Unrequired Reading: Nov. 17, 2006

What we see at Ground Zero and what we will see:

When the towers first fell and, in practically the same moment, so many turned to imagining their replacement, I was appalled. Later, when I started to write about the site, I avoided proposing designs of my own, both because they were banal and impracticable — I thought it would be cool to flood the bathtub — and because I felt such activities were beyond the scope of a responsible critic. I would often say, however — as I think I wrote or at least implied here once — two things: that the ultimate form of the reconstruction was unimportant as long as the process to achieve it, from the first planning session through the ribbon-cutting, was conducted with dignity; and second, that New York should be left to be New York.

t was as obvious then as now that those two ideas were in absolute conflict — that the city could in no way be the one we love and also comport itself with a special reserve — so I concocted a third idea, one that has proved remarkably durable, by way of resolution.

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Last week in this space, I mentioned that Donald Rumsfeld is more than just The Guy Who Blew the Iraq War. He also tried to revolutionize/transform the U.S. military. This profile on him in the New Yorker is more charitable than I expected, or at least more willing to see the grays than to place him in a Manichean context.

And he blew the Iraq war.

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Look, kids! An interview with writer, critic and Official VM Buddy Paul Di Filippo!

What do you use for note-taking, capturing ideas and tracking submissions? Are you a proponent of pencil and notebook; do you favour proprietary software; or is it open source everything for you, even though your initials are PDF?

I am old-fashioned enough to still stick with pen and paper for my note-taking. I have a pocket notebook brand that I love, Oxford Memo Books, because it’s sewn together instead of employing a metal spiral, and so when you sit on it, it doesn’t imprint your butt like something out of a Re/Search tribal scarification volume.

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From science fiction to science disappointment: the 25 worst tech products of all time.

8. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 (2001)

Full of features, easy to use, and a virtual engraved invitation to hackers and other digital delinquents, Internet Explorer 6.x might be the least secure software on the planet. How insecure? In June 2004, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) took the unusual step of urging PC users to use a browser — any browser — other than IE. Their reason: IE users who visited the wrong Web site could end up infected with the Scob or Download.Ject keylogger, which could be used to steal their passwords and other personal information. Microsoft patched that hole, and the next one, and the one after that, and so on, ad infinitum.

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If you’re a professional basketball fan, and you like getting some idea of what goes on behind the scenes in player negotiations, you really need to read this long and candid interview with the owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Glen Taylor.

I can tell you that Chauncey [Billups] left not because of Kevin [McHale, the team’s GM] but because of Flip [Saunders, the Wolves’ coach]. Now, have we said that? We didn’t want to say that about Flip because he was here at the time. But I think since then it’s been stated that Kevin asked me if I would pay for Chauncey. I said I would. Kevin said he would, went to Chauncey, Chauncey said he would stay, because we were going to offer him the same [money] as Detroit. But then Chauncey went to Flip and said, would you play me, and Flip — I’m not saying that Flip said the wrong answer, but he said, “I’m not sure that I think that you’re our starting guard.” Chauncey then went back to Kevin, and Kevin says, basically, we’re going to be truthful. Kevin could have said to Chauncey, “Oh, we’re gonna start you.” And I know some GMs do that stuff. Then they get the player but they have an unhappy player. But Kevin doesn’t do that.

Unfortunately, it looks like questions about the remarkably stupid tampering arrangement with Joe Smith were off limits. This is a pity, because you can pretty easily make the case that the T-Wolves would’ve been in much better shape if they had draft picks over the years. But losing those picks and having a salary cap-buster like Garnett on the team meant they had to be the most creative team in the NBA. And with Kevin McHale running the show, that made it a recipe for disaster.

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Amy sent me this great post by Dan Jardine on the varieties of cinematic inexperience:

I am not of the Pauline Kael School of film criticism that argues that your initial impression of a film is the only one that matters, and to revisit and reevaluate a film is a fool’s errand fraught with the potential for emotional and intellectual dishonesty. Indeed, I can think of plenty of legitimate reasons to take stock of a film anew. What if there were mitigating environmental factors — such as problems with the projector or the sound, or even with the audience itself — that hampered your ability to enjoy the film? What of format issues? I mean, what if, like me, your first experience with Lawrence of Arabia was on television, in full screen format and interrupted by commercials? Or what if you were in the wrong head space after a fight with your partner or a bad day at work and weren’t able to give the film the attention and scrutiny it deserved?

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Witold Rybzcsinski on the decline of architecture magazines:

A reduction in intellectual content in the glossies was largely the result of an increased reliance on photography, especially color photography. There’s something about a color photograph that glamorizes its subject, and architectural writers soon adopted the slightly breathless tones of fashion reporters. You are more likely to find tough architectural criticism in the New York Review of Books, the New Republic, and The New Yorker than in any of the major architecture magazines.

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Victor Davis Hanson sings “I left my appendix in Tripoli”:

Libyans seem to talk nonstop. It’s as if they have been jolted from a long sleep and are belatedly discovering, thanks to their newfound Internet, satellite television, and cell phones — many carry two to ensure that they are never out of service from competing companies — that there is indeed a wide world outside of dreary Tripoli and beyond the monotonous harangues of government socialists on the state-owned TV and radio stations.

They talked about their new gadgetry, and much else, with infectious optimism. As one hopeful Libyan travel entrepreneur with friends in the government explained, there might be some irony after all to Libya’s long, self-imposed insularity. Yes, he conceded, foreign investment declined. Oilmen left. Petroleum production nose-dived from more than 3 million barrels to never more than 2 million. But there was a silver lining: Did all that not have the effect of saving Libya’s precious resource to await the return of the present sky-high prices? Yes, Libya had banked a sort of strategic oil reserve that now was to be tapped at its most opportune moment. Yes, it was Libya’s grand strategy to deny Westerners its petroleum treasure for years, until they finally came around to pay what it was really worth

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At Slate, Daniel Gross discusses the trend of foreign companies to buy U.S. brands that are on the wane:

[T]o these foreign owners, the U.S. market represents the holy grail. American consumer-oriented firms that have saturated the U.S. market, such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Nike, look to developing markets for their growth. But these foreign buyers see a different kind of opportunity here — an unmatched combination of wealth and growth that doesn’t exist in Germany, or China, or Denmark. The U.S. domestic market, 300 million people strong, is composed of wealthy consumers who routinely spend more than they make.
But iconic American brands only tend to come up for sale when they’re damaged.

It’s funny to me is that, for more than a century, China has been the holy grail for U.S. & European companies, along the lines of, “If we just get [x]% of them to go for our brand, we’ll be rolling in dough!”

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Dare to dream and all that, but I still don’t believe Rem Koolhaas’ Chinese Television Authority building is going to stand up.

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