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  1. The Contempo Trade Book-Publishing Biz, an Intro
  2. Guy Who Inspired "Six Degrees" Dies
  3. Bestseller Lists
  4. Paul Johnson on art
  5. DVD Journal: "8 Women," "See the Sea," "Water Drops on Burning Rocks"
  6. Public Choice
  7. An Actress Connects with her Inner Power
  8. Free Reads -- Jamie Diamond visits Michael Bay
  9. Tacit Knowledge -- Horror Movies
  10. Free Reads -- David Weddle on Film Theory

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Saturday, July 19, 2003

The Contempo Trade Book-Publishing Biz, an Intro
Friedrich -- I don't know of a better snapshot of the contempo NYC-centric trade book publishing world than Lynn Hirshberg's NYTimes profile of Bertelsmann honcho Peter Olson. Olson's brilliant and terrifying. He's got three degrees from Harvard, reads a ton of military history, loves stuffed animals, and has probably fired more people than anyone else in publishing. Sample passage: ''Do I still have a job?'' Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, asked Peter Olson. She was standing at the bar of a restaurant called Campanile, having a glass of wine before the annual Knopf author dinner at Book Expo America. Morrison was dressed in black, her long gray hair braided like an enormous challah. ''I hear you're firing people,'' she said. ''Maybe you're firing me.'' Olson ignored the jab. ''I haven't read 'Love' yet,'' he said, changing the subject by deftly mentioning Morrison's soon-to-be-published book. ''I hear you think this one is really good.'' Morrison nodded. ''It's perfect,'' she said. ''The main character is a bit of a con artist. He's attractive, and he ruins everyone's life. Like all you guys.'' Very curious to hear where your sympathies fall as you read the piece. Mine were all over the place. The piece can be read here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 19, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

Guy Who Inspired "Six Degrees" Dies
Friedrich -- Did you ever see John Guare's "Six Degrees of Separation," either as a play or a movie? It was inspired by an actual con artist, a charismatic young gay black guy named David Hampton whose specialty was pretending to be the son of Sidney Poitier. Dan Barry at the NYTimes reports that Hampton has died of AIDS at the age of 39, here. It's a good piece that gives a convincing picture of what a strange guy Hampton must have been. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 19, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Bestseller Lists
Friedrich -- Have you ever given bestseller lists much thought? I certainly never would have, had I not followed the publishing field for years. But I did follow the field, so I did learn a lot about the lists. They turn out to be fascinating artifacts. The assumption most readers make when looking at, say, the NYTimes bestseller list is that what's being given is an objective picture of the books Americans are buying in greatest quantities right now. What could be more straightforward than measuring sales and presenting the results? Wrongo. In fact, nearly all bestseller lists (and there are many) give skewed and distorted pictures. Let me have a little fun by using a q&a format to explain. 1. Well, first off, the lists are measuring the sales of all books, right? Nope. The lists you encounter in general-interest newspapers and magazines measure the sales of what are known as trade books -- ie., the kinds of books you might buy in a typical bookstore. That skips all other books -- textbooks, medical books, and law books, for example. Big business: they constitute around 2/3 of the total books market. Let me repeat that: bestseller lists ignore 2/3 of the actual books market. That mass of kids buying Econ 101 textbooks at the beginning of every semester? Doesn't show up. 2. OK, we're ignoring 2/3 of the actual books market. That's cool with me -- all I'm interested in is the sales of bookstore-type books anyway. So what is it a bestseller list actually measures? All a bestseller list measures (at its best) is the rate of sales -- in other words, how quickly a book is selling. That's it: what's hot today. A one-dimensional picture. Which means that other sales dimensions are being skipped. Many books with big sales never appear on bestseller lists. Why? Because even though they sell well and do so over a long period, they never sell fast enough to make it onto the list, which after all is only measuring the speed of sales. A useful way of picturing this is to imagine yourself watching cars go by, but being able to watch them only through a very narrow vertical window. What do you know about those cars? Only how fast they're going for a very brief time. You have no idea about so much else -- about how far they've gone, for instance. (Bestseller lists try to account for this with their "weeks on the list" feature.) An example of a very popular book that has never shown up on a general-interest bestseller list is "A Pattern Language," by Christopher Alexander and some colleagues, one of the alltime bestselling books on architecture. I've been told that it has sold from ten to twenty thousand copies a year ever since it was published in 1977; that means it has sold a total (in hardcover!) of from 250,000 to 500,000 copies -- far more than many books on today's bestseller list. Yet it... posted by Michael at July 19, 2003 | perma-link | (19) comments

Friday, July 18, 2003

Paul Johnson on art
Friedrich -- I know you're as much of a fan of the British historian Paul Johnson as I am. What has he been up to recently, you may wonder? Writing a history of art. Yippee! I feel safe in predicting that the book will be A) a blast to read and look at, and B) anything but a po-mo jargonfest. Can't wait to get my hands on it, in fact. Its American publication date is October, which means it should be available in early-to-mid September. The publisher compares the book to Gombrich, and describes it as a comprehensive history of art that covers everything from rock painting up the present. I seem to remember that Johnson himself is a serious watercolorist and art fanatic, so I wouldn't be surprised if the art-crit part of the book is as good as the history-telling will no doubt be. I'm also betting that the view he delivers of art history won't be the standard one, to say the least. I'm especially curious to see how he treats the 20th century -- a little birdy has already told me that Warhol gets not much more than one sentence in the book. You can read a bit more about Johnson's book and even have the fun of pre-ordering it here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 18, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

DVD Journal: "8 Women," "See the Sea," "Water Drops on Burning Rocks"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards --- Inspired by his movie Swimming Pool (my brilliant, amazing, etc. posting about it is here), I treated myself to a Francois Ozon film festival over the last week. I re-saw "Swimming Pool" and caught up with some of his earlier films -- 8 Women, Water Drops on Burning Rocks, and See the Sea -- on DVD. (Not being a huge Charlotte Rampling fan, I couldn't bring myself to face his well-received recent "Under the Sand.") Verdict? What a prodigy, young/sly/postmodern-gay division. Interesting to see "Swimming Pool" with a paying audience, even if it was a paying Upper West Side audience, if you know what I mean. The film left them a little puzzled but quite happy, and it got a lot more earned laughter than I expected. The precisely-calibrated moments of tension, observation, unease, semi-release, and discomfort worked beautifully. The audience clearly enjoyed spending a couple of hours feeling creeped-out, aroused, and sunstruck. They had themselves a sexily subtle foreign-film experience, in other words. 3 of the 8 women, amidst just a tiny bit of the decor As for the earlier films: I strongly recommend "Water Drops on Burning Rocks." "See the Sea" is virtuosic and has other virtues too, but it's basically a student film. "8 Women," although a big hit with with the staider art-movie audience, left me almost completely cold, huge fan though I am of many of the gals in the cast (Beart, Deneuve, Ledoyen, etc). It's like a Broadway showpiece that's all about stunt-casting -- Agatha Christie meets "The Women" pretty much summarizes it, although without doing justice to the film's eye-popping decor. The narrative is all setups, catfights, big turns, reconciliations and camp interludes -- a long way from my kind of thing. What do the bunch of you think you're doing? Horreurs! Now do it again "Water Drops on Burning Rocks" isn't my kind of thing either, come to think of it, but I enjoyed it a lot anyway. Ozon adapted an early play by Fassbinder and turned it into a chic, malicious little jewel. I have a tough time sitting through Fassbinder's own movies, which I find charmless and grueling beyond belief. And this play, which he wrote when he was 19 and which was apparently never produced, is typical Fassbinder -- nasty, ambi-sexual, mind-fucky modernist parlor games. But with Ozon adapting and directing, it becomes a droll, deadpan, exquisite entertainment. Brilliant performances from all four actors (including the divine Ludivine Sagnier, who's also on display in "8 Women" and "Swimming Pool"), tons of slyly delivered, understated subtext, a stylish and spare use of visuals and sound that's gorgeous in itself and also highlights the erotic underpinnnings of everything happening on screen ... The whole movie has a cheerily kinky and wicked twinkle -- something I can't imagine anyone attributing to any of Fassbinder's own films. So: a what-are-you-waiting-for thumbs-up to "Swimming Pool," and a hurry-to-your-video-store-now nod to "Water Drops on Burning Rocks." Now, admittedly, in... posted by Michael at July 18, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Public Choice
Michael: At various times you’ve discussed how learning more economics has let you see larger and more meaningful patterns in the world. I think I’m in the middle of having one of those relevatory moments via economics. Have you ever heard of “public choice” economics? It had dimly passed across my radar screen from time to time, but I only started paying more attention to it in the process of writing my post Saturn Devours My Children (which you can read here). What a gas to see a group of smart people take many of my private musings of the past decade and set them out with more clarity than I ever gave them. I actually read a webpage outlining some of the notions of public choice while literally laughing out loud to see that I wasn’t the only lunatic in the insane asylum. “Public Choice” uses economics to analyze the incentives involved in making choices via a democratic government. It adopts (as any sane person would, it seems to me) a fairly skeptical view of the notion that the government is always running around serving the public good. To quote this same webpage, which you can access here: Public choice economists also examine the actions of legislators. Although legislators are expected to pursue the "public interest," they make decisions on how to use other people's resources, not their own. Furthermore, these resources must be provided by taxpayers and by those hurt by regulations whether [those taxpayers or the people subject to regulation] want to provide them or not. Politicians may intend to spend taxpayer money wisely. Efficient decisions, however, will neither save their own money nor give them any proportion of the wealth they save for citizens. There is no direct reward for fighting powerful interest groups in order to confer benefits on a public that is not even aware of the benefits or of who conferred them. Thus, the incentives for good management in the public interest are weak. In contrast, interest groups are organized by people with very strong gains to be made from governmental action. They provide politicians with campaign funds and campaign workers. In return they receive at least the "ear" of the politician and often gain support for their goals. Hee, hee—at least if I have to pay extortionate taxes so that powerful interest groups (like the elderly or agrobusiness) can keep all four feet in the public trough, I’m glad somebody stood up and pointed out what was going on. By golly, it gives me hope for the future. Actually, it gives me more than hope, it gives me an idea. Isn’t it time for virtuous people everywhere to start thinking seriously about a system of governance that works better than democracy (or at least how American representative democracy is practiced in 2003?) Before everyone freaks out, let me stress that I’ve heard the expression that “democracy is the worst form of government in the world, except for all the others,” I just... posted by Friedrich at July 18, 2003 | perma-link | (22) comments

Thursday, July 17, 2003

An Actress Connects with her Inner Power
Friedrich -- Here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 17, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Free Reads -- Jamie Diamond visits Michael Bay
Friedrich -- I first met the type a hundred years ago when I spent a little time in L.A.: pop-culture producers (music, TV, movies) who, on the job, created godawful pieces of moneymaking vulgarity, and who then, as civilians, went home at night to relax in tasteful and cultured surroundings. Not as unusual a phenom as you might think. Or as I'd have thought back in my naive youth, anyway. What to make of this? For years my conclusion was that we're fools to fall for what they try to sell us. Why? Because if even they wouldn't be caught dead wasting their precious spare time on the kind of crap they produce, why should we? And god knows I do wish Americans would be more discriminating in their culture-consuming lives. Hold out for better stuff and the producers will eventually respond -- the recent histories of the car, food and clothing industries show how this can happen. These days, though, I wonder. I mean, if pop-culture producers can get away with selling garbage to a foolish public, why shouldn't they indulge their own good taste at the end of the day? But then, typing these words, I feel like scum. My real feeling is: may they slide into the Pacific during the next earthquake -- although it'd sure be nice if their groovy possessions remained behind for the rest of us to enjoy. Murky musings prompted by a piece in today's NYTimes. For the House and Home section, Jamie Diamond visits Michael (Crash Boom) Bay at his lovely house in Bel Air, here. During his work hours, Bay crafts such masterpieces of restraint and refinement as "Bad Boys" and "Armageddon." But at home in the evening, all is serenity and calm. Sample passages: "I read home decor magazines all the time," said Mr. Bay, whose movie "The Rock" was about a plot to destroy San Francisco with nerve-gas-bearing rockets launched from Alcatraz. "It's the way to stay hip, and it helps me when I think of sets." ... Mr. Bay sleeps in a soothing light-filled room. Silky white curtains flutter next to a minimalist daybed. This, more than any other room, seems like a movie set -- although not from any of Mr. Bay's movies ... He responded to things visually from an early age, winning a national award for photography when he was a senior at Crossroads, a private school in Santa Monica. But he never considered himself part of the artsy crowd, which he defines as intellectuals who hang out at revival theaters. Reading the piece, I felt a little sorry for the writer. What to do with this guy? Bay seems as impervious to criticism as only a crying-all-the-way-to-the-bank, rip-roaring popular success can be: "'I make movies for teenage boys,' he said, 'Oh, dear, what a crime'." Diamond takes a lightly-mocking tone, delivers the information, and makes it away alive. And good for her. What do you conclude, or at least how do you feel, about... posted by Michael at July 17, 2003 | perma-link | (10) comments

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Tacit Knowledge -- Horror Movies
Friedrich -- Do you go for horror movies? I almost never do, unless they've got some other angle -- unless they've been made arty, or sexy, or comic. (Or, best yet, all the above.) I'm not remotely tempted to see that new Danny Boyle zombie movie, for instance. The Wife, on the other hand, loves horror, and the straighter and more earnest the better. I find it a very specific and peculiar taste. Years ago, I was talking to a Hollywood executive who'd given the green light to some horror movie projects. I was young enough still to be fascinated by what my tastes might mean, and I was going on and on about why the movies didn't work for me, and what that might mean about me. Me me me. And, with some exasperation (rightly so), the executive stopped me and sputtered, "What you don't seem to understand is that we don't make horror movies for you. We make them for three very specific audiences. We make them for Catholics, for blacks, and for teens." I wonder if that rule still holds as true as it apparently did back then. What with so much going cyber-sci-fi and cyber-Goth these days, perhaps the taste for horror has become a little more general. What's your impression? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 16, 2003 | perma-link | (13) comments

Free Reads -- David Weddle on Film Theory
Friedrich -- Have you bothered following the development of academic film theory since we left our movie-besotted college years behind? I have, if very spottily. You'll be stunned, stunned to hear that it's developed into something as absurd as what's crippled the other lib-arts-studies worlds. Marxist/feminist/psyschoanalytic/radical nonsense, in other words, with the occasional semi-OK idea buried in mounds and mounds of impress-your-fellow-academics jargon. And nothing, absolutely nothing (so far as I can tell) to do with how movies are actually made or enjoyed. Professorial attitude-striking and wheel-spinning, in other words -- yet more baloney that we owe to American academics' idiotic admiration for French New Left posturing and style. David Weddle, who has a film degree of his own from way back, who has covered the film biz, and who has written a good biography of Sam Peckinpah, got a glimpse of what his daughter is currently studying in her Film-Studies courses. He wrote about what he discovered for the LA Times, here. Sample passage: Is there a hidden method to these film theorists' apparent madness? Or is film theory, as movie critic Roger Ebert said as I interviewed him weeks later, "a cruel hoax for students, essentially the academic equivalent of a New Age cult, in which a new language has been invented that only the adept can communicate in"? Link via Arts and Letters Daily, here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 16, 2003 | perma-link | (13) comments

Back from the Dead
Apologies to anyone who tried to leave a comment on our blog over the last 12 hours or so. Our webhost company, which generally gives us excellent service, was wrestling with some technical challenges. Things seem to back in functioning order, so let the party begin anew.... posted by Michael at July 16, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

The Music Business and Its Gatekeepers
Michael: I read an interesting article on the music industry in The New Yorker of July 7 . Titled “The Money Note” by John Seabrook, it takes a meandering look at how Jason Flom, a 42-year-old multimillionaire executive at the Warner Music Group, is trying to make a “world star” out of an unknown 19-year-old French girl singer. The article's subtitle, "Can the record business survive?" refers to the decaying economics of the industry, where the volume of CDs sold keeps shrinking, quarter over quarter. To say that the story is a bit schizoid and unfocused is an understatement, but it does contain some rather suggestive pieces of information. The article pretty much takes the music business' view of itself at face value; to wit, that a small number of “record men” (such as Mr. Flom) are essential to the process of picking out tomorrow’s stars and packaging them for mega-success, an activity which is becoming no less expensive but far less lucrative as a result of the Napsterization of digital music: Successful record men are commonly said to have “ears” but prospecting for monsters requires eyes for star quality as well as a nose for the next trend. You have to be able to go to thousands of sweaty night clubs, and sit through a dozen office auditions each week, and somehow not become so jaded that you fail to recognize a superstar when you encounter one…Why should the latent capacity for superstardom in pop, which is perhaps the most egalitarian of art forms, be obvious to only a gifted few like Jason Flom—those great A&R (artist-and-repertoire) men whom the record industry celebrates as its heroes? (And they are invariably male.) After all, even the great record men are wrong much more often than they are right about the acts they sign (nine misses for each hit is said to be the industry standard). One wonders how much of the art of hit-making is just dumb luck. Regretfully, the author doesn’t follow up on his dumb-luck scenario. He swerves back around to the notion that record men have unique noses for talent (no matter how many times they are wrong): Arguably, the most important function that record-industry professionals perform…is filtering through the millions of aspiring artists who think they can sing or play and finding the one or two who really can. Presumably, this statement (idiotic on its face) is meant to imply that the search is for “the one or two who really can move large quantities of CDs.” But Mr. Seabrook gives us some interesting statistics that cast doubt on the essential role of the record men: Hit-making is an imprecise method of doing business. Of thirty thousand CDs that the industry released last year in the United States, only four hundred and four sold more than a hundred thousand copies, while twenty-five thousand releases sold less than a thousand copies apiece. When I read that, a little bell went off in my head, and I remembered... posted by Friedrich at July 15, 2003 | perma-link | (7) comments

Paris, City of Romance?
Friedrich -- Maria Farrell over at Crooked Timber thinks not, here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 15, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

18 and Over Only, Please
Friedrich -- Ero-blogging bliss, here. Who knew Portuguese could be such a sexy-looking language? Maybe life in Brazil actually is as hedonistic as the tourist ads make it out to be. And, hey, if this blog really is by a woman, as it claims to be, then there go every single one of my theories about the differences between the way women and men react to erotica. Don't neglect to scroll to the bottom of the screen -- a little way up is a long posting in English. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 15, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Evan Kirchhoff's Honda
Friedrich -- What was stolen is now found, and only two blocks away. Evan Kirchhoff's postings about the disappearance and reappearance of his Honda are droll little blogging gems. Here, the car is stolen, and here it shows up again. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 15, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

Booze and the Writing Life
Michael: I was leafing through the August issue of Vanity Fair, when I stumbled across “The Road to Samarra.” This is an excerpt from an upcoming biography of John O’Hara by Geoffrey Wolff. I had the same reaction to the antics of O'Hara that I often do to tales of the New York literary world in the 1920s and 1930s…how could those guys have ever gotten any writing done for all the drinking? A few excerpts on the general topic of O’Hara’s boozing: Letter after letter from those days [1927-8] finds O’Hara reporting about himself that he was drunk and drinking, on a bender, recovering from a three-day-and-night tear, broke, in debt, up all night baying at the moon or baying at its absence, rising well past midday. O’Hara met Dorothy Parker, later his loyal pal and most admiring fan, listening to the Hawaiian house band at an all-night joint called the Dizzy Club. He also frequented the Owl, which served the hardest of hard-core soakers, patrons who showed near dawn and drank till noon. Farr has invoked the clientele as people “who drank fast, said little and had pistols under their coats. Others were there only because they did not want to interrupt their consumption of alcohol, except when unconscious, until they died.” …now [in the early 1930s O’Hara] indulged even more in prolonged benders, what he called “overnight vacations; getting so cockeyed drunk that twenty hours elapse before I recover.” Okay, so O’Hara was in his twenties, but he must have needed an iron constitution to survive long enough to write “Appointment in Samarra.” Since I am far less informed about the personal lives of writers than of painters, I ask you: has wildly excessive boozing always been central to the writing life? Was Dickens a lush? How about Stendhal? Goethe? Was it primarily an American thing? A 20th century thing? Surprisingly, O'Hara Made It Into His Sixties As best I can tell—granted, what do I know—drinking in American life seems to have moderated a good deal from my youth. At my first job, in advertising, everyone was either a drunk—the three martini lunch was no hyperbole for these guys—or they were recovering from a heart attack and forbidden to drink at all. Today you can’t coerce people into having a drink at a business lunch by taking hostages. While I’m sure the country is still well-stocked with alcoholics, any tinge of glamour associated with excessive drinking (or drugging, at least in my circles) seems to have faded long ago. How has this trend impacted the writing life—if it has at all? Have writers (young or old) sobered up? If so, is this trend visible in their work? I’m so isolated from anyone in the “writing life”--with the exception of the occasional sitcom writer--that I would be curious to get your perspective. Cheers, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at July 15, 2003 | perma-link | (13) comments

I Am a Glowing Ball of Pure White Spirit
Friedrich -- I'm just back from another Bikram yoga session, and I do feel like a glowing ball of pure Spirit. Why doesn't everybody do Bikram yoga? Hard to quarrel with near-instant and blissful results. As a woman I was chatting with after class said, It gets to be like a drug. I think I'll be putting my tai chi lessons on hold for a while. Fascinating though tai chi is, you do sometimes find yourself wondering whether the promised payoffs will arrive before or after you turn 80. With Bikram, the payoffs start now. The other thing I'm amusing myself with through July -- The Wife is out of town for the month, so I'm a bored, lonely-guy bachelor in search of stimulation and distraction -- is photography. I've resolved that, dammit, I'm no longer going to stand for being the worst photographer around; I'm good and tired of my friends diving for cover whenever I take my camera out. Time to claw my way up the ladder a bit. So I'm taking a two-times-a-week class in digital photography. It's been really good -- taught by an affable technique-Nazi with a terrific knack for helping you wrap your sorry mind around all the conceptual challenges. One thing he's straightened out helps account for some of what you and I have taken note of when we talk about the new digital cinema. (Note to visitors: Friedrich and Michael both love gassing on about the new movie technologies, their ups and downs, as well as our hopes and misgivings. Here are some postings on the topic: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.) You know how you and I fret about the bizarre qualities of the digital image? How it can be perfect yet soulless? How, for all its pop-out-at-you brightness and amazingness, it can feel lifeless and hollowed-out? How, while it seems perfectly suited to animation and action blockbusters, it seems to fall badly short where tactile and sensuous qualities are concerned? In other words, if you're looking for juice, for warmth, for luster, for materiality -- for the kind of thing you get in "Sex and Lucia" and "Swimming Pool" -- you probably won't be finding them in the digi-cinema. Surprise, surprise: it turns out we're actually on to something. For important technical reasons, the digital image really is (unless extravagantly fussed-over) a hollowed-out thing. You and I have speculated about how this feeling might arise from the fixed nature of the digital grid. We may have a point, apparently. But the feeling also results, according to my teacher, from compression. And compression of the digital image occurs on not just one but two important levels. The first is a function of the nature of nearly all CCD chips. Each little pixel can only register light of one color -- red, green or blue. So where do gradations and intermediate colors come from? Not from anything the lens has gathered but from software -- ie., not from the visible world, but... posted by Michael at July 15, 2003 | perma-link | (10) comments

Monday, July 14, 2003

DVD Journal: "Sex and Lucia"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Friedrich -- I noticed at the video parlor that the Spanish movie Sex and Lucia is now available on DVD. I saw it some time ago in a theater and blogged about it here. It's classy modernist art-porn, featuring three stunning and talented actresses -- Spanish actresses are evidently the world's most daring these days. I had a good time watching the film both for art and eroticism reasons. But what I found most interesting about seeing the movie was how much the women in the audience enjoyed it. Coming out of the theater, they were smiley and happy, even a little flushed, god bless 'em. Which prompts a classic old question: Why do women love the explicit erotic material they do love? "Sex and Lucia" isn't hardcore, but it's certainly hotsy-totsy -- pretty far out there in "Emmanuelle"-land. It prompts a slightly more oddball question too: Why do so many women not just shrug at the explicit erotic material they dislike, they seem to actively despise it? I'm just generalizing here from personal experience, but as far as I can tell guys seldom get moral about the explicit material that doesn't stir them. They just move on. But women? When they don't react happily to explicit erotic material, they seem to want to morally condemn it. The easy, or traditional, answer is that women are more moral about sex than men are, and there's certainly something to that. Yet since women clearly do love some erotic material -- "Sex and Lucia," for example -- the real answer has got to be a little more complicated. Why would there be this difference in the way men and women respond to the arty/sexy material that doesn't get to them? If this question isn't a good candidate for some evo-bio thinking, I don't know what is. Anyway, a very good (ahem) couple's movie, much superior to "Eyes Wide Shut." (Which, judging from viewers' comments on Amazon, is finding a much happier audience among video renters than it did among theatergoers. Another good posting topic: movies that flopped at theaters yet work for home-video viewers. How? Why?) Eager to hear how you react to "Sex and Lucia" -- as well as how your wife reacts to it, of course -- if you do get around to renting it. Eager to hear any and all visitors' reactions to it too. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 14, 2003 | perma-link | (12) comments

Terry Teachout Now
Friedrich -- A few postings ago I was feeling mighty pleased with myself for being the first blogger (I thought, anyway) to announce that the first-rate theater and music critic Terry Teachout had started a blog. Whoops -- I pulled the trigger a few days too early, as it turned out. In fact, Teachout begins blogging today, here. Along with his many other virtues, Teachout is especially generous with tips and suggestions -- further reading, further viewing, further listening. (I've already ordered a Benny Carter CD he mentioned in one posting.) But then, I've never understood critics who don't pass along a lot of suggestions and tips. Have you? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 14, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

What I Did on my Summer Vacation
Michael: As you know, sometimes it takes a while to get your film developed and show people what you did on vacation. Well, the same is true of me; I took a while to take pictures of some of the sketches I made on my recent Hawaiian vacation. So what did I and my lovely wife do with ourselves for the week (in the absence of our three dearly beloved but quite purposefully left behind children?) Well, I got up early and went walking along the shore watching the sun come up over the rocks… My wife, who is much more energetic than I, spent time playing tennis near the beach (this is the court; I was going to put some players in but I had a few too many tropical drinks and decided to leave well enough alone)… We lolled around watching the ocean (while drinking, of course) under the trees… And I stole a floral arrangement from the hotel and spent an afternoon working in the room (while still, of course, drinking), as my appetite for painting under the mid-day sun had waned somewhat. Hope this is no more boring than looking at photographs of somebody else’s vacation. Cheers, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at July 14, 2003 | perma-link | (13) comments