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June 17, 2004


Dear Vanessa --

* Will Elder helped set the tone and visual style of Mad magazine back in the '50s, then went on to draw 25 years' worth of Little Annie Fannie comic strips for Playboy. I think he's one of the great American satirists, so it's pleasing to see that R. Crumb, Terry Gilliam and Jerry Garcia were and are among Elder's fans. A new coffee table book devoted to Elder and edited by the comics artist Daniel Clowes is now available at Amazon, here. The book's own website is here. Here's a good All About Comics biography of Elder.

* Congratulations to Cowtown Pattie, who celebrated the big 5-0 -- youngster! -- with a trip up a mountain in Big Bend National Park. She blogs about the big day here, and includes some beautiful, dusty photos in her posting.

* Do you read the columnist Michelle Malkin? (You can find her column here.) She's willing to take on tough subjects; she seems to do so honestly and clear-headedly. She often strikes me as fearless and smart, in other words, and anything but an ideologue. I notice that she has started a blog here, and has so far been a much more generous blogger than many pro writers are.

* What is American conservatism? What kind of a conservative was Ronald Reagan? John Mickelthwait and Adrian Wooldridge make a little sense of these questions in the WSJ here.

* The brilliant poet and essayist Frederick Turner writes about how his opinion of Reagan has changed over the years, here. Turner even manages to get in a slap at deconstruction -- way to go!

* Robert Detman writes about what it was like to be in architecture school during the headiest of the deconstruction days, here. Robert offers an insight into Theory's appeal that I agree with wholeheartedly: "Deconstruction was sexy," he writes. That's not to approve of deconstruction -- anything but that. But it does strike me as a good starting-point for a discussion about the appeal of movements like deconstruction. Robert has written a really fab posting. Where's the resourceful publisher with the sense to spot a potential book in it?

* I couldn't find it online, but the WSJ recently carried a bad-news report (from Harvard and via Nature magazine, not that this helped my Googling efforts) about how genes in the brain have now been seen to begin to deteriorate as early as the age of 40. Given the state of my 50-year-old memory, I can well believe it. What can we do to forstall some of the damage? Boring: get some exercise; take regular steps to relieve stress; eat sensibly; and drink a lot of green tea. UPDATE: Thanks to S.Y. Affolee (here), who found the abstract of the Harvard paper here.

* I love the idea of super-short movies, so I was thrilled to learn about this site here. I wish I enjoyed more of the movies on offer, though. Curious to learn how others react to them.

* Lynn Sislo (here) once again demonstrates that she ought to be put in charge of some major record company's classical-music marketing department. Her posting raises a good Larger Question, too. Given that your typical American is raised on a diet of all-popular-culture 24/7 ... Given that some Americans might, if given the chance, respond happily to beyond-pop Larger Culture (blues, fine art, classical music, art films, etc) ... Given that your typical American is a little suspicious and clueless ... Well, how to give these people the chance to discover the wider world of the arts? What I find discouraging is that many of today's kids often seem to have no interest whatsoever in anything that isn't electronic-media pop culture. Even granted that electronic-media pop culture is a broader, more inclusive thing than it used to be, it's still a very restricted mental universe for a mind to inhabit. Yet nearly all the young people I encounter these days seem completely content there. What to make of this?

* The Architecture Hate Page seems to me to get it pretty right, here.

* Speaking of architecture, would any visitors want to live near, work in, or even pass regularly by this new Toronto building here?

* There seem to be a few people (here, for instance) who aren't wild about Seattle's much-touted new Rem Koolhaas public library. Link thanks to David Sucher, here.

* James Kunstler sees the end coming here, and it ain't pretty.

* Wildass role-playing madman Alan Kellogg (here) wrote in to point out this fascinating blog posting by Bruce Baugh about postmodernism and computer gaming, here.

* A study by Harvard's George Borjas has concluded that current immigration policy results in the average American worker losing around $1700 a year in wages, with black and Hispanic workers being hit worst. A summary of the report can be read here.

* Another fun immigration fact: did you know that 9% of all living Mexican-born people now reside in the U.S.? Read more here.

* And yet another fun immigration fact: nearly 30% of all new jobs being created in the U.S. are going to non-citizens. The LATimes has a report about this remarkable development here. UPDATE: Randall Parker comments here. "It is easy to see," writes Randall, "that the employers of the low salaried workers are getting labor subsidized by taxpayers."

* Thanks to Maureen (here), who pointed out this 1925 John Peale Bishop essay about movies and sex appeal, here. Yet more proof that, right from the outset, movies have been discussed in the same breath as sex. Something that puzzles me these days is how sexless the new media-conglomerate/digitally-enhanced blockbusters are. There are plenty of cute starlets on display, sure. But where's the actual eroticism? Hey, you don't think it's been chewed up (and exhausted) by the shiney new technology, do you?

* If there was one movie that made me a movielover, it was Robert Altman's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller." Amazing to think that Altman, who was 46 when he made "McCabe," turns 80 next year. It's also amazing that -- however on and off his magic touch has been over the years -- he still sometimes manages to cast a spell, although I do realize that I was almost alone in the world in being enjoyably hypnotized by his recent movie "The Company," which I notice is now out on DVD. Here's a good, if typical, interview with Altman from the Independent. Here's an interesting Chicago Trib chat with Altman from back in February. Do you go for for his brand of California-Zen artist-baloney? I'm a sucker for it myself.



posted by Michael at June 17, 2004


Here's the abstract to that brain deterioration research you were trying to find:

And exercise, stress reduction, and green tea isn't that boring--those things help prevent free radicals from damaging DNA as well as other parts of the cell.

Posted by: sya on June 17, 2004 3:26 PM

If they were smart, they'd try to get greater music education into the schools. The more kids playing instruments and taking music classes when they're young, the more who will listen when they're older. Think about what the tobacco companies do with teenagers.

Posted by: lindenen on June 17, 2004 7:48 PM

Thanks for the link. I have mixed feelings about music education in schools. It would be a good idea if it was handled right but I'm not sure today's schools are up to it.

About the Architecture Hate site... I guess it just shows that either there's no accounting for taste or you can't judge a building by looking at pictures of it. I like the Harold Washington Library Center.

Posted by: Lynn S on June 17, 2004 7:58 PM

lindenen: or not.
I shiver when recall those cold mornings in my musical school (in addition to a normal elementary) when 9, having to warm up my frozen fingers and play endless hateful scales, and than to do same with my voice and sing arpeggios(sp?), and only after that to go for a lesson. Oh, and should I mention my first ever music teacher, one methodical German with her correcting ruler on those erronious 4th and 5th right? (I was 6 at the time) Damn Etude by Cherny (sp?) still comes back to me in particularly nasty nightmares.

But you're right, one thing for sure those years taught me: I consider all classical musicians saints, no matter what jerks and ego maniacs they might be personally. Nobody can go thru that much monotonous suffering and survive intact, mentally and physically.

Thank Lord for the sane American school my son went to, having as musical instrument .. a kazoo. (And the fact that I suffer migraines from the loudest ever drum set in my basement doesn't have anything to do with that)

Lynn S: funny, I also looked on "hateful project #8", skipping all previous - and did you see the sidebar? Opinions differ... Hilartious remark by some guy with same name as the architect (I wonder), calling commenter a retard for not liking the building... Too bad their forum links seems desactivated.

Posted by: Tatyana on June 17, 2004 11:52 PM

Correction: SOlFeggio, not ARPeggios. Shows how dear those memories are to me: my mind simply rejects the bu-bu.

Posted by: Tatyana on June 18, 2004 8:34 AM

I'm going to show my '80s adolescence, but that building in Toronto (on Spadina St?) reminds me of the conveyor-belt-shield, after taking a few bites out of it, in Yar's Revenge (Atari, '82, for the 2600 console). With luck, Bernard Tschumi will come swirling out and I'll destroy him!

Posted by: raymund on June 18, 2004 11:19 AM

On the other hand, being bulingual could protect your brain

Posted by: Tatyana on June 18, 2004 11:36 AM

Oops, sorry. here's the link.

Posted by: Tatyana on June 18, 2004 11:37 AM


Agreed on the Library. I also find myself saying to people "I generally can't stand modernist / post-modernist architecture, but I visited the Getty and was really impressed."

Thought it filled the space nicely. The vistas and landscaping were magnificent. Didn't have all that much time there, so I can't really say how well most of the spaces are for viewing art, but the illuminated choral manuscripts we were there to see seemed displayed to the best possible effect.

Posted by: Karl on June 18, 2004 11:47 AM

I think the "how to lure Americans into a slightly wider involvement with the arts than just the corporate crap we tend to get fed and sold, especially given that so many Americans can be so suspicious and wary of being taken advantage of and made fools of" question is a great one. Not that I have much to add to the conversation, unfortunately. I do think the one thing that's becoming ever more clear is that the non-pop arts need to find some kind of balance between actively selling themselves and making outgoing appeals (otherwise they'll collapse in on themselves) and not betraying their non-pop nature (otherwise everyone will experience nothing but disappointment -- the non-pop arts can't compete with pop art on its own terms). But, now that I type that out, isn't that pretty much was Lynn was saying? Still, it's a puzzle, no?

I kind of like the Chicago library myself, though probably more for what it intends (being a good, big, solid, new, traditional-but-with-zip public building) than for what it is. When I visited, I was struck by how ponderous it seemed, and how badly-made it seemed too. Although better it than that Rem Koolhaas Seattle thing, let alone that videogame-ish Toronto monster...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 18, 2004 12:39 PM

I have to agree that Altman's MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER is one of his greatest triumphs, and one of his most underappreciated films. A heartbreaking allegory with an unusually mesmerzing performance by Warren Beatty, it still surprises me the film has yet to experience a cinematic rebirth!
With motion picture running times surpassing the epic, it was nice to catch your link to the "ten second film" site. However, I was dissapointed that their weren't better to choose from. However, a friend sent me a link to The Discovery Channel featuring four new commercials that by far blow everything from DAY AFTER TOMORROW and BATTLEFIELD EARTH out of the water (! Disclaimer: The commercials' director, Jim Jenkins, is an acqauintance of my friend who sent me the link.
Lastly, thanks for sending the link to Cowtown Patty's blog. As a former Texan, I find myself missing the lonestar state and its many adorable idiosyncracies as the days go by.

Posted by: Ex-Texan on June 18, 2004 3:37 PM

I'll not comment on any of the other buildings, but I have to say that the Denver Public Library is possibly the ugliest building in the history of the world, and that includes 1950s strip malls. And now, just to add to the ... hmmm ... ambience, comes the Denver Art Museum's (click the Expansion Info link) appalling new expansion.

The existing DAM building is essentially indistinguishable in appearance from a prison. The expansion looks like a macrame crane folded by a ham-handed incompetent.

And all of these buildings are right next to the neo-classical architecture of the Civic Center Park and the Colorado State Capitol building.

Perhaps it's fortunate that it is so difficult to get to downtown.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on June 18, 2004 5:29 PM

Wow, that new Libeskind really is ugly. "The expansion looks like a macrame crane folded by a ham-handed incompetent" -- that's a great description of it too. Funny thing is that I bet the city fathers and mothers are really proud of themselves (for their daring, for supporting progressive architecture, etc).

I wonder how these new cyber-age crushed-tin-can buildings are going to age. They're so expensive, and often so hard to adapt to. What if it turns out they're high-maintenance and not-long-lasting too?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 19, 2004 11:28 AM

I saw Altman's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" a couple years ago and loved it. The scene where Warren Beatty (hubba hubba!) dies in the snow is particularly memorable to me. After that pleasant experience, I tried to watch "Nashville" and found it mostly incomprehensible. I just didn't get it! What is going on in that movie? What am I missing?

Posted by: Vanessa on June 21, 2004 9:59 AM

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