« September 4, 2006 | Main | September 6, 2006 »

September 5, 2006

Rachel Mount — The cake as art


Janice Blackburn, in her July 15, 2006 Financial Times story, introduced me to cake artist Rachel Mount, whose cakes appear above and below.

Here's the article.

    Cutting-edge works of unquestionable taste

    Sculptor Rachel Mount cannot be labelled a conventional artist but her fanciful, witty work fabricated from sugar and cake seems to present more problems to the "but is it art?" brigade than Turner Prize winner Chris Ofili's penchant for elephant dung.

    Mount says the root of her obsession with sugar might be traced back to her grandfather, who died in an accident in a large sugar refinery - a typically tongue-in-cheek, oblique response from this talented but enigmatic artist.

    Mount designs, bakes and constructs edible masterworks from a small studio space in Wandsworth, South London, crammed with books, magazine cuttings and photos of movie stars. A picture of a young David Niven diving into his Los Angeles swimming pool holding a bow and arrow in the manner of Cupid, wearing trunks and a tweed deerstalker hat, is typical of Mount's offbeat, razor-sharp eye for the absurd.


    Mount left school at 16 and never attended art college. Working as a waitress, she became aware of "the very dull" cakes her customers ordered for parties - "square and pink with a bit of piping on top". This inspired her to create something herself and the first cake she made was an ashtray design, which she gave to her manager as a birthday present. From that moment she became "totally devoted to my new craft".

    Mount refers to herself as "a creative magpie" absorbing ideas from books, films, art and theatre. London is a "jewel box of inspiration" and she scours markets and thrift shops for movie annuals and old cookbooks that contribute to her bank of constantly evolving ideas. But she is adamant that her sculptures "must satisfy the mouth as well as seduce the eye". For commissions that are going abroad she makes a "cake" in polystyrene and then decorates it in icing sugar (these will likely become very collectable).

    Although she can now list a pedigree roster of international celebrities for whom she has created unique edible art works, such as the Victoria and David Beckham (Mount made their wedding cake), Ronnie Wood and Tom Cruise, she is most enthusiastic about a "theatre of blood" sugar doll's house with trick internal trapdoors she made for a cast party for the Improbable Theatre Company. An equally elaborate cake depicts fantastical scenes of characters and show themes for the Young @ Heart Chorus, a company of pensioners from Massachusetts, which reinvents pop songs with new meaning and energy.


    Not content with numerous sugary masterpieces, including a tableau featuring stacks of elegant suitcases, shoeboxes and pairs of shoes; a witty "Tarts' Card" public phone box creation with cards displaying candy messages such as "Very Strict Cake Mistress" and "Sweet Treats for Well Behaved Birthday Boys"; and an enormous multi-tiered Sound of Music Cake featuring Julie Andrews cavorting across the top for a private client in Salzburg, Mount's most ambitious aspiration was to be selected for the 2006 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.

    Alas her 5ft-high triptych, "Two Faced French Fancies", inspired by her father's death, which explores "the social layers of cake", was rejected. Perhaps the judges did not have the stomach for Mount's monumental and intricate piece. But she is a gifted artist whose work is full of wickedly observational wit and irony and often a dark message lurking beneath its sweetly innocent exterior.


    The rejected entry caught the attention of Sotheby's chief executive Robin Woodhead, who offered her an opportunity to exhibit it and other examples of her unusual oeuvre at Sotheby's Bond Street galleries - just around the corner from the Royal Academy.

September 5, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Bacon Wallet


From the website:

    Bacon Wallet

    Elvis would want you to have this.

    Put some meat into your pocket with one of these intriguing bacon wallets!

    You thought people looked at you weird before?

    Wait until you see the looks you get from pulling a wad of bacon out of your jeans.

    Each 4-1/4" x 3-3/4" faux leather wallet has plenty of pockets for your cold hard cash and credit cards.

    Yes — they are gross looking.

    But… you know that is the perfect gift for that weirdo in your life.




I say again: No animals were harmed in the creation of this wallet.

[via theweaselking.livejournal.com]

September 5, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

On listening to the complete Mozart — Episode 2: Price break


In Episode 1 we read of New Yorker music critic Alex Ross's blissful experience spending three months listening to all of Mozart.

He noted that the source of his music was the Philips edition of the complete Mozart, released in 1991 and available in the U.S. as a 17-volume set totaling 180 CDs, with a suggested price of $8 a CD.

That comes to $1,440 for the set.

Now comes Daniel J. Wakin to report, in his story in yesterday's New York Times, that Brilliant Classics, a small Dutch label, has just released a 170-CD edition of the complete Mozart (top), with an astoundingly low price: $149.98 list — and just $119.97 at Amazon.

That's 70 cents a CD.

Interestingly, only a few thousand sets have been sold in the U.S.

The collection is a big hit in Europe, where nearly 300,000 sets have been sold since last year's release, more than half in France alone.

No doubt the disparity is due to at least two factors:

1) An uproar caused by record-industry figures in the French press who wrote that Brilliant was destroying the market with its bargain-basement pricing, resulting in a tsunami of free publicity and

2) The fact no virtually no one in the U.S. — at least until yesterday — even knew that the Brilliant Mozart existed.



Here's the Times story.

    More Mozart Than You Can Shake a Baton At

    You can cradle it in your hands, this small shoe-box-size container filled with one of humankind’s greatest creative achievements.

    It is a complete edition of Mozart’s works, 170 CD’s in color-coded paper sleeves: aquamarine for opera, purple for sacred works, orange for concertos, yellow for symphonies and so on. Inside the top of the container is a list of contents, like the descriptions of nuts and creams in a chocolate box. Program notes and texts fill a separate CD-ROM.

    Issued by a small Dutch label, Brilliant Classics, “Mozart Edition, Complete Works” coincides, naturally, with the (grit teeth here) 250th anniversary of that composer’s birth. The celebration has been exhaustively chronicled; consider this a last gasp of commem-o-philia.

    The set’s list price is $150, and it sells for $120 on Amazon.com, or about 70 cents a disc. Only several thousand have been sold in the United States, where it had a hitch in its distribution, but the collection is a hit in Europe, said Pieter van Winkel, the label’s director. Nearly 300,000 sets have been sold there since the release late last year, more than half in France alone, he said.

    The complete recorded works of composers are nothing new, but this issue is rare for its low cost and popularity, at least in Europe. And there is something compelling about its compactness: your fingers can walk through Mozart’s entire output in a few minutes.

    Discoveries are there for the making: the early operatic efforts like “Apollo et Hyacinthus”; Masonic cantatas and canons; the wealth of piano variations; the six CD’s of concert arias; the utterly charming notturnos for three voices and three basset horns. It is easy to jump from the late piano concertos, with their lyrical wind passages, to the glorious Gran Partita for 13 winds, or from the choral sections in “Die Zauberflöte” to the Masonic music.

    Mr. van Winkel left out fragments and works of dubious attribution. But the very nature of the project — completeness — meant that he had to leave in a vast swath of run-of-the-mill Mozart, particularly the endless dances, divertimentos and serenades that he wrote mostly in the 1770’s, when he cooled his heels as a musical employee of the archbishop of Salzburg. Dances fill five CD’s alone.

    “If you make an edition, you have to record everything,” Mr. van Winkel said. “It’s a very simple thing.” He said that he had not added up the total length of the set, but each CD averages an hour of music.

    Another complete Mozart edition, released by Philips in 1991 for the 200th anniversary of his death, is available in the United States as separate volumes. The Philips edition totals 180 CD’s, arranged in 17 volumes. (The suggested price is $8 a CD.) Universal Classics, which owns the Philips label, declined to release sales figures.

    The Brilliant performances have an early-music feel: swift, dry and light. Many of the recordings are done by specialists on period instruments or in period style, a number of them Dutch, the Netherlands being a hotbed of early-music performance style.

    “We were looking for musicians who are at home in the modern — let’s say, authentic — way of performance practice,” Mr. van Winkel said. “It’s no use to record the symphony with an old-fashioned orchestra that’s not of this time.”

    Few of the performers are household names, although they include the violinist Salvatore Accardo and the conductor Colin Davis. Ensembles include the Dresden Staatskapelle and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Among the singers are Helen Donath, Teresa Berganza, Soile Isokoski and Sandrine Piau.

    Sigiswald Kuijken leads the orchestra and chorus of La Petite Bande and solid young soloists in the mature Italian operas. Charles Mackerras conducts “Die Zauberflöte” with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The Mozart Akademie Amsterdam, led by the early-music specialist Jaap ter Linden, performs the symphonies.

    Critics have praised the set. “Irreproachable technical quality, top-flight interpretations,” Jean-Pierre Robin wrote in Le Figaro, the French newspaper. Rob Cowan in The Independent of London called the performers “quality,” but found the piano concertos and symphonies “more worthy than distinguished.”

    Brilliant was able to sell the collection at such a low price partly by using paper envelopes instead of jewel boxes, eliminating booklets and licensing about 70 CD’s worth of music from other labels. Mr. van Winkel chose what to license based on what was available, how cheap it was and whether the performance seemed up to date and of good quality.

    Universal, a competitor in the total Mozart trade, did not cooperate, Mr. van Winkel said. Universal felt that selling the set at such a low price would “destroy the market,” he said. A Universal spokeswoman, Rebecca Davis, said no one was immediately available to comment.

    The set early on created a mini-fracas in the French press and classical-music blog arena. A manifesto in Le Monde, written by record-industry figures , accused Brilliant of sowing “confusion” about record prices, devaluing recorded performances and helping impoverish the field. Others came to its defense.

    Mr. van Winkel attributed the criticism to “French arrogance” and added that the controversy only helped sales in France.

    The Dutch conglomerate Foreign Media Group owns the label, which consists essentially of Mr. van Winkel, 45, a former classical pianist with a background in record distribution. It sells many of its CD’s through chain drugstores and supermarkets, focusing on low-priced CD’s and reissues of licensed works. It also produces its own recordings with lesser-known artists, who command lower fees than stars.

    “We sell repertoire, not stars,” he said. “If you want stars, you have to pay for them, and not everybody is prepared to pay full price for a star.”

    Brilliant already has produced a complete Bach edition and is working on editions of Beethoven and of Haydn, whose 200th death anniversary is in 2009. The Haydn edition will number perhaps 230 CD’s. “My God,” Mr. van Winkel said, “what that guy wrote. Incredible.”

September 5, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

LightInSight — See the light turn green without dislocating your neck


This came in yesterday via Kevin Kelly's "Cool Tools."

Here's the review.

    LightInSight — Super wide-angle windshield view

    I bought a souped-up Mini Cooper from a car enthusiast friend. As I sat for the first time in the driver's seat I noticed what looked like an irregularity in the top of the windshield. Peering more closely, I saw it was a little Fresnel lens. "What's that for?" I asked.

    "It's the coolest thing," he said. "I found it on one of the Mini sites. It lets you see when the light turns green without having to crane your neck."

    Sure enough, it does. Another friend who was riding with me a few weeks later became so enamored with the device, I peeled it off and gave it to him. While waiting for a replacement I have to bend my neck sideways and lean forward to see the light when I'm first in line. What a pain compared to just sitting back comfortably and waiting for that little red dot in the lens to go green.

    The manufacturer says LightInSight works for all kinds of vehicles and is "especially helpful for taller drivers, drivers in smaller cars, delivery vans and trucks, and drivers with a mobility problem, such as a neck or back problem."

    LightInSight is self-adhering (assisted with a wet paper towel), easily removable and reusable. It measures 7" by 1-1/2."

    Steve Leveen


What's not noted in the above review are the superb qualifications of the reviewer, who happens to be, in his day job, the co-founder of Levenger, the reading tools company.

LightInSight costs $12.50.

September 5, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Banksy — Episode 2: Paris Hilton Punk'd


Lawrence Van Gelder reported in yesterday's New York Times "Arts, Briefly" feature that "the so-called guerilla artist Banksy [featured in Episode 1 on June 29] has had his way, creatively, with Paris Hilton."

Quite a nifty prank, actually; even the companies that were "victimized" found themselves admiring it.


Read about it in the full story below.

    Prankster Artist Targets Paris Hilton

    The so-called guerrilla artist Banksy has had his way, creatively, with Paris Hilton, below. He has doctored her records, sneaking tampered albums into stores around Britain. The BBC reported that some British buyers of her CD, “Paris,” are getting not only remixes with titles like “Why Am I Famous?,” “What Have I Done?” and “What Am I For?” but also an altered picture on the album sleeve that shows Ms. Hilton topless and with a dog’s head. A spokeswoman for Banksy, a Briton whose pranks have included sneaking altered versions of classic paintings into major art galleries, said he put 500 copies of his version in 48 record shops in cities that include Bristol, Brighton, Birmingham, Glasgow and London, although he left the original bar code intact so people could buy the recording unaware that it had been tampered with. Among the stores were branches of HMV and Virgin Megastores. A spokesman for HMV said no customers had complained or returned one of the Banksy versions. He added, “Often people might have a view on something but feel they can’t always express it, but it’s down to the likes of Banksy to say often what people think about things.” A spokesman for Virgin said: “I have to take my hat off. It’s a very good stunt.”


Dominic Knight's story in yesterday's Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald about Banksy's deed was most interesting, and provided the images from "Banksy Paris" seen above and below.

The "Banksy Paris" CD is already up on eBay, with a high bid as of this writing of £375.


Add a zero or two if you manage to get Paris to autograph it.

September 5, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Xubáz — 'Functional neckwear'


Say what?

Long story short, from the website:

The first product to enter the unisex functional neckwear market segment.

Designed in 2006 by Bernt Kuhlmann, this revolutionary product is a scarf-like accessory [pictured above and below] featuring strategically placed pockets and straps (called "Xues™").


Xubáz™ functional neckwear can be used either in addition to — or in lieu of — a jacket, coat, handbag and/or wallet.

Syl Tang's write-up from the September 2 Financial Times follows.

Not too much to declare

Even more timely may be resort developer Bernt Kuhlmann's scarf-with-pockets — a sort of wearable carry-on. Kuhlmann, who spends 30 per cent of his time on aeroplanes (including travel to his summer residence in Nova Scotia or his current project, the Aman Giri in Utah), says: "Between flight delays, more baggage checks and now fumbling through security, I felt frustrated; I was wearing a jacket just to carry my travel documents. And it's all about things coming off easily at security."


Called the Xubáz (pronounced shoe-baz) Functional Neckwear, Kuhlmann's scarf stows a traveller's money, iPod and keys. Kuhlmann hired former Ralph Lauren men's wear designer Keith Lissner and the two made the scarf initially in both a lightweight all-weather, travel-synthetic material and a luxe hybrid that feels like kidskin, and in five colours. Arriving last month at stores where travellers shop, such as Flight 001 in New York, Fred Segal in LA and Tashia in London, the Xubáz will help prevent theft at the security checkpoint, Kuhlmann hopes.

"You hear all these anecdotes about people getting through the metal detector and their wallet is no longer in the security bucket, but what thief is going to think to grab your neckwear first?"


The Xubáz comes with clips that can attach to the wearer's waistband so it stays in place during in-flight turbulence. And the scarf conveniently shields the wearer from that pesky overhead aircraft draught. But an added benefit comes from the fact that if coffee is spilt on the scarf, it will bead right off the fabric, which feels like silk but is dirt-resistant.


This autumn, Kuhlmann will add a new terrycloth Xubáz to the range, so that once on vacation, active types such as joggers will no longer have to load down their shorts with wallets and iPods.

More pictures here.

Two styles, three lengths, six colors.


$59.50 to $79.50.

[via Syl Tang and hipguide.com]

September 5, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Maddy Tarnofsky, Pet Lawyer


That's her above, the red-haired woman in the middle, pictured with a client (the pigeon, booboo).

Pets have detectives so why shouldn't there be lawyers too?

That's precisely the question Warren St. John attempted to answer in his September 3 New York Times Sunday Styles section front-page story, which follows.

    New Breed of Lawyer Gives Every Dog His Day in Court

    For pigeons in New York City, Bobby, Bertha and Sparky had it pretty good. After being injured in Central Park each was rescued by Gela Kline and Al Streit — founders of a group called Pigeon People — and given a home in the couple’s rent-stabilized apartment on the Upper West Side, where for years the birds passed the time cooing and making music by pecking the keys of a toy piano.

    A few years ago, however, the building went co-op, and the new landlords wanted the couple — and their birds — out. They sued to evict, citing an old city ordinance that outlawed chickens, ducks, cows “or any pigeon except Antwerp or homing pigeons” in a New York apartment. Ms. Kline and Mr. Streit thought they were doomed.

    Then they called Maddy Tarnofsky, pet lawyer, who quickly spotted a weakness in the landlord’s case: How exactly, she wondered, could the landlord prove that Bobby, Bertha and Sparky weren’t Antwerp or homing pigeons after all?

    She soon found one bird veterinarian who would testify that there was no biological difference between Antwerp pigeons and the couple’s birds — or any other pigeons — and another who would testify that the birds could probably be taught to home. The co-op’s lawyer had no response, and on April 27, after four years of legal battles, a housing court judge threw out the suit, allowing the couple and their pigeons to stay put.

    “When I win it’s like a win for my own pet,” said Ms. Tarnofsky, herself an owner of a black Labrador called Moose. “People say to me you can’t get so emotionally involved. But I say, that’s just the deal.”

    Not so long ago there were only a few pet lawyers like Ms. Tarnofsky, and they occupied the margins of the legal world. Because pets are viewed by the law as mere property in most states, and therefore worth only what the owners paid for them, pet lawyers worked with little hope of recovering damages and were motivated solely by their love of animals.

    But in recent years, as pet owners have struggled to negotiate pet ownership in modern life, and as society has grappled with questions of the value and status of its domesticated animals, animal law has become a growing specialty in the legal world. A decade ago only a few law schools taught animal law. Today 70 do, including Harvard, Columbia and Duke. In fall 2004 the American Bar Association formed its first committee on animal law, which many say legitimized the discipline.

    “The rate of growth in this field is incredible,” said Stephen Wells, the executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund in Cotati, Calif. “A lot of the scoffing and raising eyebrows I saw when I started in animal law has gone away.”

    The rise of animal law — which includes dog bites, custody battles, pet trusts and veterinary malpractice — has divided traditional pet advocates. Many veterinarians, for example, fear that pet lawyers could become the animal-world equivalent of medical malpractice lawyers, reaping large jury awards and contributing to a rise in malpractice insurance costs. The American Veterinary Medical Association formed a task force on animal law last year and came out squarely against redefining the legal status of pets.

    “We feel if we go into that direction, there are going to be a lot of losers,” said Adrian Hochstadt, a spokesman for the association. “The minute we start with skyrocketing awards, it would lead to higher malpractice insurance rates and higher fees. The only people who would benefit would be a few owners who hit that jackpot and a few attorneys.”

    Many animal lawyers are careful to distinguish themselves from animal rights advocates. Rather than agitating for the rights of pets — or “companion animals” as animal lawyers prefer to call them — these lawyers say they are concerned primarily with getting the legal system to acknowledge that animals have an intrinsic value beyond mere property, because of the bond between pets and their owners.

    That bond has changed over time, said Barbara J. Gislason, a Minneapolis animal lawyer, who helped found the American Bar Association committee on animal law, as pets have become more valued for their companionship than for their ability to work, on farms, for instance.

    “Now people think of them as valuable in a way they never did before,” she said.

    Animal lawyers argue that the law should reflect this change, especially in cases of negligence. Jeffrey Delott, a Long Island lawyer who has handled pet cases, summed up the position of many animal lawyers this way, “I’d argue that breaking the leg of a pet isn’t the same as breaking the leg of a table.”

    There is evidence that courts are coming around to this way of thinking. In May an Oregon jury ordered a man who intentionally ran over a neighbor’s dog to pay $56,400 in damages, far more than the fair market value of the animal. Last month, in a case involving a cat called Max, who was tortured and killed by three men, a state appeals court in Washington ruled that a Spokane woman could receive damages based on Max’s emotional value.

    Other branches of animal law are evolving even more rapidly. In the last five years, 25 states have passed laws allowing pet owners to establish trusts for their animals, to ensure they are taken care of after the owner dies. Frances Carlisle, a Manhattan pet lawyer who specializes in pet trusts and estates, said she has set up trusts for owners of dogs, cats, birds and even turtles.

    One client took out a $300,000 life insurance policy to pay for the care of his dogs, she said, while another left a house in upstate New York in a pet trust, so his animals did not have to move when he died.

    As with trusts for humans, pet trusts can be challenged by survivors who feel left out or who see the sums left for pet care as excessive.

    “A family member could say there’s too much money in this trust,” Ms. Carlisle said. “There’s always the potential for litigation.”

    Limitations on the value of pets discourage many from suing for veterinary malpractice, pet lawyers say. But those facing eviction from rent-stabilized apartments because of their pets are more willing to spend money on a pet lawyer, said Darryl M. Vernon, a partner in the Manhattan law firm of Vernon & Ginsburg, who specializes in housing cases stemming from pet ownership.

    Mr. Vernon has had clients who spent more than $30,000 fighting such suits. He said he had successfully defended the owner of a cat that was suspected of being part bobcat and a dog owner whose animal was accused of being part wolf. (Wild animals are illegal in New York apartment buildings.)

    Most pet cases in New York housing courts come down to what is known as the 90-day rule. Landlords have 90 days to file suit once they know a pet is living in a building in violation of a lease. If tenants can prove that the landlords knew about the pets for longer but didn’t act, they can have the suits thrown out.

    That was the case last month for Cindy Colón, the owner of Mia and Bella, two Maltese, who lives in a rent-stabilized building in the Bronx. Ms. Colón said she had had her dogs for nearly two years before her landlord attempted to have her removed. She called former doormen to testify that they were aware of the dogs more than 90 days before the suit was filed. She won but spent $25,000 to $30,000 for fees to Mr. Vernon. Ms. Colón said she had no regrets.

    “It was money well spent, because I won my case,” she said.



No animals were harmed in the preparation of this post.

September 5, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

World's Most Technical Omelet Pan


From the website:

    Push-Button Omelet Pan

    The secret of Chef Giornali's 9½''W x 16''L Omelet Pan is a patented push-button gear system that does the flipping for you — from both sides — for a restaurant-perfect triple-fold omelet.

    Great for pancakes, blintzes and crepes, too.

    Includes non-stick aluminum omelet pan with glass lid, plus — Bonus! — 6'' pan to cook fillings.

    3-piece set.

    50 recipes.


I dunno — push-buttons, gears, that's a lot to take in when you just want to make an omelet.

Ever so reluctantly I forced to declare this device persona non grata in the TechnoDolt™ kitchen space.

But that leaves all of you free to add it to your batterie de cuisine, what?



September 5, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

« September 4, 2006 | Main | September 6, 2006 »