Unrequired Reading: Oct. 20, 2006

Sorry for the lack of posts this week, dear readers. I’ve been kinda busy in the evenings, and a little outta sorts in the mornings. Fortunately, I’m still up for some Unrequired Reading if you are!

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When the official VM wife became the official VM fiancee, we had to go out ring-shopping. (Since I proposed a little sooner than I had planned, I didn’t actually have a ring for her.) She researched a bunch, and decided that the diamond trade was just too venal for us to get involved with it as a symbol of our love. So we went for a gorgeous aquamarine instead.

Here’s a piece (plus slide show) about shopping for the guilt-free diamond.

(Note that I’ve resisted making any comments about using the term ‘conflict-free’ as it relates to engagement rings.)

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Congrats to the state of Oregon, for upholding a law restricting asset forfeitures. I never really understood how cops were able to seize and sell a person’s assets even if the person isn’t convicted of a crime.

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I admit to letting the Darfur slaughter fall off the VM radar since I first wrote about it in May 2004. This is mainly because I believe the western world has failed to stop the Sudanese government and militia from killing the civilians and rebels in Darfur. By failed, I mean it’s gone past the point of no return. To make up for my lack of coverage, here’s an interview with Paul Salopek, the journalist who was imprisoned in Khartoum for a month on trumped-up charges:

FOREIGN POLICY: What is the biggest misconception about the crisis in Darfur as reported in the Western media?

Paul Salopek: Well, I think it’s been oversimplified as this Manichean struggle between ethnic Arab herders who are armed by Khartoum, and these helpless African farmers who are struggling for their rights in this very desolate, Western region of the Sudan. I think that has a fundamental truth to it, and that has been historically a problem that goes back for generations, if not centuries. But I think that perception has to be overlaid with much more complicated tribal rivalries that are then manipulated at the national level in Sudan. Even internationally, there’s a layer of interests that are tugging and pulling at that area of Sudan.

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Holy crap! Discs of Tron was on the Atari 2600?

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Playing it safe with the design for the NYTimes’ new HQ.

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If you have a Wall Street Journal account, you really oughtta read this article about how Holt & Co. blew more than a million bucks trying to engineer the next Da Vinci Code.

Historical thrillers in particular are hot. One theory says readers are seeking a certainty in these books that since the end of the Cold War they’re having trouble finding elsewhere.

“We’re seeing a return to the past because everything was in its place, and people were recognizably polarized in a way that gives us comfort,” says literary agent Richard Curtis. “In the post 9/11 world, we aren’t clear about our enemies. Is the military officer in an Iraqi uniform a friend, or is he a terrorist posing as one? We need to know who to root for and historical fiction provides us with that.”

So Holt went after a novel starring Freud & Jung. No, seriously. (In what may be a first, it looks like Amazon is actually charging more than a bricks & mortar store, since I saw this book with a 50% off sticker in Borders on Wednesday.)

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The new issue of Men’s Vogue (sue me) has an excerpt from the autobiography of art critic Robert Hughes, Things I Didn’t Know. It centers on Hughes’ awful car wreck in 1999 and the legal problems he had after. He was raked by the “meejah” for being an elitist expat.

For of course I am completely an elitist in the cultural but emphatically not the social sense. I prefer the good to the bad, the articulate to the mumbling, the aesthetically developed to the merely primitive, and ufll to partial consciousness. I love the spectacle of skill, whether it’s an expert gardener at work or a good carpenter chopping dovetails or someone trying a Bimini hitch that won’t slip. I don’t think stupid or ill-read people are as good to be iwth as wise and fully literate ones. I would rather watch a great tennis player than a mediocre one, unles the latter is a friend or relative. Consequently, most of the human race doesn’t matter much to me, outside the normal and necessary frame of courtesy and the obligation to respect human rights. I see no reason to squirm arond apologizing for this. I am, after all, a cultural critic, and my main job is to distinguish the good from the second-rate, pretentious, sentimental and boring stuff that saturates culture today, more (perhaps) than it ever has.

Here’s a review of the book in the Telegraph.

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Why is NYC losing financial jobs? Relocation, relocation, relocation.

The city and state bear some responsibility for the space shortage. A nearly ten-year effort to rezone Manhattan’s Far West Side for commercial development wound up getting bogged down in Mayor Bloomberg’s plans to build a stadium there and lure the Olympics to New York. Potential construction of office towers in the area is thus still years away. The city has now missed two real-estate expansions, going back to the late 1990s, in trying to rezone the Far West Side.

Meanwhile, state and city officials haggled for years over the plan to redevelop Ground Zero, with some observers, including Mayor Bloomberg, pessimistically calling for a reduction in the office space planned for the site, assuming that it would be unneeded. As a result of the delays, only one building, 7 World Trade, is nearing completion — developer Larry Silverstein could rebuild it quickly because it wasn’t part of the site that the government controlled. Other Ground Zero towers won’t be ready for years.

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VM bleg: Anybody know a gin snob who can tell me if Cadenhead’s Old Raj Gin is worth the $44 for a 750ml bottle they want at Wine Library?

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The official VM wife sends word that Cameron Diaz looks like crap.

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Whatcha really get’s a box of Newports and Puma sweats (damn!)

(I just felt like making a 3rd Bass ref; sue me)

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We should go to the Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens next Thursday night! Who’s with me?

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Congratulations to the Cardinals for pulling the upset on the Mets, earning the right to walk into a buzzsaw.

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This week’s non-web reading: Chronicles Vol. 1, by Bob Dylan. The first chapter, covering the period he first arrived in New York, is fantastic. The chapter discussing losing his mojo in the late ’80s, and rediscovering it while playing with the Grateful Dead? Not so much.

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