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« DVD Journal: "Abandon" | Main | The Albany Mall »

August 10, 2005


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* The Communicatrix tried something radical at a recent commercial audition -- being herself.

* Scott Chaffin explains how it's possible to mistrust the major media outlets and yet love your local newspaper.

* Johnny Virgil sits down to eat a quick lunch. An ad in Readers Digest catches his eye ...

* The only woman Helmut Newton was in awe of, reports his wife, was Margaret Thatcher.

* A new Pew survey reveals that teens prefer instant messaging to email. IM is for friends; email is for communicating with institutions and old folks.

* More key information about differences between the sexes: 71 percent of men read while on the can, but only 56 percent of women do. Cute word for such reading material: "Shiterature."

* In his previous blog, James Russell showed edge, humor, taste, and brains -- a true filmbuff combo. After a break, he's returned with a new blog. No movie commentary, just photoblogging. It's fun to see that James hasn't shaken the filmbuff out of himself; some of his photos are images of film festivals.

* Many in the modern West think of art as something special and of artists as beings apart. In this excerpt from his new book, John Carey spells out where these rather peculiar ideas and assumptions come from.

* Graeme Hunter suspects that multiculturalism will always and inevitably lead to a general blanding-down of culture.

* Keep this fact from your boss: Many people do their blog-reading while at work! Lynn Sislo confesses that, back in the day, she spent many of her own at-work hours playing computer Mah-Jongg.

* Randall Parker lambastes GWBush for his insane stance on Mexican immigration. Great passage:

I'm old enough to remember when it was considered a good thing and a sign of much desired progress when all classes of workers experienced rising salaries. Now a sitting President can organize a massive campaign to import millions of foreign workers to drive down native salaries and especially salaries of the poorest citizens. Times change.

* James Kunstler thinks that the Bush economy is a fabrication based on hallucinations and dreams.

* Blogsurfing junkies should enjoy exploring Forbes magazine's pretty-extensive Best of the Blogosphere.

* Whether blogging about culture or politics, Brian Micklethwait has always been a model of modesty, intelligence, open-mindedness, and affability. So it's good to see that he's begun doing some more personal blogging too.

* Is the Wiki vision a little bit too utopian?

* Let's hear it for chicks feeling free to explore their physical potential. Color me impressed, if not exactly enthusiastic ... (NSFW)



posted by Michael at August 10, 2005


I've read just about everything Dave Barry has ever written...all while sitting on the can. Maybe laughing gives me the extra "push" I need on those difficult mornings. I especially recommend "Dave Barry Does Japan".

Posted by: arnie on August 10, 2005 1:17 PM

I like muscular girls, but the fake boobs have got to go. The effect of fake boobs on an ultra muscular frame sort of boomerangs, at least in my opinion. Also, while muscularity is nice, taking it to this level (which obviously involves steroids and who-knows-what other drugs like human growth hormone) is a bit insane.

So, to sum up: good concept, bad execution.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 10, 2005 2:43 PM

Argh. NSFW? How about Not Safe For Humans?

Posted by: . on August 10, 2005 3:09 PM

[now nobody is going to comment during business hours....except self-employed enterpreneurs. see what you've done?]

Posted by: Tatyana on August 10, 2005 3:11 PM

Oh heck, I'll post during business hours. I just can't look at "NSFW" during business hours. Darn. My informal understanding from male co-workers is that soccer player who whipped off her top when the US won in the Olympics---Brandy Chastain---is sort of the peak of 6-pack abs sexy. We were in a bar in Minneapolis that had big newspaper front pages for wallpaper. Next to Brandy was the front page headline when Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs. They were at a loss to exactly explain why King's muscles were less attractive than Brandy's. As one guy succinctly said, pointing at King: "Dike". Pointing at Brandy: "hottee".

Posted by: annette on August 10, 2005 3:23 PM

Thanks for linking to that Kunstler post. Funniest thing I've read all day. Cheered me right up.


*Reading some of the comments to said post, I'm thinking maybe I should start stocking up on the canned goods and heating oil.........calm, reasoned discourse, that is.

Posted by: MD on August 10, 2005 5:52 PM

There's a certain breed of conservative that doesn't trust happiness. They're only comfortable with it if they can imagine the pricetag attached, or the comeuppance it's bringing in its wake. Grim is their natural state.

Do you remember after 9/11 the sense of eagerness some of them expressed? The age of irony and triviality was at an end; the age of Spartan austerity was at hand! You could tell they preferred it that way. Dalrymplism, we could call it. Or maybe Ledeenery.

Anyway, I think the Kunstler crowd have a bit of that going on. "All this fun can't last forever", they say, with a note of relief.

I suspect they dislike fun because they themselves never learned how to have it.

Posted by: Brian on August 10, 2005 10:25 PM

Regarding the gender differences in donicker reading, I suspect it's due to the male propensity to read the sports pages in that particular location.

Posted by: Peter on August 10, 2005 11:00 PM

If you're talking about Kunstler, he's the life of the party.

Posted by: john massengale on August 11, 2005 12:28 AM

The Kunstler post was a hysterical potpourri of question-begging and economic illiteracy. Thanks for the link.

Posted by: jult52 on August 11, 2005 9:50 AM

Kunstler might be right about a crash coming, he might not be - and if he is, it isn't because of the reasons he thinks. The one thing I learned in my not-so-illustrious economic career: all economic prognostications are wrong - even if they're right. Goldman's law of Hollywood applies to the rest of the economy: Nobody Knows Anything.

Posted by: jimbo on August 11, 2005 10:42 AM

Kunstler makes some good points, but on the other hand predictions of imminent economic collapse are a venerable old tradition - yet seldom come true. I've come to the conclusion that there is considerably more economic resiliency and adaptability, on both the macro and micro levels, than the Prophets of Doom realize. Or maybe Kunstler and his ilk DO realize that the economy's relisient and adaptable but just get their thrills from making gloomy predictions :)

I (barely) survived the "Great Recession," the economic crash that hit Connecticut and the rest of the New England states in 1990. Two salient characteristics of the Great Recession were (1) almost no one saw it coming and (2) once it hit, it progressed with almost unimaginable speed. I've no doubt that a Kunstler-style nationwide crash, should one occur, would likely follow a similar path.

Posted by: Peter on August 11, 2005 11:38 AM

Arnie -- Dave Barry's a genius whose work serves many purposes.

FvB, ".", Annette - The whole weightlifter thing leaves me ambivalent. On the one hand: how cool to see people pushing it as far as it can go. And, to be frank, in what other field else are most of these weightlifter types likely to excel? This is their gift, I suppose. So the right thing would seem to be to say, Do yo' stuff! Far be it from me to tell them not to. On the other hand, sheesh, but I find the spectacle kind of grotesque. Clive James once said about Ah-nold that he looks like "a fistful of walnuts stuffed into a condom" (or something like that), and that's how the visuals have always struck me. On the third hand, wow, but isn't that prissy and uptight of me. So I dunno: I guess I watch with interest; marvel that the weightlifting esthetic has become the important thing that it has; think thoughts like "Gosh, well I guess 'Pumping Iron' and Ah-nold have really been influential and important -- I sure didn't see that coming"; and try not to flinch in the face of it all. So it's a little gaudy! So it's a little grotesque! Life sometimes seems to do its best to imitate a carnival or amusement park, doesn't it?

Kunstlerfolks -- I think I take him a bit differently. He's a provocateur, and a Jeremiah figure, and I take him and enjoy him as such. (Actually he's more than that, but so far as his doomsaying goes ...) Society always seems to generate Jeremiah figures, and if we're going to have 'em, Kunstler's certainly a great incarnation: he's funny, juicy, smart, and he has a lot of writing talent. Unlike Brian, I find him a very cheery doomsayer too. I don't know about anyone else, but often when I grump about things and speculate about doomy futures, I'm rather happy. Griping about shit is something I enjoy and look forward to. It's part of being involved, no? Not that anyone has to agree or do likewise, of course. You guys don't have favorite thundering doomsayers? Maybe it'a a more peculiar taste than I realize ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 11, 2005 11:44 AM

I'm sure it says something perverse about me, but I like the notion of people lifting weights in order to make themselves into something a bit different than what they were when they started. I think some of the early champions of women's body-building looked great. (Nothing like lots of squats to develop a sculpted tush on a girl.)

The snake in the garden of bodybuilding, however, is drugs. I remember looking at pictures of Steve Reeves and other bodybuilders of the 1950s and comparing them to modern bodybuilder-behemoths. Steve and his contemporaries looked like Ordinary Joes. Then it struck me--Steve Reeves et al were certainly no wimps. Steve and his buddies of that era were what people can look like through diet, exercise and clean living. Anybody substantially more muscular than them is drugging.

Of course, bodybuilding didn't really take off as a public craze until the drugging era. Which probably says something perverse about popular culture.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 11, 2005 2:47 PM

Some rare individuals do have the genetic ability to pack on massive amounts of muscle without steroids or other drugs. It could be argued that steroids are merely levelling the playing field, so to speak, by allowing the vast majority of people without genetic gifts to compete with the lucky few. This is true whether you're talking about building muscle for purely esthetic purposes or for improving one's athletic performance. Steroids also may allow some athletes to stave off the inevitable decline that comes with age, at least for a few years, thereby extending their careers. Barry Bonds is a very good example of this effect.

None of this is to say that I believe steroids should be legal, as they do have some highly undesirable side effects. Careful cycling of dosages with occasional "clean" stretches can reduce but not eliminate the dangers. On the other hand, I am a bit perplexed by the current demonization of steroid use, especially their prominent mention in a recent State of the Union speech. There certainly are worse drugs.

By the way, one of the women bodybuilders in that NSFW video clip exhibits the grotesquely enlarged clitoris that is a common, unavoidable and irreversible side effect of steroid use in females. Rumor has it that competitors in women's bodybuilding competitions have to wear specially designed bikini bottoms to hide the bulges.

Posted by: Peter on August 11, 2005 5:02 PM

Not to mention the square jaws. They look like post-operative transexuals - if the operation was botched...

Posted by: jimbo on August 11, 2005 5:09 PM


My response would have to be that one of those rare individuals with a gift for packing on muscle was...Steve Reeves. Remember, Steve at 6' 2" competed (with very low body-fat) at 220 lbs. (Take a close look at how massively built his calves are--this guy had to lift really serious iron to look like that.) I'm not saying Reeves represented the absolute limit of drug-free bodybuilding, (training techniques may well have improved considerably since his day) but genetically he's somewhat out there near the frontier.

A decade ago I heard modern-day bodybuilding champions spent at least $100,000 a year on steroids (actually, quite cheap), human growth hormone (much more expensive) and other stuff as well. I'm sure it's worse now. It allows the women bodybuilders--with frames nowhere near as massive as Mr. Reeves'--at weights nearly matching his.

Weird science, indeed.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 12, 2005 11:12 AM

Friedrich -

Steve Reeves surely was one of those genetically gifted individuals. What's funny, however, is that he'd never be competitive in non-drug-free bodybuilding today - at 6'2" and 220 pounds he'd be a pipsqueak. The current and seven-time Mr. Olympia winner, Ronnie Coleman, officially is 5'11" though in reality probably a couple inches less, and weighs 300 pounds with virtually no body fat. No one, but no one, is going to pack on such enormous amounts of muscle without "chemical enhancement."

Posted by: Peter on August 12, 2005 1:24 PM

The one in the video with the loose hair has all the acromegalic facial signs of an abuser of Human Growth Hormone. Steroids don't warp or grow bone structure (other than causing premature fusion problems for adolescents stupid enough to abuse them).

Women's bodybuilding is largely in a state of collapse, as far as I can remember from the last time I cared about bodybuilding at all. The two in the videos (I can't even bring myself to call them women) are bodybuilders in a sense that has nothing to do with the sport of Steve Reeves, or even Ah-nuld. The video seems to be pornographic in nature and intent, and the, ah, models seem to me to have more in common with overtly fetishistic sex object figures like, say, fatties, grannies, trannies, mega-boobed silicon repositories, and the like.


Posted by: PatrickH on August 12, 2005 8:46 PM

A fistful of walnuts packed in a condom---that's HILARIOUS. And true. I'm also still laughing at your "Sure didn't see that coming" remark! I'm sure there are a number of California assemblymen who feel the same.

Posted by: annette on August 15, 2005 12:10 PM

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