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January 30, 2004


Dear Friedrich --

* DVD update: as many bloggers have already noted (here's George Hunka's posting; Terry Teachout has mentioned the event several times, but I couldn't turn up his postings), Criterion has just brought out a DVD of Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game. (It's buyable here.) It's often held by filmlovers to be the greatest movie ever made -- and if one film has to be proclaimed the Greatest Ever, I'm happy that it's "Rules." I haven't seen this Criterion disc, but news reports indicate that the print is the most pristine version extant. A friend tells me it's good indeed, though nothing like the revelation the recent restoration of "Grand Illusion" was. (The "Grand Illusion" disc, looking like it was shot yesterday, is buyable here.)

The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern pointed out this morning that DVDs of two of my favorite Jacques Demy movies are available, Lola (here) and Bay of Angels (here), the latter's production supervised by Demy's widow, Agnes Varda, herself a first-class filmmaker. Did you ever do Demy? He's best known for the Deneuve musical "Umbrellas of Cherbourg," but I'm a bigger fan of these two earlier movies. They're low-budget, black and white, early New Wave pieces, and they're full of lyricism, absurdity, fate, luck and charm. Morgenstern also mentions that a movie that's one my personal faves, Robert Altman's California Split, hasn't yet been brought out on DVD. Grrrr. It's a wonderful film that I hope will soon get the DVD treatment it deserves. I watched it once on a panned-and-scanned VHS version that seemed to have been produced by a drunk in a garage; it was a powerful lesson in just how much a movie can lose in interest when given a lousy presentation.

* Maureen pointed out this touching blogtribute by John Perry Barlow to his friend Spalding Gray, here, the well-known actor and performance artist. Gray, who has evidently always been prone to depression, disappeared a few weeks ago, has yet to be found, and is assumed by most to have killed himself.

* Can too much choice become overwhelming? The question is still rattling around the blogosphere. Will Wilkinson comments here; and Tyler Cowen comments here.

* I notice rather late in the game that the very snazzy Colby Cosh (here), in a best-of-the-blogs posting, has awarded 2Blowhards a Special Interdisciplinary Statuette for successfully inhabiting "the murky crossroads between biology, politics, and art." Thanks, Colby -- you rule, dude.

* After a few years following the publishing industry, I began telling young people to go get degrees in copyright law -- it seemed clear as a bell to me that, thanks to the digital tidal wave, copyright law would be a lively field for decades. Arts and Letters Daily (here) points out this good Robert Boynton overview of differing approaches to copyright, here. An infinitely more interesting and important topic -- even from an arty point of view -- than any critic's evaluation of the latest hot art-thing. IMHO, of course.

* Nate Davis has come up with a new "guilty pleasure": spending a day without listening to music. He praises the pleasures of silence here.

* I thought that you and I, in running the occasonal q&a, were being innovative, entrepreneurial and unique bloggers. Turns out we aren't so unique, which is great. I just stumbled across Collected Miscellany, where Kevin Holtsberry does some excellent blogging (here he reviews Elmore Leonard's latest), and where he also interviews some interesting figures. Here's his list of interviewees, who include Danielle Crittenden, Richard Brookhiser, and John Derbyshire.

* I don't know of any bloggers with more streamlined minds than Aaron Haspel's. Whether he's causing satirical mischief or reasoning his way through poetry and philosophy questions, I picture his thought processes as a pack of Great Danes all in pursuit of the same rabbit. Here's a virtuoso posting on the nature of the corporation. Fun comments too, if well over my head.

* You've probably read a bit about electronic paper, which is expected to cause quite the publishing-business stir when it becomes commercially available. Well, Philips has announced that it's taking an electronic-paper product public shortly. You can see a video of the announcement, which includes some glimpses of e-paper, here. The display quality of the "paper" doesn't seem very impressive -- it looks like a flexible version of an early Palm Pilot screen, or like a cross between a mouse pad and an Etch-a-Sketch. Still, this is probably some kind of landmark moment. Any hunches about what uses people are likely to make of it?

* Jerry Muller's article about morality and capitalism for TechCentralStation is worth a read, here. I've spent some time with a couple of Muller's books, and found him an interesting character: an academic with a non-dogmatic mind and a genuine appreciation for capitalism. The ABC journalist John Stossel claims here that the media world he inhabits takes a lot of leftism for granted. "The press is so filled with hatred for capitalism that someone who advocates for free markets rather than government control is a conservative and a problem," he says.

* Brian Micklethwait, who's been doing a lot of terrific blogging at his cultureblog (try this posting here, about the fate of classical music), also pointed out another blog that I'm finding irresistable. Alan Little blogs here about yoga, politics and art, and does so in anything but a drippy or New-Agey way. Here he is, sharp as a tack on the art of Indian stonecarving.

* Who ever thought this day would come? Today's lead Wall Street Journal editorial bashes Bush for runaway spending, here.

* Paco Underhill calls himself an anthropologist of shopping, and others have called him the William Whyte of retail -- high praise indeed. Here's a good interview with Underhill. In his new book, Call of the Mall (buyable here), he declares that while shopping malls are a dying breed, mall values are taking over actual downtowns. Here he talks to BusinessWeek about his reactions to Apple's retail stores. Tyler Cowen lists a bunch of fascinating "mall facts" here.

* Champ linker Milt Rosenberg (here) points out this page of recordings by the great early jazz trombonist Kid Ory, here.

* John Mullan's article for the Guardian (here) is a helpful, concise introduction to the history of book jackets, if with a heavy English bias. Fun fact: "Until the late 19th century, the covers of books were usually merely dust wrappers presenting publishers' information about their other wares."



posted by Michael at January 30, 2004


Thanks for the plug. Regrettably, due to server issues beyond my control, I am unable to post right now. I hope your readers won't give up on me and will return when I can post on a regular basis.

Posted by: kevin holtsberry on January 30, 2004 6:36 PM

The Philips e-paper is notable for several things. For one, the part of the screen that reacts to electricity and thus creates the image is organical in origin. Another is that the screen/paper only needs electricity to change the image, not to show the image.

Philips will only be able to make 5,000 of these screens this year, and they most probably will be bought by mobile phone and pda makers, to experience with different screens and screen formats. Because they're energy-safe.

Posted by: ijsbrand on January 31, 2004 4:55 AM

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