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.

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Friday, May 6, 2005


Elsewhere
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Fans of the American south won't want to miss Jubiliation Rising, a new blog about southern culture. Randy Sparkman is off and running with lovely postings about Truman Capote, Thomas Jefferson, and John Brown. * Thanks to uber-linker/uber-researcher Dave Lull for pointing out this Guardian article about the French/Swiss film director Jean-Luc Godard. (I blogged about Godard here.) The former enfant terrible -- who must be very tired of being referred to as "the former enfant terrible" -- is now 74, and he's as perverse and baffling as ever. But he seems to be in a fairly jolly mood too: When he arrived, the customs officer asked him: "Mr Godard: what are you coming here for? Business or pleasure?" Godard indicated the former. The officer asked what business he was in. "Unsuccessful movies," Godard replied. * Whiskyprajer ventures into dangerous but stimulating territory: art and religion. I'd like to go there myself sometimes, but am 'way too chicken. * GNXP's Thrasymachus notices a report that it's no longer just poor people who are turning into porkers. Affluent Americans are now getting fatter too. * Alex Tabarrok doesn't think we should close the FDA. But he does think the agency should go about its business in a whole different way. * I'm old enough to remember a landslide of reports about the miracles of genetic engineering. Everything, we were told, was going to change, and sometime very, very soon. Were scientists (and their publicists in the press) simply wrong? Steve Sailer brings some perspective to the whole genetic-engineering thang. Keywords, at least as far as I'm concerned: "side effects" and "lawsuits." * Evan Kirchhoff visits Paris and records his impressions. Evan's one of the funniest writers I've run across in the blog-overse. * Here's a hard-to-resist little Webjoke. Not to fear: it isn't booby-trapped. Well, OK: yes it is. But in a good way. * Art-history buff Alexandra has been doing some quilting. Quilting: yet another art form I'd love to know a little something about ... * On April 14, Nancy Hopkins-- the MIT biologist who set off the Lawrence Summers storm -- spoke on a panel in NYCity. Nicolas Stix attended, and writes a kick-ass report. * The New Criterion's James Panero reveals this week's most shocking fact: Roger Kimball owns an iPod. * Talk about vulgar! Talk about dragging the level of the discussion into the gutter! Talk about making me laugh a whole lot! Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 6, 2005 | perma-link | (4) comments




"Louie Louie"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Ah, 1964-65 ... One of the things I remember best about the era was trying to figure out the lyrics of The Kingsmen's song, "Louie Louie." My friends and I knew -- along with much of the rest of the country, we were completely convinced -- that these lyrics were dirty. But what were they, exactly? Because the Kingsmen's vocalist used a slurry, drunken-sounding voice, the lyrics were maddeningly hard to make out. So we'd listen to the song yet another time. Thanks to DazeReader (who's back after a break) for pointing out this wonderful your-tax-dollars-at-work item: FBI agents also spent 1964-65 trying to puzzle out the lyrics of "Louie Louie." Interesting to learn that the FBI was never entirely sure what the lyrics were either. Here's one of FBI's best guesses: Tonight at ten I'll lay her again We'll fuck your girl and by the way And ... on the chair I'll lay her there I felt my bone ... ah ... in her hair "Your girl"? "Your girl"? I never guessed that one. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 6, 2005 | perma-link | (14) comments




Fact Attack
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The Eurotunnel -- or "Chunnel" -- linking England and France lost $1 billion in 2004. In 2003, the Chunnel lost $2 billion. Unless debt-rescheduling steps are taken, the Chunnel will run out of money in 2007 -- but the latest talks on Eurotunnel's debt were unproductive. * In 2005, ad revenues taken in by Yahoo! and Google combined will pretty much equal the prime-time ad revenues of America's big-three TV networks. Yet, while the Web now represents 15% of consumers' "media consumption" (great phrase!), firms generally allocate only 2% of their ad dollars to the internet. Many young people already spend more time online than they do watching TV. (Source: the print edition of The Economist.) * The decline in conventional newspaper-reading not only continues but is accelerating. The latest audit reveals a 1.9-percent drop in daily circulation, and a 2.5 percent decline in Sunday readership compared with a year ago. Meanwhile, in 2005 the newspaper medium is celebrating its 400th birthday. * Forbes expects revenues from their online operations to equal print revenues within two years. * Should prices be put on such "goods" as watersheds, fisheries, and forests? Some ecologists and conservationists are morally offended by the suggestion. But The Economist argues that doing so would help achieve environmental goals. * Of the many, many illegal immigrants living in the Los Angeles area, around 30,000 are convicted felons. Membership in some LA gangs is overwhelmingly made up of illegals: for example, at least 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang is illegal -- the gang collaborates with the Mexican Mafia. Lovely. Heather Macdonald reports on the insanity for City Journal. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 6, 2005 | perma-link | (5) comments





Thursday, May 5, 2005


Getting to Know Each Other
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Lots of terrific comments, thoughts, and observations have piled up on postings here recently. Since part of what's enjoyable for me about these blog-conversations is the chance to go beyond the immediate topic and explore other people's websites, I decided to list-and-link to a bunch of them. (Our bloglist in the left-hand column is always available, but I worry that people may not take as much advantage of it as they might.) So here's a list of sites run by recent visitors. I hope visitors will pick out a few that are unfamiliar and give them a try. You're likely to run into some you'll enjoy. * Tinkerty Tonk * Alan Kellogg * Fred Himebaugh * Waterfall * DarkoV * John Emerson * Scott Chaffin * Paul Worthington * Ted Mills * Joseph Clarke * GayLikeAFox * Peter * Mac Kane * David Sucher * Cowtown Pattie * ChaiTeaLatte * IJSbrand * Ralph * Rob Asumendi * Tosy and Cosh * ChicagoBoyz * James Russell (I'm sorry to see that James has abandoned blogdom. He was always a lively, smart and provocative presence. But I'm glad that he's listed a selection of his best postings; it's easy and rewarding to check out.) * SYAffolee * Shouting Thomas * Neha Bawa * Mike Hill * Garth * Yahmdallah * Bixblog * Scott Dagostino * Robert Garlitz Did I miss anyone? Blogdom is bliss. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 5, 2005 | perma-link | (18) comments





Wednesday, May 4, 2005


Crises
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Has "Peak Oil" been reached? And, if so, does that mean we've already entered the post-SUV era, and have begun a long, slow, downhill economic slide? Now seems to be the season for asking these questions. James Howard Kunstler's new book argues -- in Kunstler's likably brawling, always-provocative way -- that the answer to both is emphatically "Yes, and then some." (Rolling Stone runs an excerpt from Kunstler's book here.) Princeton geologist Kenneth Deffeyes concurs. The Economist's current cover package is on the theme of What-to-do-About-Oil? The magazine's Vijay Vaitheeswaran argues that the oil industry is facing big changes. I know nothing, of course. But that isn't going to stop me from having reactions. Half of me is very been-there/worried-about-that. The Cold War, hippies, Nixon/Carter/ Reagan/Clinton, oil shocks, disco, over-population, eco-catastrophes, tax cuts, tax hikes, hiphop, El Salvador, Watergate, bellybutton-baring fashions -- we've faced 'em all, and we've survived 'em all. We'll get through this too. But another part of me is far less blase, and thinks: Hey, someday one of these predictions of doom may turn out to be correct! So I do let myself fret some about oil. But I worry more about Avian Bird Flu. Doom-mongerers say that we may be in for the worst flu pandemic since 1918, when as many as 40-50 million people died worldwide. Perhaps the experts are getting hysterical; then again, perhaps they have good reason for their hysteria. In the words of the CBC: There are few warning signs before a pandemic strikes except a large and rapidly growing number of new and unrelated cases every day. The WHO says in the best-case scenario, two to seven million people will die in the next pandemic and tens of millions will need medical attention. Yikes. At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen has put up a short (but links-heavy) posting about avian bird flu. Tyler also contributes at a blog devoted to covering the bird flu crisis. Whenever I'm in the mood for a strong fix of hyper-anxiety, all it takes is a quick visit to the Avian Flu blog. In a recent posting, one Avian Flu blogger wonders whether the flu pandemic might not already have begun. Get me my surgical mask! Which crises and doomsday scenarios are you most prone to fret about these days? Best, Michael UPDATE: Here's a fun piece of James Kunstler-iana. Kunstler, who leaves few hornet's nests un-stirred-up, blogged about Political Correctness, and the commentsfest took on a gung-ho life of its own. John Massengale has his own strong opinions about PC. UPDATE 2: Here's the transcript of a James Kunstler speech about oil. Fun passage: Long before the oil actually depletes we will endure world-shaking political disturbances and economic disruptions. We will see globalism-in-reverse. Globalism was never an 'ism,' by the way. It was not a belief system. It was a manifestation of the 20-year-final-blowout of cheap oil. Like all economic distortions, it produced economic perversions. It allowed gigantic, predatory... posted by Michael at May 4, 2005 | perma-link | (47) comments





Tuesday, May 3, 2005


Weirdos and Culture
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Arts and Letters Daily links to a hilarious memoir by Terry Castle about her friendship with the recently-deceased intellectual legend Susan Sontag. In one passage, Castle takes a friend to Sontag's apartment to introduce her to the great lady: Half an hour later, somewhat blowsily, Sontag finally emerged from a back room. I introduced her to Blakey, and said rather nervously that I hoped we hadn't woken her up from a nap. It was as if I had accused her of never having read Proust, or of watching soap operas all day. Her face instantly darkened and she snapped at me violently. Why on earth did I think she'd been having a nap? Didn't I know she never had naps? Of course she wasn't having a nap! She would never have a nap! Never in a million years! What a stupid remark to make! How had I gotten so stupid? A nap -- for God's sake! My main response: What a weirdo! John Massengale reprints a Sharon Waxman piece about the film director David O. Russell. In one passage, Waxman describes Russell's behavior on the set of his recent film "I [Heart] Huckabees" this way: Mr. Russell is almost never in the usual director's position behind the monitor. Giddy and childlike, he rolls on the ground, dances, does push-ups and shouts at the actors with a megaphone. ''I never want it to end,'' he whispers. Mr. Russell starts the day wearing a suit, but it's slowly coming off: first the jacket, then the shirt. Also, he keeps rubbing his body up against the women and men on the set -- actors, friends, visitors. My main response: what a weirdo! At the moment, I'm currently going through Robert Greenberg's Teaching Company lecture series on Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky might have been designed by God specifically to have his life turned into a Ken Russell movie. A hypersensitive mama's boy right from the outset, Tchaikovsky grew up to become compulsively addicted to cigarettes, booze, and 14 year old boys. With age, he became ever more delusional and paranoid. He imagined slights where there were none, and he held grudges unforgivingly for decades at a stretch. At one point, Tchaikovsky convinced himself that what he needed most was to be married --- and so he went and married the first woman who'd take him. (She turned out to be crazy in her own right, as well as a nymphomaniac.) In despair over how badly the marriage was working out, Tchaikovsky became hysterical; he walked into a freezing river in an attempt to commit suicide. In fact, he didn't even catch a cold. A short while after leaving his marriage, he developed a walloping case of hemorrhoids. Convinced that he was dying, Tchaikovsky had his will drawn up. My main response: What a weirdo! The lesbian feminist Andrea Dworkin, who recently died, not only all but called all instances of heterosexual intercourse rape; she was married to a gay man,... posted by Michael at May 3, 2005 | perma-link | (90) comments