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June 10, 2006

'Damienhirst — The book'


Above, part of a full-page ad for the just-out pocket-size version of the book as it appeared in last Sunday's New York Times Book Review.

Say what you will about Hirst's art, he has a genius for titles and language.

Consider the title of one of his most famous pieces, consisting of a shark in a tank of formaldehyde (below) —


"The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living."

Below, the Times ad in its entirety —



June 10, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vent Extender


Here's an item that's been hiding in plain sight for years.

I see it every now and then in catalogs and just turn the page.

But today I stopped for a moment and thought, hey, wait just a minute.

There are lots of people all over our blue planet who don't have a lot of room in their living space and therefore by necessity are forced to place furniture over air vents, impeding and impairing the flow of fresh air in and out of the room.

This clever device diverts the airstream to where you'd like it to go.

From the website:

    Vent Extender

    Vent Extender fits beneath your furniture, clips to vent and redirects air to the open area of the room.

    Heat and cool rooms faster.

    Spend less time adjusting the thermostat, use less energy and pay lower energy bills.

    • Extends from 20"-36"

    • 11"-W x 1"-H

    • Clear plastic




June 10, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A. "News Relay"


Q. What's the most-watched news program on the planet?

China Central Television (CCTV) produces it every evening for an average audience of 140 million viewers — roughly 14 times that of the highest-rated U.S. network news show, NBC's "Nightly News," according to yesterday's Wall Street Journal story by Jason Dean and Geoffrey A. Fowler.

Last Monday evening all of China was shocked when two new anchors appeared, without any notice that change was afoot or even being contemplated.

They're the first new faces on the show in over a decade.

Even more surprising was the fact that the newcomers, Li Zimeng (left, above) and Kang Hui (right, above) are much younger than the six other anchors, all of whom are at least 40.

Kang is in his mid-thirties and Li is just 28.

Among China's 1.3 billion people are 400 million households with TV sets.

Here's the article.

    Two Youthful Anchors Give China's TV News A Jolt of Personality

    After their television debut this week, Li Zimeng and Kang Hui may be on their way to becoming household names like Katie Couric and Brian Williams -- in China.

    Ms. Li and Mr. Kang are the youthful new anchors of China Central Television's half-hour evening news broadcast, the first fresh faces in more than a decade on a program that is watched nightly by an estimated 140 million people. Mr. Kang, in his mid-thirties, and Ms. Li, 28, made their unannounced appearance on Monday, delivering Beijing's official line on current events in a cheerful manner that departed from the dour demeanors of CCTV's rotating group of six other newscasters.

    "They were actually announcing the news with a smile! My Heavens!" wrote one viewer on Tianya, a Chinese online bulletin board site. "This is the first time I finished watching the program!" said another. Ms. Li, in particular, was viewed as "the most modern, the most fashionable, and the most beautiful" of the show's anchors, as the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper put it.

    The addition of Ms. Li and Mr. Kang reflect the reshaping of China's media and the government's approach to propaganda as new, livelier avenues of information flourish in the country. The duo is part of a broader but cosmetic effort by the state-run broadcaster to add a touch of personality to its programs and woo viewers and advertisers -- but without allowing editorial independence.

    Once the only source of televised news for China's one-billion-plus population, CCTV today faces growing competition from Internet news sites and more daring channels offered by smaller broadcasters and News Corp.-invested Phoenix Satellite Television. Young people, many of whom feel little affinity for the Communist Party, are much less likely than their parents to watch CCTV's nightly news.

    CCTV apparently hopes Ms. Li and Mr. Kang can help change that. The pair have yet to reappear, but they are the talk of the nation, with feature spreads in newspapers and much buzz on the Internet. CCTV officials declined to comment on the new anchors. One network executive says they are part of a bigger campaign to introduce "more youthful, modern programming that has greater relevance to viewers' lives." (The two anchors are not novices, though. They previously hosted other CCTV programs and are graduates of Beijing Broadcasting Institute, now called Communication University of China.)

    First broadcast in 1978 in a format similar to its current form, the evening news program is the core of the government's official message machine. Anchors -- a man and a woman -- read the news each night at 7 p.m. in a humorless manner, looking only at the teleprompter or the scripts on their desk. There is virtually no banter.

    The show, called "News Relay," generally leads with reports on the activities of the country's top leaders in order of the officials' rank in the party hierarchy. That formula has been followed so strictly over the years that political analysts often try to determine who is up and who is down based on how much air time each official gets.

    Recognizing TV's power as a propaganda instrument, especially among the country's largely peasant population, the government promotes state TV, even installing satellite dishes in remote villages. About 400 million households now have TVs.

    As a result, "News Relay" has a viewership that Ms. Couric, who begins anchoring "CBS Evening News" in September, might kill for: the Chinese program gets an estimated average audience that is roughly 14 times that of the highest-rated U.S. network news show, "NBC Nightly News" hosted by Mr. Williams. (CBS battles for second place with ABC.)

    Despite "News Relay's" dry format, advertisers flock to it. The 15-second spots available after the show, which runs uninterrupted, are called "golden time slots" that can cost $100,000 each. Yet audiences for some CCTV programs, including "News Relay," are slipping. It now has competition from both Phoenix and a channel called Dragon TV, which is run by the state-owned Shanghai Media Group.

    In recent years, the government has pressed China's 1,000-plus TV channels to commercialize -- even though it still tightly controls content. The government, for instance, limits Phoenix's broadcasts to mainly hotels, universities and government offices. But since Phoenix is based in Hong Kong, it is a little less under the government's thumb -- and thus is shaking up TV news in China in part by treating its hip, young anchors as celebrities.

    The explosion of the Internet in China, which now boasts more than 111 million users and hundreds of thousands of domestic Web sites, has given the Chinese alternative sources of news. Even with government controls, the Web offers far more diverse reports than CCTV. Many state-owned newspapers also have jazzed up their offerings.

    High-level dissatisfaction with "News Relay" surfaced in March, when a member of an official advisory group submitted a proposal to the government arguing that the program had become "monotonous." The document was leaked to the public on the Internet.

    In late May, CCTV announced plans to give the program a new image. Changes included a "more fashionable" studio and more "innovative expression," according to an announcement on CCTV's Web site. It said nothing about new anchors.

    The show's content so far remains the same. During their broadcast, Ms. Li and Mr. Kang kicked off the news with an 11-minute report on Chinese President Hu Jintao's speech on the topic of innovation to government scientists and engineers.

    Indeed, little has changed in how TV journalists in general broadcast news in China, says David Bandurski, a researcher at the University of Hong Kong's China Media Project. "They want media to look more savvy and approachable...but control is the supreme rule," he says.

June 10, 2006 at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Solar-Powered Floating Crocodile Head — The ultimate in swimming pool security


Whoever thought this one up, I want to meet.

From websites:

    Solar Pool Croc Light

    Floating crocodile head is the life of the pool party!

    Its solar-powered eyes glow up to eight hours at night and shut off automatically at dawn.

    There's no wiring or installation needed.

    Also scares away rodents or pests from pond or garden.

    19" x 6.5" x 4.5".


More details here.


Why they put a baby crocodile atop the big one's head


I simply can't say.

June 10, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Bad breath and tongue cleansing


There are seemingly infinitely many devices, techniques and substances purported to clean your tongue and eliminate or at least mitigate bad breath.

The fact there are so many means none of them are much good.

Just as good money drives out bad, one good medical solution eliminates all the other pretenders and wanna-be's.

Consider for a moment the hundreds of remedies for hiccups — none of which work with the same certainty removing an inflamed appendix will cure appendicitis.

But I digress.

The source of bad breath is indeed, in most cases, the tongue.

There's little doubt of that.

The problem is that the area from which the foul smells emanate is at the very base of the tongue, where thick mucus accumulates to harbor the odor-causing bacteria.

You can't get at that area because approaching it with a foreign body like a scraper or cleaning tool triggers your gag reflex, if you're healthy.

It's a protective mechanism from deep time to prevent your inhaling or aspirating something potentially dangerous or harmful.

The tongue scrapers sold as panaceas will definitely clean the visible area of your tongue, but that's not where the problem is.

Sure, your tongue will look all nice and pink afterward but it's purely cosmetic.

Not that cosmetic improvement is to be scoffed at.

For the purpose of such tongue lifts I recommend the Oolitt tongue scraper (above and below).


It's cheap ($1.40 here), effective and easy and comfortable to use.

Note that you're supposed to employ it prior to brushing your teeth rather than after: I've been using this device for many years but the wrong way — after brushing — until I carefully read the instructions on the package insert last night, to wit: "Use twice daily before brushing teeth."


You can get at the unreachable area at your tongue base and clean it up, by the way.

And you don't have to spend a zillion dollars to do so.

The active ingredient in every single bad breath treatment program is hydrogen peroxide.

Simple, cheap hydrogen peroxide, in the brown plastic bottle that's available at grocery stores, drug stores, 7-Eleven, everywhere, for 69 cents or so a bottle.


Buy a bottle next time you're at the store, then follow these steps:

1) In the morning, before you brush your teeth, take a swig of the hydrogen peroxide — but don't swallow it.*

2) Tip your head back with your mouth open so that the stuff pools at the base of your throat.

3) Do this in a quiet place and if you listen carefully you'll hear faint fizzing from inside your mouth that sounds like soda (I pretend those are the cries of the dying bacteria).

4) Keep your head back like that for 15 seconds or so, then spit the stuff out.

Within two weeks your breath will be fresher — or I will refund (cheerfully, as always) every penny you paid for your peroxide.

And you can take that to the bank.

*Don't worry if you swallow it — it's not toxic and won't make you sick.

I'm not saying you should drink the whole bottle, mind you.

June 10, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Grilliput — 'World's smallest mobile kitchen'


Above, in use.

Grilling surface measures 9" x 10".



packed for transport — 11" x 0.9".

Read more here.


Weighs 20 oz.


June 10, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Eames Chair — Deconstructed


"The Eames chair and ottoman in a 'Component Blowup' installation, an 'exploded' version of the chair that breaks down its parts and suspends them from wires in proper relation to one another."

Above, the caption accompanying the photo above, which appeared in the May 26 New York Times accompanying Roberta Smith's review of a new show entitled, "The Eames Lounge Chair: An Icon of Modern Design."

The show celebrates the 50th anniversary of the unveiling of the chair on NBC's "Home" show of March 14, 1956.

The exhibition is on view through September 3 at the Museum of Arts and Design, located at 40 West 53rd Street in New York City; tel: 212-956-3535; www.madmuseum.org.

The "Component Blowup" is there along with an Eames chair for you to try out.

Full disclosure: I sat in one and cannot understand why it's so popular.

I found it uncomfortable and nowhere near what I demand in a chair in which I want to sit for hours at a time reading, my favorite thing to do in the whole world.


In this respect the Eames chair is identical to the Aeron, another iconic American seat which I find very unpleasant.

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

Earth Anchor


From the website:

    Auger-Style Earth Anchor

    15" long, with a 1/2" diameter shaft and a 4" diameter auger, these anchors provide a vertical pull-out strength of 500 lbs.

    Auger-Style Earth Anchors are retrievable and generally work well in softer or sandier soil conditions.



Prefer it in orange?

No problema.

That iteration is 27" long, with a 7/16" diameter shaft, a 3" diameter auger, vertical pull-out strength (also known as "holding power," or HP) of 500 lbs, and costs $5.99.

The easiest way to insert and remove these devices is to put a rod of some sort — preferably metal — through the eye and use it as a handle to increase torque.

June 10, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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