I told a publicist ages ago that I'd write about the Minneapolis company she represents, BluDot. Founded a few years back by a trio of Williams grads to "make attractive furniture that doesn't cost an arm and a leg," BluDot has gotten a lot of press since their furniture showed up in Chandler and Joey's living room on Friends. Their line recently arrived at the Western Avenue high-end furniture store Kasala.

I never got around to writing about BluDot, mostly because I kept thinking about how cheap, good design can now be found just about everywhere other than Western Avenue. I'm not just thinking about Ikea, that haven for bickering aspirational couples who paw the $800 couches before leaving with a hundred dollars worth of cocktail shakers, pepper mills, and candles; I have Target in mind. Target has been on a good taste rampage lately, replacing its cheap, overdecorated "Country Living" look with fun, modern stuff in bright colors.

In January, Target got a lot of press by signing architect/designer Michael Graves to design a line for the stores, starting with kitchenware, which Graves designed with great success for Alessi in the '80s (that bird-whistle tea kettle is his). One article featured Graves walking around a Target store mocking various objects in stock there. But if anything, Target's doing Graves a favor by allowing his fun, spottily functional products to stand next to its great in-store line Furio and the bright new stuff Rubbermaid's doing with plastic.

Target even sells decent, super-cheap furniture. Let's compare prices, using the freestanding shelving unit as our example. The granddaddy of the form is the Eames Storage Unit, an inarguably beautiful set of rectangular boxes, four high and two wide, with varied surfaces and backs: drawers, wire backs, dimpled plywood sliding panels, open backs, in red and blue and wood paneling. It costs $3,175. BluDot has a less creatively designed version of the object for $1,600. Target recently began selling a three-by-three storage tower, on casters, lovely except for its faux-wood-grain finish, for a mere $130. I don't normally consider myself a populist, but when the difference between great design and okay design adds up to $3,045, my allegiance is with the masses.

* * *

Another thing I've been sitting on is the new Prince CD single, featuring six remixes of his 1982 paean to dancing in the face of the apocalypse, "1999." I'm happy to see the Artist boost his flagging record sales with a cash-in like this, but I haven't been able to get through the whole CD. The main remix, touted as "the new master," is fine despite a curious Cuban interlude; it's the second track, where actress Rosario Dawson delivers a minute-long consciousness-raising talk over the intro to "Little Red Corvette," that has me running to the CD changer, thus robbing myself of the techno, house, and "acapella" remixes further along. "There's as many black males and Latinos in jail as there are on the streets, okay?" Dawson forthrightly declares, mangling that statistical nugget so badly that I can no longer remember what the original line was... "as many black men in jail as in college," maybe? Whatever its original wording, or accuracy, this little factoid is quickly becoming the "domestic violence incidents double [or was it triple?] on Super Bowl Sunday" of the new millennium.