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. Guest Posting -- Leon Krier
  2. Video Elsewhere
  3. Brain Dead
  4. Prince Charles on Architecture
  5. Cargo

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

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Guest Posting -- Leon Krier
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- About a week ago, we ran a Guest Posting by Laurence Aurbach about the great New Classicist architect and thinker Leon Krier. Not for the first time, Krier had been called a Nazi sympathizer by a self-righteous Modernist. Today we run a Guest Posting by Leon Krier himself. Thanks are again due to Laurence Aurbach, who has been in touch with Krier, and who has obtained permission for us to run a brief statement. A bit of background: Classical architecture -- the basic language of much Western building and town-making for a couple of thousand years -- has been reviled by many Modernists since the Second World War as complicit in Naziism. The thinking is that what a couple of thousand years of Western Civ led to were the horrors of WWII. Thus, everything associated with those couple of thousand years of Western Civ, including its architecture, needed to be thrown out. We needed to begin again from a blank slate. (Hence, in part anyway, the blankness of much Modernist architecture.) Classical architecture, from this point of view, was at the very least an enabler of Naziism, if not a straightforward expression of it. It sounds absurd, but this is how it was (and, by some, still is) seen: the good Modernist demonstrates his opposition to Naziism by thwarting Classical architecture. Sigh: this is the kind of thing that passes in the arts worlds for deep political thinking ... Much of Leon Krier's life has been devoted to rehabilitating Western Classical architecture as a living tradition and practice. Beautiful and humane buildings, neighborhoods, and towns ... Doesn't it make infinitely more sense to understand them as among the flowers of Western civ -- and to understand Naziism as an outbreak of barbarism, not civilization? Civilization is what's to be cherished; Classical architecture and Classical (and traditional) towns represent some of what's best in civilization. Besides, look at the havoc Modernists have inflicted on our cities, towns, and homes. Which is the truly destructive force: Classicism or Modernism? To rehabilitate Classicism, Krier and Maurice Culot wrote a book investigating the notorious Nazi architect Albert Speer, who designed many overblown Classical fantasias, and even built some. This was a courageous move on Krier and Culot's part, because Speer is the man Modernists love to point at: See! A Nazi! Who loved Classicism! See! Krier and Culot's book was clearly intended to pry apart the association between Classical building and Naziism. After all, the Nazis built in other styles too, and totalitarian regimes haven't exactly been shy about using Modernism. Given these facts, why pick on Classicism? Can a bad person choose a good style to work in? Answer: of course, it happens all the time, and it means nothing whatsoever about whether that style itself is good or bad, let alone whether it's being well or foolishly used. But aggressive and antagonistic idiots (who often don't seem to have looked at the book) like to believe... posted by Michael at April 2, 2005 | perma-link | (22) comments

Friday, April 1, 2005

Video Elsewhere
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It saddens this longtime film buff to say it, but I'm having a better time these days browsing video clips on the Web than I am watching most new movies. * An octopus walks on two legs. (Link thanks to Attu.) * Watching this Gumbyish break dancer made me feel like someone had slipped something funny into my drinking water. Perhaps human beings are merging with computer animation -- every person his own Pixar movie, or something like that. * As Snacknuts wrote in a comment on a recent posting, art in the digital age is all about the database. I found the break-dancer video above at this site -- essentially a database of clips, photos, jokes, etc. You'll find no shortage of car crashes, Webcam girls, skydiving disasters, TV embarassments, chickfights, skateboarder wipeouts, and teen girls stripping and/or kissing. (In the world of webclip-watchers, Hannah seems to be becoming a bit of a star -- for very good reason, IMHO.) Do today's teens experience a videoclip like this one with the same sense of ownership and excitement that previous generations felt watching "Rebel Without a Cause" or "Easy Rider"? There are many other sites like it: here, here, and here, for instance. Has anyone come up with a catchy name yet for this genre of website? And who runs these places anyway? Ambitious, clever fratboys? * Here's a serious, helpful version of the heap-o'-goodies-style website. At it, you can watch videos of car crashes. In fact, you can find the car you drive, and see how it (and you) will fare in a crash. * Here's a brilliantly straightfaced short satire of life at an ad agency. * And thanks to the Fredosphere for pointing out this Onion-worthy video parody of a Ken Burns documentary. Be forwarned: it's in very dicey taste. Which doesn't stop it from being hilarious, of course. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 1, 2005 | perma-link | (8) comments

Brain Dead
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards: I’ve been seeing what has been—for me—quite a few films lately. While my days of epic movie-going (which included sitting through Godfathers I and II back-to-back in a single evening) are decades in the past, I still occasionally play hooky from work by picking up a film. I did so the other day, hoping to have a few laughs. And I did…very few laughs. Standing at the ticket counter, I chose “Miss Congeniality 2” for reasons that seem rather unclear as I write this, although I think it was because several people had told me that the original was “kind of funny.” Now I’m hoping the studio makes twelve or thirteen more sequels so I can boycott them. I went in looking to change my mood, and I did; I staggered out of the theater 15 or 20 minutes before the closing credits (I would have left earlier but I fell asleep) feeling like I’d had a full frontal lobotomy performed without anesthetic. Then a few nights later I went to see an Israeli film, “Walk on Water.” While not a perfect piece of cinema—it suffers from a comparatively weak ending—it was obviously made by people who had a few thoughts in their head. (The film manages to sketch out analogies between the world-views of several embattled minorities, including Israelis, Palestinians and gays). The contrast in intellectual tone between the two films was, to coin a phrase, like night and day. Then in Sunday’s L.A. Times I saw an interesting piece by Edward Jay Epstein that may explain at least part of the utter vacuity of “Miss Congeniality 2” and the average American film. Mr. Epstein points out that movies, per se, have ceased being the main line of business for American movie studios: The numbers tell the story. Ticket sales from theaters provided all the studios’ revenues in 1948; in 2003, they accounted for less than 20% of the take. Instead, home entertainment provided 82% of the 2003 revenues. Further, print and advertising costs eat away at most if not all the theatrical revenues, but the studios retain most of the money they garner from home entertainment. All of this has transformed the way Hollywood operates. Theatrical releases, despite the blinding allure they hold for the media, now serve essentially as launching platforms for videos, DVDs, network TV, pay TV, games and a host of other products. I seem to remember a homily that claims your heart is likely to be found where your treasure is. I guess the same goes for your brains. Cheers, Friedrich P.S. If anyone thinks I am worshipping at the shrine of serious world-cinema here, I'm not; I really prefer light entertainment, a commodity that is commonly made in crassly commercial America. But successful light entertainment usually needs more smarts than serious world-cinema, not less.... posted by Friedrich at April 1, 2005 | perma-link | (9) comments

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Prince Charles on Architecture
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Back in 1989, when Prince Charles published "A Vision of Britain," I was prepared to find it naive, laughable, or worse. What could the Prince possibly have to contribute to the conversation about architecture and urbanism? Instead I found his book articulate, full of good sense, and quite moving. John Massengale reprints one of the Prince's recent speeches. Here's an excerpt: As important as creativity is in all aspects of life, I simply do not see why it should be used as an excuse to sacrifice literally thousands of years of continuity with tradition in the process. In this regard, the desperate obsession with being “modern” seems rather old-fashioned – after all Modernism is only a style. But why can’t we be obsessed with being, above all, “human?” That way, I believe, lies true modernity since the process of life itself involves a subtle balance between the past and the future. Most of us need roots and a sense of belonging in order to feel some degree of security and meaning. Our built environment best enshrines that psychological need in a physical form. And in a world dependent on technology, surely we need a contrast in our surroundings that reflects our innate humanity and not just a continuity of the DVD player or the lap-top computer? There is plenty of scope, then, for the creative mind in applying the principles of traditional urbanism to contemporary human needs. Creativity is important, but it is not a trump card. Nothing wrong with this man's taste or brains, as far as I can tell. I notice that an Amazon Reader-Reviewer who dislikes the book can't resist comparing the Prince to Hitler. Sigh: how would the leftie-modernist team score any points at all if they didn't have Hitler to compare their opponents to? Visitors curious to eyeball the structures new-traditionalist architects are designing and building should enjoy this A Vision of Europe page. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 31, 2005 | perma-link | (12) comments

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- On the left, a cover from The Whole Earth Catalog, the ultimate expression of '60s hippie idealism. On the right, the cover of a recent issue of Cargo, a men's shopping magazine that might well be the ultimate expression of 21st-century-style consumerism. Conceived of by Stewart Brand and kicked off in 1968, The Whole Earth Catalog wore the tagline "Access to Tools." It was issued semi-annually as a thick, oversize catalog, and embodied a granola-eco-communal/early-cyber-hippie ethos. The WEC was an exhilarating (if often annoying) publication. The late '60s and early '70s were a great period for magazines generally, what with Evergreen, The New Yorker, Harper's, and Esquire roaring away at peak capacity. The New Journalism was fresh, and cultural critics sang like they never had before; writers like Mailer, Wolfe, Kael, Sontag were doing much of their best work in mainstream venues. Even some professors -- gasp -- were doing their best to communicate straightforwardly with the masses. It may be hard to believe, but this was an era when you might buy a magazine not because it was selling information about a hot new gadget or photographs of a sizzling starlet, but because it featured a new essay by a great writer. Though The Whole Earth Catalog was one of these great '60s-'70 publishing projects, it came out of the San Francisco Bay Area and it had a very different approach and tone than the East Coast magazines did. The WEC didn't traffic in big intellectual egos trying to make sum-it-all-up, impose-a-point-of-view statements. In its pages you found a team of people. Bylines were present, but they were small, and the cast list was large. Everyone's entitled to have an opinion -- that was the message. Don't force anything on anybody, man; just make interesting "stuff" available. To my knowledge, the WEC was the first publication to use "stuff" in that now-familiar sense. Encountering the WEC for the first time could be a startling experience. A catalog ... But not of products ... Well, OK, some products, if oddball ones ... But mainly what was being discussed were ideas and resources. You weren't submitting to gale-force brilliance, as you sometimes were when you read Mailer or Kael. Instead, you were joining a community of equals. Nothing ran too long. No voice was too forceful. For the hours you spent with The Whole Earth Catalog, you were a member of a commune that functioned. The fact is that, looking through the WEC, you never felt any obligation to read anything, let alone read anything all the way through. Your main activity while in WEC-land wasn't reading; it was flipping-around. You weren't being driven through or steered along; it was up to you to put your own experience of the publication together for yourself. That was another of the WEC's implicit messages: Your life is your own to live. (To get something out of the way: of course the WEC wasn't a magazine. At the... posted by Michael at March 30, 2005 | perma-link | (18) comments