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. Elsewhere
  2. Raphael on Popper
  3. What I Did Over My Christmas Vacation...
  4. Life With a DVR

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

Saturday, January 3, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- * Richard Dorment wonders how much sense it makes to think of Degas as an Impressionist, here. * Alice Bachini decides that she likes the TV series "Friends" after all, here. * I love reading the British design critic Rick Poynor, who blogs (all too seldom, grrr) at DesignObserver, here. Here's a recent Rick posting about a Dutch design team. * There's probably no easier to way get familiar with the important concept of a market-dominant minority than by reading Amy Chua's article in the Wilson Quarterly here. Chua's book on the topic, "World on Fire," can be bought here. Steve Sailer comments here; Vinod, of Vinod's Blog (and from whom I lifted the Chua link), adds some more thoughts here. * George Chauncey makes James McCourt's new book "Queer Street" here sound like an elegy for the closeted old days when some homosexuals developed extreme and virtuosic camp styles. Take that, "Queer Eye" Fab Five. Apparently I'm not the first person to think gays were funnier back when they were less easygoingly part of the mainstream -- an observation I'm not about to draw any political conclusions from, by the way. * Michael Musto's end-of-the-year awards for "brilliance and horror in pop culture" are pretty funny, here. It's amazing that Musto, a Village Voice columnist who's older than you and I are, has managed to keep his energy up for this kind of silliness. But he has, and he's consistently amusing. * My favorite edgy queer, the Toronto writer, filmmaker and all-around personality Bruce La Bruce, has a wayward but fun rant here about the tyranny of narrative in today's movies. Here he compares splatter movies with porn, and argues that porn -- which he likes and even makes -- should be kept underground. He riffs his way through some awards ceremonies here, dissing Leo DiCaprio's appearance at the Golden Globes with this memorable line: "Where's Sacheen Littlefeather when you need her?" * Jim Burrows has devoted a website to the vital subject of cheesecake art -- no, not foodie photography, but pix of coyly sweet and sexy girls -- and he's done an awfully good and informative job, here. * Jim Kalb's tone is unfailingly mild and modest, but he's also a ferociously smart reasoner whose writing always gives my sorry brain a good tuneup. Here and here are some especially sharp recent Jim postings. * Aaron Haspel doesn't think too highly of college educations, here. Aaron also points out that Cinderella Bloggerfella (here) has decided to hang up his blogging spurs. I certainly can't improve on Aaron's tribute and eloquence seems to be failing me today anyway. But I do want to note how much I've enjoyed and appreciated CB's work, which has always been fascinating and eye-opening, as well as wittily presented. Reading his blog beat hell out of reading almost anything in the conventional press, IMHO. * Have I raved yet about the webcast of the East Tennessee radio station WDVX? Yes?... posted by Michael at January 3, 2004 | perma-link | (4) comments

Friday, January 2, 2004

Raphael on Popper
Dear Friedrich -- One of the many things that surprised and dismayed me about the arts world is how intolerant it is of dissent. Silly me, I'd thought what I was entering was a field of activity; instead it turned out to be something more like a strict church, or a particularly rigid political party. Disagreement is allowed to go only so far. Dissent on the big topics simply isn't permitted. I remember, for example, an artist friend being enraged by the topic of the rebirth of academic-classical painting -- a rebirth which is, objectively speaking (and like it or not), a fact. "But you simply can't paint that way today," he spluttered. 2Blowhards visitors who recall the disputes that took place on this blog about whether or not the New Urbanism can be considered to be architecture -- it wasn't a conversation about whether the New Urbanism has any contributions to make, but whether it qualifies as architecture -- are familiar with this kind of reflex. The fact that the New Urbanism is something that many well-qualified architects are involved in didn't seem to make any difference to those who took the it's-not-architecture line. New Urbanists concern themselves with different issues than the ones the architecture commissars say are Architecture's Only True Issues? Then what they're doing isn't architecture. Quarreling with the main tenets of the arts world doesn't make you what you'd imagine -- an arts person who disagrees about a topic with other arts people. It makes you something else entirely. First, you're attacked. Then you're shunned. Then you're ignored. You become persona non grata, in other words. You may be writing, painting, thinking, composing, or performing up a storm, yet you still lose your membership card. Those academic-classical painters? They aren't to be accepted as artists, they're ... well, something else entirely, god only knows what. Non-artists, in any case. Possibly scum, and almost certainly fascists. How to explain this doctrinaire, you're-with-us-or-against-us attitude, let alone the vehemence with which many artsies cling to and uphold it? And how and when did fanaticism become a prerequisite for membership in the arts world? I recently read a small book by Frederic Raphael about the philosopher Karl Popper (buyable here), and a few passages in it caught my attention. Raphael is discussing Popper's ideas about knowledge, belief, science and politics, but they seem to me to apply to the arts as well. In pseudo-science as practised by Freud or Marx, ideology can make facts accord with anything if its terms are sufficiently elasticized (and elusive). The critics of such ideologies can be systematically dismissed by their proponents, since in the terms of the system they can always be accused of being, for instance, either 'in denial' or 'lackeys of the bourgeoisie.' ... The fallibility of the democracies had turned out to be a strength; the infallibility of dictators had revealed their weakness. Totalitarian systems created an illusion of frictionless cohesion and inflexible unanimity, but -- by damning all dissent... posted by Michael at January 2, 2004 | perma-link | (13) comments

What I Did Over My Christmas Vacation...
Michael: So how was your vacation? As for me and my brood, what we didn't do was go to Vegas as we had once planned; I'm gambling-challenged and on my diet I can't eat or drink, and that's about all there is to do there. Oh, I forgot, I also hate Vegas shows. If I get forced to shell out huge bucks to take the family to one more Cirque du Soliel extravaganza, I'm going to run amok and bump off a few of those Eastern European slave laborers they call performers. I'd love to read an economic expose of that outfit--what a scam they've got going! So we ended up hanging out around the house. Or at least we would have except...we're putting in some wood floors. I've wanted to do this since I moved in six years ago. Gratifying as it is, the demolition of the old floors has been incredibly dusty and noisy. So we've actually ended up hanging out at the local mall, some motels and at my in-laws. As a consequence of all this moving around with kids out of school, I ended up seeing the new Peter Pan movie twice. Actually, to my surprise, it's not that bad. Very nicely photographed. The visual effects aren't aiming at literal realism but at a rather more stylized aesthetic. I don't quite get why they have the same actor playing Captain Hook and Mr. Darling, except that both of those characters are supposed to show the ugly side of adulthood, I guess. The story is, of course, a potential psycho-sexual minefield. Odd how J.M.Barrie managed to get the whole world to buy into this weird fantasy, all built around a fear of adult sexuality! Peter and Wendy in this version are right on the cusp of puberty, which is of course far older than they are in the play and novel. If I were a paid reviewer, I guess I'd go back through the play and the novel ("Peter and Wendy") and try to sort out exactly what choices are getting made by the filmmakers--and why. (Whatever else they're doing, the line in the trailers about trying to 'respect' the work of J. M. Barrie is, of course, Hollywood nonsense--there's all sorts of fiddling around with the original text and its meanings going on in this movie.) However, since I'm merely a paying customer, I find it all too murky to bother with. Actually, what the story made me realize is that someone should point out how much more audacious pop culture storytelling is than high culture literature. Okay, I guess I'll do it myself. Pop culture storytelling is far more audacious than...oh, well, you get the picture. In popular culture, semi-conscious metaphors for sex, repression and death just bubble up to the surface. In contrast, the metaphors and imagery of high literature are really quite tame. I mean, Kafka works over one little metamorphosis for a whole short story, and it's a pretty transparent metaphor at... posted by Friedrich at January 2, 2004 | perma-link | (12) comments

Life With a DVR
Dear Friedrich -- Yet another chapter in my ongoing (and apparently never-to-end) home-entertainment-system story. A month ago, a cable guy stopped by and installed a new digital cable box. Groovy: some new channels, a few of them even worth paying a little attention to. But the real fun arrived inside the cable box -- a built-in DVR. The new cable box has, in other words, built-in Tivo-like functions. It's got a hard drive and the ability to program recording and playback. (You can read all about my precious new friend here.) A while back (here), you wrote about your pleasure in your own Tivo. I now better understand what you were raving about. I've had a few minor complaints. The damn gizmo whirs -- all the time, 24/7, even when the TV isn't in use. Does your Tivo's hard drive spin all the time, or only when you're actively making use of it? The people at my cable company's Help desk haven't been of any help; evidently the world of DVRs is new to them too. This mouse-size dentist's-drill sound that's now a constant presence in our bedroom is most unwelcome. Someone -- and someone whose word will be taken heed of -- needs to gripe publicly about how annoying the noises are that computers make. Donald Norman and Walter Mossburg, are you listening? Also, the hard drive's size -- which is limited to about 20 hours of recording -- seems 'way too small. How much programming does your Tivo hold? Happy to admit that I'm a media packrat who likes his shelf of options to be very full. Still: only 20 hours? I've already had to devise a make-do system. I'm only recording TV shows to the hard drive, while movies I still record to videocassette. If I didn't, the movies would gobble up all the hard drive space in no time. But, generally speaking: bliss. The DVR strikes me as one of those transforming technological advances. Using it, I feel the way I did when I first used a computer with a graphical interface. Instantly the computer stopped being a chore I struggled with and became something I could have fun with. Playing with the DVR reminds me too of the first time I saw the Web; the Internet, which I'd been able to make next to no use of apart from email, opened itself up to me as a place where I might romp and enjoy myself. As far as me-and-TV go, I'm probably a fairly typical American-bozo case. I grew up in the '50s and '60s reading books, listening to pop music, and watching TV, if not as much as many kids I knew. As a teen, I decided to break myself of the TV habit and did it cold turkey. I made the choice out of adolescent self-righteousness (commercialism sucks) and snobbery (film equals high-class, TV equals loserhood) as much as anything else, but I also did it to free up my mind and my... posted by Michael at January 2, 2004 | perma-link | (6) comments