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  1. DVD Journal: "Overnight" and "Z Channel"
  2. Blair Tindall on Classical Music
  3. Group Characteristics 6: I'm So Gay
  4. News Habits of the Young
  5. More About Kate Moss' Nose
  6. Elsewhere
  7. As Bad as All That?
  8. Sophie Marceau ... And Group Characteristics 5
  9. Mad-Dog
  10. Fact for the Day

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

DVD Journal: "Overnight" and "Z Channel"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- What does it mean that so many of the most enjoyable movies of recent years have been documentaries about the movie life? Perhaps this is just the way of all postmodernism: These days, the thing that is the thing-about-the-thing trumps the thing that is the-thing-in-itself. But perhaps there's more to it than that. I'll venture a small-t theory: It's a symptom of the current state of the movieworld. The movies themselves have become less important not just as elements in the general media mix but even in that smaller complex of things we call "the movies." Where once the movies were the central event of "the movies," they often now function merely as pretexts for an avalanche of other media events: articles, ads, campaigns, careers, profiles, DVD extras. As the business, the deal-making, the careers, the packaging, and the technology have moved to center stage, the movies themselves have receded into the shadows. Quite a change! When "Nashville," for one example, opened in 1975, The New York Times ran at least eight pieces about the movie itself, and editorial writers and critics weighed in with interpretations of the film for months after. These days, who cares what some moviemaker has done in an artistic sense, let alone what he has to say? Let's cut to the chase instead: How has the film done at the box office? Who's hot and who's not? So it makes sense -- if only to me -- that the most interesting movies these days would often turn out to be movies about movie processes and movie developments: movies about the movie life itself. But of course I could be wrong about all this. I could also be seeing the whole deal through (gasp!) my own limited eyes. Eager to hear competing theories, as always. Although Mark Brian Smith and Tony Montana's "Overnight" isn't (IMHO) one of the best of the recent movies-about-moviemaking, it's certainly one of the most irresistable. "Overnight" tells the true-life, rise-and-fall story of Troy Duffy, filmmaker wannabe. And filmmaker-wannabe extraordinaire. Duffy doesn't just have a wonderful name, he's an amazing character: a self-confident, macho, egomaniac blowhard who stumbles into and lives out an almost unbelievable Hollywood fantasy/nightmare. Troy Duffy, player It's the late 1990s, and the moviebiz is in an especially manic state. "Pulp Fiction" has been a big hit, Sundance is booming, and the business is hungry for the next edgy young indie talent. A nobody bartender in a nowheresville L.A. bar, Troy Duffy is a 25-year-old with dreams of stardom in the big leagues. He plays in a band called The Brood, and he has written a guns-and-guys-and-attitude script called "The Boondock Saints." And then, one day, he gets The Phone Call; Miramax has bought "The Boondock Saints" for three hundred thousand dollars. In no time, Duffy and Miramax's legendary boss Harvey Weinstein are bonding. They're on each other's wavelength -- tough, streetwise, savvy to the whole movies thing. As the deal shakes out,... posted by Michael at September 17, 2005 | perma-link | (23) comments

Friday, September 16, 2005

Blair Tindall on Classical Music
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Thanks to Dave Lull for pointing out this lively interview with Blair Tindall, oboist and author of "Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music," a memoir-ish book about what the world of classical-music performance is really like. Here's one dandy (and heartening) passage from Paul Comstock's q&a with Tindall: Tindall: "A mystical attitude about the place of music can create a devastating effect, driving both audiences and amateur musicians – fearing they lack the intellect to understand -- away. Music is beautiful, uplifting, and can make life so much more than it already is, but…it is still just music. "To anyone who reads, writes, practices, and performs the stuff, it is ethereal, yet straightforward. Those schooled in music performance understand how much rote practice is involved; scales, arpeggios, repetition. To produce a great performance, even the most talented and renowned player must be applauded for this necessary and diligent preparatory work. "Music is a resource that anyone can understand, and even participate in. Even those without musical training can drum on the beach, enjoy a picnic at the local orchestra’s parks concert, or sing in a church choir once a year. Music is everywhere…and classical music is composed of the same 12 tones and the same rhythms as pop songs and much other music." Why aren't more people as open-yet-sensible about the arts as Blair Tindall? I've already One-Clicked myself a copy of her book. The California Literary Review, which published the interview, is a very lively web arts publication, by the way. I'm having a good time catching up with their interviews and reviews. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 16, 2005 | perma-link | (8) comments

Group Characteristics 6: I'm So Gay
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Neil Kramer admits that, despite being a red-blooded straightguy, he is a fan of "All My Children" and of figure skating competitions. Neil goes so far as to risk his straight-guy credentials entirely by hinting that he likes showtunes too. I'm going to take Neil's very brave posting as a challenge to straight guys everywhere to 'fess up to a few habits or tastes that aren't Maxim-endorsed and ultrastraight. Enough with the squinty-eyed and laconic chitchat about your fondness for poker, gadgets, starlets, cars, boobs, and barbecue. Too easy. The time has come to volunteer a little bit of your softer side. (Oops, I just made a few assumptions about straight guys and gay guys ...) OK, me first. Though there are few more surefire ways of making me miserable than by taking me to a musical, I think "Gypsy" is pure genius. I enjoy using the word "fabulous" from time to time. I'm a huge Bette Midler fan. It's not like I'll sit through her bad movies or listen to her CDs. But I often find her hilarious and touching. And I do love the way she performs that song "The Rose." Who out there is man enough to volunteer some gay-nesses of his own? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 16, 2005 | perma-link | (53) comments

News Habits of the Young
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Young people's media-consumption habits continue to shift in the direction of the web. Merrill Brown highlights some findings from a survey he helped conduct of 18-34 year olds and their news habits: "Internet portals emerge in the survey as the most frequently cited daily news source — with 44 percent of the study group using portals such as Yahoo at least once a day for news. By this same measurement, local TV comes in second at 37 percent, followed by network or cable TV Web sites, and newspapers, at 19 percent each." "41 percent of young news consumers say that the Internet is the most useful way to learn, compared with 15 percent for second-ranked local TV. And 49 percent say the Internet provides news 'only when I want it' — a critical factor for this group — versus 15 percent for second-ranked local TV." "Baby boomers read newspapers one-third less than their parents, and the Gen Xers read newspapers another one-third less than the boomers ... From 1972 to 1998, the percentage of people ages 30 to 39 who read a paper every day dropped from 73 to 30 percent." Brown's conclusion strikes me as a marvel of understatement: "Clearly, young people don't want to rely on the morning paper on their doorstep or the dinnertime newscast for up-to-date information; in fact, they — as well as others — want their news on demand, when it works for them." We've entered a have-it-your-way media universe. Fun! On the other hand: scary days for traditional media businesses. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 16, 2005 | perma-link | (6) comments

More About Kate Moss' Nose
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Fans of the Kate-Moss-caught-snorting-coke-on-video story won't want to miss today's followup. One of the story's highlights: "Looking at pictures of his daughter handing round lines of coke to friends, Kate's grey-haired father Peter said: 'It doesn't surprise me'." Did I ever tell you about the friend I once had who worshipped supermodels; who thought of them as intelligent, thoughtful, and creative creatures (hey, just like him!); and who steadfastly insisted that drugs don't play much of a role in their world? Best, Michael UPDATE: In further pressing arts news, the man who took topless photos of Cameron Diaz and then tried to sell them back to her has been found guilty, and has received a three-year sentence for forgery, attempted grand theft, and perjury. Damn: I guess we won't be seeing those photos on the web anytime soon. Also found guilty and sentenced: the teenager who hacked his way into Paris Hilton's cellphone.... posted by Michael at September 16, 2005 | perma-link | (8) comments

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The merry-and-witty (yet passionate) Alice is blogging again, here and here. Recently Alice has been attending a Quentin Tarantino-sponsored film festival in Austin. Alice wrote about "Kill Bill" for us not long ago. * Can it really be so? Supermodel caught using drugs. * Well done! * A PBS special about Willa Cather has MD reminiscing about her own childhood in the Midwest. MD has one of the most melodious voices in the blogosphere, IMHO. In this posting, she asks a perennial (and perennially-good) question: "Baby boomers! Is there nothing they can't ruin?" * Neil and his ex are trying to figure out what it means to dress "California Casual." * Jill surprises her lucky fella with a morning treat. * Here's a blog devoted entirely to tips about how to make the best use of Gmail. * Google for Blogs. * Dude, I mean it. Sometimes she just isn't in the mood. * Even if we re-build New Orleans, will the kind of life a city needs in order to be, well, a living city really return? Tyler Cowen isn't cheerful. * Amy Gahran celebrates the first anniversary of Rathergate. * Colin Farrell: hard-drinking tough-guy, or posh mama's boy? In either case, the lucky sod has been dating Elle Macpherson. * Meanwhile, in the kitchens of condos all over this fair land ... (NSFW) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 15, 2005 | perma-link | (12) comments

As Bad as All That?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Is the situation in architecture really as bad as all that? Does the modernist/decon/po-mo crowd -- the field's ruling elite -- really sneer at common and traditional tastes, pleasures, and satisfactions? Can they possibly be as puffed-up and arrogant as all that? You betcha. John Massengale tells an all-too-common story here and here. John's conclusion: "More and more, what the architects like best is what the public hates most." Which provokes a question: Why should this we-know-better-than-you attitude be so prevalent in architecture? In some other fields -- acting, movies -- the walls crumbled long ago. In fact, only twenty years ago architecture seemed on the verge of rejoining the human race. But the field's academic, prize-giving, and political elites regrouped; they snagged back control. And, these days, they're doing their impressive best to persuade us that we're in the midst not of a tragic repeat of '50s-modernist devastation (my view) but of an architectural golden age. Key thing to remember: They don't want to serve, they want to dictate. Not only that, they want us applauding, expressing gratitude, and throwing money. Hmm. Whaddya say we jeer 'em instead? Hey, is anyone else as tired of translucent new buildings as I am? As the owner of a new iMac, I'm happy to agree that semi-transparent geometry makes for a cool home computer. Looks very nifty on a desktop. But what kind of fool thinks it appropriate to insert a gigantic iMac into a traditional urban fabric? Earth to architects: Buildings are not standalone objects that we buy at a store, lug home, and use privately. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 15, 2005 | perma-link | (6) comments

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sophie Marceau ... And Group Characteristics 5
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- One of my current performer-faves is the French actress Sophie Marceau. She has some of Isabelle Adjani's dark-eyed, ethereal, doomed lyricism, but in a less high-strung and more kissable way. She's able to indulge in flights of French chic while never losing track of the earth beneath her. She's as funky and practical as a Cosmo girl, yet she's respectful of and tuned into the aesthetic dimension. Poetic yet companionable, Sophie is one of my favorite performers -- despite the fact that I've seen very few of her movies. Not many of Sophie's French films have made it to the States, and the kinds of English-language movies she has appeared in haven't generally been movies I've been able to face. So I know Sophie's work mostly through photos, through articles, and through interviews. I'm as charmed by Sophie and as interested in what she's up to as I am by any performer whose work I know well. Yet, while I may be losing filmbuff cred-points by admitting this, that's OK with me. Who says you actually have to watch the films of your favorite performers? How many Elke Sommer movies have I ever seen, for another instance? Four or five? Yet I'm glad to to be an Elke fan. (Fun to learn via Google that Elke -- famous in the '60s and '70s as a Euro sex kitten -- is active these days as a painter.) I'm in fact a little apprehensive that, if I were to see Sophie in the movies that I imagine I'd enjoy her in, my pleasure in her existence might be spoiled. And why risk that? (Small thought: Maybe being-a-star is as much a matter of performance as any other role is. And maybe being able to play that role well is a rare talent. How many people have managed to act out being-a-star in ways you've enjoyed?) So what I love about Sophie is Sophie's existence/performance on the public stage -- Sophie as a star: the fact that she's a star, and the career and life that she has led, at least as it has been portrayed in the Euro media. I love many of the photos that have been made of Sophie, for instance. She lends herself to fantasy, glamor, eros, and beauty almost as generously as Monica Bellucci does, yet with a lighter touch. However classy, arousing, or tragic the pose Sophie strikes, she seldom loses her scrappiness or her girlishness. Sophie's soap-opera, actress-star life enchants me too. The daughter of a truck driver, Sophie became a French teen-queen star in the '80s; she was something like a cross between Phoebe Cates and Molly Ringwald. As she grew into a young woman, she partnered up romantically and creatively with out-there madman-filmmaker Andrzej Zulawski. Under his guidance she began making far-out and daring films. Sophie and Zulawski were famous for their outrageous films, as well as for their high-drama relationship; and Zulawski (a Pole) was sometimes accused... posted by Michael at September 14, 2005 | perma-link | (4) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Freaky! The oddball things that people get up to with Photoshop ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 14, 2005 | perma-link | (6) comments

Monday, September 12, 2005

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The largest university in America must be one of those gigantic State U.'s, right? Iowa, Florida, maybe Nevada. Huge places, funded by government money, located where land is cheap, and awash in herds of eager 18-22 year olds. In fact, reports The Economist, the U.S.'s biggest university has 239 separate campuses and 280,000 students. It's the for-profit University of Phoenix, where working adults make up 95% of the students. Interesting as well to learn that, big as it is, the U. of P. is dwarfed in size by a school in Turkey: Anadolu University, which enrolls 530,000 students. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 12, 2005 | perma-link | (7) comments

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Group Characteristics 4
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Here's a rousing passage from Charles Murray's recent Commentary essay, "The Inequality Taboo": Let us start talking about group differences openly—all sorts of group differences, from the visuospatial skills of men and women to the vivaciousness of Italians and Scots. Let us talk about the nature of the manly versus the womanly virtues. About differences between Russians and Chinese that might affect their adoption of capitalism. About differences between Arabs and Europeans that might affect the assimilation of Arab immigrants into European democracies. About differences between the poor and non-poor that could inform policy for reducing poverty. Hear hear to that. And in that spirit, I've been citing rowdy, informal acknowledgments of group characteristics. Although in our public lives we're expected to play along with the PC dogma that we're all alike, on a day-to-day basis we know better --and we're often honest, friendly, and funny about our experience and our knowledge. My latest find: a blog posting by Maloy, a young woman of Asian descent who has been spending time in Italy. Maloy writes a posting she calls "An Asian Girl's Guide to Dating Asian Men Overseas." The prim are hereby forewarned: Maloy is one modern and verbally uninhibited gal. There are good reasons why she calls her blog "House of Whoreship." Here's some of what I learned from Maloy's posting: Australian Asians: "Usually have lots of hobbies and play at least one sport ... Has a pretty good idea of what the deal is in Asia, eg. you can only have sex in his parents' house and only if his parents are in Perth and it's the maid's day off ... They know how to kiss ass to your parents. Will immediately call them 'Auntie' and 'Uncle' and have the right kind of gift to give every time he sees them ..." British-born Asians: "They usually cook, after all those years of working in their parents' takeaways ... Hardly any meals at restaurants. They'd rather cook for you, plus they know what the truth is behind restaurants and are probably too scared to ever eat out again." Asian Canadians: "Are independent and fairly knowledgeable about other cultures, as well as being reliable. Willing to have sex in a karaoke joint. Cheap dates at local eateries. And you'll have to split the bill." Asian Americans: "Sexually repressed due to their upbringing, and they usually look at a lot of porn ... Talks about money to you. God, the shame. The only time you should talk to an Asian girl about money is when you're telling her how much you're planning to give her ... PDA abusers. Be prepared to have your ass fondled in public." Who knew? But now I do know, thanks to the "House of Whoreship" girl. By the way, did you notice Nicholas Wade's latest NYTimes piece? Wade is the Times' evo-bio guy, and the Times deserves a lot of credit for keeping a good reporter hard at work on... posted by Michael at September 11, 2005 | perma-link | (18) comments

Dog Lovers
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Do you remember the San Francisco dog-mauling case? In 2001, a young San Francisco woman named Diane Whipple was killed by two of her neighbors' dogs. The dog's owners were an oddball couple -- both lawyers -- who seemed not only unapologetic but to do their best to make everyone in the country hate them. They were so unrepentant and self-absorbed that they seemed to consider themselves the incident's true victims. Both were convicted of manslaughter; the woman, Marjorie Knoller, was convicted of 2nd degree murder as well, although that conviction was later thrown out on appeal. Both have served their sentences and are now out of jail and on probation. Just the thing for city living The Wife and I were transfixed by a recent "American Justice" hour about the case. Poor Diane Whipple, of course; she was bitten 77 times and died at 33 years old. And gigantic curses on all irresponsible pet owners. New York City is full of idiot dog-owners unworthy of their animals, let alone of basic membership in a civilized society. One of them lives in the apartment next to ours. The Wife and I routinely hear him screaming, screaming at his dachsunds -- and that's "routinely" as in several times a day, every day. Should we call the authorities? We don't know. Whenever we see them, the dogs seem so cheerful that we figure they must enjoy tormenting and provoking their human. But we were especially fascinated by information about Knoller and her husband Robert Noel. The two had adopted a 38-year-old San Quentin inmate known as "Cornfed" -- in prison on a life sentence -- as their son, for instance, and were in business with him illegally, breeding and selling Presa Canarios, monster 120 pound mastiffs that are widely known to be vicious; they're banned in some European countries. The two dogs that killed Diane Whipple were Knoller and Noel's own Presa Canarios. Knoller and Noel were fully aware of how dangerous the dogs can be; the website set up to sell the dogs they were breeding was called "Dog 'O War." The "American Justice" team did a first-class job telling the sad story, as well as hinting at how bizarre Knoller and Noel are. Surfing the Web later, I learned a bit more about the couple. For instance, Knoller and Noel kept their dogs drugged up on a variety of medications. And, although Knoller is Jewish and Noelle had converted to Judaism, the prisoner they adopted together is a white-supremacist, Aryan Nation kinda guy. Funnest fact: according to Cathy Seipp, there's evidence that the couple had sex with their dogs. San Francisco: despite its beauty and its cultural attactions, what a strange, creepy, and frightening place it often strikes me as being ... Cathy Seipp blogs very entertainingly here. Here's a book about the case. Here's a very involved page about the case. Here's Court TV's ongoing web coverage of the case. I learned here... posted by Michael at September 11, 2005 | perma-link | (11) comments