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« More on Digital Movie Theaters | Main | The Depression in Color »

October 28, 2005


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* How trustworthy is Wikipedia? The Guardian asks experts to evaluate some of the encyclopedia's entries, and most of the verdicts aren't good.

* Speaking of wikis, here's an amazing one that was apparently the first wiki ever to be put on the web. Not surprisingly, it's very Christopher Alexander-besotted.

* I get the feeling that Colleen didn't enjoy "Elizabethtown" ...

* Thanks to Stephen Bodio for pointing out the blog of Larissa, a young actress in search of work and fame in NYC. I loved this snapshot of a typical actor-day. Larissa has also been enjoying the HBO series "Rome." Nice passage:

In a cast of excellent actors, Kenneth Cranham’s Pompey is so masterfully embodied that even in a scene lacking violence, nudity, or good-looking people insulting each other, I was totally riveted. Cranham looks as W.H. Auden might have looked had a giant thumb descended on his head and squooshed it just a little, displaced body matter filling out a few, but not all of the wrinkles.

Beat that, professional TV critics.

* OuterLife wonders about the whole blog-commenting thing. Time to visit and let him know what you think.

* Chloe Sevigne is afraid she's become a little too '90s.

* You can sign an online petition urging the University of Virginia to respect its traditional architecture. And please do let them know how you feel.

* Here's the School of Visual Art's graduate art-crit blog. Find out what tomorrow's artists are mulling over today, then leave a comment urging these hot young talents to post more visuals.

* Steve Sailer wonders why sports commentators are so determined to ignore the obvious. (Steve provides an update here.)

* EverNote looks like a nifty way for Windows-users to maintain their heaps of stray mind-bits: notes, links, lists, and scraps. Gotta love the price too. Haven't tried EverNote myself, smug and happy Mac-user that I am ...

* Fred confesses to a fascination with the legendary Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. (I wrote about Leni -- who was certainly one of the most controversial figures in film history -- here.)

* He's a man obsessed -- but what a fun topic to be obsessed by. Erik Holland marshalls a lot of evidence to argue that the gayness of fashion designers is the explanation why many fashion models are so skinny. I suspect that Eric had a lot of fun collecting the materials that he displays on this NSFW page too.

* Dig this ultra-cool use of Google Maps. Some doubleclicking will enable you to find out how far distances are. I just learned that my morning walk to work covers 2.89 miles.

* This is certainly the most unusual vantage point I've ever examined a house's interior from ...



posted by Michael at October 28, 2005


Trailing theatrical theme: here's panorama from the stage manager's booth, at Resplendent mango. So far there are 5 installments, one better than the other">">other.

Posted by: Tatyana on October 28, 2005 1:33 PM

Not saying the Guardian isn't trustworthy itself, but I'm not entirely sure these experts really understood the point of Wikipedia. It's an evolving thing- if you find mistakes in it, you correct them. So as soon as an expert actually reads a page, as long as they bother changing it, the problem has immediately ceased to exist! These people were comparing it to the old kind of encyclopedia, which misses the point. It's a common error, expecting internet to follow the same rules as paper publishing.

Posted by: Alice on October 28, 2005 3:13 PM

Wikipedia is useful for getting a quick overview of an unfamiliar topic, rather than as a source for serious research.

Posted by: Peter on October 28, 2005 3:36 PM

Erik Holland's magnum opus is, well, amazing as well as a bit of a hoot that he would be so obsessed with defending his thesis. But such obsession does produce an end-product that calls out to be read. Check it out.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 28, 2005 3:36 PM

Maybe it's too new to have been included, but Colby Cosh just did a review of a local architectural monstrosity here.

A taxpayer-funded montrosity, of course.

He titles it "Tin-snips and a beer can" and marvels at "How expert Gehry's friends must be at finding local visual analogues for large, stupid hunks of crumpled metal".

Posted by: Brian on October 28, 2005 4:43 PM

Regarding Erik Holland: I'll grant you that the attractive women have better behinds (and bigger boobs) than the high fashion models, but I don't think they're better looking. The nonfashion models are merely pretty, and rather bland. The fashion models, some of whom aren't pretty at all in the conventional sense, have arresting faces. Which is sort of the point.

Posted by: Rachel on October 28, 2005 5:07 PM

Great links, all.

Though of course the blowhard's posts are my favorite part of this blog, your "Elsewhere" link posts are always a blast. Keep it up, mang.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on October 28, 2005 5:37 PM

I thought the Guardian article was broadly favorable to Wikipedia. Most of the grades were in the average or above average range. By the tone of the reviews, it looked like the reviewers were judging Wikipedia by comparison to traditional print encyclopedias.

The one truly negative review, of "haute couture", by Alexandra Shulman, described as "editor of Vogue", includes, "...but every value judgment it makes is wrong." That seems a striking criticism of an encyclopedia. Who goes to an encyclopedia for a value judgement? More importantly, who is so arrogant as to call a value judgement (which must be, especially in this context, an opinion) "wrong"?

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on October 28, 2005 6:11 PM

I think that Wikipedia is generally fair and balanced, but since it is editable, it is susceptible to problems. But the editing and re-editing can create a dialectical situation, in which balance can be achieved.

I am so glad that this online encyclopedia exists.

Posted by: Aakash on October 28, 2005 8:04 PM

That site with the room view from inside a plastic bottle is SO cool!

Posted by: Peter on October 28, 2005 10:36 PM

Here is the Wiki on 2 Columbus Circle:

Posted by: winifer skattebol on October 28, 2005 11:55 PM

Fashion models:

Fashion models appeal to women. Guys just don't read Vogue Style. I find it interesting that women like looking at masculinized women. Do they get a little frisson of sexual attraction?

Makes you wonder if giving teenybopper girls playboy instead of cosmo would end eating disorders.

Posted by: rob on October 29, 2005 11:50 AM

Are we calling Gisele "masculine"? Claudia, Elle, Christie? Does anyone think their boobs don't measure up?

Posted by: john massengale on October 29, 2005 2:10 PM

If being a correct and useful resource isn't the point, what is the Wikipedia for? If reviewers should not judge Wikipedia by comparing it to traditional print encyclopedias (which are, by the way, available on CD and online or $$$), then how are they to be judged?

Certainly, playing scholar is fun for them and all, but how is this supporting or extending the dialogue?

That said, even the most cynical critic must admit that the Wikipedia has much to offer on the topic of vampire watermelons and it here we see how this august online body works.

Posted by: j.c. on October 29, 2005 2:48 PM

I think you meant EverNote, not EndNote ( EndNote does have a Mac version, and is a godsend for absent-minded types like myself, who have a hard time remembering which journal prefers which citation style!

Posted by: Leesa on October 29, 2005 3:45 PM

Oops, right you are, corrected, tks.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 29, 2005 4:03 PM

j.c.: "If being a correct and useful resource isn't the point, what is the Wikipedia for? If reviewers should not judge Wikipedia by comparing it to traditional print encyclopedias (which are, by the way, available on CD and online or $$$), then how are they to be judged?"

Since this seems to be directed at my comment, I'll address it. I noted that the commenters were comparing Wikipedia to regular encyclopedias; I neither said nor implied that this was unfair.

And, btw, none of the quoted comment addresses the absurdity of, "...but every value judgment it makes is wrong."

The rankings by the reviewers ranged from 5/10 to 8/10. That would be a range from dead average to well above average. This seemed good to me, and in fact better than I would expect.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on October 29, 2005 5:23 PM

Doug, here's an example of definitely wrong value judgement on Russian punctuation:

...This is extracted from a whole set of extremely detailed rules about run-together, hyphenated, or separated components. Such rules are essentially arbitrary. There are enough sub-cases, exceptions, undecidable points, and inconsistencies that even well-educated native speakers sometimes have to check the dictionary. Arguments about this issue have been continuous for 150 years.

I can debate every sentence here, and with reasonable arguments. For instanse, well-educated native speakers of ANY language sometimes have to check the dictionary. &c.

Posted by: Tatyana on October 29, 2005 10:54 PM

Oops, posted too soon.
I meant - checking the dictionary in ambiguous cases deosn't make rules arbitrary.

Posted by: Tatyana on October 29, 2005 10:56 PM

The Guardian's correpondent Mark Kurlansky may be "surprised" at the idea that Basque is related to Aquitanian, but his surprise is not shared by serious Basque scholars like the late Larry Trask, who notes that "we are now satisfied that Aquitanian was an ancestral form of Basque: modern Basque is the direct descendant of that Aquitanian language spoken in southwestern Gaul and in most of the Pyrenees" (see

However, despite this triumph of Wikipedia over Guardian (not itself universally regarded as an organ of record) I would not in general trust the Wikipedia at all, especially when looking for an honest arbiter in controversial matters like history or politics. Caveat surfor.

Posted by: Graham Asher on October 30, 2005 3:15 PM

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