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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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, June 4, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Architecture student and Christopher Alexander buff Rob Asumendi runs the first-class (and C. Alexander-inspired) site Simply Building, where people involved in building projects swap tips and experiences. Now Rob has started a weblog, and he's sharing thoughts and observations of a more general nature. Snazzy stuff. Check out this posting about what it means for buildings to be "of their time," and this one about stores and shopping, written partly in response to our recent gabfest about Costco. Rob has the kind of mind that really takes in what it sees. I like Rob's bravado too. * Jahsonic's spectacular site is part blog, part one-man Wiki, and all about the place where trash, the avant-garde, dreams, and sex come together and do their best to make merry. * Stephen (AKA Shouting Thomas) thinks that blues music is a colorblind field. Sample passage: The notion that blues is entirely black music accounts for the depressed economic state of the blues. Why do liberals enforce this idea of segregation on the blues? The result is that the kids stay away, for two reasons. First, they hate the idea of segregation. Second, the liberal outlook on the blues makes the music seem as if itís a preachy lesson delivered by a Sunday school teacher. Amen to that, brother Stephen. I'm a mere blues newbie, but one of the most pleasant surprises I've had exploring the bluesworld has been what a rowdy, friendly, and racially-open place it is. * Fans of webcast radio and hipster pop may enjoy the French station NovaPlanet. * DarkoV thinks artfans should visit Philadelphia's great (if quirky) Barnes Museum, and should do so pronto. * Jon Hastings writes blogpostings about popular culture that are as good as anything you'll find in the professional press. He's also considerably more open-minded and resourceful than the pros are. Jon can be a sporadic blogger, but he's been busy recently. Here he writes about NASCAR hottie Danica Patrick. Here he wonders why Hollywood is so clueless when it comes to adapting Philip K. Dick's philosophical sci-fi stories. * Given the general taste many people have for Classical buildings and traditional neighborhoods, you might think that many of the U.S.'s architecture school would offer educations based in Classical approaches to architecture and urbanism. Why not serve demonstrated preferences, after all? But you'd be ... oh, so very wrong. In fact, a total of precisely one architecture school offers such an education: Notre Dame. John Massengale just finished a semester teaching at Notre Dame's architecture school and has written a posting about what the experience was like. * John supplies links to a couple of other good pieces: A long Grist interview with James Kunstler about oil and America's future; and a short Gutter posting about what an expensive disaster Peter Eisenman's Wexner Center for the Arts -- a Deconstructionist landmark --has proven to be. * If you drink California wines, you're subsidizing illegal immigration. So why doesn't... posted by Michael at June 4, 2005 | perma-link | (9) comments

Friday, June 3, 2005

Moviegoing: "Kill Bill 2"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I just caught "Kill Bill, Volume 2," which struck me as tiresome beyond the call of duty. After snoring through "Ocean's 12," I feel like I've become the official Sequel Sourpuss. Although I shrank from the first "Kill Bill," at least it had a lot of showy (if stiff-jointed) action, and I loved watching a wonderful-looking young Japanese actress, Chiaki Kuriyama. But Volume 2? Overbearingly long-winded and gruelingly overdeliberate. The idea seems to have been to set aside most of the action and go into character and story-mythology instead. Given how wooden the film's characters are and how derivative the film's mythology is, this was a very dumb decision. Tarantino's Mr. Self-Important Coolguy tone encases the action in block after block of slow-moving ice. Tarantino grants every cock of an eyebrow its own tracking shot, and gives himself a good half hour to establish each and every plot point. He seems to have taken for his basic template those crime movie scenes where the villain has the hero in his claws, and instead of killing him, pauses, trims the end of a cigar, and tells an endlessly circuitous parable. The awful monologues in "Kill Bill 2" never stop coming. I can't think of another filmmaker who watches himself writing and directing with such intense self-admiration as Tarantino does. The movie-geek hijinks and the operatic '60s-'70s pop-culture echo-chamber thing that Tarantino seems devoted to creating seem self-conscious and juvenile to the max. I suppose I might find Tarantino's hyperbolic geek-diva act amusing. I'm not entirely sure why I don't. Maybe it's simply because I so seldom find his work convincing, let alone dazzling. While he's obviously talented, I simply don't find Tarantino all that talented. Even in brash, youthful-outrage terms, he seems to me a long way from playing in the same league as such real prodigies as Takashi Miike and Ryuhei Kitamura. By the way, am I the only person who thinks Michael Madsen may be the worst actor in all god's universe? He has exactly six acting moves, and every one of them is fraudulent. In "Kill Bill 2," Michael Madsen is at the center of a lot of scenes. I beefed about "Kill Bill 1" here. I confess that The Wife enjoyed both "Kill Bill"s. She tells me that -- although she thinks Tarantino should never, ever write original scripts -- she does enjoy watching the way he gets away with shit. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 3, 2005 | perma-link | (25) comments

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Question for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I don't often visit big-box stores. When I do, though, I always wind up wondering: Do fat people tend to shop at CostCo? Or does shopping at CostCo tend to make people fat? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 2, 2005 | perma-link | (45) comments

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

"Ocean's 12"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Until tonight, I'd been under the impresssion that the least engaging don't-take-me-seriously buddy-heist movie of all times was the Clooney/Pitt/Soderburgh remake of "Ocean's 11." Tonight I watched "Ocean's 11"'s sequel, the Clooney/Pitt/Soderburgh "Ocean's 12," and learned better. Well, to be honest, I watched about 20 minutes of "Ocean's 12." Then I fell asleep. As far as I could tell, the movie consisted entirely of two kinds of passages: one a barely-staged, badly-acted -- in a really annoying, "we know we're being bad," nonwitty mock-witty way -- expositional passage; the other a barely-staged, badly-acted action montage set to hysterically-pitched bongo-electronica. Every time I woke up for a few seconds, the movie had grown even more contrived and antic, and even more pleased with itself. I hope all involved enjoyed cashing their over-large paychecks. George Clooney bobbed and weaved his head in Clooney-esque, teeny-tiny ways; reaching for something fresh, he also made the choice to speak in Clooney-esque, roguishly sexy, tolerant/impatient vocal patterns. Brad Pitt phoned in a Vanity Fair version of "Brad Pitt," volunteering that racy Brad Pitt thing of wearing tacky '70s clothes, flaunting thick Method lips, rubbing too-short hair, talking while eating, and wearing godawful sunglasses. Second and third-stringers vented and bickered, hoping to contribute to the hoped-for tone of "spontaneous" and "offhand." BTW, if God were kind He'd spare me any more scenes of characters venting in wannabe-amusing ways. If there's anything I'm temperamentally prone to find reprehensible, it's someone who vents, then looks shit-eatingly pleased with himself. Venting alone is hard enough to put up with. Zany camera angles and a lot of image-processing for the sake of image-processing contribute to a most unwelcome Maxim-does-George-Peppard atmosphere. What a chaotic wallow in self-congratulatory clever-cleverness and charmless charm. But I understand the picture was a hit. Evidently it's exactly the kind of movie some people want to watch. I wonder if they take it as glamorously playful trash. Can't they see how truly weird the film's offkey, thrown-together quality is? But then I've been pretty much immune to the appeal of all of Steven Soderburgh's movies. I find him one of film history's most tone-deaf, least-engaging directors. And I find his movies to be very peculiar artifacts: Shootshootshoot. Cutcutcut. Deaddeaddead. Soderburgh has whatever the film director's equivalent of echolalia is. I'm grateful for any insights anyone might have into the film's appeal. My guess is that "Ocean 12"'s fans experience Soderburgh's tin-eared, autistic-geek obviousness as a fresh kind of semi-put-on, cool drollness. But I could certainly be wrong about this. Please: no "it's just a movie" lectures. I've got absolutely nothing against meaningless fun, the occasional wallow in glossy media trash, or the don't-take-me-seriously buddy-heist genre. But "Ocean's 12"? Damn near beyond forgiveness. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 1, 2005 | perma-link | (21) comments