Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

  The Navigator: Re-use It or Lose It
By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 22, 1998

This article contains links which take you outside

Lo and behold, last week Wal-Mart, perhaps concerned that we might stop buying books at their cozy little stores, filed suit against The world's largest retailer claimed that the online book store had hired key former Wal-Mart workers to reveal the secrets of Wal-Mart's vast and swift information and distribution systems. played down the charge. "Even if every single employee came from Wal-Mart, it would still be less than two-tenths of 1 percent of their work force. They're about three times our size and probably sold more yesterday than we sold in the last 12 months," an spokesman told the Associated Press.

Ironic, really, that Wal-Mart is suing a Web site. Wasn't too long ago that people were saying Wal-Mart was wrecking the way America shops.

In another recent legal move, the Washington-based Recording Industry Association of America went to war against Diamond Multimedia, a San Jose company that has developed a small recording gizmo, the Rio, that uses a fancy-pants technology called MP3, stores 60 minutes of digital-quality music lifted from the Internet, is powered by a single AA battery and costs less than $200.

"The proliferation of illegal MP3 devices is destined to damage the legitimate commercial market for digitally downloaded music," wrote RIAA President Hilary Rosen in a letter to Diamond Multimedia. In other words, compact disc stores could go out of business.

First book stores, then music shops. The Internet is changing the way we live.

If the trend continues, the buzz phrase will be "adaptive re-use." The term, favored among resourceful architects, refers to the practice of finding new uses for old buildings. If you want to see some illustrations of "adaptive re-use" you can check out the Web site of Wheeler Kearns and see the new– a hands-on children's museum in Chicago– that has replaced the old– the Navy Pier. You might especially appreciate the aged water tank that is now a place where kids can test their homemade flying machines.

Or you can surf over to the Web site of the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, which is housed in an obsolete lighthouse. Visitors to the museum can look out over Monterey Bay and at the gnarly Steamer Lane. You can see old boards carved from redwood trees and retro wet suits.

And what do you do with an unwanted Wal-Mart? Several years ago Columbia/Hospital Corporation of America retooled an abandoned Bedford, Tex., Wal-Mart into a call center where operators answered the number 800-COLUMBIA.

Kind of makes you nostalgic, doesn't it, for those Wal-Mart people-greeters in blue vests who stand at the front door and say, "Good morning. You need a basket?"

To further examine how the Internet is changing the way we live and to recommend adaptive uses for buildings made obsolete by the Net, Joel Garreau, author of "Edge City: Life on the New Frontier," will join me this afternoon on Navigator– Live at 2 p.m. Our topic: "Will the Internet Kill Cities?" Please join us or send in your e-questions right now.

Linton Weeks can be reached at

mouse CLICK: Half A Cow     A visit to this eclectic gallery inspires the inevitable "Where's the beef?" You just can't sink your teeth into "Around the World With Half a Cow," a gallery of pictures of faraway bovines who taunt the photographer with a flickering tail or a peek over the barbed wire fence, but never provide a full frontal view. The artist dodges the question of why he spent several years abroad capturing live cow parts on film, saying only, "If you need to ask that question mate, you would never understand the answer anyway." Dan Pacheco

Perturbations, pleasures and predicaments on the I-way

The Real Dirt ...
Everybody's gotta collect something. Glenn Johansen has created a Museum of Dirt. He and his friends, and several visitors to the site, have created images of tiny bottles holding dirt from such locales as John Belushi's and Jim Morrison's grave sites, Dick Clark's parking space, Martha Stewart's house, Chappaquiddick, Michael Dukakis's tomato garden, the sets of "Baywatch" and "Field of Dreams," Loch Ness, and Tiananmen Square. Contributors include Robert Redford, Dave Barry, Bob Hope, Ted Williams, John Waters, Ted Turner, Vanna White and David Hasselhoff. If you like playing with dirt, you can search the database by category, color, texture, elevation, type, odd contents, region, city, state, country, and contributor. And you can send in your own dirt.— Edward F. Mickolus

Build Your Own
In one of those coincidences of life, I stumbled upon an excellent free Web page building resource called SceneMaker at the exact time I needed it to set up a Web site for D.C. LEARNs, the new literacy coalition in the Washington area.

The LEARNs site includes some poignant essays from the annual citywide Women's History Month writing contest, and similarly moving writings from the adult learners at Push Literacy Action Now (PLAN). SceneMaker allowed me to just paste them onto the Web from the floppy disk that Marcia Harrington, the president of D.C. LEARNs, gave me.

Another useful resource is WebJump, which offers 25 very helpful megabytes of free space if you have multimedia files you want to put on the Web such as QuickTime, RealAudio and PowerPoint.— Phil Shapiro

Found something intriguing, improbable, insane or especially useful on the Net? Write it up and send it to Joel Garreau or Robert Thomason.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar