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« Genetics, Environment and IQ | Main | Did I Mention the 12.3% Rate of Return? »

September 02, 2003


Friedrich --

Good god but it's hard to keep up with what's wonderful on the web. Correction: it's impossible to keep up with it. But I'm not about to stop trying.

* Paul Williams has put out another issue of his enjoyable and impressive one-man magazine Cipher Culture here, and it's full of his quirkily brainy musings on subjects from genetically-modified food to the desire to live forever. Between you and me, I wish Paul would present his thoughts in blog form -- but then, these days, there's almost no one whose thoughts I wouldn't prefer to read in blog form.

* It's not a surprise to hear that press agents and entertainment journalists work together closely. It can be surprising, though, to learn just how closely. Toby Young, interviewed in Gawker magazine, explains the significance of uber-publicist Pat Kingsley here.

* I diligently maintain a list of books that are considered pop-entertainment classics and every now and then even get around to reading one of the books on it. Most recently, I caught up with Gregory MacDonald's sorta-PI novel Fletch, buyable here. Have you read it? It's funny, ingenious, and tense -- well-deserving of its reputation, IMHO. And it moves like a freight train -- what a virtuoso display of pacing and flair. I didn't find the gonzo-counterculture journalist-hero as winning as I was meant to, but the book's a dazzler anyway. OK, so "Fletch" isn't a web-thing, it's a book-thing. Want to make something of it?

* What I enjoyed most in this absorbing and thoughtful Geoffrey Wheatcroft essay (here) about intellectuals in the post 9/11 world were a few cracks he made about literary writers -- cracks which in my experience are spot-on. "In practice writers are all too often sillier and nastier in their politics than anyone else," Wheatcroft writes. "Imaginative writers are distinguished not by a sweeter character (too often very much not), greater intellectual honesty, or even deeper intelligence, but—apart from the gift of expression which is their stock in trade—a way of looking at the world which is interesting because it is exaggerated or distorted." Link thanks to Arts and Letters Daily (here).

* I suppose that, kid-equipped as your household is, you get more than your share of exposure to music videos. Me, I take a peep at that perplexing scene about once a year. What struck me during my most recent glimpse is how overproduced, over art-directed, and over-processed the standard music video is these days. It's pumped to the max and swollen to bursting; every square inch of it is styled to within an inch of its life, and maybe beyond. Bizarre that many people now expect this level of overdone-ness from their audiovisual entertainment. For a movie fan this is a scary reflection because these days ads, video games and music videos are having more of an influence on movies than movie history is. Ah, just what the movies need: more production values. If you've got a fast connection, you can watch this year's nominees for Best Video here.

* Andrea Petersen reported in the WSJ last Friday (subscription only) that a study has now linked urban sprawl to that other well-known kind of American sprawl -- obesity. (The study links urban sprawl to high blood pressure too.) "The study's authors want to add healthy urban planning to the myriad approaches that doctors and public-health officials are exploring to combat the epidemic of obesity in the U.S.," she writes. Whether you walk or drive to accomplish a lot of the daily chores of life seems to be what makes the diff.

* Dept. of Thank God I'm an American: Cinderella Bloggerfella translates some fascinating and horrifying passages from a conversation about Idi Amin between Wojciech Jagielski and the Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski here. And Matthew Leeming, reviewing a new book about life in Afghanistan by Asne Seierstad for the Spectator here, doesn't make life under fundamentalist Islam seem a lot more appealing than life under Idi Amin: "Afghanistan is a good place to ponder one’s good fortune in being born in the modern West and not in a culture where malaria is treated by yelling, or the best cuts of meat are reserved for the dead, or it is believed that the motions of the stars are controlled from the liver of a rogue elephant, or divine honours paid to shallow depressions in the ground."

* The art critic Peter Schjeldahl gets off a good crack about Modernism in his review of a Paul Strand show for Artnet, here. "So-called modernism was a productive mental illness, perhaps, with heroic symptoms," he writes. "One symptom is a belief that by changing how the world is commonly seen, you change the world. You don't though. You only render yourself and your followers arrogantly impervious to inconvenient varieties of always uncontrollable, humbling fact."

* Which states are seeing more people leave, and which are seeing more people arrive? Daniel Henninger looks at the figures for the Wall Street Journal here.

* Stuart Jeffries interviews the French actress Annie ("Femme Nikita") Parillaud for the Guardian here, and has some ungallant if irresistable fun at her expense. Parillaud stars in "Sex is Comedy," the most recent film by the brilliant (IMHO, of course) Catherine Breillat. I'm dying to see it; the film's subject matter is Breillat herself directing a sex scene between two teenagers in her film "Fat Girl." That's right, "Sex is Comedy" is a fiction film based on the real story of the film's director directing a sex scene in an earlier autobiographical film. Now there's a premise: let's give a porno-modernist Hooray! Does anyone know if "Sex is Comedy" is scheduled to open in the States? IMDB says nothing about an American release.

* Aaron Haspel joins the Frank Lloyd Wright pile-on here with a posting about whether or not architecture is art. Alexandra Ceely (here) and David Sucher (here) respond. I had my own go at the "what's art" question here, where I suggest two different definitions of "art" and pass along a hard-won tip on how to dodge the question entirely, my own preferred solution to the conundrum.

* I enjoyed this informative posting here by Tom Ehrenfeld at his blog The Startup Garden. It's about Brooks Stevens, the graphic designer responsible for the look of Miller Brewing's products, Evinrude's outboard motors, and the phrase "planned obsolescence."

* Here's a well-done National Gallery introduction to the life and works of Frederic Remington.



posted by Michael at September 2, 2003


"...Pat Kingsley, the PR queen who has contributed heavily to entertainment journalism into the sappy celebrity marketing vehicle it is today by punishing journalists who write unflattering articles about her clients—effectively weeding out the people who don't want to do maudlin profiles. She represents enough A-list celebrities that it's very nearly impossible to have an antagonistic relationship with her firm ("PMK") and remain an entertainment journalist for very long."

Didn't Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis do this tapdance as an entertainment columnist and a publicist back in "Sweet Smell of Success"? Except then the journalist had all the power. Same with Louella Parrsons and whatever-the-other-one's name was.

Who holds the reins seems like it's changed, but I don't think entertainment reporting has ever been the height of rigorous journalism. It does seem to be a bastion of queen-bee-ness.

Posted by: annette on September 2, 2003 10:16 PM

Wow, is Peter Schjeldahl a terrific writer on art. Read his review. Here is another selection:

Modern art at its best, such as here, can seem like one long demonstration project, reveling in sheer possibility. It shows that one may do this thing, and this and this, while continually postponing a sense of the reason for doing anything at all. It soars on utopian optimism, anticipating an explanatory, redemptive future. When the optimism has leaked away, such as now, that attitude becomes bizarre. Its cavalier dismissal of the past seems particularly foolish, as if on a warm day in winter one were to throw away one's overcoat.

Check it out.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on September 3, 2003 1:43 AM

The only impression the movie "Sex is Comedy" left me, is that French movie directors are pompous self important twats.

This is a thoroughly humourless film. But the worst thing about it was that hinge of early seventies feminist clichés; a notion that women don't like sex because they're oppressed, or something like that.

Though I have to admit, this movie had so many bad things about it, it became good again. Nobody else in the audience the night I attended saw it this way though; I was the only one left in the cinema after a while.

Posted by: ijsbrand on September 3, 2003 7:41 AM

IJSbrand -- Sounds like my kind of thing! Or one of them anyway. Have you run across any info about whether it'll be released in America? I have friends who've seen it at festivals, but I haven't been able to find out if it'll be shown in commercial theaters. Thanks.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 3, 2003 10:45 AM

I second that emotion on "Fletch". The whole series is like that, btw. They're all good, as the saying goes.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on September 3, 2003 11:35 AM

The Remington website reminded me of something.

It's funny how different these 2 reviews are.

"The last big Frederic Remington show in a major East Coast museum was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1989. And some who saw it fervently hoped that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime event. But no."

Posted by: Shelley on September 3, 2003 6:21 PM

Have you run across any info about whether it'll be released in America?

No, sorry. I do know the movie has been available on DVD since a couple of months though, and can be bought through in France (same interface as all the other Amazons, so the French doesn't have to be a real problem).

However, the DVD is only in French, doesn't seem to have subtitles in other languages, and is Region 2. Which your player may not like.

Posted by: ijsbrand on September 3, 2003 6:50 PM

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