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.

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Friday, November 26, 2004

Post-Election Wrapups
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A post-election point that seemed to me to be overlooked was that perhaps many of those who pulled the Bush lever weren't really voting for Bush. After all, who really likes what he's done to the economy, let alone his stance on immigration? Perhaps what many Bush voters were doing instead was voting against Kerry's backers, many of whom have been fantastically abusive and snide towards Red America. As far as I can tell, it almost never occurs to the left that the other half of America might not like being ridiculed, being called stupid, and being put down for what they believe in. Yet as dumb -- or at least clueless -- as this demonstrates them to be, these same lefties persist in thinking that their only problem (and the only reason they lost) is that they're too smart for the rest of us. Good lord, what to make of this? And, hey, has anyone else been as struck as I have by the way lefties -- so quick to ask "what have we done to make them hate us?" when we're attacked by foreign nuts -- never think to ask the same question about why so many of the people they share their own country with dislike (or at least mistrust) them? I thought Dennis Prager's analysis was the most trenchant wrap-up piece I read. I thought Graham Lester's look at "voting irregularities" was the funniest. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 26, 2004 | perma-link | (21) comments

Ed Wood Found
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- What makes the films of the director Ed ("Glen or Glenda?") Wood fascinating is that they aren't simply bad movies. They're also passionate and sincere; they have obsessions and a vision. They have, in other words, just about everything you might want from a work of art, if only you don't count "skill" and "believability." And is it really Ed Wood's fault that he had no talent? (Tim Burton caught some of this conundrum in his movie "Ed Wood.") The New Yorker announces that an Ed Wood porno movie once thought lost has now been found; I see that Fleshbot is offering it for sale here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 26, 2004 | perma-link | (3) comments

Timothy Taylor On Sale
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Sicko that I am, I've read or listened to more than 20 introductions to economics. And, while many have been helpful and good, I can't think of a better way for math-o-phobes to get the hang of econ than by listening to Timothy Taylor's Teaching Company lecture series. I notice that all -- all! -- of Taylor's audio series are now on sale. Grab 'em while they're cheap. Hey, lib-arts people -- econ is cool! God knows economics doesn't explain everything that happens in the world. And it's important to beware of economism, the belief that economics is at the root of it all. But god also knows that econ can sure help explain an awful lot. And here's an inspiration for those looking for unusual Xmas ideas: why not give a gift certificate from the Teaching Company? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 26, 2004 | perma-link | (1) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * OK, so ancient Greek statues weren't white. We know that. They were painted, or gold-leafed, or something. Very interesting. But what did they actually look like? Here's the answer, or one possible answer anyway. And talk about gaudy! What I'm most reminded of is the decor in NYC pizza parlors. * Thanks again to Dave Lull, who points out this short New York magazine piece. In it, Toni Bentley responds to critics of her book "The Surrender," most of whom turn out to be female. I thought the book was wonderful, but then again I'm naught but a guy. * Should we analyze narratives or enjoy them? And what does it mean to be "taken out of the story" anyway? Forager has some thoughts. * Susan has been wondering about fantasy, immersion, fiction and computer games. * America's Art-and-Crafts era was a good time for women artists, a number of whom achieved fame and prosperity as illustrators and designers. Here's an intro to one of the most-talented of these women, Elizabeth Shippen Green. * Martine isn't a fan of the "LOTR" movies -- too damn many chases. Calendars of hunky Italian priests please her more. * Anyone who's curious about the classic Japanese cinema but hasn't known where to begin should find this well-annotated Amazon viewer's list a concise help. * Thanks to Gavin Shorto for pointing out this interesting Guardian piece on possible relationships between music and language. * Here's a fun visit with the great English actress Maggie Smith. * I haven't cracked it yet, but a new issue of City Journal -- one of the best magazines out there -- is now online. It includes articles by the usual high-powered cast (Kay Hymowitz, Heather Mac Donald), as well as a collection of new-classicist proposals for Manhattan's West Side. John Massengale thinks the new classicists should have done better. * Alan Little learns the hard way about one of those traps women set for their men. Then he wonders how well-equipped science is to account for the effects of yoga and meditation. * I haven't yet subscribed to the English magazine The Idler, which extolls the joys of lazing around. But I certainly plan to do so once I can gather up the energy to send in a check. Here's a charming visit with The Idler's anti-dynamic mastermind, Tom Hodgkinson. And here's a Newsweek visit with Carl Honore, the author of "In Praise of Slowness." I blogged enthusiastically, if lazily, about this lovely book here. * So maybe turning the country into a giant Wal-Mart while living on credit from the Chinese hasn't been a good idea after all. Morgan Stanley's chief economist thinks the American economy is goin' down. * Arnold Kling takes on some of the myths about Social Security. * One of the political terms it pays to watch out for is "social justice." Who could be against such an innocuous-sounding thing as social justice? Yet what's happened... posted by Michael at November 26, 2004 | perma-link | (12) comments

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Political Will and Nuclear Waste Storage
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards: A few weeks ago I posted on Energy and Politics which you can read here. This little essay included my opinion that in a world where global warming is an issue, we need to get over our fear of nuclear power. To quote my posting: While the problems of spent nuclear fuel storage and plant decommissioning are real, these are problems that can be solved—with enough political will. This elicited a rather tart response from one of our readers, David Sucher: What is your source on this statement? It contradicts everything I have ever read from any sort of serious source. I’ll admit I was a bit stumped as to how to respond to Mr. Sucher’s demand for “sources” (let alone, “serious” sources.) As I use the term, political will, it refers to the willingness to make certain choices, even in the face of opposition or expense. To give an example: prior to Pearl Harbor, the United States lacked the political will to enter World War II, but afterwards we became committed to victory, despite the high cost in both money and blood. Granted, situations exist in which the technical constraints complete overwhelm our ability to make choices and thus don’t quality as matters of political will. For example, the U.S. Congress cannot, no matter how much political will it summons, repeal the law of universal gravitation. No matter how much political will I possess, I cannot jump to the moon. But saying that we can store and manage nuclear waste is not like repealing the law of gravity or jumping to the moon. Clearly, it is within the realm of physical possibility that nuclear waste can pile up somewhere. Indeed, it is already doing so. In other words, the storage of nuclear waste is a matter of options among which—because we already have an inventory of such waste—we must evaluate and choose. The question is whether we are willing to pay the costs (financial, medical, biological, and in terms of constraints on our future behavior) associated with any particular storage option, both to deal with the waste we already possess and in order to enjoy the benefits of plentiful nuclear energy in the future. This is a matter on which reasonable people may differ. But perhaps I can advance the discussion by laying out some of the rough benefits and costs of at least a few of the available options. But first, let me present a short “primer” on the storage and transport of radioactive wastes deriving from power generation activities. This will spell out what I would consider a “base case”—i.e., what will probably occur as the current ‘path of least resistance.’ Much of the following derives from a discussion on the website of the World Nuclear Association, which you can visit here. Primer on Nuclear Waste Commercial nuclear power plants in the United States are fuelled by enriched uranium oxide. A large power plant generating 1000 MW needs around 25 metric... posted by Friedrich at November 24, 2004 | perma-link | (14) comments

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

More Elsewheres
Fenster Moop writes: Dear Blowhards, * Boston Review is running a very astute appreciation of Fenster's dad, Pogo creator Walt Kelly. The article is a review by John Crowley of a multi-volume compendium of Pogo strips published by Fantagraphics Books. These are indeed excellent books for Pogo fans, and would serve as a worthwhile intro for people not familiar with Kelly's work. And Crowley is an astute reader of the goings-on in the swamp. * There are now too many internet citations for "intellectual diversity" to link to. It was not that long ago--a year ot two, max--that grousing about the lack of ID on college campuses was a niche story. In the recent past, it has busted out pretty well. Here's Google's over 20,000 entries for "intellectual diversity" and "university". Currently, there are about 80,000 Google links to "racial diversity" and "university", and I think a 1:4 ratio is pretty robust for ID to RD, all things considered. I'll be checking the ratio going forward, and I suspect ID will be making more headway. Here's a recent example. * Slate finds the new JFK assassination video gamecreepy. No problem there. On the other hand, I couldn't quite believe David Edelstein's near-praise in the magazine for the Sponge Bob movie. I had to go--my kids made me do it. But despite all the hype about Bob's sweet message and his appeal to grown-up sensibilities, this seemed to me a pretty straightforward case of a near-complete lack of talent, imagination and creativity. Other than that, it was fine, meaning my kids loved it. * It's that time again. No, not Christmas, New Tom Wolfe novel time. Emanations about The Future of the Novel forthcoming. I think someone ought to be taking a scientific look at the politics of Tom Wolfe book reviews. My non-scientific sense is that the Right is giving his sex-crazed book relatively high marks, and vice versa. And here's one view of the college press on the subject--Erica, the female collegiate reviewer, gives Wolfe relatively high marks for verisimilitude. Lock up your daughters! * Bring back aged sheep to the table! Across the puddle, Prince Charles is calling for a Mutton Renaissance. To tell the truth, I like mutton myself, though, as Charles suggests, it is kind of hard to find. Despite Charles' echt-British romanticism, I was successful only after I scouted out markets oriented to an Arabic clientele. And if you do the same, a hint: you're better off currying, not boiling in the English style. Best, Fenster... posted by Fenster at November 23, 2004 | perma-link | (9) comments