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« Jess | Main | Anti-Capitalism: With Us Always? »

January 23, 2004


Dear Friedrich --

* I've noticed fun and substantial reactions to our interview with Jim Kalb from Thrasymachus (here) and Squub (here). I also notice that, at his own blog, Jim has been exploring some of the questions that got raised, here and here. If anyone spots other continuing discussions of the interview, please let me know.

* Polly Frost may not have been blogging much recently, but it seems she's been up to creative mischief anyway. She's written some erotic-horror short stories and will be presenting them Sunday (as in tomorrow) at a Greenwich Village club. Here's her announcement. You'll have to scroll down a bit for details.

* Wired magazine reports that a Sundance favorite was edited in Imovie and made on a budget of $250, here.

* Aaron Haspel is breaking windows and throwing cherrybombs again -- and I say that appreciatively. Here he rates the blogger-humorists, and here he pulls apart some critic cliches, most of which I make plenty of use of myself.

* I love James Kunstler's "Eyesore of the Month" page (here). He's got a rare knack for spotting, displaying and commenting on very American forms of ugliness, disregard, and cluelessness.

* In case anyone's still skeptical about my observation (here) that the culture has done a remarkably fast U-turn where the goodness or badness of carbs are concerned: Newsday reports here that sales of OJ have slowed so rapidly (due to people cutting back on easy carbs) that growers are threatening to sue the author and publisher of a low-carb diet book. By the way, I just spotted the first magazine I've noticed (aside from promotional rags such as Atkins') devoted entirely to low-carb livin'. Its website is here. A question? When Ford discovers a bad flaw in one of their cars, it's often front-page news, and Ford itself often comes in for a beating on the op-ed pages. So why, when the health-tips biz reverses direction, are similar sounds of outrage and betrayal not heard? It couldn't be because the media outlets that normally broadcast outrage are themselves part of the health-tips biz, could it? Just a hunch ...

* Intense, weirdo, more-downtown-than-you actor/director Vincent ("Buffalo '66") Gallo turns out to be a Republican, here. I wonder what he thinks about Bush's budget plans.

* Peter Cuthbertson suspects that a reading of Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" is likely to turn a person into a conservative, here.

* Nietzsche fan that you are, you won't want to miss Patrick West's article about him in Spiked Online, here.

* The New Urbanist Peter Calthorpe talks here about some of the reasons why American towns and cities are the straggly, sorry-ass things they so often are. (In his view, one of the biggest culprits is the single-home-mortgage tax deduction.) Calthorpe can get a bit Volvo-eco-hippie-ish, but he can also talk a lot of sense. An example: "To think of the street as just a utility for cars is so absurd. And yet that is exactly what is happening because we have segmented design so that the traffic engineer designs the streets and the civil engineer designs the utilities and the architect designs the buildings."

* An architecture-world development that's related to the New Urbanism is the New Classicism -- architects who are reviving classical styles: columns, pediments and all. I respect 'em and root for 'em. But I'm especially tickled by the fact that the New Classicism -- which, from its name, you'd assume ranks high in the snobbery department -- has in fact been a grass-roots movement. Its proponents and adherents have almost all been architects who woke up one day to realize that they despised their academic/avant-garde indoctrination, and who independently started to study the classical tradition as a way of shaking off the avant-garde mindlock. John Monczunski's article in Notre Dame Magazine (here) tells the story and names the prominent names.

* Do you find Hello Kitty as perplexing a phenomenon as I do? There it is, everywhere; the image of the cute little pussycat is now on 22,000 different products. But what is it? And where'd it come from? Coury Turczyn of PopCult magazine runs a fascinating q&a with Ken Belson, the co-author of a book about Hello Kitty, here.

* Gavin Shorto (here) pointed out this charming Guardian interview (here) with Britain's last surviving silent film star, 101-year-old Sybil Rohda.

* I'd be amazed if this blogger can keep his neo-post-reverse-ironic-hipster thing going for much longer. But I found his debut postings funny, here.

* Kari has some plausible ideas about what it is that makes watching soccer so damn boring, here.

* Are there people who don't get a kick out of paperback pulp-novel art (here)?

* George Hunka explains what makes Chekhov great, here.

* Michael Hastings rips Michael Moore a ... Ooo, lord no: that's much too gross an image. Suffice it to say that Hastings nails Moore pretty good, here. No, wait, that's not real pretty either ...

* An entire blogosphere unto themselves, the Marginal Revolution team continues to out-lively every other blogsite, here. Some of my recent faves: Tyler Cowen on Haiti and Chile (here and here), and Alex Tabarrok on Robert Shiller and Tommy Chong (here and here).

* I found this online chat here with the financial-tips author Jean Chatzky interesting. According to research Chatzky commissioned, more income makes you happier -- but only up to a point, which turns out to be (depending on circumstances and where you live) about $50,000 a year. After that, other elements (including how you handle your money) become more important happiness-making factors. I don't think even Chatzky would make hard economic-science claims for her conclusions and observations, but they ring true to me. Do they to you? (Chatzky offers advice based on these studies in her financial-tips book, which is buyable here. I haven't looked at it.) In other economics-and-happiness news, Barry Schwartz, here, writes that having too many choices can turn people off. One study, for instance, showed that "shoppers are 10 times more likely to buy jam when six varieties are on display as when 24 are on a shelf." Perhaps there's such a thing as an overabundance of options. (John Ray comments here.) Schwartz lets himself observe that the explosion in choices we've seen in recent decades has occurred at the same time that reported rates of depression have grown dramatically. Hmmm.

* Forty-four adventures in visuals-induced seasickness can be found here.

* Are you as appalled as I am by how unimaginative much arts philanthropy is? "Oh, I've got a great idea! Let's commission Frank Gehry to design a wing!" And this in a field that purports to be peddling the imagination. Here's a NYTimes article about an arts philanthropist with a much more refreshing approach: the TV host Bill Kurtis, who has put more than a million bucks into a small Kansas town in the hope of making it attractive to artists.

* I could do yoga for many lifetimes and my flexibility would never, ever approach that of some people, here.

* Oh, and did I mention that Brian Micklethwait has been on a tear recently (here)? But more on him later ...



posted by Michael at January 23, 2004


I am a bit doubtful about the experiment that offering more varieties of jam leads people to buy less. When I first read that, I was meeting a friend that evening outside Starbucks, and while waiting for her I counted the menu items and came up with 36 options before I started adding in the various adjustments you could make (extra shot of espresso, etc) to each coffee. Surely if fewer options meant more sales, Starbucks would have figured this out by now?

Ditto the supermarket, the varities of breakfast cereal are considerably more than 6.

I don't know how to reconcile the jams experiment and the fact that I see shops offering very wide ranges, when if the experiment's true then they'd increase sales and reduce costs by reducing choices. Maybe it has to do with the way shops group their products, meaning they effectively reduce choices to a smaller amount. Maybe people's experience in the market leads them to narrow down choices automatically. E.g. I know I'm going to be buying a toasted museli so I can ignore the rest of the breakfast cereals. Maybe the experiment was wrong.

Posted by: Tracy on January 25, 2004 5:22 PM

Geez, you just will not let go of this idea that the diet establishment and the health tips biz (whatever that is) have completely reversed course from praising low fat to advocating low carb. Yours is a classic straw man argument. Honestly, find one example. And stop trying to wiggle out of it by trying to get journalists to do the work for you. I am a journalist and I've done lots of research on this subject, which is how I came to your website.

The fact that Subway is now selling Atkins wraps is not because a group of ex-low fat-advocating turncoats told them to. It's because the public, which is not the nutritional establishment, wants to buy low-carb wraps and low-carb other meals and low-carb diet books, etc. This is what's known as supply and demand.

The health tips biz still has low-fat menus on the cover of just about every women's anc cooking magazine on the newsstand. Whoever started the low carb magazine obviously saw an opportunity.

Posted by: ann on January 26, 2004 2:47 PM

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