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« Finding a Job in the Arts | Main | Schiavo: We Report; You Decide »

March 19, 2005


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Alexandra Ceely gives one of her good art-history lessons -- this time about Charles Sheeler -- and puts up a couple of fascinating postings about what it's like to be part-white and part-black.

* GeneExpressions's Theresa finds an article arguing that the first humans in the Americas had skeletons that resemble Polynesian and African skeletons more than they do contemporary Native American skeletons.

* Bilious Young Fogey has put up some beautiful scans of Australian Aboriginal art.

* I often wish I had a good mind for conceptual things, don't you? (I read "conceptual" to mean "clever and gimmicky but catchy, too." By the way, I hope I'm not alone in noticing that theme journalism and conceptual art triumphed at exactly the same time. Coincidence?) Instead, I'm stuck hoping against hope that if I yak about something that interests me, it might interest one or two other people too. Anyway, here's a fun site with a cool concept. Nifty execution too.

* Conservative Philosopher points out this fascinating if dimwitted Houston Chronicle report:

"As Hispanic teens shed the language of their native countries and immerse themselves in American culture, they become dramatically more sexually active, a new study shows."

The article's writer performs an amazing stunt when it comes to explaining why this fact should be so. Do Hispanic teens go sex-mad when they learn English because, as I'd imagine any sensible person would suspect, they encounter American pop culture in its full force? Nope. According to the article, the real reason Hispanic kids go sex-mad on learning English is because we don't talk about sex and birth control enough with our children.

* We're usually told that capitalism was built on slavery. Donald Boudreaux disagrees. He argues that capitalism in fact put an end to slavery.

* I seem to be the blogosphere's one-man p-r firm for the late British political philosopher Michael Oakeshott. Why fight my fate? The other day I ran across Andrew Sullivan's obit of Oakeshott, and found it lovely. Whatever you think of Sullivan's own views, he's a first-class appreciator and explicator of Oakeshott.

* David Shackleford wrestles entertainingly with the tea-or-coffee question. It's a quirky link, by the way. You may need to go to the bottom of the page the link brings up for David's coffee thoughts.

* Thanks to Tatyana, who found this soulful, lengthy, and funny -- read: Russian -- treatise on how to prepare tea. Key to it all: don't forget the samovar!

* NorthSea Diaries wonders if Belgium's attitudes towards its Muslim immigrants are going to take the same turn that Dutch attitudes seem to have taken.

* Here's DadTalk's very helpful archive of postings about how he has managed to lose 30 pounds.

* Luke Lea thinks that you'll find more racism in Manhattan than you will in the South.

* Waterfall marvels at how much it can brighten your day to be paid a compliment.

* Why do so few women appear on the op-ed pages? Steve has some down-to-earth thoughts. (Hey, has anyone else noticed that male writers are wildly underrepresented in lifestyle, parenting, and food magazines?) Michelle Malkin links to a lot of women bloggers with no shortage of well-expressed and provocative opinions.

* DesignObserver's Rick Poynor wonders why so many architects are such self-important boors.

* I loved this page of photos of the Italian city of Bologna. Bologna appears to be heaven-on-earth for lovers of arches and arcades.

* If you enjoy following up-to-the-minute, indie-style movie-news, you won't want to skip the Green Cine Daily blog.

* Will Hay's review of Robert Conquest's new book does justice to the great historian's work. Arty soul that I am, I'm also compelled to recommend Conquest's recent New Criterion essay, "The Whys of Art" -- the basics, beautifully explained. In addition to being a serious political thinker and a major scholar of history, Conquest's also a first-class writer of light verse. Giants do indeed walk among us.

* John Massengale spends a weekend in a chic glass hotel, and risks his New Urbanist credentials by admitting that he had a good time.

* Although the atmosphere in most yoga studios is unavoidably estrogen-heavy, it may be somewhat less estrogen-heavy than it once was. Here's a report claiming that, while the ratio of women to men in yoga classes used to be 10-1, these days it's around 8-1. Still, the question remains: Singledudes, why aren't you studying yoga?

* Speaking about estrogen-heavy exercise systems ... I was surprised to learn that there are two magazines devoted to Pilates. Two! The Wife loves Pilates, by the way. "There's nothing like it for keeping the fatbags under control," she says. FvB's wife is a Pilates buff too -- and both gals are persuasive walking advertisements for the efficacy of the system. Me, I've taken a few Pilates classes but for the life of me can't connect with my "core." "Pull in and up," the instructors exhort over and over, and I just wonder what on earth they could be talking about. Are cores a chick-thing?

* Returning to the dating world after losing the love of his life, Shouting Thomas endures some rude shocks.

* The Communicatrix sings the praises of the dumb, undemanding day job.

And let's wind up with a few facts and words about immigration:

* Thomas Woods writes that:

"A United Nations report in 2002 revealed that an astonishing 51 percent of older Arab youths wished to emigrate from their countries of origin. Of those expressing a desire to relocate, only 13 percent intended to move to another Arab country; the overwhelming preference was to move to Europe or the United States."

* Hey, did you know that around 10,000 illegals cross from Mexico into the U.S. every day?



posted by Michael at March 19, 2005


I'll just put in a word about can reap the same benefit from the simple isometric stretches we all did in PE class! (Remember when "aerobics" was all the rage? Now it's completely gone out of fashion.) But to give each therapeutic stretch a Sanskrit name, twist into a pretzel, call it a pose, chant OM, and pretend it's bringing you closer to some mystical nirvana is RIDICULOUS. Not to mention all of the mats, water bottles, and associated peddlers' paraphernalia.
The best bet is to go to an outfit like NY Roadrunners Club which has classes in warmup stretching, no-nonsense, no New Age attached.

Posted by: winifer skattebol on March 19, 2005 04:28 PM

Yeah, I like the precisionists. Got about 20 Sheelers, mostly from the 30-40s. Got 2 Elsie Driggs, a bunch of Ralston Crawford and of course, Demuth. I remember this stuff as very hard to find online in good resolution. Almost have to go to online galleries, which is tough googling. Artcyclopedia getting better every day.

Art Renewal I think has two current women doing industrial landscapes. Both are photo-realistic and kinda anti-dramatic compared with the precisionists above. Abandoned grain elevators at medium distance with muted colors. Melancholic. Can't remember the names.

Your cited author calls Sheeler's early work "insipid". I don't suppose she would like Demuth's flowers either. Just not enough of that forceful threatening powerful cylinder stuff.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on March 19, 2005 06:44 PM

regarding "threatening powerful cylinders" and similar 'romanticism of the machine': have you seen sotz-art of the 30's? All those *Songs of Industrial Labour, *Sunrise on a Railroad Yard, *Symphony of the engines, etc? (here's a site reserved entirely for "metallurgy in fine arts")
Not much precision, but plenty of drama (I'd even say - religious ecstasy)and industry-related. Sorta.

Posted by: Tatyana on March 20, 2005 03:08 PM

Regarding the quasi-African skeletons found in the New World, that more or less lines up (I think) with the account I read in “The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey” by Spencer Wells. I blogged about this book in a post called "Genesis Updated." You can read about this at According to Mr. Wells, genetic markers suggest that North America was colonized by two human populations. One--the dominant strain in current Amerindians--came from Central Asia. The other came by way of Australia and Southeast Asia and which was the first strain of anatomically modern humans to have left Africa. It's interesting to see the archaeological evidence reinforcing the genertic evidence.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on March 20, 2005 09:50 PM

Tatyana, thanks for the link. I had some vague remembrances of some Russian 20s stuff while thinking of the precisionists, but what I remembered was the pre-war full abstraction and some post-Revolution bleak cityscapes. I am not sure any of the Americans would have had a chance to see much of the Constructivists.

On the other hand, they would have been more likely to see some Italian Futurists. Severini especially comes to mind.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on March 20, 2005 11:30 PM

Dear 'Blowhards' bloggers,

I don't think I've been back to this site for awhile... I am glad to see that your weblog looks the same as before - An excellent design, and your entries seem just as good too. I have seen how so many blogs have started and stopped since I started my own blog - I am glad that many of them are still going strong, with the same great design and style as before. Please keep up the good work here. Thanks!

Posted by: Aakash on March 21, 2005 02:11 AM

Can someone explain Pilates to me? You play with a ball, eh? I'm just confused by it. What is it? I'd like to try it out and lord knows I need to work out.

Posted by: lindsey on March 21, 2005 02:29 AM

Too-Literal Analysis, Re: Yoga

While Yoga classes seem to offer disproportionate opportunities for men... I'm not sure how useful of an opportunity that would be. Like most other men I'm not big into the 'communal exercise' thing, and I question the validity of using exercise as a means of finding compatible partners. I suppose on a purely physical level your average Yoga-exerciser is probably superior to your average woman, but my guess is that in practical purposes relationships formed through common-interest groups. One hopes that there are few women whose only interest/activity is Yoga, and that therefore ones exposure to compatible women is therefore unaffected by either attendance or nonattendance of Yoga classes. On the other hand, I suppose the pure statistical density of women presents a potentially more fruitful field of opportunity.

Considering conducting research: Clothing suggestions, sans spandex?

Posted by: . on March 21, 2005 05:34 PM

Oops. Incomplete thought: "I suppose on a purely physical level your average Yoga-exerciser is probably superior to your average woman, but my guess is that in practical purposes relationships formed through common-interest groups"

Should have been: "I suppose on a purely physical level your average Yoga-exerciser is probably superior to your average woman, but my guess is that in practical purposes relationships formed through common-interest groups are more likely to be viable than ones formed through associational groups like exercise classes."

Posted by: . on March 21, 2005 05:39 PM

RE aboriginal art: check out this piece in the New Yorker for July 28, 2003: "The Painted Desert-- The Fate of an Aboriginal Masterpiece."

Lindsey: this is a good site:

But you can just run on a treadmill or use a Stairmaster too! I'm actually opposed to gym-based artificial exercise machines...all you need to do to keep in shape, really, is walk, swim, and bicycle ride.

Posted by: winifer skattebol on March 21, 2005 10:51 PM

Aaakash -- Many thanks, stop by again soon.

"." -- I can certainly understand having trouble with exercise classes. I never used to like 'em. On the other hand, if a young guy's interested in meeting girls, he could do a lot worse. Years ago, when I was interested in performing ( I turned out to have zero talent, darn it), I took acting and even some dance classes. Had myself a dandy time with the girls! Well worth the effort. I once asked a dancer-girl friend about whether more boys should take dance class. Her response: "Only if they like being surrounded by girls who are into their bodies, who love art, who like to sweat, and who are aesthetically appealing." That kind of summed it up, I thought.

FWIW, I've found yoga very helpful. My mid-late '40s brought a certain amount of bad physical news -- lots of aches and pains, stiffness, and then a major operation. When I came back from it, I didn't have the energy I'd had when younger. (I'd always run/swum/worked-out-some.) I was amazed by the number of small pains and tensions that didn't go away, at how stiff my hips and hamstrings were becoming. Had my parents had a similiar number of aches and pains? They didn't complain about it much, but I certainly was. And I didn't have any explosive energy anymore. Where I'd once run and gone to the gym to blow off the excess -- it kept me sane and happy -- there simply was no excess any longer. What to do? I stumbled into a Bikram yoga class on a whim and found the answer. Yoga doesn't require you to have bursting amounts of energy. You show up with what you've got and start there. And the combo of exertion and stretching has worked miracles with my many aches and pains. I don't have any (any!) chronic pains any longer, at least not so long as I do yoga at least twice a week. (I've searched out good teachers and I'm careful not to hurt myself, and I've been lucky.) Anyway: suits my energy level, strengthens and tones, and relieves stress as well as running ever did. And I find it -- to my surprise -- quite a mood-booster. I don't want to embarrass anyone with confessions, but yoga has done more for my general state of mind than therapy, art, or any other kind of exercise ever did. I'm cheerier, sweeter, more easygoing. Plus it's interesting -- I don't feel like a rat in a maze wondering when it's gonna be over, like I do when I'm at the gym these days. It's an interesting process -- yoga has an actual philosphy that's quite amazing, and the physical exercises are a way of experiencing and exploring the philosophy. So my mind's as happily engaged as my body is. I look forward to yoga classes -- I'd go five or six times a week if time allowed. You do have to have some tolerance for peace-and-kindness inanity and Om-ing. But I've grown fond of both, and appreciate them now as helpful ways of setting a class's tone -- be kind to yourself, let's take this time to be open to what's going on inside us, etc.

I've taken a couple of dozen Pilates classes and haven't gotten hooked. Many gals seem to love it though, and love it right away too. It has zero spiritual-philosophical dimension -- it's entirely a very effective way for women (especially) to get control of their cores, from mid-thigh up into the chest. Goes 'way beyond crunches and leglifts, lemme tell you. Very effective, so long as you're religious about going two to three times a week. You work out in privates on these strange wooden machines one-on-one with instructors. They seem to be less for strengthening than for giving you an idea of what you're looking for -- the movements, the muscles to connect with, etc. Then you do group classes, which are like 50 minute gym classes, only with oddball exercises. The atmosphere is very female-heavy, and many of the teachers are ballet-mistress-style martinets, though sometimes rather sweet. Straight guys seem to have terrrible trouble finding the point of Pilates. But, like I say, some women just adore it. Helps with posture -- you kind of float out of the classes. Helps a lot with hip joints and lower backs. Lots of pro dancers do Pilates, I hear. It used to be common for ballerinas, for instance, to do terrible damage to their hip joints, throwing their legs around as they do. Pilates seems to help them keep flexible yet protect the joints and back. Slow-motion exercises -- curls, twists, roll-downs -- done a very small number of time, with a lot of attention on the breathing and the focus. I find it grueling and uninteresting, despite how fond I am of being the only straight guy there usually. But the Wife loves it, and in about six months of 2-3 time a week, has gotten her tummy under control and carries herself much more confidently. She swears by its effectiveness. Seems to help her feel happy and calm. So, although it doesn't work for me personally, I'm a lucky guy: my wife does Pilates, has sculpted herself a nice figure, and is calm and happy. Can't beat that!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 21, 2005 11:20 PM

I'd be curious to know the source of the figure you quote in the last paragraph.

Posted by: MLE on March 22, 2005 03:13 PM

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