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June 08, 2004


* I bought a painting the other day by a talented young artist named Runcie Tatnall. I was hurrying through the Washington Square Art Fair on my way home when his work caught my eye. Nothing cheesy or touristy about it; I saw a little Sargent there, a little Sloan, and a little something pop-y and Diebenkorn too. Here's Runcie's website. I'm very pleased with my new acquisition, which is now making one of our walls look very, very good.

* Steve Sailer's recent piece comparing India and China explains a lot, here.

* A rant I'd love to compose yet probably never will concerns self-help books. One of the most-despised of all book forms, of course. And why not? Many are laughably bad. Yet I've met very few people who didn't eventually lower their voices and confess that ... well, they'd found one or two self-help books pretty damn useful. Is there anything necessarily more contemptible about the self-help form than any other book form? I can't see why that should be so. Self-help even has its own perfectly-legit history. The Library of Economics and Liberty reprints the first chapter of the form's granddaddy, Samuel Smiles' 1859 "Self-Help" here. Here's a short Economist piece about Smiles.

* In his review here of D.C.'s new World War II memorial, John Massengale gets off a lot of substantial good ones about Modernism and Classicism.

* I don't know much about the current Japanese-movie world, a few "Beat" Kitano flicks aside. The Wife and I were recently wowed, though, by Audition, our first Takeshi Miike film. (It's buyable here and rentable here.) "Audition" starts off like a quiet Ozu drama, then morphs into a truly alarming horror extravaganza. By the end of the film, things had gotten so intense and gory that the two of us were taking refuge behind the sofa. "Audition" is one of the most distressing films I've ever watched, which I intend as a strong recommendation. Next up on the over-expensive home-theater system: Miike's Ishi the Killer. Here's a q&a with Miike.

* James Kunstler wonders here what the virtual-reality addiction is doing to kids.

* Is there a more annoying TV host than James Lipton, of "Inside the Actors Studio"? Still, credit where credit's due: what other show gives performers the chance to discuss their work at any length? And what other interviewer of performers brings real knowledge and sympathy to the conversation? OK, so 3/4 of the shows consist of content-free butt-licking and actor-babble; the others are startling and terrific. Be sure not to miss Lipton's current conversation with Bette Midler, who's in spunky, funny and down-to-earth form. I find Midler, when she's on her game, hilarious and even touching. I'm in good, and even classy, company. Back in the early Divine Miss M days, I read a talk with the immortal Sir Laurence Olivier, who'd just seen Midler's show in London. "That's what it's all about, isn't it?" he said enthusiastically. "I mean, the energy!!!" I'm paraphrasing, of course, but the fact was that the classical genius Laurence Olivier was raving about America's trash-queen Bette Midler. And rightly so. I see that repeats of the interview will be airing Sunday, June 6th, at 8 pm and 11 pm EST.

* String theorist Brian Greene is interviewed at some length in the Atlantic Unbound, here.

* Here's an interesting NYTimes interview with the geneticist Bryan Sykes, who doesn't seem optimistic about the future of the Y (male) chromosome. Ladies: enjoy your men while the enjoying's still possible.

posted by Michael at June 8, 2004


Haven't seen Lipton in action, but I doubt he can compare with Mark Stoyich (an Australian phenomenon of the mid-90s you should be grateful you missed out on). SBS, the TV station for whom he does subtitling on foreign films, decided around the mid-90s for reasons best known to themselves to try him as a host, introducing the films instead of just subtitling them. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite as fatuous and annoying. His little catchphrase at the end of the intro was "see me afterwards", a reminder to stick around for his wrap-up of the film afterwards as well. It was enough to make you want to switch the TV off in case you did see him afterwards. He was mercifully short-lived, though, and they got David Stratton back in the host's seat before too long.

Posted by: James Russell on June 8, 2004 11:56 PM

The Steve Sailer article comparing China and India is absolutely fascinating.
There are 160 MILLION Untouchables in India!
Sometimes you just don't wanna know what the world is like.
His point about China's racial homogeneity giving it a great competitive advantage over India, and for that matter the US is, IMO, correct. Diversity - perish the thought! - ain't that great.

Posted by: ricpic on June 9, 2004 12:44 PM

Audition! Yeah, it's pretty good Miike. I don't know anyone who has made it past the first 5 minutes of Ishii, though. Eeeesh. Good luck.

A better selection for you and The Wife might be Kitamura's Versus--, a ridiculous, but thoroughly enjoyable Samurai/Zombie cross-dimensional action flick. It has a tone similar to the early Peter Jackson horror stuff like Dead Alive and Bad Taste.

Posted by: The Bizness on June 10, 2004 12:44 PM

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