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September 13, 2006

'Timothy: or, Notes of an Abject Reptile' — by Verlyn Klinkenborg

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The strangest book title of the year is just right for this wonderful little book that has the power to stop time as you read it — or at least, slow it way down, to the pace experienced by Timothy, the tortoise-narrator.

    Excerpts:

    To humans, in and out are matters of life and death. Not to me. Warm earth awaits just beneath me, the planet's viscous, scalding core. It takes a cool blood to feel that warmth, here at its circumference. The humans' own heat keeps them from sensing it. I drift for months—year's great night—floating on the outer edge of Earth's corona. The only calendar my blood, how it drugs me.
    .........................

    A better question. How do I escape from that nimble-tongued, fleet-footed race? It helps if they leave the wicket-gate open.

    The true secret? Walk through the holes in their attention. Easier at my speed than at any faster rate. At evening, larkers stalk the wheat fields, nets spread. Bits of mirror flash behind them. Larks fly into the glittering—and the nets. Larkers cage them. Off they go to wealthy tables, waiting mouths, in Tunbridge and Brighthelmstone.

    So it is with humans. Quickness draws their eye. Entangles their attention. What they notice they call reality. But reality is a fence with many holes, a net with many tears. I walk through them slowly. My slowness is deceptive.
    .........................

    I do not live in a prison of choices, like humans. I have the one gait, faster or slower. Stand on all my feet or rest on my plastron. Extend my limbs and head and tail. Or not. Mobility limited by human standards. Flight limited by avian standards. All the suppleness necessary to a tortoise. Balance perfect.
    .........................

    What would I do with those human paces and postures? Those abrupt gestures? Useless in a solitary creature. I look at those mobile faces and see a desperate urge for company. I look at that upright posture and see only sore necks and punishing feet.
    .........................

    He picks me up one day in Ringmer. Idle question on his face. Feels my tail and feet and as much of my neck as I allow. Concludes that I have no perceptible pulse. As if I would keep my pulse where a human could touch it. What would be the point of all this armor then?

    He forgets how discomfiting the incandescence of mammals feels to a reptile. Their abruptness. The velocity of their existence. To live such long lives at such terrible speed. And to get no further than if they had lived more slowly.
    .........................

    Humans believe that the parish of Earth exists solely for their use. Fabric of cottages, roofs, sheds, and shops. Shelter of brew-houses, malt-houses, ash-houses, granaries, kilns. Hand-work in brick and food. Slate, stone, thatch. Greensand, blue rag, wattle. Walks and alleys and side-yards through this village. The comfort of the human establishment. Chambers and hearths as welcoming as a human face. Houses looking out on street and Hanger with great staring human eyes.

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

Bonus: At the end of the book is a Glossary of approximately 150 words used in the book, which takes place during the 18th century.

September 13, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Slipstream Jacket

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Designed by Reiko Sudo.

From the website:

    Slipstream Jacket

    Thin strips of strong Japanese paper cloth made from the mulberry tree are loosely slipped between layers of transparent black 100% silk organdy, creating an elegant jacket with patterns reminiscent of flowing water.

    One size fits most.

    Dry-clean only.

    Made in Japan.

$645.

September 13, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Take the Official bookofjoe Personality Test™

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Visitors to bookofjoe World Headquarters™ do so automatically and now you can too.

What do you see above?

No, not the dust — gimme a break, will ya?

Does something seem a bit, shall we say, out of place?

Out of kilter?

More to the point: walking into my living room and seeing the turned cedar bowl — filled with Agraria Bitter Orange potpourri, if you must know, my ab fab fave scent for I don't know how long, maybe even since last century... but I digress — would you nudge it back onto the table so it wasn't in as precarious a position?

If you didn't, would you want to?

That's the test.

There's no pass or fail: it simply tells you — and, more importantly, me — everything I need to know about what you're really like.

You can find the Official Potpourri of bookofjoe™ here.

September 13, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Personalized Halloween Ribbon

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Very cool, with myriad applications limited only by the boundaries of your imagination.

From the website:

    Personalized Halloween Ribbon

    Our personalized ribbon adds a festive flourish to Halloween treat wrappings and party decorations.

    The orange satin ribbon can be custom printed with your own special message, repeated continuously in black lettering and flanked by a black cat on either side.

    Please specify up to 45 characters, including letters and spaces.

    5/8" wide; 15-yd. roll.

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

Consider, as a teacher, cutting the roll into 15 yard-long pieces, then on Halloween morning (Tuesday, October 31) giving each girl in the class her own personalized "Miss XYZ's Second Grade at ABC School" ribbon to wear or do whatever with.

Too cool for school.

$29.

September 13, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'When you see a movie now, within five minutes you know what is going to happen, how it will turn out' — Peter Greenaway on the sorry state of cinema, circa 2006

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Peter Aspden's July 19, 2006 Financial Times interview with Peter Greenaway was a most interesting journey through the mind of the singular director, and follows.

    'This is not a painting - it's a drama'

    I meet Peter Greenaway in the Rembrandt room of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, where there is a fairly chaotic queue waiting to see what the controversial British film director has done to one of the most famous paintings in the world. The fourth most famous, Greenaway specifies with characteristic precision, after the Mona Lisa, the Sistine Chapel ceiling and "The Last Supper". He is talking about "The Night Watch", Rembrandt's moody scene of mysteries unsolved and miraculous lighting effects that might have been designed to appeal to the maverick filmmaker's refined and quizzical sensibilities.

    Greenaway has created a theatrical installation that dares to play with the surface of the painting itself. The lights go down, visitors take their seats in a mini-theatre and the painting comes to life: dogs bark, bystanders chatter, the rain lashes down: all of these suggested by a vivid soundtrack and the play of lights on the painting. The piece lasts only a few minutes but it is captivating, and at the end there is applause.

    "It's not a painting, it's a drama — people clap!" Greenaway says with rare glee as we sit for coffee afterwards. I say it is an entirely new way of looking at familiar art works. That was the intention, he replies. "What did Picasso say? The worst thing you can do to a painting is to put it on a wall, because within three days everyone will have forgotten it. Perhaps part of the brief here is to make people look at the bloody thing."

    But it would be untypical of the cerebral Greenaway to be content with producing an upmarket son et lumière for summer tourists. Part of the appeal of "The Night Watch" is its air of secrecy. What exactly is happening? Who is the mysterious child, lit so prominently next to the painting's protagonists? And the musket shot, whose flame is scarcely visible behind the yellow hat on the right: what is that all about?

    Greenaway has a theory. It is inevitably complicated, revolving around the visit to the Netherlands of Mary Stuart in order to barter the crown jewels on behalf of her father Charles I, and a feud between the militiamen entrusted to meet the young princess. The feud resolved itself in a faked military accident, planned by Frans Banning Cocq, the central figure in Rembrandt's painting. Rembrandt was already in a feud himself with Banning Cocq's brother-in-law, who had refused to pay for an unflattering portrait.

    "The Night Watch" is the painter's coded commentary on the entire incident, full of obscure visual references that must, to Greenaway, mean something: why does the shadow of Banning Cocq's hand obviously grope his companion's belly and genitals? Does it speak of a hidden sexual affair? And why is there a right-handed glove in his hand when it is his left hand that is ungloved? Is some kind of gauntlet being thrown? And the girl, Mareike — a dwarfish reference to Velázquez and by extension Spain, the enemy?

    I ask Greenaway what appealed about the project and he takes off on a fluent, erudite and uninterruptible narrative that largely amounts to an abiding admiration for the painter, and his own well-chronicled love of mysteries. "Rembrandt fits all the things we think we ought to think about: he is deeply humanist, republican, democratic, pro-proletarian, very ironic, and postmodernist. The so-called man in the street has a comprehension of what he is about: he paints old people, babies in diapers, the ugly woman next door. A post-post-post-kitchen sink romantic." I wonder what that means, but there is no time to think, let alone ask.

    "And the way he starts in the dark and moves towards the light, the way cinema does. If, as Godard says, cinema is truth at 24 frames a second, this is a nanosecond. It feels like a frozen frame from a movie. Rembrandt, and other great masters of the Baroque, were inventing the language of cinema."

    We cut to the chase. It was cinema that thrust Greenaway into prominence in the 1980s, with a succession of art-house hits such as "The Draughtsman's Contract" and "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover", but he has never hidden his more exalted love affair with painting ("I still don't feel like a film director, more as a painter manqué") which itself became the theme of some of his complex narratives. Today his disenchantment is complete: he pronounces cinema dead, while arguing vigorously for the continued relevance of painting.

    "You know [Jacques] Derrida said the image always has the last word, which is very witty, but doesn't go far enough, because the word itself is an image. A painting is for all time. Cinema has been going for 111 years, which is not a very long time, and I feel it has exhausted itself. When you see a movie now, within five minutes you know what is going to happen, how it will turn out: you understand the genre."

    That may be true of mainstream Hollywood, I say, but what about, I don't know, Iranian cinema?

    "But it still follows the tropes and the paradigms," he says resignedly. "This new stuff: oriental, exotic Antonioni, the inner man, basically nothing happening but everything happening, God working in small things: we have seen it all before, haven't we? Haven't we? Haven't we?"

    There is almost an edge of desperation here, like the insistence that one is over a former lover. Presumably he didn't feel like that when he started his film career?

    "When I started out, there were about a dozen great directors making completely different types of movies. The Italian cinema was alive and thriving. The nouvelle vague and Godard, who was such an influence on us all."

    But Godard was already proclaiming the death of cinema in the 1960s.

    "He threw it all away. If you are European, Eisenstein invents cinema, Fellini consolidates it, Godard throws it all away. But that's all right. There are new forms of technology, new ways of making things."

    I remind Greenaway, as if he needs reminding, that this kind of talk – unashamedly led by complex ideas, epic in range, littered with quotes from Godard and Derrida — does not go down terribly well in British circles, and I can't help noticing that he has lived in Amsterdam for 12 years.

    "They are so Protestant, so puritanical," he says slightly pityingly of his compatriots. "But I don't want to make it sound like a political gesture," he says of his move. "It was an attraction away rather than a retraction from."

    We talk a little about his ongoing film project, "The Tulse Luper Suitcases", which he describes as "92 stories about Holocaust gold". It is seven hours long, he says, and he is working on the DVD version. He adds, with a pride that is curiously touching, that he has written a book about suitcase number 46, and that it has just been translated into Russian. He describes his approach as encyclopaedic, and says he doesn't like "looking for closures".

    This seemed a long way from the cinematic mainstream. Isn't he tempted ever to retur ever to return to its comforting fold? He shakes his head. "I was fortunate to meet a Dutch producer who said that, provided I didn't employ Elizabeth Taylor or an American aircraft carrier, he would be happy to support my future film career. We have made 12 feature films and 50 other films. But we are not rich. I don't drive fast cars or live in yachts in Cannes."

    His films are often described as cold and unsentimental.

    "Yes."

    Why is that?

    "Think of the subject matter."

    I say they are all about sex and death.

    "They are savage pieces of extreme black humour. I come from the same place as Monty Python. When Michael Gambon first saw his performance in "The Cook, The thief, His Wife and Her Lover" he laughed all the way through it. I thought: 'You have got it!'"

    I say the scene in that film where a character was suffocated by being forced to eat paper made me feel physically sick.

    "You're a writer — that's a nice idea, being killed by your own writing. Isn't it a nice idea?

    I pass. "[Quentin] Tarantino commits huge atrocities of sex and violence, why doesn't he get any flak? Why do I get all the flak? I think I know the answer. He does it for a giggle. For a frisson. He lets you off the hook. But you have to have that sense of responsibility. If you are going to do sex and violence, whoa, watch out. Because there are huge recriminations."

    We have come to the end of our coffees, and Greenaway talks about future projects — a play and film about Rembrandt, who is played in the latter by "The Office's" Martin Freeman, and several prospective acts of non-narrative non-closures. But as we turn towards the museum he takes on an almost wistful air and says: "I don't think anything can top this."

    "Nightwatching" by Peter Greenaway was at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, until August 6.

September 13, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's Most Stylish Drawer Organizer

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When I first saw this I thought it was one of those kids' games where you jump one peg over another into empty holes.

But it's not.

From the website:

    Pegboard Drawer Organizer

    Our pegboard system creates instant dividers in drawers used for storing platters, bowls and cookware.

    Made of mahogany, the board has 77 holes and 20 pegs (10 short and 10 tall) for organizing all kinds of items, from plastic containers to stacked napkins.

    The 16" deep board expands from 13" to 23" wide; pegs are 3" and 7" tall.

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

Well, now you'll know how many holes it takes to create an über-the-top drawer organizer, even as the capacity of the Albert Hall remains an unending mystery.

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$49.50.

September 13, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

15 Most Influential Websites Ever

Bolande

John Naughton of the Observer, in an August 13 story entitled "Websites That Changed The World," marked this month's fifteenth anniversary of the web by choosing his top 15.

The list, in order:

1. eBay

2. Wikipedia

3. Napster

4. YouTube

5. blogger

6. FriendsReunited

7. DrudgeReport

8. MySpace

9. Amazon

10. slashdot

11. Salon

12. craigslist

13. Google

14. Yahoo

15. EasyJet

Huh.

Maybe by the thirtieth anniversary I'll be ready for prime time.

Let's see, that would be 2021.

Sounds about right.

[via Jesse]

September 13, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bed-in-a-Bench

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From the website:

    Leather Sleeper Bench

    Elegant leather bench also doubles as a pull-out bed.

    Constructed in rich-looking leather, this stylish bed bench is a versatile piece of furniture that can serve as seating for two, an oversized ottoman or sleeping space for an overnight guest.

    Order one of these distinctive hideaway beds today and show off your impeccable taste as well as your generous hospitality.

    A durable bed bench will be a welcomed addition — especially for welcomed guests.

    When you need extra sleeping accommodations, simply open the hinged bench top and pull out the twin bed.

    Otherwise, use the leather bench in any room where you need extra seating or a place to kick up your feet.

    With rich leather, tufted tops and stitching details, these hideaway beds fit in with any décor.

    • Leather bench made of bycast Italian leather, foam and polyfiber.

    • Bed bench provides twin-size accommodations.

    • Metal pull-out sleeper mechanism.

    • Safety hinge keeps top secure when open.

    • Available in Dark Brown.

    • 50"W x 32-3/4"D x 20-3/4"H.

    A leather bench makes a fine addition to any room.

    Other hideaway beds can be clunky and take up too much room.

    Our leather bed bench gives you interior design options as well as much needed accommodations.

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

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$699.95.

September 13, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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