Stringer: There's plenty of content. We've got thousands of books. I'm not worried about that. I'm really worried about -- can I create a business model where the demand is great enough to create the numbers? Part of Sony's problem is, in order to sell almost anything, you're talking about building a demand for millions of things, always millions, not thousands.

    Mr. Mossberg: You own a record company.

    Mr. Stringer: I do.

    Mr. Mossberg: How's that going? How is it to own one of the four big entrants in one of the stupider industries in the world ... ?

    Mr. Stringer: And it's not true that I beat my wife either ... I think you're right about the music companies. They are like all companies that are great and are doing things really well and having a fantastic time. They want the status quo to remain long after the quo has lost any status.

    The record companies, remember, were not enthusiastic about the CD. They loved plastic and when the CD came along, they said, 'whoa, look -- windfall.' They were resistant to the digital world and in a way they forced Sony to try and create a music-download system that was utterly and completely secure, and that turned out to be a dream that customers didn't want. Customers drive everything now, not the product.

    Mr. Mossberg: Well, on that theme, when is your next copy-protected CD coming out that will install, you know, malicious software? How did that happen?

    Mr. Stringer: Actually, it didn't go so far. Computers did not crash. Big Ben did not stop. I'm not trying to blame somebody else, but this was an attempt to do the right thing at a low level. The senior management of BMG or Sony did not know this was going on. We responded very quickly and put out patches. ... We didn't say to ourselves as a company, we're going to screw every computer in town. We made a mistake and Sony paid a terrible price.

    Mr. Mossberg: You're the first non-Japanese CEO of Sony, which is clearly one of the great companies in the world. You don't speak Japanese, is that correct?

    Mr. Stringer: No.

    Mr. Mossberg: So how do you run the company when you don't speak the language that most of the people speak?

    Mr. Stringer: I get plenty of calming silence. Soothing. ... The truth is that Sony is very much a global company. Only one quarter of the revenues come from Japan, 75% come from the rest of the world. English is the common language, and I would say if I give a speech, as I did last week to 1,200 managers, 50% will understand my English. They may not understand what the hell I'm saying, but 50% speak English and another 25% speak it fairly well. Then we have astonishing simultaneous translations. I have the emperor's translator, who speaks better Japanese than I speak English and she tidies my syntax up. She's really quite remarkable. People say, 'God, she was great today.' They don't say I was great.

    Mr. Mossberg: You are in so many businesses that clearly you have a wide variety of competitors. Does Samsung [Electronics Co.] rank as a particularly important competitor?

    Mr. Stringer: Samsung is a first rate company and they have a wealth of revenue coming from other areas. But I think in the high-definition world, which is clearly our strategy for this year, we have still an advantage. Blu-ray is part of the high-definition strategy and then we have the 4K projector [called SXRD], which we're demonstrating in California this week. We have the digital camera, which we make with Panavision. We have high-definition Bravia [TVs], high-definition rear projectors, and we have a high-definition camcorder which is the world's best selling camera. So our strategy is sort of circling the globe with high definition -- we think we're poised for the high-definition miracle.

    Sony is a target for everybody. We have more competitors than you've had hot dinners. ... The truth is, one of the things I did ... was eliminate some of those SKU's because it's exhausting trying to win on every front. Every engineer loves his own product, so if you have an electronic toothbrush with a camera, we would give the same amount of marketing to that as everything else. After awhile the company sinks, exhausted, to its knees. Well, we've changed that.


No wonder Stringer sounds so addled: he spends so much time on planes flying between Sony headquarters in Tokyo, New York and points in between that his biological clock resembles one of those in the movies, where they spin the hands around in a blur to indicate days and weeks passing in a single bound.

My second-favorite line of Stringer's, this in reference to Sony's upcoming mobile electronic devices: "I'm not suggesting this is going to have Steve Jobs sleepless...."

10-to-1 Jobs burst out laughing so hard when he read that, he started crying and hiccupping.

I wonder how many of you would read bookofjoe if I published it in Pashto?

I'm just saying.

June 7, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cor by Plank — World's Most Expensive Soap


Why so costly?

Simple: silver nanoparticles are the not-so-secret, über-pricey active ingredient.

From the website:

    Cor Soap by Plank

    "Blimey your skin looks fab" will be what your friends say when you start to use Cor soap.

    Lasts anywhere from 6-9 months when used with discretion.

    Cor is suitable for every skin type.

    Cor's mild pH level of 7.2 means it's just as effective on troubled acne skin as it is on the most delicate and sensitive of skin.

    • 120g (4.3 oz)

    • Ingredients: Silver, Silica, Collagen, Chitosan and Sericin.



$115 a bar.


I just had the crack research team (mathematics section) run the numbers; they tell me that comes out to $428 a pound.

A bit rich for your blood?

Perhaps mademoiselle would like to try a sample bar?

No problema.


June 7, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

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