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  8. Rorty on English Departments
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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * My favorite ex-blogger is ex no longer: J. Cassian blogs again. How long will he keep at it this time around? * Ron Silliman spells out some hard facts about the publishing and distribution of poetry books. * I don't link often enough to Gerard Van der Leun, who's one of blogdom's best writers. Mea culpa. (Gerard is certainly blogdom's best editor.) Recently Gerard wrote an especially moving essay. He starts by discussing his unusual last name, then turns the posting into something else entirely. * Let's give a big round of applause to America's most generous charitable donors. * WhiskyPrajer evaluates the rock magazines. * One of the great silent comedians, Harold Lloyd was as much of a star as Chaplin or Keaton, and was perhaps the most hard-working of the three. In fact, "hard-working," "All-American," and "gung-ho" were parts of his onscreen persona. It turns out that Lloyd was busy during his leisure hours too, spending many of them (in all-American fashion) making nude photographs of starlets and models. A book-length collection of his photos has just been published. Here's hoping that, in terms of how he treated his models, he wasn't one of the creeps our "Confessions of Naked Model" correspondent "J" recently wrote about. * Have teen boys been watching too much "Jackass"? * OuterLife has been thinking about money, as well as company holiday parties. * Thanks to Fred Himebaugh for pointing out this hilarious humor piece on the theme of postmodernism -- it's silly in the most wonderful way. Disorganized me has just begun to explore Fred's music, and I'm having a very good time doing so: Fred's an impressive and resourceful composer who has his own way of combining and constrasting the dark and the light. * One of the disadvantages of the link-a-thon form is that it can be hard to link to a whole group of bloggers: the people who specialize in links, and who don't tend to write showy, "event" postings. That's a pity: they're smart, funny, generous people, as well as crucial Internet nodes. So this linkathon I want to salute one of them: Greg Ransom, the dynamo brainiac who runs Prestopundit, a Hayek-ian version of Instapundit. Already today Greg has put up a dozen very interesting postings-plus-links-plus-brief-commentaries. Whenever I visit Greg's blog I wind up kissing a few hours goodbye, and am happy to do so: Greg always turns up much that's too good not to explore. An intense brain-buzz, guaranteed. * The Peruvian-born economist Hernando de Soto talks about the difference between "dead capital" and "live capital," and adds a lot of nuance to our usual understanding of property. Amazing fact of the day: in Egypt, it typically takes seventeen years (and visits to thirty-two different government offices) to buy a plot of land. No wonder 90% of Egyptians live outside the country's legal system. * David Sucher has argued that -- in these multimedia, visuals-centric times -- being able... posted by Michael at December 18, 2004 | perma-link | (9) comments

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Young Models
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I've just spent 15 minutes -- OK, 20 minutes -- looking at photos of models at One Model Place, the Ebay-ish models-and-photographers site that our Guest Poster "J" referred to her in her recent posting. And I noticed something funny about perception. (Mine, at least.) As you peer at photo after photo (and thus girl after girl), you get pickier and pickier. And when you're peering at glamor photos, what that pickiness seems to mean is that your eye zeroes in on younger and younger girls. This happened to me quite without deliberation. I only realized that I'd zero'd in on young girls when I clicked on the portfolio of a model who was 26. By everyday standards, this woman is a young-adult beauty. But my sated eye's first impression was: she looks all used-up. (FWIW, I've got no kinky thing for young girls.) Audaciously, I'm going to assume that my experience isn't unique. Which leaves me wondering if this tendency for the eye to thirst for early-pubescent youth when staring at glamor and fashion photographs of gals helps explain the fact that the gal-models the media put on display are often very young. The usual explanation for this is, "Well, corporations are trying to make women feel inadequate so they'll buy products." Or, "It's because there are so many gay men in the style world, and this long/young/thin look is their passion." And probably both of these factors contribute. But maybe the preference for the very young and the very perfect is also a consequence of what happens to your perceptual system when you stare critically at photos of female models for too long. But this small-t theory doesn't really explain anything about why we zero in on just-hit-puberty youth and flawlessness when we stare at certain kinds of photos, does it? I'm guessing, but it seems to me that reproductive fitness doesn't do the job as an explanation: looking at fashion and glamor photos, the eye seems to crave coltish, edge-of-puberty, David Hamiltonish creatures, not the ripe-to-bursting fertility goddesses guys dig when looking at erotica. So what might explain the eye's taste in these matters? Does the eye/mind for some reason demand of certain kinds of photos that the females in them be dewy, fresh, and flawless? Is that the quality in humans that's the equivalent of the sparkle in diamonds and tinsel? We crave it ... because we just do? Any thoughts? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 16, 2004 | perma-link | (18) comments

Holiday Giving
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I notice that a few of my favorite blogger/webpresences have put out the tin cup. Marginal Revolution, Steve Sailer, and Asymmetrical Information are all amazingly generous, brainy, and provocative. The info they supply and the thoughts they disgorge are big parts of why my brain buzzes more happily these days than it has in years. Years? Decades. I'm heading over to click on the Amazon Tip Jar at each place. Why not join me? Hey, why shouldn't the big nonprofits be throwing a little money at bloggers? Talk about doing good work opening up the public mind. Hmm ... On the other hand, it's kinda great that we look after ourselves (and each other), isn't it? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 16, 2004 | perma-link | (1) comments

Confessions of a Naked Model
We're pleased to run another guest posting by "J," an artist and art student who helps pay the bills by working as an artists' model. J's site, where you can enjoy her art and explore some fun links, is here. J's previous postings for us are here and here. John Leavitt contributed the drawings that accompany this piece. I'm pleased to pass along some happy news about J's modeling career too: the well-known punk fetish photographer Eric Kroll has made a date with J to train his famously transgressive lens on her. So, Dita van Teese? Watch your back. There's a new alpha-fetishgirl in town. Are We Whores? The Ethics of Modelling for Amateurs Yesterday I nearly killed a man. With my breasts. I was posing in a seedy hotel in the meatpacking distract. The photographer, a snaggle-toothed sixty, crouched over me, clacking away with his digital. Suddenly, he grabbed his chest. As he sunk to his knees, I imagined the headlines: "Man Dies of Heart Attack in Motel Love-Tryst." "But Iím a model, not a prostitute," I'd cry to the reporters, like "Showgirls"'s Nomi Malone insisting that she wasn't a stripper, but a dancer. Then I thought about average sentences for manslaughter. I hoped the judge would go easy. But after sixty agonizing seconds, my photographer rose and pointed a finger in my direction. "Your fault! Out!" He clasped his heart as he peeled off three hundreds. I left without looking back. Those of you who read my original columns may be shocked at the drop in my morals. "Poor J," you cluck, "going from artists' muse to hotel room sordidness." You make a mental note on downward spirals. But examine my bank account before judging. Modeling for photographers means $100 an hour, and more independence than any job at the Gap. "Just like prostitution?" asks the cloven hoofed gentleman's attorney. We'll get to that Ö If posing naked for dentists from Massapequa reminds you of the world's oldest profession, it's a relationship that came into being with the internet. Before the internet, firm lines ran between model and non-model. Models: the six-foot tall fifteen-year-olds who walked runways and coke-binged in Milan. Non-models: everyone else. If you were not anointed with the proper genes -- and an agency -- a model is something you would never be. Of course, photographers always realized that there were other fun things to photograph besides adolescent Amazons. But they had no way to get in touch with people to pose. Until the internet. Four years ago,, the world's largest online directory of photographers and models, came into being. It provided portfolio space and an easy way for photographer and photographed to connect. And it allowed girls who didn't have a chance in hell of joining an agency to make a go at modeling. Girls like me. So we used the two things we held over agency girls. Tits. And a willingness to show them. Joining us were photographers who wanted to take... posted by Michael at December 16, 2004 | perma-link | (24) comments

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Illegal Immigration
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- This "Onion"-spirited piece by Columbus Dispatch columnist Joe Blundo made me laugh a few times: Canada Busy Sending Back Bush-Dodgers The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The re-election of President Bush is prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray and agree with Bill O'Reilly. Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night. "I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota. The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. "He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left. Didn't even get a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?" In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. So he tried installing speakers that blare Rush Limbaugh across the fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through, and Rush annoyed the cows so much they wouldn't give milk." Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons, drive them across the border and leave them to fend for themselves. "A lot of these people are not prepared for rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a drop of drinking water. They did have a nice little Napa Valley cabernet, though." When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about the Bush administration establishing re-education camps in which liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR. In the days since the election, liberals have turned to sometimes-ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have taken to posing as senior citizens on bus trips to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans disguised in powdered wigs, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior-citizen passengers. "If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we get suspicious about their age," an official said. Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and renting all the good Susan Sarandon movies. "I feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them," an Ottawa resident said. "How many art-history majors does one country need?" In an effort to ease tensions between the United States and Canada, Vice President Dick Cheney met with the Canadian ambassador and pledged that the administration would take steps to reassure liberals, a source close to Cheney said. "We're going to have some Peter, Paul &... posted by Michael at December 15, 2004 | perma-link | (8) comments

DVD Blowout
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Enough with lightweight topics like diversity in the academy. It's time for a meaningful posting! How about bargain DVDs? I just noticed that Amazon has reduced prices on lots of DVDs. I thought I'd pass along the titles of some of the on-sale movies that I've enjoyed. Maybe a few other people will enjoy them too. At these prices, what's the risk in giving a few of them a try? Besides, I love opinionating about movies. $5.99 will get you: Sweet Dreams. A touching and intense biopic about the country singer Patsy Cline, with terrific performances by Jessica Lange and Ed Harris, and a script by Robert Getchell that's a canny and insightful piece of engineering. Getchell and the film's director Karel Reisz chose not to do the usual biopic thing -- to tell the story of Patsy Cline's entire life. Instead, they focused on one clear dramatic arc: Patsy's relationship with her husband. Set against lush country music, some of the film's scenes are as wrenching as anything in Strindberg. I found the movie an amazingly emotional experience. Home Fries. This Drew Barrymore movie wasn't one of her more popular movies, and you can see why: it's darker, more sophisticated, and more dramatic than what her fans expect. But it's also a rewarding sad/sweet film, with a lyrical fondness for lower-class, country-white life that Hollywood rarely shows; it's reminiscent of some of Jonathan Demme's early movies. Playing a hopeful mess, Drew herself is awfully good; it's my favorite of the performances of hers that I've seen, not that I've seen many. Directed by Dean Parisot, who also directed the very funny GalaxyQuest, now on sale for $9.74. City Hall. It's certainly imperfect, but this New York-set political melodrama has grit, suspense, tiptop performances, and a number of sensationally well-written and well-acted scenes. Do many movies offer half as much? (I can never understand people who beef more about a half-satisfying movie than they do about a stinker. Half-satisfying's pretty darned good.) Al Pacino delivers one of his best performances, IMHO. He's as full of zest as ever, but he shows how subtle he can be too. Working with dialog by Bo Goldman, Pacino gives a masterclass in subtext. Watch how he brings out layers and layers of it that you never saw coming. What an actor! Gia. I couldn't tell whether Amazon is offering the R-rated or the Unrated version of this HBO movie. If it's the R-rated version, then skip it and rent the Unrated version instead; you don't want to miss the film's farther-out moments. Based on a true story, the film stars a young Angelina Jolie, was co-written by Jay McInerny, and is about a hard-living model who became an addict and died young. It's directed in a gimmicky, over-flashy way. But it's also smart about the media life, and it's harshly sexy; it's one of the two or three movies that made Angelina Jolie's reputation. For my money, she... posted by Michael at December 15, 2004 | perma-link | (17) comments

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Megan on Academia
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Megan McMillan dropped a couple of comments on my previous posting that were so info-dense and helpful that I asked if I could copy-and-paste them into a separate posting. Megan has agreed. Important news for people who are in college, or who are thinking about going to college! Here's Megan: My husband is an art professor at a private liberal arts college, and it is a very good life. The pay is terrible, but the hours are great, the work is pleasant and intellectually stimulating and has lots of variety. Yes, the outside world balks at the idea of making and exhibiting art being deemed "research," but hey, you've got to call it something that applies to every discipline. Administrations rightly expect professors to stay current in their respective fields, thus the generic research requirement. Most civilians don't realize the enormous difference between a research institution and a teaching institution. My husband works for a teaching institution, where students are of course the highest priority. Often the professors at private universities aren't as up on the latest theories/conferences/journal articles as those who work in research schools (although most try), simply because they don't have time. They're too busy teaching a 4/4 load and grading and filling their office hours and meeting with students and serving on committees. Research institutions often only require 2/2 teaching loads (with the help of TAs), and the barest minimum of office hours. But they are expected to actively research and publish and/or exhibit. RIs get the majority of their money from state coffers, not from tuition, and usually have state mandates to serve as publicly funded think-tanks. Students are, by design, a much lower priority. People should know this when they're shopping for colleges, but most don't. They assume that a college is a college is a college. But there are enormous differences. If you're footing the bill for tuition, you can have greater expectations of professors, but if you're only paying 2 grand a year, you can expect your child's teacher to phone in the lectures. My favorite example of this was Derrida, who "taught" at UC Irvine. He flew in from France for six weeks during the fall semester, and met with graduate students a few hours a week on a lottery system and gave a few lectures. For this, he received a full professor's salary. It seems to me that most of the profs who are active in the blogging community tend to be from research institutions, probably because they're the ones with more free time. It can seem as if they are speaking for all of academia at large, but really, the experiences at the different university levels are as vastly different as working as a corporate tax attorney is from being a public DA ... Another angle that isn't discussed very often in this context is the financial factor. The pay for a professor in the "soft sciences" is terrible. For the "hard sciences"... posted by Michael at December 14, 2004 | perma-link | (33) comments

Rorty on English Departments
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A braincell or two of mine has been chewing over the commentsfests at Crooked Timber that I recently took part in. Academic intellectuals, eh? Exceptions allowed for -- including some of the Crooked Timber regulars -- talking with academic intellectuals can be like trying to communicate with Martians. My favorite example from the yak at CT was the way many of the commenters treated the topic of intellectual diversity in humanities faculties. For a few minutes, they'd be in denial mode: the faculty at my university is very intellectually diverse! A few minutes later, they'd be arguing that the reason there are so many leftists teaching the softer subjects is that leftists have earned their university positions fair and square: they're smarter, after all. Point out that they've just implicitly admitted that humanities faculties aren't very diverse, and they instantly return to denying that this is the case. This shiftiness reminds me of Steve Sailer's observation about leftists and IQ: lefties hate the idea of IQ, and spend much energy denying that IQ exists. At other times, though, they feel the need to assert that they're smarter than righties. And what do they turn to for proof? IQ studies. Fake ones, as it turns out. But what took me most aback about many of the people who joined in at CT were two things: Their determination to quarrel over whether or not the politicization of many of the humanities has turned those departments into national jokes. Word evidently hasn't yet gotten through to many academics in the softer fields about how they're seen by much of the rest of the world. And what happens when a word or two does make it through the fog? The academic intellectuals complain about how "anti-intellectual" our benighted country is. Yep, our lib-arts academics live in a veritable state of siege. What's to be done about these people? Perhaps the worldly thing would be to ignore them, or to have a jolly time throwing darts at them and watching them gasp, clutch at their sensitive hearts, and spin in self-enraptured pirouettes. I'm afraid my earnest side was overcoming me, though. I found myself wondering what kind of evidence it might take to pull an academic away from admiring his intellectual prowess. Can anything stun some of these academics out of their self-regard? Dozens of books on the topic and hundreds of articles on the topic of what's happened to the humanities haven't done the job. These authors and writers have all -- each and every one of them -- been motivated by ugly rightie agendas, apparently. And we can, of course, take it for granted that "motivated by a rightie agenda" automatically means "every fact cited is untrue." How about the declining enrollments in some of these departments? A consequence of the Reagan '80s. America is a money-obsessed, crass place, and we humanities types couldn't be performing more nobly in the face of greedhead onslaughts. OK, then: how... posted by Michael at December 14, 2004 | perma-link | (41) comments

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Blues Snapshots
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I enjoyed blogging recently about what a good time The Wife and I had on a trip to the Mississippi Delta, where we visited the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas. So why not pass along some visuals? Here's a small collection of my bad digital snapshots from our visit to the Biscuit. The foolhardy can click on these thumbnails for bigger views. That's what a field of wet cotton looks like. The weekend we were in the Delta, the picking machines were supposed to be out doing their end-of-the-season picking. But it was 'way too muddy. Does the governor of your state have his own r&b band? That's Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on bass, helping kick the Biscuit off. I loved his keyboardist. She might not look like it, but she was one funky musician. Yep, it was a very wet weekend. We were told that attendance at the Biscuit was only 50 percent of what it usually is. Didn't stop everyone from feeling friendly and happy though. The bluesman known as Sonny Boy Williamson 2 is the patron saint of the Biscuit, and his image and name are everywhere. (There was also a Sonny Boy Williamson 1. He had nothing to do with the Biscuit.) One thing I love about the South is that almost anywhere you turn, something looks like art. You're forever being suprised and delighted by what crosses your vision. Here: little blonde tomboy-girl, matron with New South hat and cellphone, and a rusty image of Sonny Boy. It's always snacktime at the Biscuit. The Wife and I can be adventurous eaters, for Yankees anyway. But there were some snacks we weren't about to try. Part of the fun of the Biscuit is that music is everywhere, not just on the festival's three or four official stages. Musicians set up wherever they can and whale away for whatever you feel like giving them. I don't know whether it's regulated or not, but they were all considerate about not stepping on each others' toes, acoustically speaking. And nearly all of the musicians were damn good. This team got an R.L. Burnside-like, juke-joint, sexy-hypnotic thing going. You can poke your head in any bar and feel pretty sure you're going to run into an informal and enjoyable scene like this one. The hillbilly on keyboards here showed up later that day on the main stage as part of a featured band. Isn't that great? A hillbilly bluesman! Gotta love the south. Lunch time. I suspect the health inspectors haven't visited Miss Cora's place in a couple of decades. But, certified-hygienic or not, Miss Cora's soul food is delicious. No menus: if Miss Cora thinks you're alright, she invites you back into her kitchen to show you what's simmering on her stove. You point at what appeals to you, and she spoons it onto a paper plate. Friends of Miss Cora's came and went, making conversation, walking off with food, and... posted by Michael at December 12, 2004 | perma-link | (14) comments