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November 12, 2006

Nefertiti Speaks

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Today's Washington Post magazine is styled the "Looks" issue and features articles related to the theme of how physical appearance has hijacked our perceptions of both ourselves and others.

I suspect this is nothing new since back in the day on the African savannah, but no matter.

David Von Drehle's lead article is entitled "Looking Good," and traces the possible hard-wired genetic and biological roots of our preference — all things being equal — for beautiful people.

What caught my attention, though, was the photo (above) used to illustrate his story.

It's a fragmentary head of an Egyptian queen (possibly Nefertiti) in yellow jasper, made during Dynasty 18 during the reign of Akhenaten, 1352-1336 B.C.

I'd seen a black-and-white photo of the piece, which is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, many years ago and I remember being dumbstruck by its staggering beauty even then.

You can bet that when the bookofjoe World Tour hits Gotham the Met — and this head — will be among my very first stops.

November 12, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Channel Joseph Cornell

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Greg Zinman's "Buzz Worthy" feature in today's Washington Post was about a new book and craft set that lets you pretend you're Joseph Cornell.

Here's the Post story.

    Being Joseph Cornell

    Thanks to a new book and craft set, "The Joseph Cornell Box: Found Objects, Magical Worlds," a whole world of mysterious assemblage is at your fingertips. Published to coincide with the Smithsonian's Cornell retrospective that opens Friday, the set includes a display box stocked with the kind of thrift-store detritus — pictures of owls, snatches of elaborate floral wallpapers, astronomy charts, magnifying glasses — that populated the artist/pack rat's beautiful work.

    Authors Joan Sommers and Ascha Drake bring their knowledge as art teachers to bear on the package, providing a succinct account of Cornell's life and New York wanderings, beautiful reproductions of the artist's cabinets of curiosities, and keys to deciphering his art's processes and meanings. Left out of the package are the sadder and creepier aspects of Cornell's lonely life, which he spent in Queens, N.Y., with his critical mother and disabled brother, venturing into Manhattan to stalk (but rarely approach) numerous unrequited crushes. Such exclusions make sense, however, because the book's large type, glossary and extensive "how-to" project section seem geared toward the art-curious elementary-schooler.

    That is not to say, however, that parents and fans won't get a thrill from piecing together their own Cornell-esque creations. And even if Cornell, a singular visionary who followed only his own muse, would probably balk at a set dedicated to aping the style of a particular artist, the educational and fun quotients of this set are too high to be precious about.

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The set retails for $24.95; Amazon sells it for $16.47.

November 12, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mog.com — What's on your favorite rocker's iPod?

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John Jurgensen wrote about this five-month-old website, still in beta, in yesterday's Wall Street Journal.

Long story short: "It links its users by displaying the digital music stored on their computers."

Among those whose playlists you can browse: members of the bands Nada Surf, Gomez, Deerhoof, the Pet Shop Boys and Death Cab for Cutie, as well as Michelle Shocked and Harry Nilsson.

Note, though, that you can't download or stream music from the computers of the 18,000 current members.

Here's the article.

    How to find out what's on your favorite rocker's iPod

    As a fan of indie-rock band Death Cab for Cutie, Justin Koeppen has bought all of the group's albums and pored over the lyrics written by front man Ben Gibbard. Now, Mr. Koeppen has a new way to access Mr. Gibbard's music — a Web site that tracks the contents of the singer's iPod. "He has quality taste," says Mr. Koeppen.

    MOG.com, a site that links its users by displaying the digital music stored on their computers, has gotten a boost from an influx of rock luminaries. Members of bands such as Nada Surf, Gomez and Deerhoof — popular acts among bloggers, rock critics and college radio stations — aren't only promoting their own music on MOG but using the site's software to reveal whose music they have in rotation at home. For Mr. Gibbard, that includes '80s synth-poppers the Pet Shop Boys and singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson.

    For the five-month-old MOG, which is still in its "beta" testing mode, persuading respected musicians to give the world a glimpse of their personal playlists is part of a larger strategy to compete with other online music communities. The expanding field is dominated by MySpace, which has become a ubiquitous marketing tool in the music industry. Rival sites are trying to court users by focusing on narrow music genres or offering clever features.

    On MOG, which says about 18,000 people have joined so far, new members download software that scans their computer's hard drive for music files and then displays that inventory on their personal MOG page. The software tallies the tunes members play most frequently. Users can't stream or download the music on their fellow members' computers.

    Along with this voyeuristic tool, MOG is using well-known names as bait. Its nine-person staff includes a full-time "chief evangelist" whose main job is persuading artists to sign up. "There's a good chance they're going to bring along their installed fan base," says David Hyman, MOG's founder and chief executive.

    The strategy has its flaws. Because MOG doesn't pay its famous members to participate, Mr. Hyman says, they aren't obligated to update their pages. For example, singer Michelle Shocked last logged on Sept. 25.

November 12, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What's in your bathroom? This year's must-have book

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Please be seated.

About this book, by Morna E. Gregory and Sian James, reviewer David Baker wrote, in yesterday's Financial Times, "You can tell Christmas is coming by the number of 'hilarious' books publishers start to push. But 'Toilets of the World'... punches above its weight. Part travelogue, part celebration of the smallest room, this is a wonderfully eye-opening tour of latrines from a simple carved cactus trunk in South America to a highly decorated example in Japan... to an unfeasibly complicated NASA invention for use in space."

$11.53 (£9.95; €14.80).

The crack research team happened on a "Toilets of the World" website that turned out to be a fascinating journey to some very strange outposts, places I doubt will be found within the pages of the book featured above.

No matter.

Sometimes you can have it all — as it were.

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

RCA Secret 2006

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It's that time of year again, when the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London exhibits and sells for £35 apiece hundreds of postcard-sized works of art by both up-and-coming and established artists to raise funds for the RCA Fine Art Student Award Fund, which helps support emerging artists during their time at the college.

This year's sale includes pieces by Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Paula Rego, David Bailey and Christo, among many others.

You can preview the works beginning this coming Friday, November 17, through Friday, November 24.

The sale takes place on November 25 and 26 (Saturday and Sunday).

Oh, one thing you'll want to know: "Not until the purchase is completed wil the buyer be able to see the artist's signature on the reverse side," as Lawrence van Gelder noted in this past Friday's New York Times "Arts, Briefly" feature.

Everything you need to know to buy up to four of the 2,600 works available is here.

Up top, a postcard by Damien Hirst, among those sold at last year's show.

Tell you what: I would so be there if I lived in London.

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

Doggie Driver Tennis Ball Launcher

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Why should your dog have all the fun?

From the website:

    Doggie Driver Tennis Ball Launcher

    Tennis-ball launcher for exercising dogs and practicing golf swing.

    Tapered steel shaft provides a golf-grade grip.

    Swings just like a normal golf club driver.

    Great for dog training, exercise and fun!

    Throws ball up to 100 yards.

    For right-handed use only.

    Fun and easy to use.

    Hands-free pick-up.

    4" x 36".

$25.47 (tennis ball — believe it or not — included).

November 12, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Earth from Space' at the Smithsonian

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The show opened yesterday (Saturday, November 11, 2006) at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

"This exhibition consists of 41 large-scale [and when the Smithsonian says large-scale, you know they're gonna be huge] banners of spectacular satellite imagery collected over the past 30 years."

Think of it as "The Smithsonian's Greatest Hits."

It'll remain there through January 7, 2007, then tour the country until January, 2010.

"'Earth from Space' may be coming to a city near you!"

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Check the tour schedule "for up-to-date information about locations, related publications and more!"

But perhaps, like a third of my readers, you don't live in the U.S.

Then what?

Well, that's why Al Gore invented the internet, isn't it?

From the comfort of your own home, office, library or treadmill you can explore the show at your own pace whenever you like, 24/7.

Right here.

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Great fun, especially zooming in and out — made me dizzy!

November 12, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Self-Inflating Key Buoy

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"You idiot — you just dropped the keys overboard!"

No worries, you say: just watch.

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From the website:

    Self-Inflating Key Buoy

    The ultimate key fob for boaters!

    When keys fall in the water, the Key Buoy self-inflating key ring opens up, releasing an air tube which inflates automatically.

    Within 30 seconds your keys rise to the surface and the 14" (47 cm)-long inflated tube extends above the water, allowing you to reach over and pick them up.

    Strong enough for items weighing up to 4.2 ounces (120 grams) such as keys, small tools, deck plate keys, etc.

    Suitable for single use only, so keep a spare on hand!

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I say again: if you want to test it in your bathtub, better buy two.

Fair warning.

$6.95 (keys not included).

November 12, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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