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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Donald on the Chrysler 300
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I was delighted to learn that Blowhards friend and illustration buff Donald Pittenger is a car conoisseur as well as a fan of automobile design. It's a too-often-unstated assumption here at the blog that "culture" is a broader and more-diverse thing than pictures hanging on a museum wall. (Though we like those too!) Pleasurable, beautiful, and worth-noticing cultural experiences are to be found all around us: in our buildings and our neighborhoods; in our media diets; in how we clothe and feed ourselves; in how we decorate our surroundings -- and, of course, in the cars we drive. Today we're very pleased to have Donald checking in with some observations about the snazzy new Chrysler 300. *** Driving in Controversial Style: The Chrysler 300 by Donald Pittenger Sometimes I wonder if my teachers in junior high and high school -- and, yes, even college -- knew that instead of taking notes I was sketching planes and cars in my notebooks. I like to think they didn't, but teachers as well as parents usually know a lot more than they let on. Of course it was a harmless activity: the only thing that suffered was my GPA. I've always been a car nut, at least where appearance is concerned. My parents used to tell me that I could distinguish convertibles from sedans when I was only a couple years old. I really got "into" cars in 1950 when my dad let on that he would be shopping for a brand new car to supplement our 1941 Pontiac. So I spent a couple months snipping out cars from ads and sticking them on my bedroom wall. Then I got to wondering what the 1951 Pontiacs would look like (Dad decided to stick with Pontiac); this was my first brush with the notion of future car design. 1951 Pontiac A few years later I enrolled in the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild which, after World War 2, was a competition sponsored by General Motors where youngsters designed cars and built scale models: top prizes were generous scholarships. I found that I couldn't really settle on designs, but this was moot because I lacked the tools and ability to build the required models anyway. Nevertheless, I thought it would be neat to be a professional car stylist. (I touch on how I drifted away from this career path in my March 5, 2005 Blowhards post.) Despite never having become a styling pro, I've maintained an active interest in car styling throughout my adult life. I have many of the major books on the subject and buy fancy (and expensive) Italian styling magazines when I see them. And I still doodle imaginary cars -- never real ones. A car design I couldn't have come up with The "hot" sedan for 2004-5 is the Chrysler 300. Not only is it selling well, it garnered almost every "car of the year" type award from various car buff magazines. This is in spite... posted by Michael at June 11, 2005 | perma-link | (22) comments

Less Skin?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Could it really be? (Link thanks to Graham Lester.) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 11, 2005 | perma-link | (6) comments

Fact of the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Here's a startler: 2 million Americans annually contract infections while in the hospital. 90,000 of them die. Hospital infections are the nation's sixth-leading cause of death. (Source: Patrick Kiger in AARP Bulletin -- the piece isn't online, though.) 90,000 -- that's a lot of deaths. I wonder whether, over the longterm, the medical field has done the human race more good or evil. I once spent some time with a Roy Porter history of medicine. Porter left me with the strong impression that, prior to the late 19th century, you'd have been wise to dodge doctors almost entirely. I remember a history of Christian Science whose author made a similar point. Apparently, at the time Christian Science was dreamed up, the religion made a lot of practical sense. You were likely to do much better if you followed the Christian Science lifestyle -- praying for the best, thinking positively, sleeping plenty, eating wholesomely -- than if you entrusted your well-being to the medicine of the day. I notice in the same issue of AARP Bulletin an article by Gina Kolata that should make those who took an interest in our recent gabfest about Fat and Costco smile. Sample passage: Overweight people actually have a lower risk of death than people whose weight is in the normal range. And even the moderately obese are not at much risk, the researchers found -- deaths occurred more frequently among the extremely obese and also, to the surprise of many, among the extremely thin. And here's an article describing a surprising study: Scientists suspect that exercising intensely for two minutes a day might provide as much cardio benefit as an hour of moderate sweating. Remind me: are our doctors telling us this week that eating eggs is good for us, or bad for us? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 11, 2005 | perma-link | (9) comments

Friday, June 10, 2005

DVD Sale
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Another sale on DVDs at Amazon. I've heroically resisted pressing the One-Click button, but you may not want to. I can recommend some titles. I'll spare everyone the usual verbose write-ups, supply links instead, and let Amazon's descriptions let you know whether these are movies you might enjoy. Dog Day Afternoon Deep Cover Devil's Advocate Copy Cat City Hall Local Hero Night Shift The Wild Bunch Bitter Moon Don Juan de Marco Beetlejuice Five Senses Home Fries Body Heat Wide Sargasso Sea An Affair of Love The Searchers Good (and pretty good, or at least enjoyably interesting) movies, and each one buyable for less than the price of a movie ticket. A New York City movie ticket, anyway. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 10, 2005 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Immigration, On the Spot
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A couple of reports from border states appeared as comments on a recent posting. I can't resist highlighting them. From Cowtown Pattie: As a Texas native, I can tell you that the flow of both legal and illegal Mexican immigrants is out of control. If you are interested, this FAIR link gives a insightful accounting of the actual cost of this problem. I hear all the arguments in regards to the illegal worker's tax contributions benefitting the legal residents, but the truth is, the burden is growing far heavier than the coffers are. Our own state governor and legislature have forsaken any attempt at reform or control, and have opted instead to give college tuition benefits to illegal aliens. This is a tense subject in Texas. I do not wish to look down on anyone or any race for wanting to better themselves, but a strangulation hold on the lifeguard will kill both drowning victim and his saviour. Texas culture and history is tightly entwined with her neighbors to the south, and we owe much to their influence along with that of the Germans and other European settlers. However, that being said, I do not wish to be assimilated back into Mexico. And from Kris: Here in Arizona, immigration is simply out of control. The citizens of Arizona passed some sort of referendum in the past election that was supposed to report/return illegals who received public benefits. Since the past election, only TWO illegals have been questioned, and no one knows the outcome of that questioning. In this way, the will of ordinary voting citizens is ignored by public "servants." So sadly, I second what Cowtown Pattie above wrote. She’s right: Immigration is a huge, huge mess. Here, public institutions -- libraries, schools, etc. -- are being duplicated by a parallel set of private institutions. Private libraries. Private security. Private schools. Gated communities with private roads. The list of once-public-now-private is endless. Replacing public with private is, essentially, the only recourse people have when their collective will is ignored. Because of uncontrolled immigration, citizens vote with their feet, leaving public institutions. And with their pocketbooks. It won't be long when citizens "defund" so-called "public" institutions, and in doing so, diminish the reach of government. My own hunch is that the immigration mess is shaping up as a hot-spot political issue -- one that highlights the enormous and growing gap between the actions of our political elites and the druthers of actual citizens. Thanks to Cowtown Pattie and to Kris. Don't miss Pattie's touching memoir about her grandfather-in-law. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 9, 2005 | perma-link | (10) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A medical doctor involved in research who I happened to talk with the other day told me that we're entering a fascinating but dicey time in medicine. Fascinating because treatments are emerging that are helpful for people of one race but not helpful for people of other races. Dicey because, for these treatments to become viable, various elites and establishments will have to wrestle with the idea that some distinctions between races really do exist -- and on fairly deep, indeed biological, levels. Talk about the ultimate challenge to Political Correctness! Logical Meme reviews some of what science knows about biological differences between races. I assume visitors have followed the news about the Cochran-Harpending-Hardy research suggesting that there may be genetic links between brainpower and certain diseases in Ashkenazi Jews. If not, Steve Sailer and GNXP will bring you up to date. Steve's Vdare article does a terrific job of summing up the story, as well as its ramifications. Congrats to Razib & Co., by the way: GNXP just turned the ripe old blog-age of three. I've learned a lot from hanging around the rowdy brainiacs at GNXP. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 9, 2005 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

In Newsweek
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Newsweek's Robert Samuelson takes a hard look at our barely-there immigration system. Sample quote: Being brutally candid means recognizing that the huge and largely uncontrolled inflow of unskilled Latino workers into the United States is increasingly sabotaging the assimilation process ... To make immigration succeed, we need (paradoxically) to control immigration. Samuelson points out that Mexicans now represent a gigantic -- and "historically unprecedented" -- preponderance of immigrants. In 2000, Mexicans were 30 percent of the total, while "in 1920, for example, the two largest immigrant groups --Germans and Italians -- [together] totaled only 24 percent of the immigrant population." * Also in Newsweek, Julie Scelfo reports on a dramatic increase in teen-girl violence. Sample quote: According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, the number of girls 10 to 17 arrested for aggravated assault has doubled over the last 20 years. The number of boys arrested for weapons possession rose 22 percent between 1983 and 2003, while the number of girls increased by a whopping 125 percent. Today, one in three juveniles arrested for violent crimes is female. Rather daringly, Scelfo suggests that the increase in girl violence may reflect the influence of feminism, as well as such buttkicking pop-cult icons as Uma Thurman's character in "Kill Bill." Best, Michael UPDATE: The WashPost reports that "Hispanics accounted for about half the growth in the U.S. population since 2000 ... In the 1990s, they accounted for 40 percent of the country's population increase. From 2000 to 2004, that figure grew to 49 percent."... posted by Michael at June 8, 2005 | perma-link | (12) comments

Confessions of a Naked Model
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- We're pleased to run another guest posting by "J," an artist and illustrator who helps pay the bills by working as an artists' model. We're also pleased to let you know that J's art professional art career has been making impressive strides. J recently placed an illustration with the Wall Street Journal. And a piece of J's has been selected for inclusion in Art@Large's upcoming show, "New Erotix," which will be on display from July 7-23. Here's some information about the show. J's newly-revamped site, where you can enjoy her art and explore some fun links, is here. J's previous postings for us are here, here, and here, and here. J's modeling site, where you can enjoy some visuals of the lady herself as well as get in touch with J for modeling dates, is here. You can read an interview with J here. To clear up a little possible confusion: J's professional name is Molly Crabapple. Now, on to J's latest bulletin from the naked-modeling front. Tits and Artifice Yesterday, my uncle found my modeling website. Witness to my plump and gawky adolescence, he could only gasp. "Molly, you sure don't look like your pictures!" "No shit" I wanted to snap. I wouldn't have been so angry, except that a week earlier, a snaggle-toothed client had said the same thing when I showed up at his hotel room for some "photos." Fresh from a long day of portfolio drop offs, I looked like an art student, sans makeup, with circles under the eyes. "In your portfolio," said my client, "you seemed like a goddess." Beyond my client's snootiness and my uncle's disbelief lies a misconception that has implications too high-falutin' for this column. Implications that effect art, feminism, and how women view their bodies. The misconception is that photos tell the truth. Of course I don't look like my photos. Schlepping down the street in worn-down heels, I lack several crucial components of pictorial swank. First, the makeup. For any photo shoot, I wear ten pounds, applied by a trained professional, plus hair spray-sugared into a confection as fragile as an Argentinean coup. This goes for any look, no matter how "natural." Then there's the posing. Towards the camera go those round bazooms -- way from it goes the big Puerto Rican ass. But mostly, for my transformation into goddesshood, I thank lighting and Photoshop. You may have seen me in the fluorescent glare of the Barnes and Noble bathroom. But in photos, gelled, reflected, soft-boxed lights caress me like Rudolph Valentino. Any blemishes left are taken out by the kind scalpel of Dr. Adobe. Of course, I'm not saying anything to surprise passport holders to the world of "glamour photography." We know that our favorite Playmates, sans peroxide, Photoshop and spray-on tan, are girls like our (more attractive) neighbors. Witness Maxim's Hometown Hotties contest. Hundreds of girls apply, all pretty, but all human and diverse. By the time the 12 finalists are... posted by Michael at June 8, 2005 | perma-link | (10) comments

Monday, June 6, 2005

Fat and Costco Again
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I notice that some visitors have felt hurt by my recent micro-posting about fat people and Costco. Apologies for any offence given by the posting. Although I've got my reservations about Costco, fat people are certainly fine by me, and I'm sorry if I stepped on tender feelings. May I peep up, though, and try to make a small case for the value of these kinds of observations, and of entering into these kinds of conversations? Ineptly though we -- er, I -- sometimes do it? First-off, maybe we can all agree that there are a zillion body types. Big people, small people, thin people, heavy people, etc. And that's a neat thing, not a bad thing. Life is full of variety, and we come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Life's a multi-sided and variegated thing, and what's not to like about that? At the same time, there are questions and issues which have come up only in the last couple of decades. They're related, they're hard not to take note of, and they're genuinely interesting to think about. They're also prominent parts of life as we know it, and life as many of us wrestle with it. One is that living patterns have changed. That includes shopping and walking patterns. Costco -- with its huge parking lots full of gigantic SUVs, and with its mammoth shopping carts and big markdowns -- is part of that. Costco equals, in other words: buying in bulk, driving not walking, and placing consumer convenience above all other values. Many Americans now lead lives that simply don't involve much physical moving-about. Even in the 'burbs, leafy and airy though they are, it often isn't easy to do any casual walking. I live in Manhattan, and walk the few miles to work every day. But Manhattanites also do a lot of incidental walking -- we walk without noticing that we do, because in our minds we're just shopping, or going somewhere to meet a friend. I wouldn't be surprised if the average Manhattan resident averages a mile of walking every day. Some years back, I lived for three months in L.A. and put on ten pounds. I was perplexed: where'd it come from? I ate as I usually did, I even gave myself the structured exercise I usually did. Yet in a short period of time I'd put on ten pounds. It finally dawned on me that in L.A., I wasn't doing any incidental walking. I returned to NYC and to my usual habits, and the ten pounds quickly came off. At the same time as our living and shopping patterns have changed, a new kind of fat person has emerged. Studies indicate that obesity rates are 'way up, even among kids and even among affluent people. Foreigners visit America and are stunned by how many fat people we have. As commenters on my posting noted, people seem much fatter in some regions than in others. I... posted by Michael at June 6, 2005 | perma-link | (66) comments