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19 October 2007



The New York Times/13 September 2007


For $5,000, This Laptop Comes With Leather, Technical Support and a Certain Cachet

by John Biggs

Laptops do not age well. Their screens dim and their hard drives sputter and eventually they are put to pasture. With its new ThinkPad Reserve, Lenovo is trying for something a little more timeless.

This $5,000 laptop—that's right $5,000—is covered in hand-stitched French leather. Inside there is an Intel Centrino Pro processor and the Lenovo Ultra Connect II system for cellular and Wi-Fi networking. The laptop has the ThinkPad's signature workhorse design, with black keys and a touchpad/touchstick pointer combination.

What is most important, however, is that the Reserve comes with three years of 24-hour tech support, available right through the laptop. The press of a button reaches a dedicated support person who will install applications, handle networking problems and set up email....

Lenovo is making only 5,000 of these laptops, enough for a few lucky chief executives, oligarchs and aspirational types who want a taste of the good life....


War and Peace

by Leo Tolstoy

A new translation
by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Translation copyright © 2007
by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

A Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf

If the world could write by itself, it would write like Leo Tolstoy.—Isaac Babel

Volume One; Part One, First Page

“Well, my prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than possessions, estates, of the Buonoparte family. No I warn you, if you do not tell me we are at war, if you still allow yourself to palliate all the infamies, all the atrocities of that Antichrist (upon my word, I believe it)—I no longer know you, you are no longer my friend, you are no you say, my faithful slave. Well, good evening, good evening, I see that I am frightening you, sit down and tell me about it.”

So spoke, in July 1805, the renowned Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honor and intimate of the empress, Maria Feodorovna, greeting the important and high-ranking Prince Vassily, the first to arrive at her soirée. Anna Pavlovna had been coughing for several days. She had the grippe, as she put it (grippe was a new word then, used only by rare people). Little notes had been sent out that morning with a red-liveried footman, and on all of them without distinction there was written:

If you have nothing better to do, Monsieur the Count (or My Prince), and if the prospect of spending the evening with a poor sick woman does not frighten you too much, I shall be delighted to see you here between 7 and 10 o’clock. Annette Scherer.

“God, what a virulent outburst!” the entering prince replied, not ruffled in the least by such a reception. He was wearing an embroidered court uniform, stockings, shoes, and stars, and had a bright expression on his flat face....


EACH WEEK we scan ads from an actual catalog, a catalog selling junque. (That's junk with cachet.) These ads are real—real ads, real catalogs. Maybe they don't
seem real, but they are.

This week we feature items from the Gaiam “Harmony” catalog. That is spelled correctly, G-a-i-a-m. Gaia (as in “earth”) plus “Om,” maybe, as in, you know, "Ommmmm." Bliss, etc. Anyway, whenever this catalog arrives I am made to feel dirty and impure. Diseased, polluted. And fat and poorly aligned and dyspeptic. Well, I am dyspeptic and if I weren't, this catalog would make me dyspeptic. In fact, this catalog makes me happy that I am dyspeptic and unkempt. Everything in this catalog is either very, very clean or marketed to make prospectve buyers feel very,very dirty. Yes, according to this catalog, we are all dirty and polluted. And only by buying their products will we become clean, antiseptically clean and thereby worthy. All together now, Ommmm.

One more matter. You see, the problem with the Gaia in "Gaiam" is that this is a catalog selling junque. And, quietly now, shhh, Gaia does not need any more junque.

(The text in the scans is difficult to read, so I've translated.)—BL


Air Tamer

Enjoy clean air where you are with this discreet, MP3 player-sized ionic air purifier. It reduces airborne pollutants, smoke, viruses and allergens within a three-foot breathing space, making it ideal for airplane travel...It cleans down to atomic-sized particles without fans or motors....



Destroy airborne odors, bacteria, viruses, molds, chemicals, smoke and allergens for just pennies a month. Using corona discharge technology to neutralize air pollutants, the Sani-Mate draws air inside at the rate of 70 feet per minute, then cleans and refreshes it using bursts of electricicy—simulating the air-purifying effects of a lightning storm....


Auto Ionizer

Research shows that car interiors trap pollution and often contain more contaminants than outside air. The Auto Ionizer plugs into your car's lighter socket and releases healthy negative ions that bond to and remove odors and pollutants....



Purelight UV Wand

Our cordless wand utilizes UV light purification to kill viruses, bacteria, mold and dust mites and to neutralize odors—even in hard to reach places. Simply wave the wand over mattresses, baby bottles, kitchen utensils and even toys....



Alert! And then there's the matter of the effectiveness of these devices and their possible danger. Have a look, please. Not that you were thinking of buying them.



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