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July 14, 2004


Dear Vanessa --

* In ongoing Latin-America-merges-with-the-U.S. news, John Kerry has now said that if elected he'll put in place a broad amnesty for illegals (here). Meanwhile, Latino populations in some Southern states have doubled or tripled in the last decade (here).

* The BBC reports that North African neighborhoods in France have become downright ethnic ghettos, here.

* Graham Lester delivers an eye-opening posting about Korean sex cults here.

* Steve Sailer's on an especially-energized high right now -- but when isn't he? IMHO, Steve's one of the half-dozen most interesting journalists writing today. (I say that and then have trouble coming up with five others who are in his class ... ) Check out Steve's Olympics preview (here) and his blog (the righthand column here).

* The great crime novelist Ed McBain is interviewed here and here.

* I've raved several times about the crime novelist Donald Westlake, who for my money is America's greatest living fiction virtuoso. A while back, Tatyana gave one of Westlake's "Parker" novels a try on my recommendation and wasn't much impressed. So I was tickled recently when she sent me an email letting me know that she'd just finished Westlake's publishing-world comedy "A Likely Story," and had loved it. "That's really the brilliant one!," Tatyana wrote. "It's about the publishing business in NY (c.1983-4) and mix-and-match relationships in those circles; and it's hilarious and sad. I couldn't put it down till the end. My son found me giggling on the balcony with the book in my hands and he thought I had started on the cuckoo path." Westlake makes me pretty cuckoo too. The novel is out of print, but copies can be bought (for next to nothing) here.

* Has "how to contend with the release of one of the sex tapes you made before you were a star" now become a regular topic of conversation between celebs and their press agents? Paris Hilton has agreed to let her X-rated tape be released provided she gets royalties (here). And Jenna Lewis, who's evidently a reality-TV personality of some sort, has issued a press release (here) stating firmly that she's hopping mad about the way her sex tape has gone public. A big "Attagirl" to both of them. Links thanks to Daze Reader, here.

* What's Britney like in the sack? Find out here. See what Britney looks like on a bad-hair, bad-skin day here. God bless hairdressers, makeup artists, and costumers, eh?

* R-rated alert: I ran across this very raunchy humor site here and found myself laughing a lot, especially at this piece here and this one here. So much for my highbrow cred, eh? But, to be honest, that vanished long ago, when I confessed in public that I find some of Andrew Dice Clay's routines pretty funny. So that damage has already been done.

* Good to see that Danish eco-hippies are still keepin' it natural here. (Keep clicking on "Neste" for the whole series of photographs.)

* Best goofy photo of the week, here. Apologies to the blogger who turned this photo up and to whom I should be giving credit right now. Je suis un bad blogcitizen.

* I found Jim Kalb's taxonomy of where our notion of "the good" is thought to come from enlightening, here.

* Thomas Sowell summarizes some important things about lefties and blacks that it took me years to discover and understand, here. Key lines:

Blacks have, in effect, been adopted as mascots by many white liberals. Mascots serve to symbolize something for others but the actual well-being of the mascot himself is seldom a major concern. Blacks have long been used by the left to indict American society.

Here's a long q&a with Sowell.

* Those curious about the kinds of stupid spats, er, highbrow discussions lit types often have should enjoy this Book Babes chat with the novelist and critic Dale Peck, here.

* Congrats to Terry Teachout, who has been appointed to the National Council on the Arts, here. All arts fans should feel lucky to have someone as broadminded, enthusiastic and knowledgeable as Terry serving us. Terry's been in an especially generous blogging mood recently, which is saying a lot. Here he writes about some of his favorite films noirs; here he writes about the problem of bad local arts criticism.

* I'm sure you saw some of the recent press about how reading, or at least serious book-reading, is on the decline. (Reading for pleasure is off 15% in the last 20 years.) I enjoyed Mallarme and Kevin Holtsberry's blogcommentaries on the news, here and here. The Book Babes are informative and helpful too, here.

* Odd to think that many young film fans have no idea who Federico Fellini was. For decades, Fellini was a huge and iconic presence in the filmmaking and filmgoing worlds, the very incarnation of the film director as star. He made some good movies too. Gavin Millar's short discussion of Fellini here should help a few fans fill in some of their film-history blanks. Millar, a critic and director himself, made the wonderful "Dreamchild," which is buyable here. As a videocassette only, darn it -- the movie hasn't yet been released on DVD.

* Another movie giant and icon of the '60s and '70s was the USSR's Andrei Tarkovsky. Michael Brooke has posted a good introduction to Tarkovsky's amazing "Andrei Rublev" here.

* The other day, I had lunch with a film critic friend who recently quit the filmcrit game. Surprise: he hasn't looked so happy in years -- finally, free from having to sit through (let alone produce peppy copy about) all those dreary new movies. The Telegraph's Andrew O'Hagan writes here about what a disappointment being a movie reviewer turned out to be for him too.

* The other night, The Wife and I watched Ichi the Killer, yet another movie by the Japanese phenom, Takashi Miike, of whom we've become fans. Short review: it's one of the freakiest, most intense things we've ever watched. It's like a cross between "Fight Club" and "American Psycho," only infinitely more so; blood spurts in fountains and limbs literally fly. "Ichi" makes "Reservoir Dogs" look like a Disney film, so be warned. If, on the other hand, you've got a taste for hyper-amoral filmmaking daredeviltry, you can buy the film here, or Netflix it here.

* Hey, I just noticed that it's a few days past 2Blowhards' second birthday. Here's a Wired piece about how many people who try blogging suffer burnout. Me, I feel like I've got a little bloggin' oomph left yet.



posted by Michael at July 14, 2004


Kerry is promising to actually implement an amnesty?

Even though I absolutely despise Bush in some ways, I now have no choice but to vote for him. (Even though Bush himself spouted some moronic words about an amnesty earlier this year, he won't actually implement it. Therefore, he's a FAR lesser evil.) Any position other than Sonny Bono's re: illegal immigration is just stupid. The only reason the parties are doing this is because they want the votes from the newly legalized immigrants; frankly, I think any party betraying the national interest in such a flagrant manner for self-aggrandizement should not just lose an election, it should be completely destroyed if it doesn't learn its lesson.

For the record, I'm perfectly fine with changing our LEGAL immigration policies. Legal immigration, after all, created America. Legitimizing illegal immigration, on the other hand, will go a long way toward destroying it. I could write more, but as far as I can tell Steve Sailer has said pretty much all that needs to be said on the subject.

Posted by: Dog of Justice on July 14, 2004 9:23 PM

How long, how long Lord can Britney keep the frumpmeter at bay?
An anxious America wants to know!

Posted by: ricpic on July 14, 2004 9:50 PM

Interesting that the "Decline of Reading" laments blame everything in the world except the quality of the farking product.

We've discussed often that most current books are dispiriting, to say the least - the famously self-pitying memoirs of incest, or the free verse about one's deviant love life, etc. - and high transaction costs render the back catalogue out of reach for most people.

(The money price of a Penguin Classics paperback may be indeed quite low, but the hunting, rummaging, searching, and selecting of it, in the absence of a canon or a functioning university system, is quite high. Transaction costs, IOW. "Shall I read the Palister novels or the Barchester novels or something else entirely? Oh to hell with it, what's on television?")

Few desirable new books + few affordable old ones = fewer readers.

Better books would bring better sales, no?

Posted by: Brian on July 14, 2004 11:19 PM

Film fans who've never heard of Fellini?
Good Christ. Education is dead.

Posted by: James Russell on July 15, 2004 3:49 AM

Thanks for the plug.

We've been mentioned in the same paragraph as Maureen Dowd but Andrew Dice Clay? Cool.

Little boy blew...

Posted by: uncle melon on July 15, 2004 8:12 AM

I found the Dale Peck interview remarkably sane and interesting. A distinct contrast to the tone of many of his critics. Of course, that may be just because I broadly agree with him about the balance of virtue between mainstream and literary fiction.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on July 15, 2004 12:14 PM

Dog -- It's odd, the way we're just passively letting ourselves be bullied into a major transformation, isn't it? I wouldn't mind it so much (although I'd still think we're nuts) if the facts and the likely consequences were being openly discussed, and some kind of general consensus were openly reached. But the way it's happening -- as though by inevitable force of nature, when in fact it's being put over by politicians and businesspeople -- really gripes me.

Ricpic -- You can count on this blog to keep tabs on all crucial Britney developments! And, does she strike you as she strikes me? Every cell in her looks like it can't wait to get fat. I find her white-trash clumpiness and tackiness kind of sweet and endearing, really. Fascinating on vacation to flip thru French magazines and see that they're as fascinated by Britney as we are. I wonder what they make of her?

Brian -- Yeah, discussions of "reading" per se often leave out a lot, don't they? General social-studies/librarian-type assumptions tend to get made -- we simply should all be reading more. I think I'd tweak your reactions to the bookbiz's products just a bit. I think there are actually a ton of perfectly-good books being published. But there are a few probs. One is that what's pushed at us (by the ads, by the companies, and by the reviewers often) often isn't the best stuff, so when we give it a try we feel let down. Another's that creative energy sloshes around. There's no particular reason why serious-literary-fiction-writing should be in terrific shape at any one time. On the other hand, maybe computer-instruction books are in great shape. Me, I think it's a worse-than-so-so era for literary writing, a pretty-good time for crime writing, and a very interesting time for visual reference books, for instance. And it's a great time for book-availability, which isn't a minor matter. At the same time -- and how weird -- many young people really do seem to have lost the habit of reading for pleasure, and to have become audio-visual-impact creatures. May we live in interesting times, eh? I often myself unable to make sense out of what these aliterate young people are saying. It just doesn't track in a traditional way, and seems to be all about venting and throwing off sparks instead. (So I interpret what they do as behavior rather than as attempts at reasoned sense.) Do you encounter the same thing where you live and work?

James -- "Education"? What's this "education" thing? Here in the States, we've moved past such square and oppressive notions.

Uncle Melon -- Thanks for creating a very funny site!

Doug -- I think Peck's good too, and am sorry to learn that he'll be backing off from throwing firebombs. Cheers to him, if only for saying how lousy Rick Moody is ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 15, 2004 12:34 PM

Happy birthday to the Blowhards, you've made my life a bit more bearable since I've started reading you regularly (a year with change). Many happy returns (speaking of burnouts...yeah, We The Public aka Selfish Bastards)

Interestingly I found that Westlake' book touches on some recurring topics here @ Blowhards (surprise, surprise) in general and in this post in particular:
- how and which books get published (A: overcoming unimaginable hurdles and the ones shouldn't be published in the first place, namely - ones that can find A Sponsor)
- young people these days (A: they seems to start from nihilist point of view not having earn that p-o-v the hard way, as we, the Wise, did - I would immediately agree if I would risk to appear a grumpy old woman - and isn't this opinion itself is a bit tired in repetition?)
- religious impulse vs. commercialization
(well, enough answers, - read the whole thing)

Oh, and in regards to Tarkovsky - I think I understand why he's so popular in certain circles, but I'm afraid I have to say he probably calculated this reaction from the start and that said circles were his target group, so to speak.(IMO, of course). I see it as transparently dated opposite-to-official opinion on Russian history and sources of creativity. Personally, I prefer "Stalker", even with it's regrettably naive "Happiness for everyone!" ending.

Posted by: Tatyana on July 15, 2004 1:38 PM

Yeah, discussions of "reading" per se often leave out a lot, don't they? General social-studies/librarian-type assumptions tend to get made -- we simply should all be reading more.

Heh. Cargo cult stuff, yeah.

I often myself unable to make sense out of what these aliterate young people are saying. It just doesn't track in a traditional way, and seems to be all about venting and throwing off sparks instead.

I certainly know the type, and having been slapped into shape by Sister and the boys I have some trouble following them myself, age be damned. In my less charitable moods I'm reminded of Richard Shickel's description of thoroughbreds in his review of the movie Seabiscuit: "a bunch of ganglia, to which intelligence and personality can be imputed but never proved".

I'd be more inclined to blame the schools - where anything goes, mental-disciplinewise - than to blame MTV. That's if we should be blaming anyone; it may just be a personality type.

Posted by: Brian on July 15, 2004 8:51 PM

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