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September 18, 2007

Inside-Out Theater

1millslide

Look at the photo above.

What do you see?

You're looking at the audience for "One Million Forgotten Moments," spectators in a storefront theater in New York City watching the show (photos of which appear below) being performed in the street outside.

What will they think of next?

Here's Melena Ryzik's front page story from this past Sunday's New York Times Arts section.

    Taking It to the Street

    Among the clichés of New York life is that the city’s streets are their own kind of theater, that there is a certain visual poetry in the millions of iPod wearers, cellphone talkers, street hawkers, office workers, tourist gawkers and other pedestrians making their way somewhere each and every minute of every day.

    But this week, on a block in front of City Hall, the theater of the streets became quite literal for a few hundred uncynical customers and those gawking passers-by who happened past.

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    As performers playing all those urban types assembled on the pavement in front of 38 Park Row — accompanied by dancers, singers and fighting chorus girls — an audience of a few dozen watched from behind a storefront window in a makeshift theater inside the building.

    It is all part of “One Million Forgotten Moments,” an art installation-street theater hybrid created by Yehuda Duenyas. Mr. Duenyas, an artist and director associated with Chashama and a founder of the Brooklyn-based National Theater of the United States, envisioned the piece as a kind of valentine to New York.

    “What I wanted to do was create something where you could watch the anonymity of life, a venue where you could see life just passing you by, framed in a particular way,” Mr. Duenyas said. “The window becomes a frame around the city. Every mundane gesture of someone looking at a cellphone or getting on a bus suddenly becomes very monumental and beautiful.”

    The project was about a year in the planning and just over a month in the rehearsing. (It continues through Sunday; the performances, at 7 and 9 p.m., are free, but all the seats inside are already reserved. There will be a standby list, and street spectators are encouraged.) Mr. Duenyas was commissioned by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, which gave him a $6,000 grant to create the piece. The building that houses the audience, a former video store, is now available for artists and installations.

    Mr. Duenyas, the set designer Brett Windham and several carpenters spent about a month transforming the room into a semblance of a Baroque-looking jewel-box theater, complete with velvet curtains, chandeliers and a concession stand offering free candy and opera glasses. The theater itself is a small platform; eight wooden benches, which seat about 30 people, angle toward the window.

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    When Mr. Duenyas received his commission, he put out a call to all the artists he knew, and he did not turn anyone away. The result: 40 groups, more than 100 people in total, are participating, mostly without being paid. They include established downtown performers, like Kate Valentine and Chelsea Bacon, known for their work in the burlesque world, as well as many small theater troupes, recent N.Y.U. graduates, a skateboarding team, a magician and Jonathan Jacobs, billed as the Vintage DJ, who plays old records on period turntables. Marshaling that many people was tough, Mr. Duenyas said: “I should have had a megaphone.”

    On Wednesday, opening night, the performance had the extemporaneous feel of a happening. Actors in costumes — a 1920s-style bathing suit here, a bearded man wearing a single in-line skate there — wandered in and out. (The staging area and dressing rooms are at Pace University, a block and a half away.) Technical problems with the lights and sound (there are microphones on the street and speakers in the theater) were still being worked out.

    Eventually the curtain rose on a man in a suit and a horse-head mask. He blew an air horn. A few passers-by covered their ears.

    In the next scene Johnnie Moore, wearing a cowboy hat and accompanied by a guitarist, sang Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.”

    There is no narrative structure. Some scenes last a few seconds, others a few minutes. Famous New York City characters — Jacqueline Onassis, Spider-Man, “On the Town” sailors, the couple from the Times Square V-Day kiss photograph — make appearances. The acrobatic dancers make especially good use of the space, clambering on the scaffolding in front of the building.

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    Perhaps the most visually arresting moments came when there were performers on the sidewalk in front of the space, on the median in the middle of the street and in front of City Hall Park across the street. As they wove their way to the theater, dancing and singing through traffic and pedestrians, it did look like a kind of poetry.

    “It went from Ionesco to Broadway to school skits to profane art with a little Dada thrown in,” said Dana Seman, 54, a personal trainer and theater buff from TriBeCa who watched from inside.

    As the hourlong show progressed, more and more people stopped to look. Even a pizza delivery man on a bike briefly pulled over.

    Teodora Petkova, 29, a photographer from Midtown, was returning from the Brooklyn Bridge with her sister, Katya, 22, a visitor from Luxembourg, when they happened on the show. “I didn’t know what it was all about,” the elder Ms. Petkova said, “but we loved it. This is why I live in New York.”

    At one point a double-decker tourist bus passed by, as a woman in a skimpy mermaid costume holding a lighted-up parasol began dancing by herself across the street. All heads and cameras on the upper deck turned to face her.

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    “There’s a camaraderie that is completely bone-felt, among the performers and even the people on the street,” Mr. Moore, the singer, said. “It’s seems like we’re all in the middle of making more moments.”

September 18, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SpongeBob SquarePants Clock Radio

Buuhou

At $29.99 it's about 1% of the price of the ET iteration featured here on September 16, 2007 but I must say I prefer this goofy number.

Can you imagine how much better it would be to smash that idiotstick snooze head than the usual flat bar?

I can.

I want one of these in the worst way.

From the website:

    Memorex Electronics SpongeBob SquarePants AM/FM Clock Radio

    Wake up with SpongeBob SquarePants with this spectacular AM/FM Clock Radio.

    You'll hear a variety of quirky sounds and noises that will urge you to wake up and get going.

    Whether you live in a house, an apartment or a pineapple under the sea, you'll enjoy pleasant SpongeBob fun.

    Need some more sleep?

    Push down the retractable SpongeBob snooze head for just a few more minutes of slumber.

    The clock is enclosed in a soft-touch, sponge-like exterior and features an AM/FM radio, so you can listen to your favorite tunes whenever you want.

    Features:

    • Retractable SpongeBob snooze option lets you get a few more minutes of precious sleep

    • Quirky sounds get you out of bed with a smile on your face

    • SpongeBob's eyes automatically rise during wake-up mode

    • Features a blue backlit digital display with dimmer control

    • AM/FM radio tunes in to your favorite stations

    • Includes AUX line input for MP3 players

September 18, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'A model is always wrong, but not useless' — Thomas Wilson

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Wilson is the chief insurance risk officer of the ING group.

His deceptively simple but powerfully relevant (to life, among other things) observation appeared in Emanuel Derman's August 22, 2007 Wall Street Journal review of "How I Became a Quant," by Richard R. Lindsey and Barry Schachter.

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Derman is the head of risk at Prisma Capital Partners and the director of Columbia University's financial engineering program, as well as being the author of "My Life as a Quant."

You could say that you are the head of risk — for your own life.

I can't speak for you but me, mine keeps me plenty busy.

September 18, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Smidgen Measuring Spoons

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How much is a smidgen?

Or a pinch?

Or a dash?

Who knows?

You will if you keep reading.

From the website:

    Smidgen, Pinch and Dash Measuring Spoons

    These seem like standard measuring spoons until you notice the markings: Smidgen (1/16 teaspoon); Pinch (1/12 teaspoon); and Dash (1/8 teaspoon).

    More than a fun gift, they're genuinely practical, too, with quality stainless steel construction and long handles to reach deep.

    Dishwasher safe.

    4" long.

$3.99.

September 18, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster confounds Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times

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In yesterday's Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway interviewed the famously reticent head honcho of Craigslist to a draw.

Toward the end Kellaway wrote, "The interview is over and I have failed...."

Not really: she succeeded in letting Buckmaster be himself, which is the essence of the elusive art of interviewing.

That she couldn't get Buckmaster to perform the usual interviewer's tricks is not a failing on her part but, rather, a tribute to Buckmaster's character and perhaps a clue to his success.

Here's the most entertaining piece.

    CEO who puts profits second

    Jim Buckmaster doesn't believe in maximising profits. He doesn't believe in management. He doesn't believe in brands. He doesn't believe in discussing money and he doesn't believe in smiling.

    So much I had found out before meeting the chief executive of Craigslist, the internet classified ads company that claims to have twice as many users as Amazon — yet employs just 25 people out of a Victorian house in San Francisco.

    Ahead of our meeting I gave myself two modest challenges: to make Mr Buckmaster talk financial and to make him smile. After all, he has enough to smile about. In 1999, he was an unemployed web programmer who posted his résumé on Craigslist, where it was spotted by the site's founder, Craig Newmark, who offered him a job.

    A year later he was made chief executive and now he is in the most delicious of positions. Hugely successful, he could also be hugely rich if he wanted to cash in his stake. Only he chooses not to. The high moral ground suits him better.

    Mr Buckmaster ambles over to where I'm waiting at his chintzy Chelsea hotel. He is ridiculously tall (6ft8), is wearing flip flops, has dark hair with streaks of grey and is unshaven. He is decidedly attractive, so I'm disappointed that he directs his greeting and all subsequent remarks at the potted orchid over my left shoulder. He does not smile and his handshake is limp.

    I tell him this interview slot usually goes to the CEOs of big companies like Nissan — whereas Craigslist is worth... how much? This attempt to extract some numbers falls flat.

    "Er. We don't give out financial metrics," he says in a gentle, halting sort of way. "But I guess we have 25m users each month. I don't know how many customers Nissan has." These 25m users flock to the site to sell houses, second-hand sofas and their bodies - prostitution taking its place as a service for sale alongside ear candling and trumpet lessons. Most of these advertisers don't pay, though estate agents and companies placing jobs ads pay between $10 (£5) and $75. How much is raised that way he won't say.

    The runaway success of the site is odd. The name Craigslist is awful and the design of the page — a long list of categories in tiny, cheap-looking type — is non-existent. "We try to stick with what the user finds useful," he explains.

    So the site is clear and fast. Users don't like pop-up ads or big logos, so there aren't any. They have one principle — to please users — and they follow this doggedly. Nothing else gets a look-in.

    But what about motivation? If you shun profitability, isn't it hard to get motivated? He disagrees.

    "I get e-mails from people who have assembled their entire lives off of Craigslist. They've gotten their current job, spouse, the place they live, their friends and their dog off of this site. It's a direct sort of philanthropy. We are helping people through our service."

    There are at least two ways that Craigslist is not helping. Earlier this summer the mayor of Atlanta was the latest to complain about the hookers who use it to tout for business. "The US is very fixated on matters of sexuality," Mr Buckmaster sighs. "It's mildly tiresome at times." He is equally unmoved by claims the success of Craigslist puts newspapers out of business and costs jobs. "Newspapers are still very profitable," he insists.

    But if philanthropy is the aim, why not raise more revenue and give more away? "We don't have any genius for giving money away. It's difficult and time consuming. We give away 1 per cent of our revenues, and that is hard."

    So is that about $2m? I ask, hopefully, but no dice. "That might lead to unfortunate back-of-an-envelope calculations," he says.

    I show him a press cutting saying the company is worth over a billion dollars. "I don't really know if that's true or not," he says in a faraway voice. In any case, he says, it's hypothetical as it is not for sale. Isn't he sometimes tempted? "No, I'm not. We run the business the way we want to run it. We have lifestyles we are satisfied with. We find this very enjoyable and fulfilling."

    Does he actually disapprove of money, I wonder.

    "I'm not averse to riches or profit, but not at the expense of the user. We could raise more revenue, but I don't see any of us pocketing it. It would sit with the rest of the money in the bank unspent."

    He spends his existing salary renting a nice house in San Francisco with his partner, who also works for Craigslist. He doesn't own a car, but he does admit to enjoying travelling. On a whim I ask how much his jeans cost.

    "I buy much more expensive jeans than I used to. These were one-two-five bucks," he says.

    He then looks stricken, as if the jeans thing was bad. "I'm a little uncomfortable with my current lifestyle, given where I came from," he says. In his 20s and early 30s he used to lead a "monk-like existence". Indeed, 10 years ago, when he was 34, his parents (his father was a chemistry PhD working for Dupont) had given up hope that their medical-school dropout of a son would ever do anything in career terms.

    "I used to buy 50lb bags of wheat and grind it to make bread." He does the hand movement, solemnly. "My grandmother spat the bread out." A smile is suggested in his eyes but doesn't make it to the mouth.

    These days the amateur baker is increasingly in competition with the toughest internet companies, which are moving into classified ads. One competitor is Ebay (which bought 25 per cent of Craigslist from a former employee in 2004). Mr Buckmaster doesn't seem terribly interested in the threat. "From the users' perspective it can't be bad if we are ever displaced by someone doing a better job," he says, though clearly he doesn't see that happening soon.

    So if he doesn't worry about competitors or profits, what does he worry about? He pauses for 10 interminable seconds. "I worry if I've made the right decision in keeping the company so small." More people would mean more brains to serve users — but large organisations are dysfunctional. Small ones can be too, I say. He agrees: "Yeah. You just mustn't screw it up."

    The interview is over and I have failed: no smile and no numbers. The photographer arrives and I suggest the picture is taken outside as the hotel is too frumpy. "Frumpy?" he exclaims, inexplicably amused. He smiles, broadly.

    It seems the minute I stop trying, I succeed. Which is a little like Craigslist. While all those other internet companies strived so hard to make money and went bust, Craigslist wasn't trying at all, but still hit the jackpot.

September 18, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Buy Steve Wozniak's 350Z

Noojokj

Inquire within.

[via Shawn Lea's Everything And Nothing]

September 18, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Is Yankee catcher Jorge Posada being played for a fool by his doctors?

I read with interest a story by Jack Curry in yesterday's New York Times Sports section about Yankee catcher Jorge Posada's efforts to make sure he doesn't acquire brain damage from being hammered by dozens of foul tips off his mask along with the occasional pummeling when he blocks home on a play at the plate.

Long story short: Posada not only gets a CT scan of his head after each season ends, he also routinely asks for them during the season as he deems necessary — most recently last Saturday night following a full-speed collision with 240-pound Boston Red Sox runner Eric Hinske on a play at the plate (watch it above).

Here's the Times article, following which we'll go deeper into the subject.

    Even During Season, Precautions for Posada

    After the last three seasons have ended, Jorge Posada of the Yankees has scheduled an appointment to have a CT scan. As a catcher, who absorbs dozens of foul tips off his mask and who can get pummeled when he tries to block the plate, Posada wants to make sure he has not incurred brain damage.

    Posada also requested a scan Saturday night after Eric Hinske of the Red Sox crashed into him at home as Posada tagged him out. The scan, which detects certain brain injuries but not concussions, was negative. Still, it is significant that the demands of Posada’s position have caused him to make the scan part of his off-season routine and, if necessary, his in-season routine.

    The link between concussions and serious brain damage among some former N.F.L. players has become more pronounced, but baseball players, particularly catchers, are also at risk. Posada estimates that he has had three or four concussions in his career.

    “Sometimes, you get it and you don’t even know you had it,” he said. “You play through the game.”

    That play-with-pain mentality permeates locker rooms and clubhouses and could cause some dazed players to put themselves in jeopardy. Posada said that he had a “normal headache” after Hinske lowered his shoulder, raised his forearm and thrust his 240-pound body into him during Boston’s 10-1 victory Saturday. Still, Posada, who blocked the plate, called Hinske’s play clean.

    “He’s got nowhere to go,” Posada said.

    Although Posada’s eyes were bloodshot, he said that he slept well on Saturday night and that he was ready to catch Sunday night.

    But Manager Joe Torre said he wanted “to be safe,” so he used Posada at designated hitter and let José Molina catch Roger Clemens. (Posada went 0 for 4.) Molina spent part of the pregame being advised by Posada about the merits of getting CT scans.

    Torre, who started his career as a catcher, said he was rattled by foul tips and experienced collisions but never had a concussion diagnosed. He recalled how he was once clipped on the side of the head with a bat and joked how tests “revealed nothing” in his head.

    But Torre turned serious when he discussed Posada’s decision to have off-season scans.

    “I never thought about it until the football situation came up and they talked about the cumulative effect of so many” concussions, Torre said. “It’s frightening.”

    Catcher Mike Matheny retired from the San Francisco Giants after last season because of a series of concussions. When Matheny was placed on the 15-day disabled list, he said he did not think he would need all 15 days to recover, but he had postconcussion syndrome and never returned.

    Posada nodded when Matheny’s name was mentioned Sunday. But Posada, who entered Sunday leading American League catchers in games played (127) and innings (1,029 1/3), insisted that he could not be effective if he was worried about the possibility of injury.

    “You can’t think about the negative and stuff that could happen,” Posada said. “You just got to keep on hoping that everything is going to be fine and you can keep playing the game.”

    Two batters after Hinske collided with Posada, Posada reacted slowly on another play at the plate. Posada said his tag was high because he expected Jacoby Ellsbury to barrel into him, too. Posada did not directly answer whether he felt woozy.

    Tony Peña, the Yankees’ first-base coach, caught for 18 years and never had what he called “a major concussion.” But Peña said he blacked out several times after being hit by foul tips.

    Peña, whose youngest son, Francisco, is a minor league catcher with the Mets, said he had noticed that fewer young players were rushing to put on the mask.

    “You need to understand you’re going to get hit and you’re going to have to play with pain,” Peña said. “It’s one of the reasons kids don’t want to play the position.”

    Like Posada, Peña said he never obsessed about concussions or head injuries once he crouched behind the plate.

    “We play that position because we love it,” Peña said. “You never think about getting hurt.”

    Derek Jeter, Posada’s teammate and close friend, said Posada had a “hard head” and would be fine. Posada did not laugh about Jeter’s comment. Instead, he noted this remark from Jeter: “He said he couldn’t do what I’m doing.”

    As a fellow catcher who has been in Posada’s shin guards, Peña said he feels for Posada whenever he gets bowled over. But Peña smiled and talked about how satisfying it was to see a catcher take a hit and hold onto the ball, as Posada did.

    “When the umpire raises his arm and says the guy is out, you’re proud,” Peña said. “Your catcher did what he was supposed to do.”

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"The scan, which detects certain brain injuries but not concussions" — wait a minute.

If the writer knows this, you'd assume Posada does too — right?

Maybe not.

Maybe the Yankee team doctors encourage him to get a CT scan "just to be sure."

Bad advice — no one needs the extra radiation.

In fact, the increased risk of a brain tumor from the cumulative exposure to all those CT scan-generated x-rays is probably greater than or equal to the chance they'll show anything useful that hasn't already been diagnosed as a result of Posada's physical signs and symptoms.

The physical signs and symptoms of concussion remain the gold standard for diagnosis, just as they were back in the dark ages when I went to med school and rotated through third year neurology.

A negative CT scan doesn't necessarily mean everything's OK upstairs.

Consider, for example, the following abstract of a 2006 paper on the subject published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine.

    Bench to bedside: evidence for brain injury after concussion — looking beyond the computed tomography scan.

    The emergency management of cerebral concussion typically centers on the decision to perform a head computed tomography (CT) scan, which only rarely detects hemorrhagic lesions requiring neurosurgery. The absence of hemorrhage on CT scan often is equated with a lack of brain injury. However, observational studies revealing poor long-term cognitive outcome after concussion suggest that brain injury may be present despite a normal CT scan. To explore this idea further, the authors reviewed the evidence for objective neurologic injury in humans after concussion, with particular emphasis on those with a normal brain CT. This evidence comes from studies involving brain tissue pathology, CT scanning, magnetic resonance image (MRI) scanning, serum biomarkers, formal cognitive and balance tests, functional MRI, positron emission tomography, and single-photon emission computed tomography scanning. Each section is accompanied by technical information to help the reader understand what these tests are, not to endorse their use clinically. The authors discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence in each case. These reports make a compelling case for the existence of concussion as a clinically relevant disease with demonstrable neurologic pathology. Areas for future emergency medicine research are suggested.

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Allow me to put the key finding from the above abstract in boldface: "Brain injury may be present despite a normal CT scan."

It's not that the CT scan is completely worthless as a diagnostic tool after head trauma (though it's still way overused).

Rather, it's that a normal CT scan will result in many cases in an individual who has in fact sustained a concussion being cleared as ready to return to their usual activity or sport.

Posada's just another victim of so-called "V.I.P. medicine" — where people who are famous, wealthy or otherwise noteworthy receive not the best but oftimes substandard care.

Regardless, that's one awesome play Posada made — can you believe he held onto the ball?

September 18, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Track Desk — by Mark Holmes

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From the website:

    Track Desk

    Track Desk employs an open framed ash structure, providing support for various folded steel doors, shelves and surfaces.

    Designer Mark Holmes said, “I wanted to design a system around low-tech production techniques and free of complicated mechanics. The idea of folded metal shelves and doors backed with felt, sliding smoothly over the bars of an open timber frame seemed a delightfully simple solution; Track has developed with this in mind and Track Desk is the latest addition to the family”.

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Price upon application.

September 18, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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