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« Elsewhere | Main | Graphic Design »

January 05, 2005

More Elsewhere

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Will Duquette's book review is all Will this time around. (Deb English evidently has had a bit of Real Life -- whatever that is -- to attend to.) I was especially interested to read Will's reviews of some Robert Barnard and Peter Lovesey mysteries, although disappointed to learn that they aren't these writers' best work. I've read a little Barnard and Lovesey, and found them delightful.

* Tyler Cowen writes a brainy and helpful review of the new Jared Diamond, and responds to some other books here. Tyler's clearly someone with a serious long-book-reading habit.

* Does it have to follow from allowing gays to marry that polygamy will be legalized too? Colby Cosh thinks the answer is yes. Fred Reed has some absurdist chuckles at the whole marriage-debate spectacle.

* The waste, the tragic waste of it.

* Have you ever come under the spell of the food writer MFK Fisher? Though she doesn't get discussed much these days, back in the '70s and '80s she was a writer who was spoken about in hushed and reverent tones. But I was never a fan. I enjoyed OGIC's posting about Fisher more than I've enjoyed reading Fisher herself; I'm one of those disbelievers who finds Fisher a bit of a camp hoot. For food writing, give me Calvin Trillin or Elizabeth David any day. But OGIC's posting is a good one: she's smart about what it is those who love Fisher love her for.

* Yet another daredevil recreational activity I feel no need whatsoever to take part in. Balloons sure are pretty though. (Link via Attu.)

* Now that I think about it, balloons can be kinda sexy too.

* What's the "Sapphometer"? Find out here. But file this one in the ever-fatter folder of "fetishes I don't get." This one, too.

* Tarzan yodel: Lynn Sislo has posted her own best-of-blogs list, and 2Blowhards walks away with the "best group blog" honors. Coming from anyone that would be a treat; coming from Lynn it means a lot more than that. I'm still happily exploring the winners of Lynn's other blogcategories; as always, and among other things, Lynn's one of the best linkers out there.

* Typing the above, I realized that Lynn's also one of my very favorite voices in blogdom. She's down-to-earth yet unusually imaginative; her wryness and unruffled thoughtfulness combine with a rare responsiveness to the arts. And thinking about Lynn's voice got me thinking about some of my other favorite blogvoices ... The inimitably merry and incisive Alice in Texas ... the cosmopolitan/boho, poetically sexy and rhapsodic Searchblog ... and SYAffolee, whose tranquil surface coexists with a lot of spunk, brains, and reflectiveness. I find reading SYAffolee like reading a haiku diary; she wins my own Still-Blogwaters-Run-Deep Award. Hey, I notice that all these fave blogvoices of mine belong to chicks. Hmm.

* John Ray points out a startling piece in the Telegraph that asks, Are the fruits of multiculturalism driving native-born Hollanders out of Holland? Excerpt:

Two leading MPs known to be targets are in hiding. The political class has been chilled to the bone, while white gangs have firebombed or attacked around 20 mosques and Islamic centres. "This was our 9/11. It was the moment the Netherlands lost its naivety. We always thought that we were the country of multicultural tolerance that could do no wrong," said Prof Han Entzinger of Rotterdam University...

More people left the Netherlands in 2003 than arrived, ending a half-century cycle of surging immigration that has turned a tight-knit Nordic tribe into a multi-ethnic mosaic with three million people of foreign roots out of 16 million. Almost one million are Muslims, mostly Turks and Moroccan-Berbers. In Rotterdam, 47 per cent of the city's population is of foreign origin.

The piece quotes one laywer as saying:

There's a feeling of injustice that if you do things right, if you work hard and pay your taxes, you're punished, and those who don't are rewarded. People can come and live here illegally and get payments. How is that possible?

I'm looking forward to IJSbrand's response to this piece. Randall Parker has a comprehensive posting about what's happening in Holland here.

* Are there any 2Blowhards visitors who haven't run into the Japanese erotic visual arts tradition known as shunga? Woodcut depictions of lovemaking, basically. And much of it is great stuff: elegant and funky, esthetic yet earthy, abstract yet representational. Sexy as all getout, too, at least if your tastes resemble mine, not that there's any reason they should. Shunga are prints from the Ukiyo-e era, and are famous for two contrasting things: for their discretion, and for the way the characters' genitals are portrayed as sea-creature-like monsters. Elegant patterns of gowns, walls, tatami mats, and necks are forever being rent by these immense, coupling, sci-fi crotches -- yeah, baby! I've run into a few theories about how to explain this, but I like my own explanation best: shunga prints provide visual representations of the way these body parts feel during sex. Or, as a friend of mine likes to say, during "sex done right," anyway.

* The Communicatrix went through an intense online-dating period, and has come out of it with some funny words of advice.



posted by Michael at January 5, 2005


Congrats on Lynn Sislo's award (actually it was "team blog" not "group blog" which is even funnier). Although I think it might be really cool to win the Smartasserie award!

Posted by: annette on January 5, 2005 2:44 PM

“… the cosmopolitan/boho, poetically sexy and rhapsodic Searchblog …”

Yo, the Michael Blowhard Award - I'm honored. My shrink will certainly hear about that tomorrow. For now, however, I gotta go have some poetic sex. ‘Scuse me …

Posted by: Searchie on January 5, 2005 3:10 PM

Thanks! I always love getting a Blowhards-lanche. (A bit smaller than an Insta-lanche but more meaningful.)

Posted by: Lynn S on January 5, 2005 3:38 PM

"Randall Parker has a comprehensive posting about what's happening in Holland here"

Nothing gets past your readers, Michael. The link went missing...


Posted by: DaveVH on January 5, 2005 3:48 PM

Annette -- I'd rather win a Smartasserie than an Oscar!

Searchie -- Or you could always practice the rhapsodizing, I suppose.

Lynn -- A Blowhards-lanche is smaller than an Insta-lanche? I'm ... well, unsurprised, I guess. Still: dang.

Dave -- Thanks for pointing that out. It should be working now.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 5, 2005 4:18 PM

Oh my. There's a lot of rubbish in that article. My first reaction [it's bedtime here] has to be on that quote:

More people left the Netherlands in 2003 than arrived, ending a half-century cycle of surging immigration that has turned a tight-knit Nordic tribe into a multi-ethnic mosaic with three million people of foreign roots out of 16 million.

The problem with this statement is that the statistics about emigration do not give the reasons for people leaving, nor their ages. Meanwhile, we too have a huge babyboom generation that is retiring early, with many people who are moving to the better weather in Spain or the south of France permanently. I wouldn't call them anything but tax refugees.

In fact, the Dutch goverment still regards the Netherlands as an emigration country, rather than an immigration country. Which explains some of the current bad policies; like treating immigrants and refugees in the same awful way.

The phrase "tight-knit Nordic tribe", is nonsensical. The Netherlands always has had a Catholic south and a Calvinistic North. And until the 1970s society was strictly divided in several pillars, according to religion or political views. If your parents happened to be Catholics, you went to Catholic schools, bought at Catholic shops, played soccer at a Catholic football club, read a Catholic newspaper and listened to the Catholic public radio broadcaster.

There was never a lot of contact between the people in those pillars, except at the top, among their politicians.

What we are currently experiencing in the Netherlands is also a result of political compromises made as early as in the 19th century. Like, when Protestants and Catholics were given the right to create their own schools next to the state sponsored public schools, and also got state sponsoring to do so. The same amount as public schools in fact.

From the moment the immigrants from countries around the Mediterranean arrived in large enough numbers they have been treated like another pillar in our society. That is, spoiled rotten in one way - through our gracious social security system for instance - but totally isolated in other ways.

Anyone with half a brain could already see in the early 1980's immigrant getthos were forming in the major cities. But, it was not political correct then to address that as a problem.

That's part of what is happening right now over here; a culmination of problems that were never rightly addressed. With politicians suddenly getting more extreme, like the two MP's in hiding Wilders and Hirsi Ali; and a small group of immigrant children, mostly creating their own version of Islam via the internet, that suddenly become terrorists.

And if the Netherlands ever had an innocence, it was already lost in the Second World War, when Dutch civlil servants and Dutch policemen and Dutch train drivers aided the Germans in expelling our Jews. The percentage of Dutch Jews killed is even higher than that of a known antisemitic country like Poland.

Posted by: ijsbrand on January 5, 2005 7:07 PM

Oooohhhh, that Cluster Ballooning actually looks like a lot of fun, and I'm deathly afraid of heights and don't generally care for flying!

But there are so many balloons, it just feels much safer to me than, say, a hot air balloon, where a single failure and you could be dead.

Posted by: David Mercer on January 6, 2005 5:30 AM

Excuse my rant; I must have been very tired yesterday evening.

But, that in a climate mostly created by a media hype about Islamists' threats and the insecurity it brings more people might talk about emigration than before, is no news really. Talk is cheap though.

And, the real emigration has already been made, though that was the one from the major Dutch cities. Where Dutch middle class families, could neither buy nor rent affordable housing, and moved out to the countryside. To leave those cities to the well off, and the people depending on renting something in the housing projects. Because, if you rent a house in say Amsterdam and want a bigger one, because you want to have children, you end up on a twelve-year waiting list. Houses in the projects are given to people with a higher rated priority, say because they're immigrants and simply must get a place to live. Therefore, immigrants could move in fairly easily, and many native Dutch began to feel neglected by their governments, because they felt they didn’t have the privileges the newcomers had.

When Pim Fortuyn strongly critized the taboo among politicians to not address these problems, many native Dutch from the major cities began to see him as the spokesman for their hidden frustrations, and he could rise to glory.

Fortuyn's murder did put some topics on political agenda, but the problems are still not addressed at the right level. The only thing the present coalition cabinet has come up with, is to make it much more difficult for foreigner to come and live in the Netherlands.

And, if your immigration level drops severely, small wonder your emigration level may rise above it.

Immigration is a complex problem, of course. But, the real problem is our government does not seem to grasp it is not addressing thing right because of political correctness and other seemingly fixed policies.

Just to stay on the housing: houses are extremely expensive over here. Buying one on a single income has become virtually impossible. Houses are so expensive, because mortgages are so easy to get. And mortgages are easy to get because there is a generous tax deduction for mortgage payers, economists of the OECD have severely critized.

Still, to change something in this tax deduction system would mean political suicide. So, everything remains the same. The land to build new houses on stays too expensive, which means new social housing projects are hardly build, etcetera, etcetera.

Posted by: ijsbrand on January 6, 2005 9:50 AM

Houses are so expensive because mortgages are so easy to get
I'm admittedly economical ignorant, but I always thought if houses are so expensive than it's probably due to the lack of houses? You know, supply and demand thingy?

May be problem with the government wrong-adressing the housing issue is not so much with political correctness but with zoning/construction barriers to developers, like we have in New York?

Just saying.

Posted by: Tatyana on January 6, 2005 5:53 PM

Sorry, wrong parenthesis. It should read
Houses are so expensive because mortgages are so easy to get - and so on

Posted by: Tatyana on January 6, 2005 5:55 PM

Well, there is a shortage of houses, because if mortgages are easy to get, then lots of people can get them, which means more people buying houses--or wanting to.

It IS a supply and demandy thing.

Posted by: annette on January 6, 2005 10:36 PM


So happens there'll be even more, newer, and better Peter Lovesey next month.

Posted by: Will Duquette on January 7, 2005 1:43 AM

IJSbrand -- Thanks again for input and reactions. I somtetimes feel like we've got our very own Dutch correspondent. Fascinating in any case, how things are proceeding over your way. I revisted your own blog and found that you've begun putting up some postings in English. Have you been doing that for long? I hope I haven't missed too many.

Mercer -- I love the way flying looks too, but like you get very nervous in the air. I once rented a glider and glider pilot to fly me around for 25 minutes. Gorgeous day, gorgeous scenery, interesting experience being aloft in a craft with no motor ... And I was rigid with fear the entire time. Got out of the thing at the end drenched in sweat. I wonder how hysterical I'd be after an hour of cluster-ballooning. Yikes.

Will -- Great news, thanks, looking forward to a Will review of the book.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 7, 2005 11:10 AM

Oh, sorry, Annette, only so your comment just now.

True, mortgage market as every other one, operates on same old principle - still, I'm construction-biased. I think it's much easier to get a mortgage than to build a house.
So even if government (who, in typically European fashion, our Dutch correspondent seems to think is the answer to all problems) was to make executive decision and directed the evil bankers to raise the mortgage rate - houses are still be expensive if the barriers to build would be in place.
Again, I'm sure my bias shows.

OT: Annette, I wonder if you got your chair (and which one)?

Posted by: Tatyana on January 7, 2005 5:51 PM

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