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April 11, 2007

New York City's hottest nightspot? Under the big blue whale


Bungalow 8?

That's so last century.

"I slept with a giant squid."

That's the opening sentence of Andrea Sachs's story in today's Washington Post about her recent sleepover at the American Museum of Natural History (above, on sleepover night) in New York City.

Long story short: For $79 a head you and yours can do the very same thing.

Here's her article.

    Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don't Let the Blue Whale Bite

    I slept with a giant squid. And not just any squid, but one with hard eyes and a mean streak. The squid was attacking a sperm whale; I was just looking for a place to lay my sleeping bag.

    Granted, on a recent overnight at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, I could have chosen friendlier sleeping companions: specimens of dolphins, harbor seals, walruses, a vibrant coral reef. The open space beneath the big blue whale was filling fast with pillows, Disney character blankets and stuffed animals.

    "I think the most exciting part is going to be sleeping," said Miranda Leong-Hussey, an 8-year-old from New York who had installed herself under the whale's tale. "Because we are going to be sleeping in a museum, and that is so weird." And so wild, too — in the taxidermied sense.

    The museum's sleepover program, A Night at the Museum, had lain dormant for 20 years but was resurrected in January, overlapping with last year's release of the flick by the same name. The timing, however, was coincidental: Museum officials had mobilized the plan before they'd even heard of the movie, in which a night security guard is terrorized by animals and other exhibits that come to life.

    "The opportunity to sleep under the whale is pretty exciting, and the idea that things come to life," Brad Harris, the museum's senior director of visitor services, said when asked about the program's appeal. "I think [participants] will leave here saying that things really did come to life."

    When it came to the squid, I was hoping not. But in the dusk-to-dawn hours, the museum came alive in other respects. Nearly 400 kids and adults had the place to themselves, with no impatient mobs and, better yet, no need to wear street shoes — fuzzy slippers would do. The museum is heavily staffed for the overnights, with at least one staff member per 20 guests; for visitors, the ratio is three children per adult.

    "I hiked all over the museum with my mom," dinosaur-loving Andrew Kisler, 8, said over breakfast the next morning, which was served buffet-style by the cafeteria. Added his mother, Michelle Kisler of the Bronx, N.Y.: "We had such freedom. We actually read the exhibits. You don't typically get to do that on a Saturday." Not unless you can find a clearing amid the 8,000 to 15,000 daily visitors.

    The New York institution isn't the only one throwing slumber parties. As our sampling below shows, other museums, zoos and aquariums in the region are supplying unusual sleeping quarters. They also organize special activities for overnight guests.

    During A Night at the Museum, for example, there were origami lessons (penguins, easy; rocket ships, hard), moon-surface rubbings and walks through the butterfly conservatory, where the colorful insects alighted on hands and heads. "When you grow up, you can become a volunteer here or an entomologist," one volunteer said to a little boy with a Costa Rican owl butterfly perched on his shoulder.

    At 9 p.m., kids armed with flashlights swarmed the dinosaur and fossil rooms, looking for clues to a puzzling list of questions as T. rex lurked in the shadows. "When it went dark, I was a little scared," said John Cunningham, 10, of New York. "But I liked flashing the fossils with the flashlight."

    Once the children collected their wits — and correct answers — they settled into plush seats for a star-splashed planetarium show (the snores definitely came from the adults). Afterward, they brushed their teeth in the public bathroom, then curled up on their cots for bedtime stories and a documentary on dolphins. At midnight, the museum called for lights out.

    Of course, lights out is a risible concept when you have a room full of mischievous children harboring flashlights. Yet, as if by magic, after the last beams were cast on the whale's belly, the room fell silent and the squid receded into darkness.

    The American Museum of Natural History's A Night at the Museum is sold out through August; new dates will be announced in mid-summer. Central Park West at 79th Street, 212-769-5570; www.amnh.org/kids/sleepovers; $79 includes breakfast and an evening snack.

April 11, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bone Chair


Designed by Joris Laarman.

Polished aluminum.

Twelve exist.



April 11, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

tamponcrafts.com — 'For any time of the month'


Res ipsa loquitur.*


I wonder what Phillip Torrone, Arwen O'Reilly and their posse over at MAKE will think of this...?



April 11, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Travel Pet Safety Gate


Because sometimes you want to take your baby with you but you know you shouldn't.

Stuff happens in strange places — minimize the damage.

From the website:

    Travel Pet Safety Gate

    Travel Pet Safety Gate keeps pets contained to certain areas and under control at home or away.

    Durable screen is strong enough to keep pets and toddlers at bay, but flexible enough to roll up and take with you wherever you go.

    Secures firmly in place with two adjustable (22" to 39" wide) tension rods.

    Plastic screen measures 36"W x 24"H.




April 11, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Strange Days Brush


Created by Thomas Keeley.

[via Gini Moore]

April 11, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Time-Release Water


No — not a fancy term for ice.

Wrote Elaine Louie in the April 5, 2007 Home section of the New York Times, "If you are the kind of person who forgets to water the plants, Rain Bird’s Time-Release Water offers an effortless, if somewhat unattractive, solution. A gel made of 98 percent water and 2 percent cellulose, it was developed 10 years ago for parkland use and was recently introduced to the consumer market. It comes in a tube that sits near the plant’s roots. Over time — 30 days in the case of the 9-ounce package ($1.18), above, or 90 days if you buy the 32-ounce container ($2.06) — the bacteria and enzymes in the soil break down the cellulose, releasing the water, said Randy Hall, a product manager for the company. After the gel has dissolved, the tube can be replaced. Or you could pick up a watering can."

As noted, 9 oz. for $1.18

April 11, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Anyway, durians actually smell good. Only rotten durians stink.' — Somchai Tadchang, durian orchard owner


Somchai was quoted in Thomas Fuller's entertaining story in the April 8, 2007 New York Times about a new durian hybrid said to smell as mild as a banana.

Predictably, Durian Nation is up in arms about this news.

Here's the Times article.

    Fans Sour on Sweeter Version of Asia’s Smelliest Fruit

    You can take the sugar out of soft drinks and the fat from junk food. But eliminate the pungent odor from what may be the world’s smelliest fruit and brace for a major international controversy.

    The durian, a spiky fruit native to Southeast Asia, has been variously described by its detractors as smelling like garbage, moldy cheese or rotting fish. It is banned from many hotels, airlines and the Singapore subway. But durian lovers — and there are many, at least in Asia — are convinced that like fine French cheeses, the worse the smell, the better the taste.

    Under the durian’s hardy shell are sections of pale yellow flesh with a consistency that can be as soft and oozy as custard and a flavor that is nutty and sweet with hints of vanilla and an occasional bitter bite.

    “To anyone who doesn’t like durian it smells like a bunch of dead cats,” said Bob Halliday, a food writer in based Bangkok. “But as you get to appreciate durian, the smell is not offensive at all. It’s attractive. It makes you drool like a mastiff.”

    Nevertheless, a Thai government scientist, who after three decades of research is one of the world’s leading durian experts, now says he has managed to excise its stink.

    Working at an orchard here, near the Cambodian border, the scientist, Songpol Somsri, crossed more than 90 varieties of durian, many found only in the wild, and came up with a fruit that he says smells as mild as a banana. He named it Chantaburi No. 1, after his home province and the location of the research center.


    It will please Thai consumers, he says, and might help broaden the acceptability of the durian, unlocking the door to new American and European customers who, like an increasing number of Thais, are likely to reject a fruit that reeks like last season’s unwashed gym socks.

    “Most Thais don’t like too strong a smell, except some old people,” Dr. Songpol said.

    Durian lovers are at once disbelieving of and horrified by the prospect of a no-smell durian. They complain that the fruit is being homogenized like the insipid tomatoes bred to look pretty behind plastic wrap.

    “I don’t think it’s possible to make a durian that doesn’t smell,” said Somchai Tadchang, the owner of a durian orchard on Kret, an island on the Chao Phraya river north of Bangkok, where special Gan Yao (long stem) durians sell for more than $40 each, the equivalent of several days’ wages for a laborer here.

    “Anyway, durians actually smell good,” he said. “Only rotten durians stink.”

    The nearly odorless durian, which has not yet been officially unveiled, will obtain final approval in the coming weeks from Thailand’s Ministry of Agriculture.

    The concept is even more mystifying to those who live in Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia, where durians are prized for their odor and priced accordingly.

    “The smell must come out from the durian,” said Chang Peik Seng, owner of a durian farm on Penang, a Malaysian island. It took several minutes to explain the concept to Mr. Chang, who ultimately concluded that odorless durians would not sell in his country. “If the durian doesn’t have a strong smell the customer only pays one-third the price,” he said.

    Dr. Songpol says he has developed a separate durian that might please Malaysians and Indonesians. The pungent smell of that durian, Chantaburi No. 3, develops three days after the fruit is picked, allowing for odorless transport.

    There is probably no other fruit that elicits such passion — and revulsion — as the durian.

    The litany of legends and myths surrounding what Malaysians call the “king of fruits” is long and colorful. The durian is said to be an aphrodisiac: when the durians fall down, the sarongs fly up, goes a Malay saying.

    But woe to those who overindulge.

    Rarely does durian season pass without newspapers somewhere in Southeast Asia reporting a durian death. The fruit, which is rich in carbohydrates, protein, fat and sulfurous compounds (thus the smell), is said here to be “heaty,” and can therefore be deadly for those with high blood pressure, according to Wilailak Srisura, a nutritionist at the Thai Department of Health.

    Tradition also dictates that mixing alcohol with durian should be avoided at all costs. “Durian makes you hot and alcohol makes you hot, so it’s double heat,” said Mr. Somchai, the orchard owner.

    Dr. Songpol says he has not found a scientific reason why durian and alcohol are incompatible, but would not dare consume both at the same time.

    Raised on a durian orchard, Dr. Songpol started studying the fruit in 1977 as a graduate student in horticulture. Worried that some varieties were disappearing as cultivation became commercialized, he collected dozens from around the country and planted them at the Chantaburi Horticultural Research Center here. The center is a durian lover’s Eden with flower beds and streams rimming the rows of countless durian trees shadowed by low-lying, jungle-covered mountains.

    Dr. Songpol experimented with hundreds of combinations before discovering Chantaburi No. 1. This year’s harvest is not yet ripe but those who have smelled and tasted last year’s say the fruit has a very faint odor. Saowanee Srisuma, the caretaker of the durian orchard, says it is the most innocuous smelling durian she has encountered in 10 years of working there. Suchart Vichitrananda, the director of the Horticultural Research Center, says Chantaburi No. 1 does not smell but he hesitates when describing the taste. “I can’t say it’s better than the original durian, but it’ll do,” he said.

    Many durian lovers fear the nearly odorless variety is just another step toward the erosion of durian culture. Durians are a social fruit, traditionally sold and eaten on the roadside by groups of friends.

    The fruit is analyzed in the same way that wine is sniffed and discussed at a Parisian dinner party.

    These days, durians are increasingly sold in supermarkets ready to eat: removed from their shell and wrapped in cellophane, which reduces the smell.

    In Thailand, which has aggressively commercialized the fruit, farmers specialize in Montong, a sweet, almost saccharine variety. Thai farmers use chemicals to coax durian trees to bear fruit in the off-season, so Montong are available year-round and are sold around the world. Thailand last year sold about 50 million durians abroad, worth about $90 million.

    Durians have been available in the United States for several decades, mostly at Asian groceries. Last year, the United States imported nearly a thousand metric tons of durians, all from Thailand, with a wholesale value of more than $1.7 million, according to the Department of Agriculture.

    About 80 percent come frozen, said Nat Kuramarohit, general manager of DP Trading, a produce importer based in Los Angeles. His company brings in fresh durians, which he says are firmer and sweeter than the frozen kind, but cost much more since they must be flown in — at $3.50 to $4 a pound wholesale, and about $35 retail for a typical seven-pound fruit. A frozen one would cost more like $10.

    Dr. Songpol, 52, says his work is far from done. He is mapping out durian DNA, and hoping to pinpoint the malodorous gene one day. And meanwhile, he is trying to breed a durian — which gets its name from “duri,” the Malay word for thorn — without spikes.

April 11, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Amina SoundUnseen — 'Plaster-In-Wall Loudspeakers'


What's this?


From the website:

How it works

Amina SoundUnseen® is a loudspeaker which is plastered in-wall where you would have ‘regular’ loudspeakers.


Not only do all visual signs of a sound source completely disappear, but the resulting audio quality is astonishing, leaving minimal technological impact to create a stunning interior design.

[via Nicholas Spencer and the Financial Times]

April 11, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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