« August 20, 2006 | Main | August 22, 2006 »

August 21, 2006

Smithsonian Photography Initiative — Now Online


Today's launch day.

The Smithsonian's 18 museums, nine research centers and the National Zoo between them own 13 million photographs.

Until now they might as well have not existed for the overwhelming majority of Earthlings unable to gain in-person access to the 700 photo collections scattered among the Smithsonian's holdings.

Today marks the proverbial camel's nose under the tent, as the Smithsonian's new web site, www.spi.si.edu, provides access to 1,800 digital images taken by 100 photographers.

More — much, much more — to follow.

Jacqueline Trescott wrote a front-page Arts section story about the project for yesterday's Washington Post; it follows.

    Fish, a Hyena and John Brown's Glare

    First Batch From Vast Photo Archive Goes Online

    From its very beginnings, the Smithsonian Institution has taken and collected photographs. Masses of them.

    John Brown's steely eyes were captured in a daguerreotype by August Washington in 1846. A now-extinct Tasmanian hyena, sleek and striped, attracted photographer Thomas W. Smillie in 1891. Harry Bowden went to Jackson Pollock's chaotic studio in 1949 and found an unintentional abstract of cans and brushes. As the 20th century ended, the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory Center recorded hot gas in the Milky Way.

    Spread across the Smithsonian's 18 museums, nine research centers and the National Zoo are 13 million photographs. In the hallways and laboratories are about 700 collections of photos. Harnessing them into a form that gives researchers and the public some access has long been a goal for Smithsonian caretakers.

    But like a lot of things at the Smithsonian, you had to know where to go to find what you were looking for. Some photos were locked away in the researchers' storehouses.

    Tomorrow, the Smithsonian Photography Initiative is launching an electronic means of looking at a small part of this vast collection. A Web site, www.spi.si.edu, will provide access to 1,800 digital images, the work of 100 photographers, who used 50 different processes.

    "The Smithsonian was born at the same moment as photography. Then, the Smithsonian was a very modern institution and quite naturally picked up the new technology," says Merry Foresta, director of the SPI projects. "Photography could bring back to the Smithsonian things from the world and this gave the Smithsonian a way of disseminating itself back into the world."

    The question, Foresta says, was how do you find what's important and artistic when there are photographs of every subject the Smithsonian touches, from archaeology to marine science to space travel to celebrity portraits and presidents. "Almost 2,000 images in the face of 13 million may not seem a lot. We have tried to create a good sample and an interdisciplinary sample. This allows us to test in a small way how this might work," she says.

    For about 30 years, the idea of a physical institution, a Center for Photography, was debated. But that faded as fundraising became an uphill battle and the Internet provided new possibilities. "In the early part of the 21st century, this seemed like a lot of work, to create a building. We decided to embrace fully the idea of the virtual world," Foresta says. Museums were beginning to digitize their collections, and many curators and scientists were very protective of their materials.

    "Quickly we realized we would have a war on our hands if we were loading up the trucks and saying, 'Bring your photographs.' It would have destroyed what is unique about the Smithsonian. The photographers are embedded in the subjects," Foresta says.

    The Web site was built with a $500,000 gift from the Comer Foundation, a Chicago-based family fund.

    One test, now that thousands of frames are quickly available, will be how people use the site.

    In the first format, people can build their own scrapbooks; for example, portraits of Native Americans. The opening page has an interactive feature called "Enter the Frame." The visitor can browse by name, photographer, Smithsonian museum, decade and other key search terms. Then they can string them together or go on to another topic.

    But will people be looking for a cultural benchmark, a personal memoir or scholarly information? "At first it seems free-form and gives people an opportunity to experience the interconnectivity of the images. So is that what they want to do?" Foresta asks.

    The depth of the Smithsonian collections will be quickly apparent. Foresta, a longtime curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, flipped over the holdings in the engineering division of the National Museum of American History. Here are photographs of the building of the Washington Aqueduct in 1885 near Great Falls. Montgomery C. Meigs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who oversaw a number of important construction projects in Washington, including the Capitol, recognized the value of photography and documented many projects. Meigs had pictures taken of the Pension Building, now the National Building Museum, rising with a series of pillars in 1883.

    "They also have a collection of bridges and dams. Many are extraordinary examples of engineering feats but they are also beautiful photographs. So we have collections that have incredible examples of photography that was used for other kinds of reasons," Foresta says.

    For the photo historians, William Henry Fox Talbot, Richard Avedon, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Raghubir Singh, Antoin Sevruguin, Hans Namuth, Mathew Brady, Edward Steichen, Frances Benjamin Johnson and James VanDerZee are represented.

    The rugged majesty of the Great Pyramid was captured in 1858 by Francis Frith. A contact sheet of John F. Kennedy and his daughter, Caroline, shows their playfulness in the weeks before his inauguration. There's a zany self-portrait of Adams, taken in a photo booth. This 1930 snapshot with his hat pulled down to his eyes contrasts vividly with his open landscapes.

    There is a photo showing Washington's Addison Scurlock protesting outside a theater showing "Gone With the Wind" in 1939. Bob Dylan was snapped at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 by Diana Davies. And Sandra J. Raredon used digital radiograph to show the lines and bones of the surgeonfish.

    This is a beginning, Foresta says. "The Web site is the first manifestation.... It's not complete. We have built the house with many rooms yet to be furnished."

August 21, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'No Hang-Ups' Back-to-School System


The three-ring binders


cost $62 for a set of four.

The Notebook Jackets


are $30 — apiece.

The hangers?

You're on your own.

August 21, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Here's what I've been looking for — a genuine copy of a fake Dior'


Those of a certain age will recognize the headline quote — the rest of you don't know and don't care.

Why pay more?

Wait a minute, joe — we're not selling here.

Oh, my bad... sorry.

OK, let's start over.

Great front-page story in today's Wall Street Journal about the explosion of fake celebrity pages on MySpace.

Turns out anyone with TechnoDolt™ capability can do it — which means, in effect, that if a mirror fogs up when placed in front of your mouth, you're good to go in this [My]Space.

Here's Jessica E. Vascellaro's article.

    Potemkin Visages: Spotting Fake Celebs On MySpace.com

    Web Sleuths Verify Profiles So Teens Aren't Taken In; A Sham Pamela Anderson

    MySpace.com, the social-networking sensation on the Web, is home to the profiles of more than 100 million members, most of them teenagers. It also is home to at least 12 Paris Hiltons, 16 David Spades and about two dozen Eva Longorias.

    The proliferation of celebrity posers frustrates the many MySpace members who use the site to follow news about — and send fan mail to — pop icons and other prominent personalities who join for cheap publicity.

    When poet Bryant McGill, 36 years old, encountered a MySpace fake, he felt compelled to do something about it. He had sent a message to what he thought was the MySpace profile page of a well-known author, only to receive a brief reply riddled with errors.

    "It was just not the person," says Mr. McGill, author of "The McGill English Dictionary of Rhyme." "Imagine if I was some kid pouring out some sentimental and heartfelt letter, and the reader responds and, God forbid, says something negative. That certainly crosses a line."

    So Mr. McGill and Jim Karol — a comedian and self-described "mentalist," or mind reader — set up a group Web site on MySpace called 100% Verified Celebs and MySpace Personalities, which authenticates MySpace celebrity profiles, free of charge. So far, 167 people of varying degrees of fame have had the imprimatur bestowed on their pages. These range from actor Gary Busey to lesser lights like Cher — not the singer/actress but the winner of the TV reality show "Beauty and the Geek, Season Two." Tentatively approved: a Val Kilmer profile.

    MySpace, a unit of News Corp., has become an essential part of many teenagers' social life, an online hangout where members can check out one another's profiles, share photos and messages, and show off their tally of "friends" — a MySpace status symbol.

    To gain a friend, a member must ping another member through his or her profile page and then be accepted by that person as a friend. Adding a celebrity friend has even more cachet — which makes the fake MySpace pages so alluring.

    MySpace regular Morgan Kapassakis, a 17-year-old in New York City, came across Pamela Anderson's profile page and decided to fire off a note to the actress, telling her that she thought she was "hot." Ms. Kapassakis realized she had been taken in when she received a terse reply containing an unsavory comment about her own physique. "I would have felt better if I hadn't gotten a response," Ms. Kapassakis says. "Then at least I might think she was real." (Ms. Anderson's spokeswoman says that the star doesn't have a MySpace page.)

    Although MySpace rules prohibit impostors, there's no verification process. To set up an account, users provide an email address, name, password, gender and birthday — all of which can be fudged. As long as the email address, real or fake, hasn't been used before, a page can be created.

    Nick Thomas, 24, of Fort Collins, Colo., created a fake Woody Allen profile a few months ago to impress a woman he had a crush on. Not knowing much about the comedian, he did his due diligence on fan Web sites — and other fake Woody Allen MySpace pages. He lifted a black-and-white headshot of the actor from Google. On the profile page, he described his fake "Woody" as having "a passion for complaining" and looking to meet "anyone with some nice poisonallity. Maybe a nice Jewish girl."

    "It's amazing how many messages you get asking if you are the real deal," says Mr. Thomas, who checks up on his fake Woody a few times a week and has racked up 21 "friends" on the site.

    A MySpace spokeswoman says the number of requests to investigate celebrity impostors is "relatively small," though its staff monitors for copyright infringement and other abuses. She declined to comment on specific efforts to ferret out the fakes.

    Mr. McGill and his informal group of researchers pore over profile pages at the request of people who've posted the profiles and seek validation. Applicants for the seal of approval are pelted with questions about the celebrity's work — like who starred alongside him or her in a first film — detailed in professional movie databases. Mr. McGill also checks whether pictures on a profile can be found easily through a Google image search; if so, he assumes the profile is a fake compiled from material widely available online.

    Once approved, the verified personalities are listed on a group page at the MySpace site groups.myspace.com/verifiedcelebs, and their profile pages can carry the group's logo.

    Mr. McGill's team recently verified the page of former "Saturday Night Live" comedian Jim Breuer (Mr. Karol had stayed in touch with the comedian after being a guest on his radio show). A "Joan Rivers" and a "Robert De Niro" failed the test. "Joan" came clean after Mr. McGill continued to press her with questions about whether the site was authentic (the account has since been deleted). "De Niro" failed when he ignored Mr. McGill's request that he put a link to his MySpace account on the real Mr. De Niro's official home page — another of Mr. McGill's verification methods.

    "I am getting obsessed with figuring out who is real and who is fake," says Mr. Karol, 53. "The face of MySpace is changing because we are spreading the word."

    An effort to verify Mr. Kilmer's profile page — or at least one of them, for there are several — is "ongoing," Mr. McGill says, even though a mutual acquaintance vouched for its authenticity. The actor's "interests and hobbies seemed credible, though his photos seemed weak," Mr. McGill says. Mr. Kilmer's publicist couldn't be reached for comment.

    Certain profiles of New York Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson and first baseman Jason Giambi passed muster with Mr. McGill when a friend of his told him she could vouch for their authenticity. The fact that there were similar-looking profiles for other Yankees helped, too, Mr. McGill says.

    But those profiles weren't the only ones for those other Yankees. A Yankee spokesman said this set of profiles wasn't endorsed by the team, and he couldn't verify whether they were created by the players themselves — or by somebody else.

    Comments on some of these other Yankee pages suggest the latter: Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez's purported page says, "I dont mean to brag or anything but I like to think of myself as the best player in the game." The page for Johnny Damon, formerly of the 2004 World Series champion Red Sox, says he is relieved to now be on a team "that has the pride of winners."

    Mr. McGill concedes that fakes may sometimes slip through. At the same time, some members of the group probably need not worry about impostors. Scott Flansburg, whom Guinness Book of World Records honors as the "fastest human calculator"; Pasi Schalin, a former ice-hockey player turned Los Angeles-based personal trainer to the stars; and Las Vegas magician the Amazing Jonathan have all joined the group.

    "We try to follow a loose standard" in deciding who is a celebrity, says Mr. McGill. He defines "well-known people" as those with at least 5,000 fans. "You never know who is someone's hero," he says.

    Cher — of the WB network's "Beauty and the Geek" fame — sought admission to stem an irritating flood of daily messages from fans asking her whether she was in fact the reality-TV star. Cheryl Tenbush — her real name — sent Mr. McGill a MySpace message, and he followed up with a phone call. "He had never heard about the show and was very nice about it," says the 24-year-old, who lives in Los Angeles. "I was very convincing." Now, she says, "I typically get messages asking me out on dates."

    Vocalist Susaye Greene, a former member of the Supremes, was accepted after stumbling across dozens of bogus Supremes profiles. "There are [imitators] who look nothing like you and who don't know anything about the Supremes," says the 57-year-old singer. "It is kind of heartbreaking."

    Some celebrities say they aren't bothered by the fake pages. Talk-show host Carson Daly is a popular spoofing target. Fakes abound commenting on everything from his physique ("6'1"/slim/slender") to his personality ("I like to be on TV a lot ha ha"). But the host doesn't mind. "Fan sites help promote the show virally," says Mr. Daly, whose official MySpace profile has attracted more than 29,000 "friends." "It certainly behooves us to embrace them."


Being on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal "means nothing" (top) to MySpace celebrity verifiers McGill and Karol.

But you can bet your bottom yuan that being on the front page of today's bookofjoe will make them blush with pride and delight.

Or their money back.

August 21, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Create your own Web 2.0 logo


Created by webmaster Alex P.

TechnoDolt™-approved so you know it's got to be really simple and fool-proof.

Note to self: Emphasize the word "fool" above.

But I digress.


[via Didn't You Hear and extremecarstereo.com]

August 21, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Great Canadian Spaghetti Plate — World Premier Video

Courtesy of Jacques-Paul Rozand, inventor of this simply elegant, elegantly simple aide-de-pasta.

See it in action here.

August 21, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Silver Fashionista PowerSquid


The problem with the original is — well, you can see for yourself:


Simply doesn't work with the Condé Nast Building's furnishings and decor.

Now there's a solution.

From the website:

    Silver PowerSquid™

    Surge protectors and power strips power numerous electric and electronic devices from a single location, especially handy for home theaters and computer workstations.

    But so many of these components use bulky AC adapters that block more than one outlet on a power strip, diminishing their convenience.

    Get the maximum use of your electrical outlets with the PowerSquid Power Multiplier, which plugs into a single grounded outlet but lets you plug five of even the bulkiest adapters into its flexible arms.

    Why add expensive additional outlets or power strips to your configuration when up to five power adapters can easily be connected to one power outlet with this inexpensive adapter?

    • Flexible alternative to traditional power strips

    • Five receptacles plug into one electrical outlet

    • Cords of various lengths


Just because the marketers don't realize that their target buying group wears lipstick and perfume doesn't mean you can't adopt it for your own purposes.


Wait a minute, joe: where is the darned thing?


Oh, OK — now I see it.

I don't even want to think about how many of these they'd sell if they offered them in a variety of colors and patterns.

August 21, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Professional Porch Sitters Union (PPSU)


It was founded in 1999 on the front porch of Claude Stephens's home in Louisville, Kentucky.

In the photo above, Stephens is seated next to fellow Louisville Local 1339 Union member Erin Henle on the front porch of PPSU World Headquarters.

According to Peter Whoriskey, writing in yesterday's Washington Post, PPSU has one rule: "Sit down for a spell. That can wait."

In his day job, Stephens is the education director at a local arboretum.

People in nearly every state in the country are starting up PPSU chapters.

No word yet about foreign outposts: why not be the first in your country to set one up?

According to Stephens, "Starting your own chapter of PPSU is simple. You simply declare yourself a local chapter, pick a number to represent your Local Chapter identity and then sit back with friends and neighbors to celebrate with an interesting story or two. Meetings can be called at any time by any member and attendance is optional."

TechnoDolt™-approved so you know it has to be good.

For more information, email PPSU World Headquarters: crowblackcrow@yahoo.com

Or write:

    PPSU Local 1339

    1339 Hull Street

    Louisville, KY 40204

Great news: I just started the Charlottesville chapter, PPSU Local 2809.


Listen to NPR's "All Things Considered" July 28, 2006 feature on PPSU here.

August 21, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Measuring Tape Tape



From the website:

    Measuring Tape Tape

    This yellow and black measuring tape is used in the theatre and film industry to block off sets and stages.

    We have found many additional uses for it and appreciate its striking graphic quality.


1/2" x 50 yard roll.


August 21, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

« August 20, 2006 | Main | August 22, 2006 »