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. Hobbies
  2. Elsewhere
  3. Random Facts
  4. Personal Experience

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

Friday, March 11, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- To what extent is art a hobby for you? I've been puzzling over the general vocation/avocation question for a few weeks. And I have some musings, if no useful answers. Self-absorption alert: I'm going to be indulging in an epic amount of introspection and remembering. Don't say you weren't warned. I've always wanted to have a hobby. Or maybe it's that I've always felt I should have a hobby -- hard to separate out these things sometimes. In any case, this conviction probably comes from my background; my family was deeply concerned about the "hobby" question. (By the way, as far as my family and neighbors were concerned, hobbies were something men had. A woman might do a bit of knitting or magazine-reading at the end of the day. She might even enjoy bridge-club get-togethers. But these were weren't hobbies; they were ways of unwinding and socializing. A hobby was something different -- and it was something a man had. Was this belief about hobbies being a man-thing true for you guys too?) Women were all about Getting On With Life, where guys were impractical and would never really grow up. Boyishly in need of mischief and fun, they had to be given the chance to misbehave in harmless ways if they were to be roped back into behaving like the responsible men their families needed them to be. So there was no question that a real man needed a real hobby. The guy next door hunted and fished, and the man across the street spent weekends racing his motorboat around a Finger Lake. But my dad didn't have a hobby? Why not? This was a source of great concern for the family; we felt that some dim something that was in our way would dissolve if only Dad could find himself a hobby. The job certainly didn't do it for him -- but then, middle-class people don't tend to think that jobs are meant to "do it" for you. Dad worked as a traveling salesman. (By the way: boy, did he not resemble anything Arthur "Death of a Salesman" Miller ever came up with. On good days, my dad radiated the kind of silly-charlatan energy that Robert Preston did in the movie of "The Music Man." On bad days, my dad was consumed by the kind of flailing bitterness that the Richard Nixon character wrestles with in "Secret Honor". At no time was there anything Willy Loman-ish about my dad. I dislike "Death of a Salesman" for many reasons, but the main one is that Miller seems to me to fluff the American salesman-type entirely.) I never met anyone who didn't like my dad. Dad was convivial and roguish (in the most non-threatening way imaginable), and he had the ability to talk to anyone about anything for hours -- he was a virtuoso of banter and small talk. Being a salesman was well-suited to his talents. God knows that he had zero entrepreneurial... posted by Michael at March 11, 2005 | perma-link | (39) comments

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Thanks to Chris, who in a comment on the previous posting left a link to a map showing single-gal/single-guy ratios by county. Ladies? Where you want to be is DeKalb County, Missouri -- or maybe northwestern Nevada. * Cameraphones are getting serious. I find the merge-y/blendy way gizmos are evolving quite disconcerting. For example, here's a voice-recorder/camera -- will anyone buy such a thing? Me, I like to keep my gizmos separate. Of course, I'm an old fart with a 20th-century mind. * While Italians are "ethnics" and Filipinos are another kind of "ethnics," we blando, pinky-vanilla, northern-Euro mutts are often seen as not-ethnics. We're the people without a cultural/racial identity. Which means, in this identify-with-your-group era, that the time has come to stake our own claim. Here's a quick intro to one of the pinky-vanilla world's least well-known major groups, the Scots-Irish. Think Andrew Carnegie; think moonshine and country music; think NASCAR. Yessiree, them's my people. Or some of them, anyway. * Cowtown Pattie seems to have an even bigger thing for turning up amusing video clips than I do. She's found a few gems from the Steve Harvey Show. * Alex Singleton points out that government troops and rebels in the Congo have raped tens of thousands of women and girls since 1998. I've been getting a lot out of following the Globalization Institute's blog, where Alex posted his piece. * America's black men aren't doing very well, according to Reuters. Some sad figures: they live 7 fewer years than men of other ethnic groups; they contract HIV at a much higher rate; there are now twice as many black women in college as black men; and "black men in their early 30s [are] nearly twice as likely to have prison records than bachelors degrees." Hard to see how this makes much of a case for the racial policies our country has pursued for the last few decades. * Giants do too still roam the earth: the brilliant Donald Westlake, who never finished college, has published 90ish books. There hasn't been a dud in the fifteen I've read, and I'm looking forward to reading many more. I'd be happy to argue that Westlake's among the half-a-dozen best American fiction-book-writers alive. But that would plunge us into lit-writing-vs-genre-writing waters, and I'm in no mood for that. * Digital technology has set off skirmishes a-plenty about what, if anything, needs to be done about intellectual-property rights. I have no good ideas myself, do you? On the one hand, corporate landgrabs offend me, the digital universe offers hard-to-resist opportunities for sharing knowledge, and how not to root for the little guy? On the other hand: private property, the hard work of the creator, etc. I'll be scratching my chin over this one for a long time to come. Thanks to visitor Alice Dong for alerting me to a good article by Dan Hunter in Legal Affairs about Lawrence Lessig, an attorney who has become... posted by Michael at March 9, 2005 | perma-link | (17) comments

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Random Facts
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO estimates that, worldwide, more than 120 million people suffer from depression. * It hasn't always been the case that American conservatives snub ecological concerns. (After all: conservative/conservation ...) Teddy Roosevelt expanded the national parks system, Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed the Clean Air Act, and even Barry Goldwater was a member of the Sierra Club. * Americans continue to feel ever-more stressed. In 2001, 5.5 million more Americans were taking prescription drugs for mental-health problems than in 1996, and one in five Americans now suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder. Are we more rattled than people of other countries, or are we just more open about our troubles? As one doctor notes, "very few people in China say they are depressed. They just kill themselves." * There are now 93 men to every 100 women among single New Yorkers aged 20-44. In nearly every big American city, there are more single women than single men. * The Museum of Modern Art's recently-completed renovation cost $858 million. * A higher proportion of New York City's inhabitants -- 36% -- are foreign-born than at any time since the 1920s. Immigrants now make up 43% of the city's labor force; more than half the people who work in restaurants and hotels are foreign-born. Los Angeles and Miami both have an even larger proportion of immigrants. [I culled all the above facts from The Economist.] * Hard though it may be to believe, American movies continue to become ever-more special-effects-heavy. The Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson writes, "Of the 20 top-grossing movies of all time, three are totally animated, and the others include so many [special] effects you can't tell the real from the fake. Over the past decade ... the typical wide-release feature film has seen its effects budget skyrocket from an average of $5 million to $40 million. 'Five years ago, we shot one or two movies a year with a significant number of effects,' says Hutch Parker, president of production at 20th Century Fox Film. 'Today, 50 percent have significant effects. They're a character in the movie'." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 8, 2005 | perma-link | (20) comments

Monday, March 7, 2005

Personal Experience
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Reading Donald's art-memoirs has reminded me that -- 90 percent of the time, anyway -- people's actual experience of culture and the arts interests me far more than discussions of Larger and Theoretical questions do. I suppose I could inflate this observation into something that is itself Larger and Theoretical, but for the moment I'm going to resist the temptation and simply assert that I'd almost always rather swap reflections, reactions, musings and than take part in debates about abstract issues. I simply get a lot more out of it. Does this hold generally true for you too? OK, I can't resist. I'm going to indulge in some inflation anyway: perhaps the arts life is more a matter of particular experiences than it is of abstract principles. And perhaps the arts-generalities that are the most useful are the ones that arise (often quite hazily) out of our particular experiences. Hey, now that I look at these statements, I think there may actually be something to them. But the time has come to run for cover before the rotten vegetables start flying. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 7, 2005 | perma-link | (5) comments