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January 31, 2005


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Who's "white" and who's not? Razib introduces a lot of useful complexity into the question.

* To my shame, I only just now came across the web-mag of the American Institute of Graphic Artists. Edited by the great Steven Heller, AIGA Voice is an impressive and inviting publication, full of all kinds of goodies for those fascinated by visuals. I'm looking forward to doing a lot of catching-up.

* Vesna Vulovic, a Serbian airline stewardess, was working in a jetliner at 33,000 feet when a terrorist bomb went off. She survived the explosion -- and she survived the fall too. Here's an interview with her.

* What do we make of this resourceful playwright's sexual habits?

* This audio clip of Orson Welles taping a radio commercial for peas (and not taking direction well, to say the least) was an underground legend for years. Now it can be listened to online. "The right reading for this is the one I'm delivering," he states, orotundly. As a good arts person, I should have felt heartbroken by the spectacle of a great genius reduced to squabbling over a trivial radio spot. Instead, my heart went out to the guys in the control booth. Imagine having to spend your working hours attending to Orson Welles' ego. (CORRECTION: Thanks to James Russell, who tells me that Welles' pea ad was meant for TV and not radio.)

* I say, Give the kid a hundred-million-dollar contract now.

* Some of the Cajun jokes at this blog made me laugh. Cajun jokes -- who knew?

* Thanks to Pondblog for passing along a Swiss report about a new kind of solar-power collector that's not only flexible but highly efficient. Back in the mid-'70s, lots of smart people were confident that the world was on the verge of converting wholesale to solar energy. Has the time for solar finally arrived? Or is solar energy one of those dreams that forever entrances but never comes true?

* Teenaged boys simply may not deserve to live.

* Thanks to George Hunka for pointing out the blog of the interesting theater journalist Steve Oxman. And congrats to George himself, who has just seen a new play of his given a workshop production. On his own blog, George is doing some prodigious wrangling with the theater whirlwind that is Richard Foreman. I get more of what I'm looking for from discussions about the theater from George's blog than I do from the entire theater staff of the NYTimes.

* OGIC has the odds on some literary books about poker.



posted by Michael at January 31, 2005


May be of interest to you:

The Conservative Philosopher

Posted by: saint exupery on January 31, 2005 1:07 PM

Was Orson Welles "a great genius?"
I'd say a great presence, rather.
How much was actually behind the curtain remains a question.

Posted by: ricpic on January 31, 2005 10:05 PM

This site has a few funny videos, but Orson Welles trying to get through a television commercial for Paul Masson while incredibly smashed tops them all.

Posted by: Joseph on January 31, 2005 10:21 PM

Actually the Findus ad was for TV, not radio.

Welles was a great presence and a great genius. And possibly his own greatest enemy.

Posted by: James Russell on February 1, 2005 4:44 AM

Where do you FIND all this stuff? I don't know what is dumber---the teenage boys who engaged in their,uh, activity, or the ones who FILMED IT AND PUT IT ON THE INTERNET! The one true downside to reality TV (and Fox sitcoms, and MTV) is that no one realizes anymore that there is actually behavior to be EMBARASSED ABOUT. Apparently, the playwright doesn't either. On the other hand, Orson Welles never saw reality TV and apparently he was unacquainted with embarassment too. Hearing that clip made me think of the movie "Tootsie":

Agent says to Michael: "You played a tomato, for God's sake, and they went two days over budget because you wouldn't sit down!"

Michael: "It wasn't logical."

Agent: "A tomato doesn't have logic. A tomato can't move!"

Michael: "That's what I said. So if a tomato can't move, how can it sit down?"

Posted by: annette on February 1, 2005 8:42 AM

James Russell: Welles was a great presence and a great genius. And possibly his own greatest enemy.

Let's drink to character...

I'm such a big fan of Orson that I've incorporated bits of that commercial into my conversation. In addition to calling people "a cross section of the American public" and saying "Don't be so theatrical" and talking about cuckoo clocks and how horseless carriages had no business being invented, I try to use "you are such PESTS" and "what is it you want, in the DEPTHS of your ignorance" and, best of all, "Get me a jury and show me how you can XYZ and I'll go down on you".

Here is a great anecdote about the original O-Dub shooting The Other Side Of The Wind, including what the author calls "the most important bit of filmmaking advice I've ever received".

Another very good site for Orsonian news and views is Wellesnet.

Posted by: Brian on February 1, 2005 9:35 AM

Great word usage. I believe that word was created for Henry VIII and was left unused until Mr Welles came along. My brother-in-law opined that the reason Mr. Welles became so monstrously huge was that his body mass had to catch up to his brain mass. Equilibrium of sorts, I guess.

Posted by: DarkoV on February 1, 2005 2:20 PM

For someone who, I assume from his emotional post, dislikes to be called "sand nigger", Razib displays curiously mistaken opinion (favored also by Arabs surrounding Israel) when sharing his anecdote of fair-skinned Arab addressed on the street in Israel by Russians in Russian.

When somebody speaks Russian (or American English, for that matter) it doesn't necessarily means they are of said ethnicity.
They are not Russians, mister anthropologist, they are Jews born in Russia (and other parts of former Soviet Union, including Caucasus, btw).
True, there exist ethnic Slavs, married to Jews with resulting *admixture*, as Razib says (I just love the term, raises the discussion to truly scientific heights), but this phenomenon is relatively recent and percentage of intermarriages is low (I'd think dynamics of which correlates with
There are also some amount of converts, but understandably, quantity of people of other denominations willing to became Jews is smaller than the other way around - we are talking about Europe and Middle East now, not US.
Besides, Israeli immigration authorities have quite clear guidelines on the issue who is considered Jew and who is not (mostly, to be a Jew you have to have a Jewish mother), and Israel is Jewish state, ethnically as well as religiously.

I'm not sure how familiar Razib is with the subject, so I'd just say due to rather long period of factual aparteid Jews in Russia didn't mix with Slavic population (ever heard of Pale? pogroms?). Between us, ethnic Russians relatively easy can spot a Russian Jew in the crowd (and vice-versa). It is however prevalent (and convenient)opinion of Arabs that all Jews are "European impostors" and newcomers to the Middle East.

Interesting also that Razib attributes existence of fair-skinned and European-looking Arabs (Lebanese and Syrian Christians, as it turns out) to natural genetic variation. But when it comes to Ashkenazi Jews he thinks it's due to *admixture*.

Oh, and Armenians are most definitely "white".

Posted by: Tatyana on February 1, 2005 4:25 PM

omitted by error:

..correlates with establishment of the State of Israel and ups and downs of the world's policy towards it.

Posted by: Tatyana on February 1, 2005 4:35 PM

Okay, I nearly fell off my chair laughing at the Taser video. People at work were worried for my health.

Posted by: on February 1, 2005 5:25 PM

"Jackass" has a lot to answer for, as far as I can tell...

Welles -- I guess I come down on the Simon Callow-ish side: monstrously gifted; had difficulty making any kind of connection with what most of us experience as real life and simple experience; pissed a lot of the gift away; spent too much time living on the legend, etc... All that said, he also made a half a dozen perfectly amazing movies, and that's more than enough of an art achievement for anyone. What I've never been able to go along with is a certain kind of filmbuff idolization of Welles. They like using him as a symbol of something (filmmaking genius, I guess, which by nature has to be understood to run against "the system") that I find pretty childish. It's amazing how indignant and offended the Welles cult gets when someone tries to discuss him as a human being rather than a god. On the other hand, it's kind of sweet that there is a Welles cult. Come to think of it, is there still one? The days when young filmbuffs felt deeply about people like Welles seems long past ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 2, 2005 1:08 PM

Thanks to all for interesting links, btw. I'm still exploring them, and having a good time...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 2, 2005 1:14 PM

Welles' performance as Unicron still brings tears to my eyes.

Posted by: . on February 2, 2005 3:15 PM

Michael: On the other hand, it's kind of sweet that there is a Welles cult. Come to think of it, is there still one? The days when young filmbuffs felt deeply about people like Welles seems long past ...

The restoration of Touch of Evil back in 1999 or so did a lot of good, I think. You'd see lots of younger film buffs saying that Welles was great, and didn't he do a great job directing The Third Man.

One must have patience, I find.

I've adored him since I saw Kane in early college, but it's all about what's on the screen. The enfant terrible stuff means little to me; The Trial, Othello, and Mr. Arkadin mean a great deal.

"Everybody denies I am a genius - but nobody ever called me one!" - Orson Welles

Posted by: Brian on February 3, 2005 11:17 AM

Welles certainly had the knack for attracting the spotlight while pretending to avoid it!

You're right: it was nice to see a few young kids discussing Welles at the time of the "Touch of Evil" restoration. I felt like even more a geezer than usual. There were kids running around discussing the film as though no one could possibly have heard of it before. I guess it was news to them, so it had to be news to everyone else too.

How'd you react to the restoration? I have to admit I like the unrestored version better. It moves faster, it's a bit more misterioso. The added stuff seemed to me to make the movie a bit more pedestrian. But I'm in a huge minority on this, I know.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 3, 2005 12:35 PM

I thought the unbroken opening tracking shot of "Touch of Evil" was given tremendous pub in the move "The Player"---wasn't that 1993 or '94? They acted like it was the single best eight minutes or twelve minutes (or whatever it was) of filmmaking ever. I think Orson more than got his due.

Posted by: annette on February 3, 2005 2:27 PM

How'd you react to the restoration? I have to admit I like the unrestored version better. It moves faster, it's a bit more misterioso. The added stuff seemed to me to make the movie a bit more pedestrian. But I'm in a huge minority on this, I know.

I'm still mixed on that. Some of the rearrangments of entire sections made the flow more understandable. But, stylistically, Walter Murch is a very smooth editor and Welles was a very jagged one, so the feel of the film became a little bit like a well-worn bar of soap. I also liked the delightfully vulgar music in the old credit sequence, which is now history. It's like it's gone from being a cheap and greasy crime flick to - I don't know - a "classic" or some such.

But some restorations are full bore desecrations - this one was pretty good all told.

There oughta be a law (or something) saying that restored DVDs must include the original version, or else no can do.

Posted by: Brian on February 4, 2005 7:38 PM

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