In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Business, Sherman, Thurber
  2. Mexisex redux
  3. Mexisex
  4. Pixelvision Reredux
  5. Pixelvision redux

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

Thursday, August 1, 2002

Business, Sherman, Thurber
Michael -- To the naked eye, it would seem that we're being very successful and making lots of money. I find, oddly, that the task of being me seems almost insupportable precisely at such moments. I am much better at dealing with absolute disaster; it brings out the best in me. (My wife, having observed me closely for many years, agrees wholeheartedly.) I have considerable fellow feeling for Wm. T. Sherman, the Civil War general who was relieved of a high command for "nervously" predicting that the likelyhood of a quick Union victory was not very high. Indeed, he suggested that the South might well be able to take St. Louis before the North could take Nashville. He was redeemed from rumors of insanity by the battle of Shiloh, where his troops were confronted by a Confederate surprise attack and almost routed. In conditions that were finally as bad as (or worse than) his worst fears, he became extremely effective. Although wounded twice (staunching blood from a bullet through his hand with a handkerchief he pulled tight with his teeth) and having two or three horses shot out from under him, he calmed his panicked men, stabilized his defensive line, and even reached the supreme height of practical eloquence by convincing soldiers who had run out of ammunition not to retreat. In order to reach his full potential as a general he needed to melt the ice of his self-doubts in the warmth of his relationship with Grant, who he felt "...didn't know as much as I did about military history or theory, but who had faith in victory the way a devout Christian has faith in God. When I don't know what the enemy is up to, I start to get very nervous; Grant doesn't care what the enemy is doing, he just cares about what he is doing." An interesting guy, Sherman; did you know he was probably the most famous person in America when, after retiring as head of the Army, he lived in New York during the 1890's? He was very ascerbic and quick witted, and always had a great quote for newspapermen on any subject. I'm reading a biography of James Thurber, which isn't a great biography but is entertaining because he spends a lot of time quoting Thurber's humorous writings. (Thurber, by the way, appears to have dealt several times with the Civil War. In one piece I'd love to read, spoofing a "what might have been" series in another magazine, Thurber portrays General Grant--after a night of hard drinking at Appamatox--as so confused and hung over that he attempts to surrender his army to a surprised General Lee.) While Thurber seems to have perfectly illustrated the idea that to be a successful humorist you have to lead an emotionally immature and stunted private life, I do respect his public resistance to left wing thought during the 30's. I think what has always depressed me about the Thirties is that so many intellectuals, who... posted by Friedrich at August 1, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Mexisex redux
Friedrich -- I enjoyed "Y tu Mama," didn't love it, certainly not as much as many of my movie-critic friends, of whom I seem to have fewer and fewer. Do you know the director's other work? Alfonso Cuaron, very talented. Did a gorgeous kid's movie, "A Little Princess," as well as a modern-dress version of "Great Expectations" (beautiful to look at but a stiff). In "Y Tu Mama," I enjoyed the use of the teen-sex-road-movie framework as an excuse for an essay on the topic of "whither-Mexico." Since I know next to nothing about Mexico I have no way of judging whether the essay aspect was accurate or not, but I liked the road-movie/essay concept. I suspect you're right about the underlying agenda, but I wasn't bothered much by it. Latin macho does seem to encompass a lot of homoeroticism (of a sort that wouldn't have been endured in the Anglo-German American small town where I grew up, for instance). And, whatever my ignorance, Mexico does sort of seem to be a teenaged country, doesn't it? Forever trying and failing to get its shit together? Plus I figure that art-and-entertainment types have to be cut some slack, otherwise we'd have no arts or entertainment. (I could be wrong about this.) That said, artsy types, while sometimes spot-on when they observe something, are almost always dead-wrong when they prescribe a solution. So I agree that we're right to be wary of them and their agendas. But I liked the raunchiness, the actress, and the little touches of poetry -- the overgrown swimming pool, the Godardian voice-over, the moment when the actress puts the coins in the jukebox and then turns and dances right at the camera. Especially the moment when she puts the coins in the jukebox and dances right at the camera. As far as I'm concerned, that's the kind of thing the indie cinema in this country ought to be doing but never is. (Big mystery: why are American indie films so uninterested in art, beauty, and pleasure?) I remember feeling pretty cheery as I left the theater: Poetry, romance, sex, melancholy! A New-Wave-esque pleasure, however minor a one. Where gays are concerned more generally, I seem to have a peculiar view. I live in a heavily-gay neighborhood, have lots of gay friends, have more of a taste for camp humor than the typical straight guy, live for the arts, etc. I find many of them very simpatico and relish the often-present irony and humor, and get a big kick out of their love of quality of life. But I find the groupthink that so often prevails appalling. On AIDs, for instance, it's striking (and horrifying, once you think of the cost) how quick they are to speak of it as "an epidemic" even while forbidding all talk of a quarantine. How do advanced societies deal with epidemics? Quarantine is certainly one of the more efficient options. (The case I've heard some of them make is that their ability... posted by Michael at August 1, 2002 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Michael -- I caught up with "Y Tu Mama Tambien."  I liked it (especially the heroine's breasts--perhaps the best natural (?) pair I can remember in a film). However, as the days have gone by since I saw it, I find the film's theme sticks a bit in my craw.  If I am reading it right, the film is saying that Mexico's problems are the result of the Mexican elite, who--boiling over with homoerotic tendencies that their "macho" code won't let them express--end up "fucking over" everybody else (the poor, the women who tend to the macho men so faithfully) and, of course, are destined to end their days as pathetic, deeply compromised fucks.   Somehow this reminds me of "American Beauty" and various other films in which gay writers express their apparently deeply held opinion that the only true love is homo love, and if hetero men were just honest enough, they would all turn homo. (Didn't that book you sent me ages ago, "Crackers," have a rather funny chapter on the delusions of grandeur of the Village Voice homo crowd?)  Also, it seemed rather "inorganic" (story-wise) that the two friends who had spent the night in a threesome couldn't handle the concept; I would have thought it more likely that they would have just made some jokes about it and gotten on with their lives.  So my final comment is that the film had the makings of greatness, but it was sacrificed to a rather small-minded judgmentalness.   What think you?  Cheers, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at July 31, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Pixelvision Reredux
Friedrich -- I forget where I picked up these facts, but I'm pretty sure they're trustworthy. Film has 4X the dynamic range of the best video. Film has about 3X the pixel-type info per frame as the best video. Film is more sensitive to tones than video. All the information in only one film frame would equal 40 megabytes of uncompressed computer space. All that said, your points are excellent and well-taken. I'm all for anything that makes it easier to bypass the usual channels. Now that I've got a digital still camera, for instance, I'll probably never use film again even for snapshots. And all hail your concept of Napster for video, so far as distribution goes. If and when I write something book-like, I'll probably self-publish it rather than submit to the traditional publishing process. Who, if all else were equal, would choose to wrestle with the industrial publishing complex? And it's thanks to computers I'll be able to do that. That said, and speaking strictly as a consumer (rather than a potential producer), it does seem to me that the cyber-propagandists are pushing video imagery on us a little too quickly at the movie theater. It isn't dense enough yet to hold the attention. George Lucas himself seems to know this. In an interview in Film Comment, he admits that the computer-video image has a long way to go. Personally, I find it as dead and flat as a pancake -- do the mind and eye register how much information has been compressed out of existence? The one movie I've seen where I thought the video image worked well was "The Anniversary Party." Have you seen it? Seriously annoying (revelations, carrying-on, anguish, a party that goes to hell, confrontations, etc) -- but shot well, and edited to allow for the faster way we seem to read video images. The imagery fell apart only in the closeups. For some reason, video doesn't (yet?) seem capable of producing the dreamy-iconic effect film closeups can. And without dreamy closeups of actresses, I'm not much interested in movies, gosh darn it. I find it interesting that, in the world of TV, when people making a commercial want a dreamy-transporting-fictional feel, they shoot film. When they want what they've made to seem "real," they shoot video. So, typically, I'm divided. Though I do love passing hours in the erotic trance state that watching a movie can throw me into. But, come to think of it, I enter that state all too seldom at the movies recently anyway, given the theme parks that movies have largely become. So fuck it. Or, by and large, fuck it. (Take that, George Lucas. Who, by the way, argues in his Film Comment interview that no matter what it is that gives a celluloid movie image its magic, computers and videos will eventually be able to mimic the mechanisms.) Maybe it's like the early CDs, which were cold and lifeless, however accurate. If the powers that were... posted by Michael at July 31, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Pixelvision redux
Michael -- I don't know if you saw the announcement by a new company, Foveon, that claims that they have developed an imaging chip that (1) has much better color than previous electronic "photography" systems and (2) collects more data per square inch than film.  Of course, Foveon's technology may or may not deal with issues such as video's relative inability to create whites as white or blacks as black as film.  But in any case, you can create quite beautiful images with video if you allow for its quirks.  I mean, look at early silent films, shot on film stock that probably has nowhere near the technical capabilities of today's best products.   Anyway, the real reason to back video rather than film is that film is dependent on a deeply entrenched distribution channel that holds more or less total power over what gets seen by the masses.  Who cares if your movie is beautifully photographed if nobody will distribute it?  I say, we need Napster for videos.  Cheers, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at July 31, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments