In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Magazines
  2. Desiblogs
  3. Katarxis #3 Is Now Online
  4. Elsewhere
  5. The World Goes Silver
  6. Rhetoric Watch
  7. In Memoriam b/w Let's Go Get 'em
  8. Some Documentaries: "Snapped"; "If I Should Fall From Grace With God"; "Building a Skyscraper"; "Lost in La Mancha"
  9. Whither (or Wither) Illiniwek?
  10. 2Blowhards: The Brand

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Francis Morrone writes: Dear Blowhards, I second Fenster's recommendation of the Atlantic as essential reading, though I am a wee bit worried that it's moving downhill since Michael Kelly left us. I hadn't read the Atlantic in years before Kelly took it over in the late 1990s. He turned it into the most consistently rewarding general magazine in America. Kelly, you'll recall, died tragically in a Jeep accident after he'd gone to Iraq to cover the war. Since then, the magazine published Howell Raines's self-exculpation, which was almost enough to make me cancel my subscription. I couldn't fathom that this excellent magazine had seen fit to devote so much space to Raines when surely there are many worthy writers whose most cherished goal is to be published in the Atlantic. But I'm glad I didn't cancel. (As Fenster pointed out, website access requires that you subscribe to the print magazine. I know some people find that objectionable, and it makes the Atlantic non-bloggable, but just subscribe already. It's not expensive.) Every issue features several pieces I'm glad to have read. Though the magazine has a leftward tilt, it still publishes the two reigning right-wing jesters, P.J. O'Rourke and Mark Steyn. (Actually, it's unfair to call Steyn a "jester." He's hilariously funny, but also writes with moral clarity and moral verve, expressed with laugh-out-loud wit--a very rare ability for a writer to have mastered so well. That's not to say I agree with everything he says. But he's certainly bracing.) The magazine also regularly publishes Christopher Hitchens, the left-wing "apostate" (as the left thinks of him, though he is in fact way left for most right-wing tastes), often on non-political subjects about which he is excellent--as in his piece on Borges in the September issue (full review available here.) (Hitchens also wrote, for the London Review of Books, one of the best-informed reviews of Saul Bellow's Ravelstein that I read anywhere.) But the writer I most look forward to reading in the Atlantic is its book reviewer Benjamin Schwarz. I don't know much about him, other than that he is also a leading left-wing commentator on foreign policy. But he's that odd sort of character: the professional book reviewer who seems ready and able to review just about any book out there. More than that, he's mastered a rare form: the capsule review. Writing book reviews is hard at any length. (Reviewers who don't find it hard are lousy reviewers.) But to do it well at capsule length is hardest of all. In the September Atlantic (I haven't gotten around to the October issue yet), Schwarz reviews four books: Jon Coleman's Savage, a Yale University Press book on Americans' savage treatment of wolves throughout the history of our westward expansion; Peter Bogdanovich's Who the Hell's in It?, on Hollywood actors; Imperial Hubris by that well-known author Anonymous (a supposedly high-ranking U.S. counterterrorism official), on how we should be fighting Islamic terrorists (and how the war in Iraq is a diversion from... posted by Francis at September 11, 2004 | perma-link | (12) comments

Michael Blowhard writes Dear Blowhards -- I'm getting used to the term "Desi," which -- if I understand it right -- is a term for anyone of South Asian descent. Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis -- they're all Desis. Corrections appreciated if I've got this wrong, of course, as long as everyone understands that I'm just a passe old man who's doing his valiant best to keep up with a bewildering new world. There's another handy term I like a lot too: Desiblog, which means a blog written by a Desi. There are a ton of them out there, many of them aburst with personality, brains, and humor. Some of the people behind my regular blogstops are Desis -- GNXP's Razib and Godless, for instance, as well as the charming and insightful Neha Bawa. And my litblogger of choice, the droll and sophisticated Kitabhkana, is another Desiblogger. Recently I've been enjoying a few Desiblogs that are new to me too. Sepia Mutiny is nothing if not incisive, and the succinctly named Desiblog posted recently about bhangra aerobics. I've been getting a huge kick out of following Dancing With Dogs' feisty and on-the-ball Shanti. Don't miss Shanti's recent rant about why she doesn't like calling herself a feminist, as well as the fun and uninhibited commentfest that follows. (Thanks to GNXP, where I found many of these links.) Best, Michael UPDATE: Razib has put some more info and thinking about the Desi thing into a GNXP posting.... posted by Michael at September 11, 2004 | perma-link | (26) comments

Katarxis #3 Is Now Online
Michael Blowhard writes Dear Blowhards -- Although I've got lots of wonderful books sitting around the apartment clamoring for my attention, the reading I'm most eager to get to right now is Lucien Steil's architecture webzine, Katarxis. Issue number three is fresh out of the oven, and it's a full-of-goodies doozy, with words and thoughts from such brilliant lights as Christopher Alexander, Andres Duany, Nikos Salingaros, and Leon Krier. The issue even does us the favor of reprinting an immortal 1982 debate, a romper-stomper-style smackdown between Pattern Language superhero (bravo! yay!) Chris Alexander and deconstructivist arch-fiend (boo! hiss!) Peter Eisenman. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 11, 2004 | perma-link | (7) comments

Michael Blowhard writes Dear Blowhards -- * AgendaBender recently got off a good line (meaning that I agree with it): "Ted Turner may be a sunken-faced philistine, but his Turner Classic Movies is more important to the culture than the last ninety-seven thousand NEA grant recipients combined." * Again and again, the web reminds me that I should have chosen another line of work. * Steve Sailer's writing has been even more heroic than usual, if that's possible. Check out his blog (the right hand column of his main page) for eyeopening stuff about sports, Iraq, Neocon-gate and more. Congrats are due to Steve as well; his piece about cousin marriage in the Near East has been chosen to be included in the prestigious anthology Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004. Quite an honor -- but that was quite an essay. * Meeow! Brit-journalist Lynn Barber writes a barbed profile of her "friend," rival Brit-journalist Julie Burchill. * Yet more proof that karaoke is the most significant art form of the 21st century. Not for slow connections. * My very favorite philosopher is a little-known -- to Americans at least -- Brit who died in 1990, Michael Oakeshott. I find his work perverse, enlightening, poetic, and deep. A characteristic Oakeshott quote: "I'm a conservative in politics because I'm a radical in everything else." Imagine my surprise and delight on learning that new Blowhard Francis Morrone is a Michael Oakeshott fan too. Party time! Luckily, thanks to the Web, newbies can get up to speed fast. Here's the Michael Oakeshott Association. Here's the Oakeshott book to start with. And here's a Telegraph review of a recent book about Oakeshott. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 11, 2004 | perma-link | (6) comments

The World Goes Silver
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- What's with all the silver cars? Every second or third car that drives by these days seems to be silver, and silver cars have a near-monopoly in ads and magazines. Not a surprise that silver cars are out there on the usual car-ad salt flats. That's where all cars show up eventually. But that silver-on-salt look does deliver a special, hushed kick, doesn't it? That's one alone car, baby, and that's one dignified car too. Interesting, the way that silver cars seem to feel a kinship with the chic new architecture, isn't it? I've noticed that some silver cars have a taste for moving in ultra-close to the camera lens. Perhaps they like being appreciated for their purely abstract qualities: you certainly don't know what these cars look like, except that they're silvery. The fad is so widespread that even some low-class cars are daring to go silver. Will the other cars let the low-class cars get away with this kind of fashion audacity? Silver may indeed be neutral and dignified. But even so, it's not as though silver cars don't know how to have fun. Silver car go whee!!! Deep down, though, to be silver is to be comfortable and calm with yourself -- even when posing for the cover of a magazine. But being silver is also about being willing to play a supporting role too. Why? Because that's real confidence. Hard to believe, I know, but silver cars were once a rarity. Back when, silver was understood to mean "BMW" or "Mercedes" -- "expensive German engineering," basically: something for people with money, taste, and Euro-pretentions. (Me, I always liked silver on a car: I had the Euro-pretentions if not the money.) But real American cars had colors, dammit. Your Mustang was stop-sign red; your Sting Ray was kandy-flake blue. These days nearly everyone seems to want their car to be silver. How to explain this dramatic change in taste? Has there been a general raising of tone and taste? What with The Gap and Banana Republic being everywhere, your standard American does dress a little better -- and in a more neutral kind of way -- than he/she once did. So can the new silver cars best be understood as symptoms of America's yuppification? My own hunch is a little more ... well, OK, maybe Euro-pretentious. I think that silver these days suggests not just "high-end German engineering," as it always has. I think that silver has become the color of the computer age. Pixels ... Computer models ... Visionary concepts ... Is-it-plastic-or-is-it-metal flowiness ... Swoopy shapes ... Photoshop ... That glowy, depth-and-reflectiveness finish ... Those Dolby sound effects and fireballs ... Ooops, sorry: I got computer-era cars all mixed up with computer-era movies there for a second. But it's all very Darth Vader/DVD/Time-Warner building (here)/G-5 Mac/"T-2," isn't it? It's all about cyber-whooshiness -- the car (or the building or the movie) that wants to be taken more as an "experience"... posted by Michael at September 11, 2004 | perma-link | (13) comments

Rhetoric Watch
Fenster Moop writes Dear Blowhards: I find this odd. Doubtless you remember the line from John F. Kennedy's/Theodore Sorenson's Inaugural Address: Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. Inspiring still, even if a tad out of step with the views of many of today's Democrats, led by alleged JFK2 John Forbes Kerry. Yet JFK2 continues to aspire to the mantle of leadership of JFK1, so you'd think he'd treat any appropriation of rhetoric gingerly and with due care. But here is Kerry in a speech to the National Baptist Convention a few days ago. He is of course critical of the President's handling of Iraq, and says: (B)ecause we went it alone, we are bearing the burden and paying almost any price almost alone. Almost all the casualties are the sons and daughters of America. And 90 percent of the costs are being met by Americans -- the total so far: $200 billion and rising every day. I appreciate the point he is making--that that money could go to pressing domestic initiatives. And his point may be sound from the point of view of policy or politics (though I doubt the wisdom on either count.) What's odd is that JFK2 would so consciously have employed a signature line from his idol to make a point opposite to the original. Best, Fenster... posted by Fenster at September 11, 2004 | perma-link | (5) comments

In Memoriam b/w Let's Go Get 'em
Fenster Moop writes Dear Blowhards: On this third anniversary of the (choose descriptor): attack tragedy outrage, what is the proper response as a (choose frame of reference): human being American artist? The above lists, hardly exhaustive, suggest something of the choices we have as a culture in framing a response to an event as monumental as September 11. Some will demand one interpretation; others will recognize the need for discourse and complexity. I tend toward the latter view. I like the debate and, to a degree, the contentiousness. That does not mean, however, that I do not have my own views, and that I do not try to interpret something general about the mix of the particulars. So, my question: what gives, in your opinions, relative to the way artists are dealing with the 9/11 anniversary? In my town, it seems the art view, as evidenced in the day's scheduled events, is all about things like "healing" and not at all about, for want of a better term, killing the enemy. In one event, volunteers will hand out carnations, one for each of the persons brutally murdered (oops, my bias showing), each flower bearing a message asking the recipient to commit an act of kindness in memory of the person who . . . er . . . tragically passed away. Elsewhere, an artist/academic deals with computer viruses and imagery, speculating that "rolling back the tide of imperial politics will require more than simply piquing moral sensibilities". In a basic sense, of course, art is as art does. But that kind of argument reifies art and, ironically, elevates it to a kind of extra-human matter. And as such, this kind of approach is a conversation-stopper: don't ask why I am doing this art--I am an artist! Well, go ahead and take that view, if you want. But I am less an artist than an observer of human behavior, and I can't help notice that "art" seems to be taking a particular side. Why is that? Is it more because of some intrinsic quality of art, or the artistic process? Or is it because artists in this country at this particular point in time have their heads up their asses? Best, Fenster... posted by Fenster at September 11, 2004 | perma-link | (12) comments

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Some Documentaries: "Snapped"; "If I Should Fall From Grace With God"; "Building a Skyscraper"; "Lost in La Mancha"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some documentaries that are out there to be enjoyed: Snapped. This Oxygen Network true-crime series about women who have killed their mates is a hoot, though one that the sexes are likely to enjoy in different ways. The show takes the basic "American Justice"/"City Confidential" true-crime template, shrinks it to 30 minutes, and then bathes it in Oxygen, er, estrogen. The graphics are party-colored; the narration is by an offscreen Laura San Giacomo; and the stories are awash in a tide of psychobabble from psychotherapist-experts, all of it aimed at trying to understand the feelings of the woman killers. Not a word about how the hubbies might have felt about being murdered. The Wife watches "Snapped" clucking happily, the way she does when yakking with girlfriends about women and their bad choices. Me, I find the combo of female mate-killers and female p-o-v absolutely, positively terrifying: Can this really be what goes on inside women? It doesn't seem to make any sense at all!!! -- and my experience of total and utter woman-incomprehension scares me far more deeply than the case studies onscreen do. Perhaps the most frightening thing about the shows I've seen so far has been the way all of the killers -- prior to the moment they "snapped" -- had been devotedly "working on their relationships." Do women really think in these terms? The show is broadcast numerous times in the course of the week. You can check out the scedule at Oxygen's "Snapped" page, here. I can't resist copying and pasting this passage from Oxygen's own p-r material: Let's be honest: we've all had at least one moment in which we felt as though we could snap. Even if you're in the "perfect relationship", chances are, you've probably said (or even just fleetingly thought) "I'm going to kill my husband!" So what separates those of us who do, from those who don't? Why can some women cope with the everyday - or even not-so-everyday - stresses of married life without ever resorting to violence, while others "snap" and murder their mates? Oxygen's newest half-hour, true crime series, Snapped, aims to answer this very question: what causes a woman to kill her mate? That's a pretty accurate representation of what the show's like. To which I respond: Eeeeek! Thanks to GNXP's Godless (here), who recently linked to an interesting study showing that female and male brains start to organize themselves differently even before the onset of puberty. If I Should Fall From Grace: The Shane MacGowan Story. I found this documentary about Shane MacGowan, the onetime lead singer for the Irish punk band The Pogues, fascinating and moving despite the fact that, as musicians, Shane and The Pogues never meant much to me. The Pogues made their mark by setting traditional Irish sounds to wildman punk beats; Shane was infamous for being one of the most self-destructive performers ever -- during one long stretch, he was using heroin and drinking a... posted by Michael at September 9, 2004 | perma-link | (10) comments

Whither (or Wither) Illiniwek?
Fenster Moop writes Dear Blowhards: At Fenster's old site, he blogged several times about the controversy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign over the school's mascot, one Chief Illiniwek (note: extremely sensitive souls may wish to skip the picture below). Do I have to summarize this for you, dear Blowhards, really? If you don't know the plot line by now, you can probably guess it. It's about as predictable as a Steven Seagall action film. The "Chief" has supporters (athletic types, majority of students, majority of Illinois residents) and detractors (Native American groups, sympathizers with same). My main post on the controversy is here, though you can find more updates at the site. I have my opinions about the symbol. But that was not my main beef. Rather, what I found of interest was the odd interplay of public policy and educational policy that the Chief's presence kicked up. The state legislature has been dragged in and accreditation agencies are up to their necks in it, too. As far as public policy is concerned, I think it is entirely appropriate for public bodies like legislatures to take a position on something like this when a public college is involved. The problem here, of course, is that if such a process were run fair and square, Illiniwek's detractors would almost certainly lose. The Chief is a pretty popular guy. But, as we know, identity politics do not require a majority to prevail, or at least to create gridlock. It's viewed as sufficient to play a trump card on the basis of victim status, irrespective of the votes. The more interesting issue comes in, though, in the somewhat arcane world of college accreditation. As I wrote before: The North Central accreditation agency reviewed the university in 1999--part of its regular 10 year accreditation cycle. Its final report did not hang the institution up on the Illiniwek issue, but it did establish a five-year review, at which time the Illiniwek issue was to be revisited. It hung its concern on the diversity angle, and devoted 8 pages of a 35 page report to the issue. Seemingly a very big deal! These midpoint reviews are not uncommon, though in my experience agencies use such a short leash approach only when quite significant issues are at stake. Does the diversity angle of Illiniwek rise to this level of educational concern under accreditation standards? Or is the educational matter in itself . . . political? In 2003, with the five year review coming up shortly, the commission published a Statement on Diversity. Read it. It's interesting. I still can't tell if it is a brilliant bit of diplomacy, an example of the worst kind of mealy-mouth hypocrisy, or both. I tend toward the latter view. Note that the statment makes clear that it is not policy--but that it is almost policy in that it might inform policy. Hmmm. . . . I don't think a buck stops at that thought. Note also the last paragraph:... posted by Fenster at September 9, 2004 | perma-link | (18) comments

2Blowhards: The Brand
Fenster Moop writes I've noticed some discussion here, since Michael and Friedrich decided to expand the contributors to Blowhards, about what to do with the logo and brand. I don't know what the proprietors plan to do. Nor do I know what Vanessa and Francis think. But Fenster, he's poaching, and copyright be damned. View image.... posted by Fenster at September 9, 2004 | perma-link | (4) comments

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

In The Atlantic
Fenster Moop writes Dear Blowhards: First off, you might think about breaking down and subscribing to The Atlantic, if you don't already. The venerable mag does an awfully nice job, I think, in balancing different viewpoints. Apropos Francis' points about civility and conversation, each issue typically brings some nice contrasts without browbeating. Think of it, if you can visualize such a thing, as a paper version of 2Blowhards. Imagine! Another reason to subscribe: The Atlantic often blocks full web access to some of its better articles, so you might have to shell out some dollars or visit the library to read the articles I am going to comment on here. The most recent issue has two articles about college. The first is an update on the admissions race at selective colleges, by James Fallows & V. V. Ganeshananthan. The second is entitled "Who Needs Harvard?", and it's by Gregg Easterbrook. Both are interesting and informative reads. But reading them back to back you see an interesting contrast that is not obvious on the surface. Fallows and Ganeshananthan take the more conventionally liberal view of various admissions matters, such as the negative impact of increased levels of merit aid on support for lower-income applicants. And in the process, they approvingly cite the work of former Princeton president William Bowen, who worries that the most selective universities have turned into "bastions of privilege" rather than "engines of opportunity." Fair enough, to a point. But when you read Easterbrook, it gets a little clearer that the benefits of an Ivy, or near Ivy, education are not all they are cracked up to be. Seems that when you hold individual apititude constant, the value-added of the best schools may not amount to much. Sure, graduates of the top schools achieve more in life, but that just might be because they self-selected for a prestiege school, not because of any value imparted by the school itself. Smart Kid X may do as well graduating from Tulane or Northeastern as from Yale. Looked at this way, Bowen may well be fretting more over the potential loss of the franchise on the part of dear old Princeton. In this light, the desire on the part of Richie Rich to pay up for Princeton is for the most part a kind of consumption snobbery, akin to paying extra for jewelry that is advertised in The New Yorker. I always kind of thought that the dust kicked up by Bowen and Derek Bok's The Shape of the River was suspect for a similar reason: who needs Harvard? The advance of first generation college students up to the middle class is taking place in other venues, ones with a substantial number of open doors. Best, Fenster... posted by Fenster at September 8, 2004 | perma-link | (11) comments

Moviegoing: "The Brown Bunny"
Michael Blowhard writes Dear Blowhards -- To minimize suspense and tedium, I'm going to skip over the 95% of "The Brown Bunny" that no one cares about and focus directly on the movie's notorious blowjob scene -- which, like any good scene, has its own miniature three-act structure. I'll take them on one at a time. Act One We're in a tacky-Americana hotel room, and we're with Vincent Gallo, megalomaniac writer/director/editor/photographer/star. Gallo is playing a man of few words, a man in pain, a man lost, and yet a man who is yearning too, if inchoately. As he mopes and hopes, Chloe Sevigny -- his long-lost love -- appears. Like Gallo, she's overcome by hopelessness yet a yearner too. Together, they make blundering attempts to re-connect. They wonder why they screwed things up. Did they screw things up? They have needs, resentments, desperations ... They're reaching out, in other words. For much of this stretch, Gallo sits on the hotel-room bed, facing away from us. Chloe stands before him, facing us. She paces nervously; she makes attempts to touch Gallo; she bolts for the bathroom, there to smoke some dope and steady her nerves. The framing and lighting of these images is eccentric, to say the least. The figures are either dead-center or halfway off the screen; the light is beyond deadening -- Gallo the director/cinematographer has been studying the work of some pretty hip photographers. Not much to be said about the dialog in this scene, let alone the delivery; both actors seem to have studied at the Patricia Arquette School of Vocal Nonprojection. They're so tender, self-conscious, and wimpy -- and the semi-lines they semi-utter are such half-formed things -- that I found myself wondering if the movie had been made by an over-sensitive 14 year old. Chloe's an odd movie phenomenon, isn't she? Part Connecticut princess, part Edie-Sedgwick-gone-Warhol, part ... Part what? Those baby eyes ... That fresh, crinkled mouth ... The hurt but sweet boyishness ... That's it: she's also part Tobey Maguire. Too good for life, yet sadly game for whatever comes along too. Chloe's not much of an actress, god knows, and that hunched-over androgyny of hers isn't what a camera usually loves to love. Yet she's something to watch anyway; you keep moving in close to her to find out what's going on, because you want to know. She's got a Garbo-esque appeal, if of a teeny-tiny, indie-film sort. Gallo is something else completely. His face is part hippie-Christ and part Rasputin, while his physique suggests that he's the runt from a family of bricklayers -- he's small-shouldered and scrawny, and he seems short, yet he's got meaty mitts. Yet despite what an odd physical package he is, he's got a ferociously exhibitionistic drive and some real, if annoying, charisma. It's as though he exists in order to command attention and then be beaten up. He's probably been told 'way too many times that he'd be perfect playing Charles Manson. The movie itself... posted by Michael at September 8, 2004 | perma-link | (9) comments

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Joining the Conversation
Francis Morrone writes Dear Blowhards, I'm more than delighted that Michael asked me to join the Blowhards. This has been my favorite place on the Web for some time now. I'd go so far as to say that in the last year some of my deepest thoughts (for what that's worth) have been prompted by Michael's and Friedrich's postings, and by the comments left by the uniquely appealing group of men and women drawn to this site's essays in the arts, mores, and culture. I think that one of the most significant things about the Web is how it has liberated a high level of ''amateur'' discussion of such subjects, rescuing them from the often obfuscatory treatment they are accorded by professional critics and academics. Not that I'm not an avid consumer of the writings of professional critics and academics. But in the end, what's valuable to me is discussing how art and culture affect us as individuals coming to terms with our mortality. At a certain level, we are all amateurs of the arts. I also love the civility of this site. Again, that has as much to do with the commenters as the posters. As I begin to post, and use the salutation ''Dear Blowhards,'' I hope readers take that to mean not just Michael and Friedrich and Fenster and Vanessa, but all who leave comments as well. Civility is in short supply these days. I myself have had my moments of high incivility. Michael mentioned that I once ran a blog dedicated to the writings of the architecture critic Herbert Muschamp. I stopped maintaining that blog after 9/11. Odd, considering that's when most bloggers took up the sport. But I had some soul searching to do in those days, when, faced with the precariousness of my life here in New York City, I decided to write less about things I hated, and more about things that pleased me. We all cope in different ways. That said, I wonder, in the wake of Republican week here in New York, how you all deal with the people in your lives whom you disagree with politically. I have no stomach for political debate, but I have a passion for political discussion. Without giving away my own subtly nuanced politics (by which I mean I am inclined and happy to change my opinions as often as I change my socks), I wonder at the mutual hostility of Republicans and Democrats, ''conservatives'' and ''liberals,'' particularly at a time when the categories of ''left'' and ''right'' seem to make so little sense anymore. We have ''paleoconservatives,'' ''neoconservatives,'' ''libertarians,'' ''communitarians,'' ''New Democrats,'' anti-globalization ''anarchists,'' and James Howard Kunstler, to mention just a few political flavors. Nowadays it's all the rage in Manhattan to profess one's hatred for ''neoconservatives.'' Yet, as a current exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York reminds us, many of these same haters adored the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Do you remember a book back in the late... posted by Francis at September 7, 2004 | perma-link | (9) comments

Sunday, September 5, 2004

New Blowhard: Francis Morrone
Another break from the usual flow: I'm delighted to announce that the terrific Francis Morrone has agreed to join us as a regular blogger chez les Blowhards. You've probably already run into some of Francis' writing in various commentsfests, and as an occasional poster over at David Sucher's blog (here). But Francis has been developing a case of blogging fever, and I'm thrilled he's decided to do some more carrying-on here. Francis -- who will be blogging under his real name -- is a well-known architecture historian, a lecturer, and a teacher, and is the author of numerous classy architectural guides; you can check a few of them out here, here and here. (In case anyone's in doubt about this, "Fenster Moop," "Vanessa del Blowhard," and "Michael Blowhard" are pseudonyms.) Francis also writes a weekly column for the New York Sun, gives walking tours of NYC neighborhoods, and maintains his own extensive and fun-to-explore website here. He's no stranger to regular blogging either. Back in 2001, he was one of the very earliest bloggers, running a site called (hilariously) "Not Herbert Muschamp"; sadly, it isn't online any longer. I have to say that, when I get around to creating a one-volume anthology of Architecture-Thought Essentials, it'll certainly include an ultra-fab essay that Francis wrote for The New Criterion back in 2002, entitled "Do Architecture Critics Matter?" The essay can be read here; I hereby and heartily proclaim it to be Necessary Reading. I'm of course looking forward to being set straight by Francis on matters architectural, but I'm also hoping that he'll feel free to gab about whatever topics it pleases him to gab about. Movies, food, ads, art shows -- hey, it's all culture. Like Fenster, Francis has the gift for writing -- and writing super-fluently -- about everything in the right (ie., congenial, helpful, open, entertaining) spirit. When we chatted on the phone recently, Francis was quick to make sure I understood that -- despite his prodigious output -- he considers himself not an arts pro but a true arts "amateur" -- that is, someone who, no matter how he gets by, does it out of love. Amen, bro', to that. Please join me in saying hi to Francis.... posted by Michael at September 5, 2004 | perma-link | (6) comments