Monday, September 27, 2004

Lost Hemingway Bullfight Tale Surfaces

Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
LONDON, Sept. 26 - Eighty years after they were written, a previously unknown story and a handwritten letter ascribed to Ernest Hemingway have surfaced to stir a literary and legal dispute between people who want to see them published and people who don't.

At present, the opponents of publication - notably the custodians of the Hemingway estate - are winning, according to several people on both sides of the debate. But that has not detracted from the long, twisty tale of the documents themselves: a two-page letter and a five-page slapstick account of a bullfighting incident written in 1924. Not only do the documents offer an insight into the personality of a young Hemingway, scholars say, but they also illuminate the powerful appeal exerted by even modest discoveries of previously unknown writing by literary giants like Hemingway, who died in 1961.

The story - a thinly fictionalized sketch titled "My Life in the Bull Ring With Donald Ogden Stewart'' - and the letter cannot be published without the permission of the Hemingway estate, which has withheld it. But they can be sold, and will be auctioned in New York in December, according to Christie's, whose officials said the documents were expected to bring $12,000 to $18,000. None of the parties involved have raised questions about the documents' authenticity. The seller, who lives in Rome, is Donald Stewart, the son of Donald Ogden Stewart. What happens to the documents after the sale depends on whether the buyer is willing to permit access to the work by scholars or will try again to persuade the estate to permit their publication. What has happened to them in the past 80 years, though, seems an odd blend of history repeating itself and art mocking life.

"This is a piece of literary history, a wonderful find,'' Matthew J. Bruccoli, a scholar at the University of South Carolina who has written extensively about Hemingway, said in an interview. "It is lamentable that this very interesting piece of literary history is apparently interdicted from publication.''

The bullfighting episode was apparently inspired by an actual encounter in 1924 between Stewart, a well-known American author at the time, and an angry bull in Pamplona, Spain, where Hemingway had arranged for a group of friends to join him. Stewart was part of a literary set in the 1920's and 30's that included F. Scott Fitzgerald and others. He was a close friend of Hemingway during the 1920's and went on to write the Oscar-winning screenplay of "Philadelphia Story" in 1940. He was blacklisted in the McCarthy era and moved to London in 1950.

In 1924 he, John Dos Passos and others met up with Hemingway during the annual bullfighting fiesta, an event that would inspire Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises.'' The undated letter from Hemingway to Stewart, on stationery from the Hotel Perla in Pamplona, sets out the arrangements for the trip. It also hints of long, delicious meals: he writes with "great difficulty," he admits at one point. "It is still three hours after lunch."

In his 1975 autobiography, "By a Stroke of Luck!," Stewart recalled spending days "excited, drunk, hot, hungover" in Pamplona. At one point, he wrote, he was helped into a bullring and handed a red cloak. "I found myself standing alone in the midst of an audience of thousands with the bull glaring at me from a distance of six feet,'' Stewart wrote.

Twice the bull tossed him. "I had been hit by a bull, and it was nothing,'' he wrote. "I had shown that I could take it. Ernest clapped me on the back, and I felt as though I had scored a winning touchdown.''

Subsequently, according to Stewart's autobiography, Hemingway sent him a humorous account of the incident, prefaced by his address: "Ernest Hemingway, 113 Rue Notre Dame des Champs, Paris, France.''

But Stewart, himself a parodist and humorist, was not impressed. "When he had sent me a 'funny' piece about myself to submit to Vanity Fair, I had decided that written humor was not his dish and had done nothing about it,'' Stewart wrote.

What happened afterward is unclear. According to his family, Stewart may have put the short story aside and ignored it. In any event, the typescript - a carbon copy - seems to have gathered dust until last year, when his son discovered it.

Mr. Stewart, 72, said the documents had been in an envelope that he inherited after his father's death in 1980 and had left untouched. "I hadn't bothered with it because it represented to me the enormous burden of having a famous father,'' he said in a telephone interview from Rome. By last year, though, he felt reconciled with his father's memory, he said, and after rereading his father's autobiographical reference to an unpublished Hemingway work he "resolved to cheerily plunder this envelope'' to search for it.

He sought to publish the documents in the modern Vanity Fair, with an article of his own. The magazine agreed, only to discover that the Hemingway estate had refused permission for publication, Wayne Lawson, the executive literary editor of Vanity Fair, said. "So for us, that was the end of it,'' he said in a telephone interview from New York.

The documents fall into a quirk of copyright law. While the text may not be published without the permission of the Hemingway estate, the letter and typescript may be sold as artifacts, according to Patrick McGrath, a books and manuscripts specialist at Christie's in New York.

Mr. McGrath said the auction house had authenticated the letter as written in Hemingway's hand. The five-page carbon copy of the story has also been authenticated, he added, because of its provenance and because the words "The End" were in Hemingway's handwriting.

It is not clear why permission to publish the documents was withheld. According to Mr. Stewart, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation granted him permission to publish the story and the letter in return for $500. The foundation, representing scholars and enthusiasts, is a legal entity endowed with some rights over unpublished Hemingway material, said Prof. Gerald Kennedy, its vice president and an English professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

But under an agreement reached in 1983 after the death of the author's widow, Mary Hemingway, joint permission from the foundation and the estate is required for the use of any previously unpublished material.

Simon & Schuster, which has held the rights to Hemingway's published work since it took over his original publisher, Scribner's, in 1994, also acts as an intermediary between the estate and people seeking to publish his writings. In an e-mail message to Mr. Stewart on Sept. 10, Lydia Zelaya, a permissions editor at Simon & Schuster, wrote: "The estate does not permit such publication. Therefore publication of this material anywhere in the world is prohibited.'' The text of her message was made available by Mr. Stewart.

A Simon & Schuster executive said the publisher had merely relayed a decision by the Hemingway estate.

The estate's denial of permission effectively canceled Professor Kennedy's decision to approve publication of the documents. "We were happy with the prospect of some new work by Hemingway coming into the public view,'' he said. "But the family had other considerations, and I can't speak for them."

Professor Kennedy said he did not doubt the story's authenticity. "The piece surprised me because I had not known about it at all,'' he said.

He said the story was characteristic of the kind of humorous material that Hemingway was writing "on the side'' while he was in Paris in the mid-1920's. "It's very much in the spirit of tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top humor,'' he said.

Thanks To By Alan Cowell NYT

Friday, September 24, 2004


Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Is it just me or does mood lighting seem to be the latest way to up the art vibe at home? Then, in steps the Groovetube: This groovy plastic box adheres to a television screen and diffuses the colors into a psychedelic, geometric color display. It's kinda like iTunes visuals for your TV - it also comes in 3 sizes.

Groove Me!

Have a great weekend!

That's Right,


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

All In: Good Fun

Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

ATLANTIC CITY, Sept. 20 - Sunday night, three of the luckiest guys alive finally caught a break and headed up to a room at the Borgata casino here for a rest in the middle of a long day at the World Poker Tour. In the past few years these three have each won millions of dollars - the talk generally gets less specific when losses come up - playing Texas Hold 'Em, a card game that has stormed across television and computer screens and put poker in the middle of the table as never before.

The men are three of the kings of so-called no-limit poker, a format in which any player at any time can put all his money in the pot - all in, as they say. No-limit poker is as indigenous to America as jazz, and full of just as much improvisation. Apple pie is fine, and baseball is always good on a sunny day, but what could be more American than betting $1 million on the flop of single card?

Although pitiless when they sit across the table from one another for a game of Hold 'Em, the three, Doyle Brunson, T. J. Cloutier and Gus Hansen, are friends, as friendly as professional card players get. They had mixed results playing the seven-card game at the tables that day, in part because they had to play through a clutter of amateurs that the poker craze has created. Now that the pros finally had some time to themselves, give or take a reporter, they could unwind at last. And play some cards.

Away from the television cameras and clamoring fans, they opted for a change of pace, plopping down on the king-size bed as Mr. Hansen dealt 13 cards to each player. Chinese poker was the name of this game, and it required that they arrange three hands of poker out of the cards they were dealt, in progressively better hands. The room went silent for five seconds after the deal as each man clicked through mathematical possibilities measured in thousands. And then they played nickel poker, with the word "nickel" meaning $500 and "dime" meaning $1,000. Many thousands of dollars changed hands in a matter of minutes.

Mr. Hansen, a former top backgammon player who came out of nowhere or, more specifically, Denmark, in 1997 as a professional poker player, won the first hand. Mr. Brunson, an old-school rounder who came up the hard way - and won the World Series of Poker, twice - was gracious in defeat.

"You won it all as usual, which is something I will have to become accustomed to," he said.

He and Mr. Hansen have seen a lot of each other. This past summer they, with six other of the world's best card players, each anted up $400,000 for a professional death match on Fox Sports Net called the "Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament" - no amateurs or Internet players allowed. The last episode of the first round was broadcast on Sunday, with Mr. Hansen riding a hot hand to victory. A new round begins next Sunday.

In the game of Hold 'Em, each player receives two of his own cards and then bets progressively over the next five common cards on the table - three cards known as "the flop," a fourth known as "the turn" and then the fifth, "the river." Millions of new players are flooding virtual Hold 'Em games on the Internet and have stormed the casinos. The Borgata alone is in the midst of expanding its poker room to 85 tables, from 35.

But these pros aren't new to the game. They are all self-described degenerate gamblers who just happen to be better at the game than civilians. Their every waking minute is spent in pursuit of action, not always at the poker table. If the three of them came across two worms washed on a sidewalk after a rainstorm, they might be compelled to stop and bet on which one makes it back to the grass first.

Someone brought up the evening's National Football League game: Miami would square off against Cincinnati in a few hours. Mr. Brunson, who is famed for putting down as much as a $250,000 on any given day on sports events, asked Mr. Hansen who he liked in the game. Mr. Hansen said he had no strong preference, but Mr. Brunson told him to pick anyway. Mr. Hansen chose Cincinnati to beat the points and the under, which is a pick based on total points. And with that, the bet was down: $30,000. Who picked whom was clearly beside the point.

"We all like the action," Mr. Hansen said later at the casino's buffet, taking in mouthfuls of mashed potatoes off a butter knife as he spoke. "If nothing is at stake, what's the point?"

That does not explain why millions of people are sitting in front of their televisions watching other people play cards; the World Poker Tour was the Travel Channel's highest rated show last year. (Among the other shows now on the air are ESPN's "World Series of Poker" and Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown.") Poker became television fodder when the toy mogul Henry Orenstein invented a camera technology that allowed viewers to see a poker player's cards through a window in the table. Mr. Orenstein is the creator and executive producer of "Poker Superstars."

"Before, you never knew who had what cards," he said in a telephone interview. "Now you can actually see the strategy in the middle of the game."

It was the Internet, however, that changed the odds in big-money tournaments. Last year an Internet player named Christopher Moneymaker - his actual name, by the way - won the World Series of Poker and $2.5 million. He had never played in a live tournament in his life, so his victory took a bit of the mystique out of poker, where it has long been held that reading the people is more important than reading the cards. There are no faces in Web card rooms, only players and lots of them. Last year, according to Christiansen Capital Advisors, a market research concern, Internet gambling revenue totaled almost $6.35 billion.

Mr. Orenstein reasoned that if people would spend billions sitting in front of their computers, they might want to see the game's royalty going head-to-head, and he sold the program idea to Fox; "Poker Superstars" made its debut in August.

The legendary player Johnny Chan, who appeared as himself in the movie "Rounders," is one of those kings. At the Borgata, he took a seat at a slot machine to chat.

"The amateurs are going to get lucky every once in a while, and I don't think it is bad for the game," he said. "I love this game. We all do. We want to be in the action all the time. The only time we aren't in the action is when we are sleeping.''

It can get pretty silly after a while. Howard Lederer, who has played chess for cash, is known as the Professor because of his command of poker's numerical whims. Even as he sat nursing a brutally small stack of chips in the poker room at the Borgata during the World Poker Tour, he was staring at a television screen above his head that was replaying a hand he had against Johnny Chan in Fox's "Poker Superstars." The hand in front of him did not look much better than the one on the screen.

"I know I'm in a tournament and going to lose and running bad on TV, too," he said.

"But you have to be in the moment," he added philosophically. "I was having a mediocre day of cards, but I was struggling to play my best. You can't think about the meta, about the past, about the bad beats. You have to play the cards in front of you."

The tournament ended after midnight and everyone, pros and amateurs alike, counted their chips and thought about the next day of play. But not everyone was done playing. At a $15 craps table just outside the B Bar on the main level of the Borgata, the guy chanting at the dice looked familiar. It was Mr. Cloutier, who has 57 titles in major tournaments and five World Series of Poker titles; he is poker's all-time leading money winner.

Mr. Cloutier is one guy you do not want to have sit down at your table, except that he is a complete gentleman, which means he will be nice to you after he takes all of your money. But he was playing craps right then. It was 1:26 on Monday morning. He made a promise, empty even as it was uttered, to stop by the bar when he was done.


Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

Show me more badly drawn cats!

That's Right,


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Upstairs - Downstairs

The Benefits of Living Above the Store
By Suzanne Hamlin NYT

There are very few ways to outwit the market and find a bargain.

But for those people who are adventurous and willing to look at buildings that don't fall into their preconceived ideas of residential space, there is a frontier, maybe the last one: the mixed use building, legally designated as part commercial and part residential.

Brokers say they are seeing intense interest in them from people who previously might have wanted only purely residential property. In some cases, the buyers are looking for places to both live and work. In others, the interest is driven by money, or rather the lack thereof.

As prices for apartments and brownstones zoom ever upward, mixed-use space is becoming more appealing. It often costs less per square foot, and a commercial tenant can provide rent to cover much of the mortgage.

"It's like the floodgates have opened," said Jackie Lew, a broker with the Corcoran Group in Brooklyn.

She said that she has had more calls about a recently listed mixed-use building on Third Avenue in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, for $650,000, than on any other property in the last several years. Quite quickly, the building was bought by a dentist who plans to have his office there and rent out the apartments above.

But many prospective buyers of mixed-use property are young and not-so-young professionals who want living space in the popular Brooklyn and Manhattan neighborhoods that appeal to them for their schools, green space, transportation and shopping.

The greatest number of mixed-use buildings in New York are on big commercial strips, often in what would be considered fringe residential neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. For those craving space and not fearful of living without a Starbucks within walking distance, these can be a great deal.

But even in more affluent neighborhoods, mixed-use buildings can be found, usually less expensive by a third or more than fully residential buildings. If the commercial space is not used by the owner, there is the potential for income from a tenant who will probably never give wild parties, or call the landlord in the middle of the night because of a clogged sink.

Another plus for many is that unlike most residential buildings, mixed-use properties often come with the legal right to build up or extend out in back. And for many mixed-use buyers, the buildings' lack of architectural detail or character is a good thing; owners can rip out and reconfigure at will. As for the usual lack of a yard, roof gardens and decks are compensation.

Over the last 29 years, Sue and Joel Wolfe have experienced the benefits of owning a mixed-use building. When they bought a three-story building on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn in 1975, they had no intention of living there; they already had a two-family brick house in Fort Greene.

But, "Joel wanted to open a restaurant," said Ms. Wolfe, who at the time was a merchandising executive and is now a real estate broker.

The 4,425-square-foot Atlantic Avenue building, between Nevins and Bond Streets, cost $38,000 in 1978, about a third of the total cost of renovations needed to create a ground-floor restaurant for Mr. Wolfe and upstairs, a spacious duplex and landscaped deck.

The upstairs duplex, meant originally as a rental, almost immediately became home for the Wolfes and their daughter, Lissa. "It didn't take long to figure out that if we were ever going to see Joel, we had to live in the building," Ms. Wolfe said.

The building, valued at around $1.4 million in today's market, looks right at home now in a tree-shaded block of clothing boutiques, art galleries, antique stores, a yoga studio, a garden center and restaurants.

Development plans for making Atlantic Avenue a three-mile grand boulevard, beginning with a riverside park and ending at a Frank Gehry-designed basketball stadium and shopping complex, are well under way.

But the Atlantic Avenue of 30 years ago was desolate, treeless and heavily traveled, a main thoroughfare for people on their way to somewhere else. Mr. Wolfe's restaurant, Restaurant Lisanne, was surrounded by manufacturing plants, wire-fence parking lots and low, anonymous storefront buildings.

It was considered a good restaurant, but even residents in Brooklyn Heights, less than a mile away, would not go there casually. Boerum Hill, the neighborhood directly behind the restaurant, where brownstones needing work now start at $1.5 million, was known locally as crack city, and best to be assiduously avoided after dark.

For the Wolfes, shopping for essentials was a long hike or a car trip, and casual neighborhood social life was nonexistent.

When Mr. Wolfe retired and closed Restaurant Lisanne in 1989, the space on the ground floor was rented to Cheryl Kleinman, the baker who has become well known not only for her wedding cakes and pastries but also for her celebrity clientele. It is a commercial kitchen, not a walk-in shop, and the Wolfes say they feel blessed to absorb so many seductive aromas without ingesting any calories.

Having a commercial tenant is like having a residential tenant except that in a commercial space, when there is a negotiated net income lease, the tenant pays a share of the building's taxes, as well as utilities and garbage pickup.

But there are downsides, and challenges, that buyers may not understand when they first start looking at mixed-use buildings. Ms. Lew, the broker, said those considering mixed-use property for the first time often don't know that the down payment is at least 25 percent of the purchase price.

This can be a substantial cash outlay, far greater than the average 10 percent down payment fairly standard now on residential properties purchased by buyers with large incomes who are considered good risks by mortgage lenders.

Banks consider that a mixed-use building, particularly for a live-work owner, carries a double risk. If a commercial business goes under, the odds of losing the house become greater. All eggs in one basket sets bankers' teeth on edge.

Traditionally, immigrants have been the most avid buyers of small live-work buildings. Chinatown and the Lower East Side remain vibrant examples, and recent immigrants also see this route as a way up, not down.

Eli Ickovic, a Corcoran broker who was born in Israel and is fluent in several languages, cited one of his clients, a woman from Poland, who moved here three years ago and bought a rental property in Sunset Park and then a mixed-use building in Park Slope. In contract now for those buildings, she is about to close on a mixed-use building on Atlantic Avenue that provides more income in a better location. Her teenage daughter and an older relative will move into an apartment in the building with her.

It's a scenario that still dumbfounds many Americans who can't figure how they can have good jobs and decent salaries and still not save a dime.

Hard work — very hard work — and a willingness to live in less-than-ideal quarters are the short answer. "Real estate is still the key to being able to afford to live here and achieve financial success," said Timothy D. King, the executive managing director of the Brooklyn office of Massey Knakal Realty Services, a commercial real estate firm with extensive listings across the city.

Nodding at the affable young Russian who was working as a technician and adjusting the interagency plasma TV screens, Mr. King said, "Trust me, with his kind of work ethic and intelligence, he's going to be a property owner soon."

People who understand the financial benefits often find the mixed-use route very compelling. One woman who is a stock market analyst for a Wall Street broker bought a mixed-use building in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, last year using money that might otherwise have gone into the stocks. "It's no secret," she said, "that a shrewd real estate investment is going to give a greater long-run return than the stock market."

Requesting anonymity for fear of biting the hand that feeds her, she said she has come to enjoy her new living situation. The deli downstairs is not only one-stop shopping, it's security. "As a single woman, it makes me feel safe knowing that they are there all day," she said.

But there is a sense that well-off people more appropriately choose to live in fancy co-ops. "My parents are probably turning over in their graves," she said. "Live above the store? That's what they did, so I could get my M.B.A. and get out."

Monday, September 20, 2004

What If. Something From Nothing. The Anti NTAC Movement

It happens all the time. A client, maybe an old one, maybe a new prospect calls with what, at first glance, appears to be a totally lame or mundane project. Most designers roll their eyes, dish it off to an intern or even worse, crank out a ho-hum solution. Sound familiar? But, what if...

What if, instead of dismissing the project as a no-brainer, you actually put some brainpower into it. What if you approached the project as something that you yourself would actually pick up and read. What if you could turn this predictable, boring nothing into something cool, fun, interesting and possibly great or even collectible. What if you got off your ass, stepped away from the computer and took the tried and true old school approach. That' right, the paper and pencil approach. To me, a blank computer screen is intimidating. Sure, you can easily set up a document, pick a nice font, throw in a picture and call it done, but then what? Any No Talent Ass Clown can do that - just look at all the people calling themselves designers simply because they have a computer. Where's the concept? Where's the idea? Where's the beef?

The computer can be a great tool to enhance any idea but the idea needs to come first. And ideas are funny things - they don't work unless you do. Starting any project in front of your computer is the first step to joining the masses of the NTAC. It's lazy, it's predictable and the results are about as interesting as made for TV movie. What if you started a project with an idea, your brain, a pencil and a blank piece of paper? You know, the work part. And yes, the hard part. Ideas building upon ideas until you arrive upon something that truly works. Most successful projects and ventures start this way so it's really no mystery as to why some things work and others just, well, suck. There's really no better way to approach a project or task, old or new, and the results are almost always worth the effort of actually doing it right. Who knows, you might even exceeded both the client's expectations and yours as well! Even if your big idea gets shot down, at least you'll be stretching your creativity muscles and perhaps one step closer to discovering a gem of a project for future use - either way, it's never wasted time. It's all in how you approach it. Lowly production job, or meaningful project? Half empty or half full. It's your monkey.


In Ron Suskind's best-seller The Price of Loyalty, Paul O'Neill recounts his first meeting as U.S. Treasury Secretary with President George W. Bush. As their conversation progresses, O'Neill is confounded by the President's obvious lack of engagement.

Late in the meeting, O'Neill says, "All right, Mr. President, maybe to finish up we could talk about global climate change ...." O'Neill had provided a booklet titled "Science, Politics & Global Climate Change" to prep the President for this discussion. "... O'Neill had sent over a booklet Alcoa had produced in 1998 with the text of an extensive speech he had given—a thorough analysis of the issue .... Bush seemed to indicate with a tilt of the head that he had read it. But, again, O'Neill wasn't certain."

I felt a rush of surprise reading this—not to learn that G.W. wasn't on the ball, but to realize that I had designed the booklet that the President of the United States had ignored.

Well, heck! That's cool. But there's a more interesting story to "Science, Politics & Global Climate Change"—and a good design lesson, too.

The job didn't start out as anything like a design project. My longtime Alcoa client called to say that O'Neill, then Alcoa's chairman, had given an important speech on one of his most passionate interests: global climate change. O'Neill wanted the speech printed and distributed. Could I set the text in a nice typeface?

This was truly more a skilled production job than a design project. A few days later, I delivered what was requested: nice type, nice paper, 8 1/2 x11in. But I also prepared an alternative: a small, 32-page book with an illustrated cover. I was betting there might be a difference between what my client requested and what O'Neill really wanted.

What did O'Neill say he wanted? A speech reprint. But what did he actually want? He wanted the print equivalent of his speech: an eloquent, compelling call to action on an urgent issue, meant to engage the mind, expand the reader's understanding and inspire change.

I proposed a chunky, 6x7in., perfect-bound mini-book with a cover illustration by Rob Day. O'Neill's words, so energetic in person, received equal impact in print through bold typography, bright subheads and readable layouts. A business guru once said, "Satisfy the unexpressed wish." "Science, Politics & Global Climate Change" satisfied O'Neill's unexpressed wish. Hearing what the client really wanted created a design project for me—when before there was none.

I've had other experiences in creating a project from nothing, frequently enough to have formed a few conclusions. First: Don't think about the money. Not your fees, not the budget, not the print costs. If the solution answers the need in a way that delights and surprises, the money often works out.

Second: Be sure to also present a solution that responds to the client's request. If you disregard what he specified, your client might take offense. Do what is requested and do what it ought to be.

Third: Don't presume your brilliant solution will be accepted. If it never gets out of the gate, your client will appreciate the extra effort nonetheless. And finally: Cultivate a mindset that constantly goes beyond the client's stated needs. Listen carefully and critically, and dream on your client's behalf. Satisfy the unexpressed wish.

Thanks to Rick Landesberg

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Analog Your Ipod

iPod Radio
Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Thanks to Nobuyuki Hayashia 

In the back streets of Tokyo's upscale Aoyama district, there's a little antique store quite unlike all the others in the neighborhood. Located on the second floor of an old apartment building, And Up specializes in selling antique radios and, of all things, iPods.
The store's owner, 50-year-old Takeyuki Ishii, recommends plugging an iPod into an FM transmitter, such as Griffin Technology's iTrip, and listening to music through the speaker of an antique radio.
Ishii believes there is aural magic in the combination of the very old with the very new. Playing an iPod through an old radio or tube-driven amplifier gives it a special warmth and atmosphere, he says.
"What we are suggesting here is an old-and-new way to listen to music," Ishii said. "In electronics stores, you find the latest speakers with crisp, clear and accurate sounds. By contrast, most of the radios we have are not even stereo. The sounds are hardly clear. You might even hear some noises, and radios with tubes change their sounds as the tube warms up."
Ishii insists the antique equipment creates an atmosphere that has been forgotten. The softer tones ease listeners and make them feel warm and relaxed.
"Listening to their sounds, I can recall scenes from my childhood," he said.
Ishii also argues that the quality of CDs and today's speakers are so good, they simply reveal the limitations of poor recordings, especially older music.
By contrast, antique radios hide defects nicely with their vague but warm sounds.
Ishii, a former sculptor, wasn't always a fan of antique radios. He discovered their appeal when researching a way to listen to CDs in his classic Mercedes Benz.
Ishii didn't want to replace the original, aging audio system. A friend suggested he use an iPod with the iTrip transmitter. He loved how they worked, as well as the sound they produced.
He then tried the iPod/iTrip combination with his old stereo system and that was when he had the revelation. He loved it so much that he felt obliged to share the experience with more people.
In March, he opened And Up in Aoyama, a Tokyo neighborhood known for its many antiques stores. Ishii owns another Tokyo antiques shop selling Arita-yaki, a type of Japanese porcelain.
However, business at And Up has hardly been booming. Plenty of customers drop by the store, and despite loving the sound, few seem willing to buy the pricey antiques.
"It is hardly successful as a business," Ishii shrugged.
One customer listened intently to several antique radios but instead of buying one, asked Ishii where he could get his old stereo system repaired. Ishii promised to arrange it.
"That is only natural," said Ishii.
Ishii said instead of buying from him, some potential customers pick up bargain equipment on Internet auctions. Many of the shop's visitors are middlemen who prefer talking to buying, and will stay many hours telling stories of their favorite old radios. Ishii seems content with the arrangement.
"I am happy that they like the idea," he said.
Nonetheless, Ishii is hoping to attract a younger audience unfamiliar with the joys of his aural artifacts. He has a new tactic: pairing modern monitor speakers (the kind often used in recording studios) with antique amplifiers and iPods.
Younger customers, Ishii said, are greatly excited by the soft sounds and the glow of the tubes. It's all new to them, Ishii said.
"I want these kids to know the great culture we had as well as some of the great engineering and design work of the mid-20th century," he said. "The industrial goods of today become obsolete too fast. We aren't given enough time to digest them. I think now is a good time to stop, look back and learn from some of the great work we have begun to forget."
It may be working. Hiroaki Imai, a 30-something customer, said, "I like antique electronic stuff.... I think these radios have better aesthetics than today's gizmos."

That's Right,


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Buffy: Form of BUNNY. Little Rabbit.

Check out this cool site that not only gives you a brief definition of your first name, it also lists the Top Ten most popular names starting from 1880 through 2003. According to the site, the name Henry has a number of different images: a frail, bookish nerd; an ambitious, independent entrepreneur; or a strong, easygoing farmer. Michael is described as a strong, handsome man who is both a smart, successful hardworker, and an easygoing, lighthearted family man. Hmmm. I guess that pretty much sums me up.

Find My Name

But Buffy? Is that even legal to have as your real name? I just can't see Buffy being taken seriously on something like a birth certificate, passport or a tombstone...

That's Right,
Henry Michael Karshis

Monday, September 13, 2004

You're Getting Warmer...

Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Next time you're looking for a Hot Spot in Nice, Hong Kong, San Antonio or anywhere else on the planet, save yourself some time and check here first:

That's Right,


Thursday, September 09, 2004

Old School Rules!

Old school
Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
A Digital Generation's Analog Chic

When most people shop for a cellphone, considerations like aesthetics, size and features usually top the list. For most, the sleeker, the smaller and the more fully loaded the phone, the better.

But when Eugene Auh went trawling at eBay for a cheap cellphone last month, he searched for one with a decidedly anachronistic bent.

"I wanted the biggest cellphone I could find," said Mr. Auh, a 27-year-old investment manager in Philadelphia. His winning bid of $25.95 bought a Motorola DynaTac, a 1980's-era "brick" cellphone that fits more comfortably in a backpack than in a suit pocket.

Rather than subtracting from its charm, the phone's cumbersome size - it is roughly eight by two by three inches - is its main attraction, Mr. Auh said. Indeed, he plans to take the phone to work, to the gym and even to his nighttime haunts.

"Imagine this: I'll walk into a bar and ask for a girl's number, then break out my phone," he said. "How could you say no to that?"

While his attraction to digital relics may seem unusual, Mr. Auh is part of what appears to be a growing group of 20-somethings embracing yesterday's designs. These fans of retro technology are using ingenuity to find or fashion the perfect cellphones, gaming systems and computer cases - in effect ushering back a time they experienced only barely, if at all.

Take Ali Rahimi, 28, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mr. Rahimi became so fed up last year with what he called the "impersonal, unthinking" nature of modern communication that he attached an old-fashioned handset to his cellphone. The result was a cellphone-handset whose receiver restored the deliberate nature of communication, he said.

"When you're talking to your grandma on an old-style handset, you're very aware of its presence," Mr. Rahimi said. "The handset has been going through about a hundred years of evolution in design and, pretty much for what they do, they have the perfect shape."

In contrast, he said, the rectangular design of modern cellphones encourages talking at the phone, rather than into it. "You just talk and the cellphone picks up the sounds," he said.

The easy, ironic social commentary that ownership of such a device allows caused Amanda McCorquodale to pay $36 for a Pokia handset in a kitschy avocado green. The Pokia line, an assortment of vintage handsets that plug into cellphones along the same creative lines as Mr. Rahimi's model, is produced in limited quantities in Britain and is sold at eBay.

Stating an opinion that might warm the hearts of an older generation, Ms. McCorquodale, 25, a textbook editor who lives in Brooklyn, said, "I just think people use their cellphones a ridiculous amount." The handset is an easy way of mocking the phone's ubiquity while also allowing her a quiet protest "against having to use a cellphone all the time, but not wanting to."

The popularity of retro technology simply reflects, in part, how sophisticated modern technology has become, said Steven Lubar, a Brown University professor of American civilization who specializes in the history of technology.

When the available technology converges at a certain performance threshold, Dr. Lubar said, consumers begin to base their choices on nontechnical considerations like fashion to express their identity. Thus the appeal of retro gadgets.

"There's something liberating about picking and choosing technological styles from the past as a means of self-expression," Dr. Lubar said by e-mail. "Perhaps there's a bit of self-conscious irony here, too."

For some, retro joy comes in bulkier, less technologically advanced packages. At eBay last year, John Henry Flood, a 21-year-old Harvard sophomore, bought the 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System along with the Atari 2600, a console that makes the Nintendo system appear positively cutting edge. Covered in wood-grain paneling and plastic molding, the first Atari 2600 made its debut in 1977 and was the first widely popular gaming system, used to play video games like Space Invaders and Asteroids.

Another reminder of its age is a switch that gives gamers the option to optimize color resolution for black-and-white televisions.

But the vintage nature of the machines means that games are cheap and easily grasped by a wide audience. Mr. Flood bought the first-generation consoles mainly so he could play video games with his college friends, who he said were more inclined to play low-tech games like Super Mario Brothers than to invest the time needed to play today's more complex games.

Then there is the "wow" factor.

"Everyone's like, oh my gosh, where'd you get these?" Mr. Flood said. While he also owns a Microsoft Xbox and a Sony PlayStation 2, the retro consoles see far more playing time in his dorm room, he said.

For those who prize the convenience of today's technology while preferring the look of their parents' gadgets, several manufacturers have stepped in with hybrid alternatives.

Polyconcept USA offers a line of retro turntables distinguished by the abundance of wood and vintage touches like analog radio dials. But closer inspection reveals discreet CD slots, light-emitting-diode displays and built-in stereo speakers.

The subtleness of the modern amenities is part of a larger effort to evoke the look of bygone eras, said Brian Tompkins, Polyconcept's national accounts manager for electronics. For example, the product teams that oversaw the design of the RCA Newport Turntable fussed over the smallest details - "down to the control knobs and the brass faceplates that have representative etchings and designs," Mr. Tompkins said.

The Victrola-style turntable even has a functioning metal horn, as well as a decorative crank (the turntable is AC-powered).

And for something retro to put into those CD slots, Verbatim has come out with a series of inky-black recordable compact discs that look like miniature 45-r.p.m. vinyl records, complete with the discs' grooved look and brightly colored labels.

A more homespun effort is being undertaken by Andrew Fader, 15, and Karthik Seshan, 16, two high school students in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. The pair recently founded Facade Computer, which builds modern computers into retro casings.

Consumers can order desktops or laptops while customizing specifics like the size of the hard drive and memory. After ordering the components wholesale - Mr. Fader estimates that such customized computers would cost $500 to $1,000 depending on the specifics - the students build the parts into the customer's retro casing of choice.

"The idea is to get the aesthetics of older technology and mix it with the functionality of newer technology," Mr. Fader said.

"Companies today like to make you think that cases that are sleek and gray and beige look good, but they don't, really. It's things that look more natural, that go with your house and are made of wood, that are more appealing."

The pair's first conversion, at their Web site (, is of a computer built into the mahogany casing of a 1937 Emerson 215 tube radio that they rescued from Mr. Fader's attic. Other possibilities for casings include old briefcases, typewriters and televisions. "The idiom 'one man's trash is another man's treasure' really applies here," Mr. Fader said. "There's a lot of stuff that people really don't realize the value of."

The rebellion against today's gadgets may only go so far, though. For those who prefer vintage technology, a major drawback is the hassle of dealing with technology that is, well, vintage.

For Mr. Flood, that means blowing the dust out of old Nintendo game cartridges. Today's games, which come on CD's, do not require such exertions.

Mr. Auh, meanwhile, is holding off on his romantic overtures until he finds a service provider that can support his antiquated cellphone. But once he does, the women of Philadelphia will need to act quickly, Mr. Auh warned.

"This cellphone only stores nine numbers, ladies," he said, "so it's first come, first served."

The Real Underground Cinema

Jon Henley in Paris
Wednesday September 8, 2004
The Guardian

Police in Paris have discovered a fully equipped cinema-cum-
restaurant in a large and previously uncharted cavern underneath the
capital's chic 16th arrondissement.

Officers admit they are at a loss to know who built or used one of
Paris's most intriguing recent discoveries.

"We have no idea whatsoever," a police spokesman said.

"There were two swastikas painted on the ceiling, but also celtic
crosses and several stars of David, so we don't think it's
extremists. Some sect or secret society, maybe. There are any number
of possibilities."

Members of the force's sports squad, responsible - among other tasks -
 for policing the 170 miles of tunnels, caves, galleries and
catacombs that underlie large parts of Paris, stumbled on the complex
while on a training exercise beneath the Palais de Chaillot, across
the Seine from the Eiffel Tower.

After entering the network through a drain next to the Trocadero, the
officers came across a tarpaulin marked: Building site, No access.

Behind that, a tunnel held a desk and a closed-circuit TV camera set
to automatically record images of anyone passing. The mechanism also
triggered a tape of dogs barking, "clearly designed to frighten
people off," the spokesman said.

Further along, the tunnel opened into a vast 400 sq metre cave some
18m underground, "like an underground amphitheatre, with terraces cut
into the rock and chairs".

There the police found a full-sized cinema screen, projection
equipment, and tapes of a wide variety of films, including 1950s film
noir classics and more recent thrillers. None of the films were
banned or even offensive, the spokesman said.
A smaller cave next door had been turned into an informal restaurant
and bar. "There were bottles of whisky and other spirits behind a
bar, tables and chairs, a pressure-cooker for making couscous," the
spokesman said.

"The whole thing ran off a professionally installed electricity
system and there were at least three phone lines down there."

Three days later, when the police returned accompanied by experts
from the French electricity board to see where the power was coming
from, the phone and electricity lines had been cut and a note was
lying in the middle of the floor: "Do not," it said, "try to find

The miles of tunnels and catacombs underlying Paris are essentially
former quarries, dating from Roman times, from which much of the
stone was dug to build the city.

Today, visitors can take guided tours around a tightly restricted
section, Les Catacombes, where the remains of up to six million
Parisians were transferred from overcrowded cemeteries in the late

But since 1955, for security reasons, it has been an offence
to "penetrate into or circulate within" the rest of the network.

There exist, however, several secretive bands of so-called
cataphiles, who gain access to the tunnels mainly after dark, through
drains and ventilation shafts, and hold what in the popular
imagination have become drunken orgies but are, by all accounts,
innocent underground picnics.

The recent discovery of three newly enlarged tunnels underneath the
capital's high-security La Santé prison was put down to the
activities of one such group, and another, iden tifying itself as the
Perforating Mexicans, last night told French radio the subterranean
cinema was its work.

Patrick Alk, a photographer who has published a book on the urban
underground exploration movement and claims to be close to the group,
told RTL radio the cavern's discovery was "a shame, but not the end
of the world". There were "a dozen more where that one came from," he

"You guys have no idea what's down there."

I'm There!


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

I Don't Mind The Gap

Here's the latest, thanks to the site that confirms the fact that there are in fact bigger iPod freaks than I. Thank God! People are soooo into this bitchin' audio gizmo, and rightly so, it's crazy that I can walk around with 10,000 songs in my pocket. But, there are many that have the fever far worse than this music lover. And I'm praying for them and their families. There are also a lot of third party iPod venders and a quite a few of those are making a shitload of money thinking of ways to utilize, accessories, customized and, yes, capitalize (TR!), on this thing we call iPod.

-Back to our main story-

"Gapless Playback for Apple iPod" online petition

It says that iPod user Michael Barca has started a "Gapless Playback for Apple iPod" online petition. Gapless playback has been heavily discussed within the ipodlounge forums and Michael hopes that Apple will take notice.

Gapless playback is the playback of long songs or DJ mixes in a continuous stream without audible gaps.

I've never experienced this gap effect. And if this is about the memory buffer the iPod HD has to spin up on occasion, sfw? It's not like that gap you had between the 4 tracks on your 8 Track, (sounds like a line from a Deathray Davies song) or (Oh no, here comes another petition: we paid for a MONO 8 Track and you only gave us 4 tracks!)

But really, my Lani Makana, (G3 40 GB ipod) has a bunch of dj mixes that live in my supertikicoffeehouse Playlist, and I really don't notice any pause between songs. But, I do put a lot of custom and random transitions I've created/found, that are sort of auditory juxtapositions that keep things interesting and so, I guess I'm not really focusing on gaps as much as I anticipate them. (These cool transitions are great between just about anything, Know what I mean, Vern?) . Thus, MindGap:The Transition Blog premiering Winter 2004. More on that later...


"We, the undersigned, are requesting that gapless playback be integrated into the iPod via a firmware upgrade in the near future.

We want to show you, Apple, that there exists a large amount of iPod owners and possible future iPod owners, who desperately want this to be supported in iPod.

Perhaps you don't realize how important this is to iPod owners, but by this petition we hope to show you how essential this feature is to any digital audio player."

END OFF PETITION (unless you're going to sign it.)


I still feel this petition is missing something. I'll sign it if this means cross-fade as an option. And while you're at it Steve - what about the transfer of user-made equalizers? Then, we'd truly have iTunes To Go. Or iGo! Quick, somebody ©iGo!, NOW!

You heard that here first, folks!

That's Right,


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Kon-Tiki To Sail Again!

OSLO, Norway (AP) -- Nearly 60 years after Thor Heyerdahl sailed across the Pacific Ocean in an epic journey aboard the balsa raft Kon-Tiki, a team that includes his grandson said they hope to repeat the feat next year -- with a 21th-Century twist.

In 1947, Heyerdahl and his team sailed the raft, with the most basic of equipment, 8,000 kilometers (4,900 miles) from Peru to Polynesia in 101 days to prove Heyerdahl's theory that ancient mariners may have migrated across vast stretches of ocean.

Heyerdahl, who died at the age of 87 in 2002, documented the harrowing voyage in the best-selling book "Kon-Tiki" and in an Oscar-winning documentary film, both of which helped make him one of the most famous Norwegians in contemporary history.

The new team, backed by Norway's Environment Ministry and endorsed by the Kon-Tiki museum, said Monday that they hope to follow the route of the epic voyage aboard a balsa raft named for Tangaroa, the Polynesian god of the ocean.

Although the Tangaroa will be primitive, expedition member Inge Meloey said it will showcase modern technology. The cabin roof will have solar panels affixed to it to generate electricity, he said, and the raft will have satellite navigation and communications, and transmit Internet updates throughout the voyage, set to start April 28, 2005.

"Kon-Tiki is one of the world's best-known expeditions," said team leader Torgeir Saeverud Higraff, a teacher and journalist, at the Kon-Tiki museum in Oslo. They wanted to carry on Heyerdahl's tradition, he said.

"It is difficult to follow in the footsteps of your childhood hero," said Meloey, 29.

Higraff, 31, said environmental change will be one of the greatest challenges to the 6.2 million kroner ($900,000) expedition, even before it starts.

For example, he said the rain forest in Peru where Heyerdahl harvested his balsa logs, is gone, and the river he used to float them to the sea has slowed to a trickle. The team plans to cut balsa trees in a nearby forest, starting in December.

The crew plans to take the same amount of time as the Kon-Tiki and, as on the first trip, the sailors will include five Norwegians, a Swede and a parrot.

The team wants to honor Heyerdahl and to draw attention to environmental threats on land and at sea. They plan to take scientific samples along the way, test new theories on ancient navigational techniques and make a contribution to Norway's celebration of the 100th anniversary of independence from Sweden in 1905.

"I had to say yes, to satisfy my sense of adventure," said Olav Heyerdahl, the famous Norwegian's 27-year-old grandson, who spoke near the original Kon-Tiki raft at the museum.

The younger Heyerdahl -- a carpenter, building engineer and diver _ will be responsible for building the raft and maintaining it during the trip.

At a news conference, the late adventurer's son, Thor Heyerdahl Jr., said his father would have been delighted by the project and "his own grandson being part of it would have made him very happy."

The original Kon-Tiki was largely subject to the whim of wind and currents because it was not possible to sail it against the wind. At the end of its journey, the raft crashed onto a reef because the crew couldn't change course.

The modern team has found techniques for steering the boat they hope will make it possible for them to steer it exactly where they want to go: Tahiti.

Meloey said they are also using all available technology to reduce the risks "but crossing 8,000 kilometers (4,900 miles) of water on a raft cannot be done without danger."

The Kon-Tiki trip had been intended to support Heyerdahl's theory that the South Sea Islands were settled by explorers from pre-Incan South America. The prevailing theory is that Polynesia was settled from Southeast Asia.

The team includes Swedish photographer-filmmaker Anders Berg, 41, and Norwegian biologist Dag Oppen-Berntsen, 44.

A sixth member is being sought, but the qualifications are likely to rule out most applicants: "A Norwegian to handle navigation and sails. A real Old Salt."

Monday, September 06, 2004

Has Bin?

Official: Bin Laden Capture Close
9:35 am PST, 6 September 2004

A top U.S. counterterrorism official said Sunday al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is close to being captured, and that U.S. forces have moved closer to him in the past two months.

"If he has a watch, he should be looking at it because the clock is ticking. He will be caught," Joseph Cofer Black, the U.S. State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, told private Geo television network in Pakistan.

Black was asked if recent Pakistani arrests of a number of suspected al Qaeda operatives has led the U.S. closer to bin Laden. "Yes, I would say this," he answered.

"What I tell people, I would be surprised but not necessarily shocked if we wake up tomorrow and he's been caught along with all his lieutenants. That can happen because of the programs and infrastructure in place," Black said.

Black briefed a group of Pakistani journalists after talks with government officials Friday. He said he could not say exactly when bin Laden would be apprehended.

Pakistan has become a key U.S. ally in the war on terror, though initially critics said elements within the government were aiding and abetting al Qaeda and other terrorists.

Recent mass arrests by Pakistan of suspected al Qaeda operatives have led to valuable information for U.S. intelligence officials and agencies searching for bin Laden.

During talks last week, Pakistan asked the U.S. for more helicopters, surveillance gear and communications equipment to help its forces guard border areas near Afghanistan "more efficiently," a Pakistani official at the talks said.

Islamabad has deployed some 70,000 soldiers along its border with Afghanistan, and has also conducted a number of military operations this year in its lawless and largely autonomous tribal regions against al-Qaida suspects.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Space signal studied for alien contact

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- An unexplained radio signal from deep space could -- just might be -- contact from an alien civilization, New Scientist magazine reported on Thursday.

The signal, coming from a point between the Pisces and Aries constellations, has been picked up three times by a telescope in Puerto Rico.

There are other explanations besides extraterrestrial contact that may explain the signal. New Scientist said the signal could be generated by a previously unknown astronomical phenomenon or even be a by-product from the telescope itself.

But the mystery beam has excited astronomers across the world.

"If they can see it four, five or six times it really begins to get exciting," Jocelyn Bell Burnell of the University of Bath in western England told the magazine.

It was broadcast on the main frequency at which the universe's most common element, hydrogen, absorbs and emits energy, and which astronomers say is the most likely means by which aliens would advertise their presence.

The potentially extraterrestrial signals were picked up through the SETI+home project, which uses programs running as screensavers on millions of personal computers worldwide to sift through the huge amount of data picked up by the telescope.