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January 13, 2004


Dear Friedrich --

I was about to begin this linkathon with "I still haven't caught entirely up since we took our holiday break." But then I realized there's never any catching up with the web, or even with the blogosphere. They're such rich, ever-in-flux environments that all you can ever really do is plunge in and take a little note of what you encounter. Herewith, just a little of what I've enjoyed recently.

* The immigration debates rumble on. The Hayekian Greg Ransom (of the excellent Prestopundit, here) thinks that the combo of high legal immigration rates and high tolerance for illegals represents class warfare -- war, that is, on the part of the American elites against the American working class and poor. His posting is here. Greg also points to a hilarious Mark Steyn column about the differences in attitudes between American elites and regular people, here. On his blog (the right-hand column here) and in this first-rate piece here, Steve Sailer has been giving the subject a thorough going-over too. Gene Expression's Godless Capitalist, fearless and informative in our comments section some postings ago, takes his ideas and facts further, here and here. Vinod surprises by approving of Bush's plan, here. This story (here) by Jim Motavalli for the leftish-environmentalist (hey, I was one of those once!) E magazine lays out some population numbers you'll probably find interesting, and that I certainly find cause for concern. Example: "The [American] population could double by 2100, with two-thirds of that growth attributed to immigration." As Godless points out, the two sides in the immigration debate have nothing to do with Right and Left.

* I notice that Steve Sailer subscribes, as I do, to the email journal of the Post-Autistic Economics Network. (You can subscribe too, here.) Like Steve, I got a lot out of Robert Locke's discussion of how Japan's economy works, here. "Post-Autistic" -- what the hell does that mean? My guess is that the group, a loose collection of heterodox brainiacs, wants to suggest that it's time to move beyond fundamentalist economic doctrines. (I hope those who know better will correct me if I'm wrong.) The Post-Autistics seem to view one-size-fits-all approaches with horror, and to do their best to understand economic questions as part of the more general scene. I find a lot of their stuff dull, but Locke's piece demonstrates how beautifully the group's approach is capable of paying off. Here's a good quick interview with another interesting Post-Autistic, the Aussie Steve Keen. Thanks to Jimbo for introducing me to the PA scene.

* IMHO, one of the most important things Webheads can do is trade tips about good-quality culture and education resources. I try to do my bit with, for instance, occasional raves about some of the Teaching Company's audiotaped lecture series. (Here's the Teaching Company's website.) Many thanks to 2Blowhards visitor Bill Rouse, who has written in to point out that MIT has put a lot of its course materials online for free here.

* Regular 2Blowhards visitors will be familiar with Nate Davis, who's been an enthusiastic and brainy commenter, and who wrote a guest posting for us here. Nate's now a blogger himself (three cheers for Typepad), and he's already got up lively postings about "The Triplets of Belleville," "Lost in Translation," Knob Creek whiskey, and a whole mess of videogames whose names mean nothing to this old man. Nate's blog, Snake & Me, is here.

* The brilliant Denis Dutton (of Arts and Letters Daily, here) has just posted a short essay about forgery and plagiarism that he wrote for The Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. The topic is one of Dutton's specialties, and a good and juicy essay it is. Watch a topflight esthetician at work here.

* Lynn Sislo wonders whether Britney-music or orchestral music is the more natural music, here. Byzantium Shores comments here. Lynn also steered me to Stirling Newberry's classical-music blog, Symphony X, which can be found here. (Note to Stirling: bigger typeface, please.) Byzantium muses entertainingly about his reading habits here. "Sometimes I read for story, other times I read for language," he writes wisely.

* Alan Sullivan has finished the translation of "Beowulf" that he's done with Timothy Murphy. Alan announces the good news here; you can pre-order a copy of the book here. Alan's quite a poet; he has an impressive command of the kind of somber, measured tones that should suit "Beowulf" beautifully.

* Heinlein fans won't want to miss Evan Kirchhoff's thoughts about the Master, here.

* The Independent Institute's Ivan Eland thinks that three of America's "friends" (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt) may be bigger dangers than Iraq and North Korea, here.

* Arnold Kling visits new Las Vegas, here. Seeing the town through his eyes makes a lot of things pop into focus.

* Putting up far too much terrific stuff are Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution, here. (Let's hear it for co-blogging.) Hard to choose from among the lively offerings, but oh, alright, because you insist: here's Tyler on economics and happiness, and Alex does some fresh thinking about the evergreen subject of cads-vs-dads here.

* More on parking lots, suburbia and urbanism from David Sucher, here, here, and here. We argue about individual works of art -- but, really, how vital a question is it whether a movie or book is any good? A badly-placed parking lot, on the other hand, can ruin a neighborhood, while a well-done lot can change lives for the better. This is culture that matters.

* The downtown theater artist Richard Foreman is viewed by cynics as having managed to turn a dozen endlessly recycled avant-garde tricks into a lifelong career. George Hunka is not one of those cynics. He's has written two parts (here and here) of a planned three-part series about Foreman's work, and it's an eloquent appreciation.

* George Wallace (of Fool in the Forest, here) explains California wines here. George, like Will Duquette, is a Pasadena resident. Who knew Pasadena was becoming such a blogging powerhouse? [UPDATE: Will informs me that, although he's no stranger to Pasadena, he doesn't actually live there. UPDATE UPDATE: George has let me know he doesn't live in Pasadena either. Where's that irresponsible fact-checker of mine? I may have to dock her paycheck this week. In any case, George has posted again on wine, here.]

* I only recently discovered Gavin Shorto's Pondblog, here, but it's already become a regular stop. Gavin's a Bermudan journalist whose blogging focus is on world news, but -- call me superficial -- what I enjoy most about visiting Pondblog is Gavin's mind (incisive) and his writing (elegant and calm). I marvel, admire, and try to learn.

* I suspect I'm the last person to discover this, but in case a few other people haven't encountered it yet: the libertarian Reason magazine has a group blog here. Those who can't get enough of the immigration-policy debate should enjoy this Nick Gillespie posting (and the many comments that follow) here.

* "So who the hell is this Friedrich Hayek cat?" is a question that may still be nagging at a few visitors. Virginia Postrel writes a terrific introduction to the economist and his fascinating work here. (Thanks to Greg Ransom for the link.) Hayek is best-known for "The Road to Serfdom," but my suggestion for best-book-to-start-with is "The Fatal Conceit," which is buyable here.

* I enjoyed Shannon's comments on a recent posting, so I checked out her blog, Egotistical Whinings, here. It's a winning me-blog -- a charmer that's full of personality, insights, rants, honesty and quirky interests. Shannon's interested in comic books and anime, has no time for what she calls "pop conservatives," and wonders why people get upset about "furries." "It's not like it's my god given duty to enforce conformity on people I don't know," she writes, thereby summarizing in one jazzy sentence 99% of all the politics and philosophy I've got any patience with.

* The Web is too much and too wonderful: I just this minute noticed that a new issue of City Journal has gone online here. I haven't had time to read a word of it yet, but I'm certainly not going to miss the pieces by James Q. Wilson, Heather Mac Donald, and Theodore Dalrymple, three of my faves. The rest of the issue, which includes an appreciation of the filmmaker Whit ("Metropolitan," "Barcelona") Stillman, looks juicy too. [UPDATE: Heather Mac Donald's piece, which I just took a look at here, turns out to be about Los Angeles, and is entitled "The Illegal-Alien Crime Wave." According to Mac Donald, "In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target illegal aliens." There's much else of scary interest in her piece too.]

* Mike Snider (here) is posting a new sonnet a day, and seems to have found some kind of poetry sweet spot. Lovely, touching, and funny poems that are also reminders of how enjoyable it can be to have some poetry in your life.

* Oliver Sacks fans won't want to miss this long essay entitled "In the River of Consciousness" for the NYRB, here. I hope that a few visitors who haven't tried Sacks will take the time to give him a try. Sacks is an amazing, one-of-a-kind figure -- a literary philosopher-doctor, comfortable with both science and aesthetics, and as sympathetic and imaginative as a poet.

As you and I have noted before, in the last five years we've gone from living in a a state of info and cultural scarcity to living in one of info and cultural surplus, if not excess. It ain't easy for graybeards like us to adapt to dramatically new conditions, is it? I keep trying, though. How are you managing these days?



posted by Michael at January 13, 2004



Sorry to punch a hole in your thesis, but,
just for the record, I was born in Pasadena, and I work in Pasadena (sort of), and I often visit Pasadena to go shopping, but I do not in fact live in Pasadena.

Posted by: Will Duquette on January 13, 2004 11:29 AM

What do you have against Pasadena?

Posted by: David Sucher on January 13, 2004 12:15 PM

Thanks for the kind words, Michael. The only trouble is that you've linked so much I want to read that it's going to be heard to get tonight's 140 syllables done!

Posted by: Mike Snider on January 13, 2004 01:25 PM

I don't have anything against Pasadena; I like Pasadena. I spend a lot of time there. But Michael said that I live there, and in point of fact I don't quite.

Posted by: Will Duquette on January 13, 2004 02:49 PM

So, can we have directions over to your house, Will? Me and some of the other blogerati of the L.A. area thought it would be swell to drop in and have a drink. Oh, yeah, got anything to eat?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 13, 2004 05:07 PM

Thanks, Michael. I'm ever so grateful for the link.

Truth to tell, I don't live in Pasadena, either, though I spent large chunks of my waking life working here. Home is next door in Glendale -- America's Most Diverse City, as some wouldhave it -- directly under the flight path of whatever impressive bits of Stealth technology are buzzing the start of the Rose Parade on any given New Year's morning.

Posted by: George Wallace on January 13, 2004 06:00 PM

OK George, what do you have against Pasadena?

Posted by: Rick Coencas on January 13, 2004 06:05 PM

This has nothing to do with Pasadena, but thanks very much for the link to the Sacks article! He never ceases to boggle my mind.

Posted by: Dixon on January 13, 2004 06:15 PM

I spied the Sacks article, too, and added it to my growing cache of required readings for my vision-related rehabilitation courses. Throughout the years, I have relied upon Sacks’ deeply humanistic writings to develop my own case studies that acknowledge the complex interplay of factors – visual, perceptual, neuro-psycho-social – that define what it means to be a blind or visually impaired individual. My case notes used to be terse, “just the facts, ma’am” affairs that were heavily skewed toward numeric annotation and thus tended to obliterate the human being lurking beneath these – at times – incomprehensibly complex injuries or disabilities. Over time, guided by Sacks’ gentle yet insistent prodding, I have learned to temper the purely medical with the very human meanings of vision, perception, and – ultimately – consciousness.

The following excerpts from the article were especially striking to me, as one who struggles on a daily basis with the application of abstract visual-perceptual issues to real-life individuals:

“Vision, in ordinary circumstances, is seamless and gives no indication of the underlying processes on which it depends. It has to be decomposed, experimentally or in neurological disorders, to show the elements that com- pose it.”

“If a dynamic, flowing consciousness allows, at the lowest level, a continuous, active scanning or looking, it allows, at a higher level, the interaction of perception and memory, of present and past.”

“From such a relatively simple primary consciousness, we leap to human consciousness, with the advent of language and self-consciousness and an explicit sense of the past and the future. And it is this which gives a thematic and personal continuity to the consciousness of every individual.”

Sacks’ observations bring a particular case to mind: that of Dr. X. He was once a leading physical chemist at the forefront of molecular modeling, author of several leading textbooks, and grant writer extraordinaire – until the cataclysmic moment when he experienced toxic levels of radiation exposure during an experiment. In that instant, the course of his life was altered forever, since the effects of such exposure were insidious, progressive, and eventually culminated in total blindness. I was brought in for an initial consultation and eventually became his primary instructor for many years.

Our progress was excruciatingly slow, because Dr. X had seemingly lost the ability to interpret the world tactually, aurally, or kinesthetically. His vision loss had impaired him far beyond what one would normally expect. It took six months for this brilliant man to learn to make a sandwich. When I presented him with a talking clock, he spent weeks exploring it tactually, and indeed experienced it as a completely foreign object. At times, he became lost in his minuscule bathroom. When we attempted street crossings, I noticed that he would flinch and seem to dodge imaginary objects – invisible to me, at least. Eventually, his psychiatrist and I determined that he experienced Charles Bonnet Syndrome (, which continues to be misunderstood by many (but not all) physicians, neurologists and psychologists.

Throughout my interactions with Dr. X, I relied upon the guidance provided by Sacks’ case studies, which unerringly explored the deeply human aspects of seemingly bizarre disabilities, as well as the complex processes underlying vision and visual perception. I learned to document Dr. X’s struggles in a clear, dignified, humane, yet scientific manner, and these notes have formed the basis for my own quite elegant case studies that I use to enrich our basic textbooks and online resources. I thank Oliver Sacks for these insights every day. Thanks so much for featuring this article.

Posted by: Maureen on January 13, 2004 09:22 PM

not to rain on an otherwise light n' lively parade, but here's a crucial piece for immigration reformers

In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target illegal aliens. Up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) are for illegal aliens.


Posted by: godlesscapitalist on January 13, 2004 10:28 PM


Sure, come one, come all. Do ya like baby food? (It's T minus 8 weeks (or less) until the next little Duquette arrives.)

Then again, Jane wouldn't appreciate that at the moment. But getting a group of L.A. bloggers together could be a lot of fun.

For the record, I don't live in Glendale either--but I have lived in Glendale. These days I just live next door to Glendale. (By this time, George is probably beginning to have a shrewd idea where I live.)

Posted by: Will Duquette on January 14, 2004 12:28 AM

I live in San Diego. Email me for directions. But, if you do drop by to say hi, you get to pay for lunch. (Fixed income. Seriously fixed income.:))

Posted by: Alan Kellogg on January 14, 2004 02:24 AM

On the culture surfeit. Was there ever a real scarcity, or was it more a matter of distribution? Do we truly possess all the good stuff from days past, or only the stuff that managed to survive up to today?

And are we in possession of the best our predecessors could do?

Does adherence to the technical proprieties lead to aesthetic quality?

Must quality mean unpopularity?

(I'm rambling.:))

Seriously, expect what our descendents consider worth saving to have little in common with what our contemporaries consider valuable.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg on January 14, 2004 02:57 AM

I enjoy City Journal, too, but the problem with them is that they're a publication of Manhattan Institute, which is a right-wing think-tank. As with all think-tanks (both left and right wing) the conclusions are foregone, so you can be sure that the statistics are either spun (or outright fictitious a la John Lott). Thus I found the MacDonald and Malanga articles interesting but I don't really trust them. The Beran and Magnet articles seem more interesting because they're presented as cultural opinion rather than fact. Of course, it's hard to know whom to trust when it comes to journalism, but any magazine that belongs to a think-tank is probably going to be as untrustworthy as it gets. Note that I'm not implying that the conclusions that they arrive at are necessarily wrong at all.

Posted by: Chris on January 16, 2004 03:06 PM

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