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March 27, 2007

The power of doing nothing


It cannot be overstated.

When I receive something in the mail that makes me uneasy, unhappy or otherwise feel out of sorts, my response is always the same, after the initial wave of alarm, anxiety et al: I put the letter away, not to be dealt with until the next day.

No matter how bad the content, it's never as powerful and upsetting the next morning, after a good night's sleep and my coffee, bagel and OJ.

And the reason I get a good night's sleep no matter what these days is something I read only a few weeks ago, already a permanent part of my psychological armamentarium, to wit: "Anxiety is interest paid on a balance that may never come due."

I don't recall the source but the truth in that brief epigram cannot be emphasized enough.

And that's all I have to say about that.

March 27, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Alexander McQueen Hero Wheelie


Imprinted with what resembles a human rib cage, in black or white.

$750 at Samsonite's flagship store (838 Madison Avenue [69th Street], New York City; 212-861-2064).

You're welcome to try your luck at Samsonite's dysfunctional website but be warned: my crack research team spent a collective total of 22 woman/man hours there looking for it — without success.

[via Jamie Wallis and the New York Times]

March 27, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Who says China doesn't respect property rights?


Look at the picture above, which appears on the front page of today's New York Times (above the fold).

What do you see?

Long story short: I see the Chongqing, China house of a 49-year-old Chinese woman named Wu Ping (below),


who for over two years has battled authorities who want to demolish her house to make room for new construction which, for the time being, is proceeding around the lonely spit of land under her home.

Here's the Times article, by Howard W. French.

    Homeowner Stares Down Wreckers, at Least for a While

    For weeks the confrontation drew attention from people all across China, as a simple homeowner stared down the forces of large-scale redevelopment that are sweeping this country, blocking the preparation of a gigantic construction site by an act of sheer will.

    Chinese bloggers were the first to spread the news, of a house perched atop a tall, thimble-shaped piece of land like Mont-Saint-Michel in northern France, in the middle of a vast excavation.

    Newspapers dived in next, followed by national television. Then, in a way that is common in China whenever an event begins to take on hints of political overtones, the story virtually disappeared from the news media after the government, bloggers here said, decreed that the subject was suddenly out of bounds.

    Still, the “nail house,” as many here have called it because of the homeowner’s tenacity, like a nail that cannot be pulled out, remains the most popular current topic among bloggers in China.

    It has a universal resonance in a country where rich developers are seen to be in cahoots with politicians and where both enjoy unchallenged sway. Each year, China is roiled by tens of thousands of riots and demonstrations, and few issues pack as much emotional force as the discontent of people who are suddenly uprooted, told that they must make way for a new skyscraper or golf course or industrial zone.

    What drove interest in the Chongqing case was the uncanny ability of the homeowner to hold out for so long. Stories are legion in Chinese cities of the arrest or even beating of people who protest too vigorously against their eviction and relocation. In one often-heard twist, holdouts are summoned to the local police station and return home only to find their house already demolished. How did this owner, a woman no less, manage? Millions wondered.

    Part of the answer, which on meeting her takes only a moment to discover, is that Wu Ping is anything but an ordinary woman. With her dramatic lock of hair precisely combed and pinned in the back, a form-flattering bright red coat, high cheekbones and wide, excited eyes, the tall, 49-year-old restaurant entrepreneur knows how to attract attention — a potent weapon in China’s new media age, in which people try to use public opinion and appeals to the national image to influence the authorities.

    “For over two years they haven’t allowed me access to my property,” said Ms. Wu, her arms flailing as she led a brisk walk through the Yangjiaping neighborhood here. It is an area in the throes of large-scale redevelopment, with broad avenues, big shopping malls and a recently built elevated monorail line, from whose platform nearly everyone stops to gawk at the nail house.

    Within moments of her arrival at the locked gate of the excavated construction site, a crowd began to gather. The people, many of them workers with sunken cheeks, dressed in grimy clothes, regarded Ms. Wu with expressions of wonderment. Some of them exchanged stories about how they had been forced to relocate and soothed each other with comments about how it all could not be helped.

    From inside the gates a government television crew began filming.

    “If it were an ordinary person they would have hired thugs and beat her up,” murmured a woman dressed in a green sweater who was drawn by the throng. “Ordinary people don’t dare fight with the developers. They’re too strong.”

    Earlier this month the National People’s Congress passed a historic law guaranteeing private property rights to China’s swelling ranks of urban middle-class homeowners, among others. Some here attributed Ms. Wu’s success to that, as well as her knack for generating publicity.

    “In the past they would have just knocked it down,” said an 80-year-old woman who said she used to be a neighbor of Ms. Wu’s. “Now that’s forbidden, because Beijing has put out the word that these things should be done in a reasonable way.”

    Between frenzied telephone calls to reporters and city officials, Ms. Wu, who stood at the center of the crowd with her brother, a 6-foot-3 decorative stone dealer who wore his brown hair in jheri curls, stated her case with a slightly different spin.

    “I have more faith than others,” she began. “I believe that this is my legal property, and if I cannot protect my own rights, it makes a mockery of the property law just passed. In a democratic and lawful society a person has the legal right to manage one’s own property.”

    Tian Yihang, a local college student, spoke glowingly of her in an interview at the monorail station. “This is a peculiar situation,” he said, with a bit of understatement. “I admire the owner for being so persistent in her principles. In China such things shock the common mind.”

    Ms. Wu will in all likelihood lose her battle. Indeed, developers recently filed administrative motions to allow them to demolish her lonely building. Certainly the local authorities are eager to see the last of her.

    “During the process of demolition, 280 households were all satisfied with their compensation and moved,” said Ren Zhongping, a city housing official. “Wu was the only one we had to dismantle forcibly. She has the value of her house in her heart, but what she has in mind is not practical. It’s far beyond the standards of compensation decided by owners of housing and the professional appraisal organ.”

    With the street so choked with onlookers that traffic began to back up, Ms. Wu’s brother, Wu Jian, began waving a newspaper above the crowd, pointing to pictures of Ms. Wu’s husband, a local martial arts champion, who was scheduled to appear in a highly publicized tournament that evening. “He’s going into our building and will plant a flag there,” Mr. Wu announced.

    Moments later, as the crowd began to thin, a Chinese flag appeared on the roof with a hand-painted banner that read: “A citizen’s legal property is not to be encroached on.”

    Asked how his brother-in-law had managed to get inside the locked site and climb the escarpment on which the house is perched, he said with a wink, “Magic.”

March 27, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

March 27, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The bookofjoe World Tour — oft promised, never realized – will be virtual


Julie Bosman's March 21, 2007 New York Times article headlined, "Favorite Author Not on Tour? See the Movie," gave me an idea.

And what with Margaret Atwood's patented virtual autograph machine making inroads from another angle of attack, it wouldn't appear out of the question that being there might just become passé.

Here's the Times story.

    Favorite Author Not on Tour? See the Movie

    Can video save the literary star?

    Ask the tastemakers at Powell’s Books, the venerable independent bookstore in Portland, Ore., who are planning a new series of short films featuring authors, to be shown at bookstores, movie-premiere style.

    The British author Ian McEwan is the star of the first film, which is planned to run 23 minutes and will feature snippets from an on-camera interview with Mr. McEwan, as well as commentary from peers, fans and critics.

    Such films could eventually take the place of in-store book readings, which attract fewer attendees all the time, many booksellers say. “Some authors go to events and are really captivating personalities,” said Dave Weich, the marketing manager at Powell’s Books. “That does not describe most of them.”

    For Mr. McEwan, the film will virtually replace his standard book tour, since he has declined to do traditional bookstore appearances to promote his new novel in the United States. The book, “On Chesil Beach,” will be published on June 5 by the Nan A. Talese imprint of Random House’s Doubleday division.

    For years publishers and bookstores have tried to lure book buyers by featuring authors in blogs, podcasts and question-and-answer forums with readers. Mr. Weich said Powell’s did not expect to profit from the first film but hoped to attract more visitors to its Web site, powells.com, by posting the videos there.

    Powell’s has enlisted Doug Biro, a former creative director at RCA Records, to direct the first film. (Mr. Biro has also directed music videos for Christina Aguilera and Rufus Wainwright.) It will have its debut on June 1 in Manhattan during BookExpo America, a widely attended annual gathering of publishers, booksellers and authors.

    More than 50 bookstores across the country have planned screenings of the film from June 13 to 17. After it is shown, the video will be posted on Powell’s Web site and as a series of shorts on YouTube.

    Mr. Weich said he hoped the series, called “Out of the Book,” would defy the less than exciting fare typical of television and films featuring authors. “It’s meant to be entertaining,” he said. “The last thing we’re shooting for is two talking heads sitting there talking about literature.”




March 27, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Triple-Braided Italian Corn-Bristle Broom


From the website:

    Corn-Bristle Broom

    Handcrafted in Italy, our corn-bristle broom combines heavy-duty performance with traditional European design.

    The natural fibers are triple-braided to increase their durability.

    The beech pole is fitted with a comfortable soft-grip handle.

    15"W x 57-1/2"L.


March 27, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

20ltd.com — Ultra-limited editions in virtual space


Products and designs from the likes of Zaha Hadid, in editions as small as three up to a maximum of 40.

20ltd.com opens for business next Monday, April 2, 2007 at noon GMT sharp.

"Only 20 different things are available to buy at any one time."

March 27, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Zipper Pull Radio


From the website:

    Trail Tune

    Trail-ready tuner leaves other music players in the dust.

    We love portable music players — but most are too delicate for bouncing down the trail, track or even treadmill.

    This tough little wonder from Highgear® offers outstanding sound quality and portability in a compact, lightweight and jostle-proof housing.

    Digital AM/FM tuner stores 20 pre-set stations and features scan, last station memory and battery life indicator.

    Built-in carabiner clips to any backpack or beltloop.

    Water-resistant to 1 ATM, it weighs just 3.3 oz.!

    Uses one AAA battery (included).

    With comfortable ear buds.




March 27, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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