« July 7, 2007 | Main | July 9, 2007 »

July 8, 2007

Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby — Pakistani-Style


Griff Witte spent a few hours with a Pakistani truck painter for a story which appeared in the June 30, 2007 Washington Post, and follows.

    Art With the Power to Move — at Highway Speed

    Just off the Grand Trunk Road, in an old auto yard filled with rusting axles and rotting trees, Arshad Mehmood [above] is completing his latest masterpiece.

    The canvas is propped up on oversize tires. The medium is oil on metal. The palette is ultra-bright — bright enough to make an impression even at 70 miles per hour, the speed at which Mehmood's latest will be traveling when it joins his other masterpieces whooshing down the highway.

    Michelangelo worked on chapel ceilings. Keith Haring had subway walls. Mehmood prefers trucks. Each day he splashes them with the intricate designs and elaborate color schemes that are the hallmarks of trucks throughout South Asia. By the time he is through, every inch must be covered with animals, mountains, flowers or whatever else Mehmood's mind can conjure.

    The process begins with spray paint — in this case, an alarming teal to mask the truck's dull gray skeleton. From there, Mehmood's apprentices lay down the basic pattern for the decorations, using tape and string dipped in chalk to mark off the canvas. Or canvases. Each side of the truck is divided into a dozen or more separate spaces, and each one will display a different image.

    It is here, at 11 a.m. under an already merciless sun, that Mehmood's artistic vision takes over. He works without a net, painting directly onto the truck, with no sketches or stencils, in electric shades of green, orange and red. As he crouches down on creaky wooden scaffolding, the brush strokes come in quick, effortless dabs.

    Mehmood has an overall concept for the truck when he begins his work, but many of the details get worked out as he goes along. In his inclinations, he resembles a Pakistani version of PBS's Bob Ross, planting happy little trees wherever he goes.

    As Mehmood paints, the truck's owner chain-smokes and paces nervously in the dust. Sporting a dark brown mustache, a beige salwar-kameez and tan shoes, he looks at his kaleidoscopic truck and proclaims matter-of-factly, "I love colors."

    He points to the truck's interior, which is hot pink and looks as though it has been smeared with bubble gum. "This," he says. "is my favorite color."

    Soon enough, the hot pink will be shrouded in sand, cement or wheat, Raja Naseer's usual haul as he pilots his truck from the Khyber Pass in the west to Kashmir in the east, and back.

    Naseer, 36, who has been driving trucks since he was in his teens, bought this particular truck a month and a half ago and has been rebuilding it from the ground up. The paint is the finishing touch, the last and most important element before he gets back to the road.

    Other than requesting hot pink, Naseer did not give Mehmood many specific instructions. "I have asked him for leopards," he says. The rest is up to Mehmood.

    Some say the decorations, especially the small bells that hang down from the sides and add a pleasant jingling sound to the trucks' normal belching and grunting, are meant to ward off evil spirits. Naseer dismisses that. The more beautiful the truck, he says, the more business he will get because his truck will stand out from the rest. "Even if I have to spend a lot of money, it must look very beautiful," he says. "Everyone should want to look at my truck."

    The cost to have the truck painted is a relative bargain — less than $300. But Mehmood, who is in his mid-30s, says he makes a good living because he paints so fast. He can finish a truck or two a day, and figures that in the course of 20 years he has painted close to 10,000.

    He originally learned the trade from his brother, who learned from their father, who learned from his father. It took Mehmood eight years as an apprentice before he was good enough to do trucks on his own.

    He never gets bored with the work because each truck is different. One might have a tiger-and-mountain-stream theme. The next, books and houses. A third, fields of wheat and birds of prey. Flowers are nearly ubiquitous.

    Serenaded by balky engines and breathing in the thick stench of diesel as sweat pours down his face, Mehmood is, three hours into the job, painting a brilliant blue waterfall that descends into a clear pond flanked by golden trees.

    Mehmood has seen some beautiful places in Pakistan — the jagged peaks of the Himalayas, the fertile plains of Punjab, the seacoast of Sindh — but this image is not meant to resemble any of them.

    "It is imaginary," he says, dabbing his brush a few times and leaving a spray of golden leaves. "But it is always in my mind that somewhere, a place like this must exist."


For video footage of trucks being painted in Taxila, visit washingtonpost.com/world. A Pakistani painted truck is on display at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, on the Mall through July 8.

July 8, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Accushot22 — 'If you don't have a textbook jump shot, you need it!'


Nothing but net.

From the website:


    The Accushot 22 concept is simple.

    Our oval indentations allow players to both see and feel.

    Proper finger pad and hand placement are critical to consistent shot making.

    • The training device is built into each basketball.

    • Accushot22 basketballs are all dual purpose, designed to train shooters as well as for use during regular play.


In Right or (nice touch!) Left-Handed versions.


July 8, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Internet Service Delivers Online Blessing To Christians — For $10


Mr. Said Salem, a spokesman for Modefine Ltd., a Cyprus-based company which recently launched the service, said the $10 per prayer fee "covers system costs, not the prayer, which is free."


Here's yesterday's Associated Press story by Ben Hubbard about the new new thing in prayer.

    Blessing by Internet less expensive than pilgrimage

    Dressed in his embroidered robes, Rev. Andreas Elime [top] steps from the altar of St. Gabriel's Church and into the view of the web cams on the church's marble pillars.

    His voice fills the empty 250-year-old sanctuary with a Greek Orthodox hymn, while a computer on a nearby pew transmits personal blessings to three Americans thousands of kilometres away.

    Christian pilgrims have long travelled to the boyhood town of Jesus Christ to seek blessings. Now the Internet can save them the trip.

    A service launched by Modefine Ltd., a Cyprus company, enables worshippers to log on and watch as a priest utters a prayer for them.

    "This takes things to a new level," said James Martin, a Jesuit priest and associate editor of the Roman Catholic magazine America, who has watched religious trends develop on the Internet.

    Martin said in a telephone interview that the technology also gives believers a new way to carry out an old practice: asking others to pray for them in sacred places.

    "Going to Israel is quite expensive," said Martin. "So for people who can't afford it but can afford their monthly (Internet) bill, this is one way to do it."

    Since opening on May 1, the site has fielded hundreds of requests, 70 per cent from Americans but also from Hong Kong, India, Mexico and Australia, said Said Salem, Modefine's Holy Land representative.

    Martin's only concern was the fee — US$10 per prayer. Salem said it covers system costs, not the prayer, which is free.

    "If you come from Jerusalem to get the priest to pay for you, you don't expect the priest to pay for the taxi," Salem said. "We are the taxi." He said he hoped the service would eventually raise funds for the Nazareth Christian Community.

    After the opening hymn, Elime prays for mercy, health, peace, forgiveness and salvation. He does services in English, Greek, Arabic and Russian, he said, depending on the the request. He reads the first names on that day's list, lighting a candle for each. A short benediction closes the service, which lasts about four minutes.


The legend accompanying the photo up top reads, "Greek Orthodox priest Andreas Elime prays near a laptop computer in the Basilica of the Anunciation in the northern Israeli town of Nazareth. Christians can save themselves a trip to Jesus' boyhood home with an Internet service that lets worshipers watch online as a priest utters a prayer for them."

I wish I had better computer skills so I could wander around Second Life to see what's available in the way of prayers and whatnot.

As it is now, my avatar just kind of stands there in his default T-shirt and jeans, looking stupid.

You sure that's your avatar, joe?

July 8, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Freshly grated wasabi rhizome — you've not tasted wasabi until you've tried it


A special invite to bookofjoe readers from Doug Lambrecht, grand panjandrum of Real Wasabi:

    Dear Joe

    We would like to personally invite you and your fans to stop by to visit with us in Booth 1266 at the 53rd Summer Fancy Foods Show, July 8–10, 2007 in New York at the Jacob Javits Center.

    We will be offering freshly grated wasabi rhizome* — a rare delicacy [pictured below] — along with samplings of our celebrated line of Certified Organic Sauces and Salad Dressings.

    We're also debuting our new line of Real Wasabi Nuts, including Wasabi Almonds, Pistachios, Cashews and Premium Mix.

    Mention this email when you stop by!

    *offer while supplies last.


Before Real Wasabi got big — real big — I featured it, back on June 28, 2005.

Doug was nice enough to send me a selection of his company's products, which in the beginning were small in number but superb in quality.

As the company flourished, he'd periodically send me a box of its newest products.

So good I'd buy them — and do.

In case you've lost your calendar along with your mind and bearings, the Festival starts today (Sunday, July 8) and runs through Tuesday, July 10.

I attended it a few years ago and recommend you try to make it either today or tomorrow — many exhibitors have packed their tents come Tuesday, the final day.


'nuf sed*

*My rap name — please note the punctuation, case specificity and spelling.

Most don't — and wish they had.

Nuff sed.

July 8, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

'By the time we got to Roswell, we were 50,000 strong'


Catchy, what?

That's how many people — and others who appear to be people but are, shall we say, poseurs of a special kind — are expected this weekend for the annual Roswell, New Mexico UFO Festival, marking the 60th anniversary of the nearby crash landing of a flying saucer.

The Air Force scoffed, calling it the remains of a weather balloon.

We know better.

Here's William Booth's front page story about the gathering, from today's Washington Post.

    At Roswell Festival, Doubt Is an Alien Concept

    Attention, all aliens. Come on down. Because, seriously, this is your crowd. About 50,000 of your closest admirers are expected this weekend for the Roswell UFO Festival, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the nearby crash landing of a flying saucer — and, naturally, the ensuing government coverup.

    A weather balloon? Please. We are not fools.

    At least that's the thinking here. Not up on the latest ufology? The debate today is all about "disclosure," meaning not if, but when. When is the government finally going to open its top-secret files to reveal its voluminous data on the sightings, abductions and close encounters dating back to at least July 5, 1947. "The anomalies." Here in the desert Southwest. And probably Mars.

    "The secret world will fall. We want the truth embargo to end," said Stephen Bassett, the founder of X-PPAC, the first political action committee established to target the politics of UFO/ET phenomena. Bassett spoke at the festival's conference, which, along with the Alien Chase fun run, costume parades and carnival rides (Orbiter, Splash Down), have filled every motel room in Roswell, once the home of the world's only atomic warfare unit and the Enola Gay B-29 bomber.

    On Friday night, Bassett told listeners of George Noory's "Coast to Coast AM" radio show, which beamed live from the convention center to 500 stations, that: "I believe the Democrats are planning disclosures in the first months of the next administration."

    The Democrats? Naturally.

    Several ufologists agreed that "the best ET ticket" would be Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York (or maybe Al Gore?) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), who have probably already have been briefed on the truth. "But they don't want to say so now," Bassett said. Interestingly, Richardson is quoted at the UFO Museum and Research Center ("The Truth is Here!") as stating: "I don't think the U.S. government has fully disclosed everything they know."

    Indeed. If only citizens could get access to the data. Because the people here want to know about the shadow guests, crop circles, shape shifters, crash retrievals, men in black, cattle mutilations, probes and, of course, the antimatter perpetual energy machines that have been kept under wraps in those deep-black special limited access programs run by an international cabal of military-industrial-intelligence-media interests.

    Why won't they tell all? "Because they don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs," said Richard M. Dolan, author of "UFOs and the National Security State," and another of the two dozen speakers this weekend. Dolan is not certain that it is an antimatter machine. Could be anti-gravity. But they're working on something, perhaps by "reverse engineering" based upon debris — mechanical or biological — vacuumed up at the crash sites.

    "The topic is now being taken very seriously," Noory said. He said if the CIA could release 693 pages of the "family jewels," the worst deeds by the nation's spies, then the UFO research community asks why not the files (probably kept underground) about the extraterrestrials. "We've been visited from the very beginning of time," Noory said. "Maybe we've been seeded. Maybe we've been changed. I don't know. But somebody does."

    That somebody might be Roger Leir, author of "The Aliens and the Scalpel," about his research on the abductees who have been implanted or probed. His latest case, which he shared with UFO enthusiasts at the festival, involves "a gentleman in his 60s" who awoke recently to see "a drop of blood on his knee." CAT scans, X-rays and interviews, said Leir, revealed a 60 percent certainty that the man had been snatched by the ETs. The foreign object in his knee appeared to be a one-inch-long rod as thick as a pencil. More testing, naturally, is required. "We try to do this as scientifically as possible," he said. His pet theory? Mass genetic manipulation. But it is only a theory — so far.

    Other lectures at the festival include "Body Snatchers in the Desert," "Were Early Contactees Ritual Magicians?" and "UFOs and the Occult: Reptilian Overlords, Abductions, Mind Control and the New World Order."

    Reptilian overlords aside, the aliens have been pretty good for little Roswell, population 45,000, which in recent years has embraced the 1947 flying saucer crash as a boomlet for tourism dollars. "We're told the motels are absolutely packed," said Roswell assistant city manager Bob Thomson. Is he a believer? "There's a lot of excitement this year," he said diplomatically.

    Downtown, the street lamps of Roswell sport lights depicting almond-eyed ETs. The local liquor store's sign offers "aliens, beer, wine." Perhaps not in that order. At the Wool Bowl, thousands came out to hear the Alan Parsons Project play. At the convention center, a company is offering tours of the crash site, which is on a ranch west of town. They're selling alien cat scratches, glow-in-the-dark soap and Area 51 coffee mugs.

    The crowds at the festival appear relatively sane. Many are from New Mexico, and they say they are here for the fun carnival atmosphere in tidy, laid-back Roswell. Some of the out-of-towners, the real enthusiasts, can be a little intense. They're like trekkies at a "Star Trek" convention, except that they pepper their conversations with the phrase: "And that can be authenticated."

    Guy Malone is one of the official organizers of the weekend event. "There are a lot of views expressed here, and I share them all," he said. "Angels, fairies, demons, succubuses, ETs and aliens. They might all be the same phenomena."

    Please, continue. "Hundreds of years ago," Malone explained, sporting black alien-style sunglasses, "it was elves and fairies taking you to a cave and poking you with wands or having weird sex in the woods." And today? "We call them aliens."

    Why does the public not know all this? "The single largest number one roadblock to disclosure is the mainstream media," Dolan said. For example, he said, last year there was a UFO sighting in Chicago. Did you know that?

    "A flying saucer-like object hovered low over O'Hare International Airport for several minutes before bolting through thick clouds with such intense energy that it left an eerie hole in overcast skies, said some United Airlines employees who observed the phenomenon," according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration blamed "a weather phenomenon," but really, what else could they say? The problem, said Dolan, is not that the major media avoid such stories completely, "but they don't follow up."

    The U.S. government, of course, has issued its share of reports debunking UFOs. Here in Roswell, those reports are generally seen as desperate attempts to whitewash the truth.

    Yet there is hope for the Roswell set. Apparently from the French, who have declassified some of their UFO files. The British and Brazilians have or will soon open their cases for scrutiny. But the treasure trove belongs to the U.S. government, and strangely, disclosure has not yet become an issue on the presidential campaign.

    The question is why.



We are not men.

July 8, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is it? — Episode 2: Here's a hint


Yesterday's Episode 1, employing the much-ballyhooed "wisdom of crowds" approach, didn't yield the answer, but rather than spoil your fun just yet I thought I'd keep you on tenterhooks for another 24 hours with a clue.

Answer here this time tomorrow — or your money back.

July 8, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Why can't I drag and drop a photo from my desktop right into a TypePad post?


Go to the "Features" page of TypePad and you'll be blown away by all the things you can do.

TechnoDolts™ need not apply.


Suppose I decide to email somebody and enclose a photo — it's so simple even I can do it:

1) Drag the photo from my desktop into the email and put it anywhere I like, guided by a moving cursor.


So why, when it's time to add a photo or whatnot to a blog post, do I have to:

1) Click on the photo icon on TypePad's posting page (hint: it's the little box,


the second symbol from the right on the top line)

2) Click on the "Browse" button next to the


"Choose an Image" box on the little pop-up that appears

3) Highlight one of the pictures listed on the next pop-up box (below)


4) Click the "Open" button at the bottom of that box after it lights up

5) Click on the "Insert Image" button that appears on the next pop-up box

6) Go to the draft page and make sure the picture's where it's supposed to be, without extra space above or below

That's an awful lot of work for one lousy picture.

So come on, someone really smart: tear down this TechnoDolt™-unfriendly wall.


And that's all I have to say about that.

July 8, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Naoto Fukasawa 'Suitcase' Chair


Aluminum-clad, it's a limited-edition design for Vitra whose price is not yet set.

Inquire within.

[photograph by Daniel Stier for the New York Times magazine.

July 8, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

« July 7, 2007 | Main | July 9, 2007 »