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Saturday, November 26, 2005


Spamexperiment
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- While on vacation I decided to run a small experiment. Of my various emailboxes, one has no filters on it whatsoever. I was curious: How bad has the spam situation really become? So I left the emailbox wide open and didn't check it for two weeks. Just now I cautiously lifted the lid. Result: during 14 days of being left to itself, the emailbox accumulated over 28,000 messages. It's a turbulent and vicious cyberworld out there! Mean streets indeed. A question for those who know math and computers? Can we justifiably conclude from my amateur experiment that these days, a typical emailbox, if left entirely wide-open, would be stuffed on average with 2000 spams a day? Counting work, I seem to have become the proprietor of five emailboxes. No, make that six. Er, seven. How'd that happen anyway? How many emailboxes have you got piled up? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 26, 2005 | perma-link | (9) comments




Holiday Gifts 1
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- As traditional books stagger through yet another year of sales sluggishness, audiobook consumption continues to fizz: up 15% in 2003 and another 4% in 2004, with library circulation of audiobooks growing more than 13% over the same two years. (Here's a summary of the audiobook biz. Attention: PDF file.) I'm going to indulge in yet another gloat: And who's been yakking about the glories of audiobooks, and how well they suit the conditions of our up-to-date lives, ever since this blog was born? Moi, that's who. I have to say that I'm feeling very impressed by myself these days. The underdiscussion of immigration issues ... The changing role and nature of magazines ... Concerns about the digital cinema ... Audiobooks as the coming thing ... I really should peddle myself as a media prophet. Takers? Yes? No? Oh, well. Anyway, in my view, there are many excellent reasons why audiobooks are flourishing. More material is available every year, and in a variety of suit-yourself formats: abridged, unabridged, audiotapes, CDs, digital downloads. And many people have gotten used to doing business online. I've rented unabridged audiobooks from Blackstone Audiobooks and Books on Tape. They're both terrific services, reasonably priced and hyper-convenient. If you buy audiobooks and want to swap them for credit -- there's no point in keeping an audiobook once you've been through it -- I can recommend another webplace: AshGrove Audio Exchange. Being an on-the-page book reader can be discouraging these days. When to read, for one thing? Commutes are growing longer, life in general tends to get busy, and by the end of most work days, eyes and brain can be very tired. Come 11 pm, settling into a comfy chair and opening a traditional book often results not in an intense reading-session but in a swift fade-to-snooze. Audiobooks, by contrast, are usually listened to while commuting, while exercising, or while doing chores around the house. You're awake and alert as you listen, both because you're doing your listening during the brighter part of the day and because you're physically moving about. Doubting Thomases claim to have trouble with being read to. And there are certainly a few challenges to overcome, at least initially. Listening ain't reading, or not exactly anyway. The words move more slowly, and there's that funny feeling that you're a child being read to by a parent. And there are readers to contend with. Some audiobook readers are determined to get all dramatic with material that simply isn't meant to be acted. Most audiobook readers and producers these days have wised up, however. They're more concerned with presenting the material clearly and energetically than they are with showing off acting chops. But once you've adapted to being read to, the experience of listening turns out to be as interesting as the experience of reading. The case of drifting off is one f'rinstance. If I drift off while reading a book, I usually have to thumb my way back... posted by Michael at November 26, 2005 | perma-link | (14) comments





Friday, November 25, 2005


How to Write Plays
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The web is the resource that just keeps giving. Here's a very well-done how-to-write-plays site that breaks the subject into easily-digestible chunks: subtext, suspense plot, content, characterization, etc. Put together by Richard Toscan, dean of Virginia Commonwealth University, it's a first-class -- ie., accessible but sophisticated -- intro to dramatic writing, as helpful as anything I've read between covers. And it's all yours, and all for free. Many thanks to Richard Toscan for his good and generous work. I wrote here about my enthusiasm for the storytelling end of the fiction thang, and recommended a couple of how-to-create-a-story books. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 25, 2005 | perma-link | (7) comments





Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Elsewhere
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Many visitors d'un certain age will recall fondly the scrumptious photograph above, which was a much-loved icon of mid-'60s sexiness. It was the jacket art on a 1965 album -- we called collections of recorded music "albums" in those days -- by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass entitled "Whipped Cream & Other Delights." Groovy bachelor-pad bliss! God bless the web: I just learned the name of the stunner in the photograph: Dolores Erickson. Still a looker at 63 and now working as a professional artist, Dolores was a successful model, and she remembers the episode fondly. Here's her own website, although at the time I put up this posting her site didn't seem to be working properly. When it starts behaving again, you can go there and buy autographed copies of photographs and record jackets. Me first, though. * Who says that the aesthetic sense of scientists is limited to appreciating the elegance of math equations? Derek Lowe asks why college labs have to be such depressing places. * Guys: Have you ever wondered why so many gals have such a hard time formulating what they're looking for? Well, Chelsea Girl isn't one of them. She manages to write a letter to her boyfriend that is darned staightforward. * Thanks to Bookgasm's Rod Lott, who links to a Guardian list of the 20 Best Geek Novels Since 1932. I've read only 7 of the geeky 20, and I have to admit that my score includes four half-reads. Rod thinks "Lord of the Rings" should have been included on the list. * George Hunka, a fan of the lordly American novelist William Gaddis, turns out to be an even more enthusiastic napper than I am. I propose a new political movement: Nappers' Lib. Or maybe we should bring ourselves up to date, if drowsily so, and call our organization NWA (Nappaz Wit' Attitude). * Thanks to Lexington Green, who points out a smart and promising new groupblog named Architecture and Morality. Good stuff is piling up: a blogger who calls himself Corbusier, for example, wonders here and here about how much blame his namesake deserves for the recent French riots. Lex himself has put up a stirring posting arguing that what he calls the "Anglosphere narrative" of history is a substantial and important one. A good commentsfest follows here. * Neil Kramer confesses that he has a small "bedroom problem" ... * Right Reason's Steve Burton has just about had it with Crooked Timber. * Those who know about these things predict that Google's latest effort, Google Base, will out-Craigslist Craigslist. A 2Blowhards prediction: the future will consist of 5 billion channels of Google content, all of them delivered via iPod. * Arnold Kling wonders why so many people dislike economics. * Thanks to Claire for linking to this short film of comic genius. You know these men and their work, believe me. They're titans all. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 23, 2005 | perma-link | (13) comments




For Film Lovers
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The more film-besotted among our visitors won't want to remain unaware of some high-end moviechat sites: The shrewd and seasoned industry observer Anne Thompson blogs here. The NYTimes' civilized (if auteurist) film critic Dave Kehr has started blogging here -- although enough already with white-on-black type used for lengthy posts. Hey world, here's a little lesson from Graphic Design 101: Readers' eyes can typically make it through only a paragraph or two of white on black (or "reversed-out") text. Filmmaker magazine's staff blogs here, and points out a wonderful website devoted to Polish movie posters. Eastern European graphic design was, for a number of decades, one of the splendors of 20th century visual art, IMHO. For those who truly can't get enough, there's always Green Cine Daily, which delivers links, links, and more links to reviews, features, gossip, newly-released product, and you-name-it of any kind, so long as it has to do with edgy movies. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 23, 2005 | perma-link | (4) comments





Tuesday, November 22, 2005


The Joys of Creative Destruction
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards-- At breakfast today I read two stories in the L.A. Times business section. The first was a column by Patrick Goldstein, "In a Losing Race with the Zeitgeist," which you can read here. It tells how Hollywood is in a tizzy because the big studio movie business model appears to have hit a reef, started to take on water and is listing badly. The second was a story by James F. Peltz and John O'Dell on G.M., "GM Closures to Hit 12 Plants, 30,000 Jobs", which you can read here. Both of these stories have some relevance to me, personally. I live in L.A. and actually know people whose livelihood is bound up with the major studios. I used to live in Detroit and grew up eating food paid for with wages earned by my father at Chrysler Corp. Oddly, however, rather than feeling depressed, I found myself in an unexpectedly up mood. Even with allowances for the human suffering involved, both of these stories strike hopeful notes in my head. Both the large studio movie business and the U.S. automobile business just haven't felt in good health recently. There's no joy in their products, no bounce in their step. They've felt heavy, dragging around far too much old baggage. At least in my own life, those moments when I explicitly recognize that an aging status quo is unendurable, that things simply have to change, has always served as a prelude to a new and better time...however scary. I hope that this will be true for the American movie industry and the American auto industry as well. Admit it, guys, there is a certain reckless freedom that comes with creative destruction. In fact, embrace it--you've got no choice, anyhow. Best of luck from this small businessman. Cheers, Friedrich P.S. A piece of advice to G.M.'s management: even though you're sitting on billions in cash, I'd go ahead and declare bankrupcy and try to shed some of those legacy pension, healthcare and other costs. Hey, it's got to happen sooner or later...so why not sooner? Remember, the status quo is not sustainable.... posted by Friedrich at November 22, 2005 | perma-link | (14) comments





Monday, November 21, 2005


Immigration Elsewhere
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Minutemen on the Mexican border ... Ethnic stress in the Netherlands ... Riots in France ... Since I so seldom get a chance to say "I told you so," I'm not going to resist temptation now: I've been telling you so. During the three-and-a-half-year life of this blog, I've chosen to make questions of migration-and-immigration my dominant political topic. This was partly a strategic decision: Making one point loudly and getting it heard beats scattering ideas around so profusely that no one takes note of any of them. But it also came out of a conviction that migration-and-immigration was an enormous and underdiscussed political issue -- perhaps even the most underdiscussed major political issue. In fact, as a topic for discussion in the mainstream media as well as in polite liberal society more generally, it was entirely off-limits. In my hyper-modest way, I wanted to do what I could to help make the topic discussable again. My preferences where the U.S.'s own immigration policies are concerned? That caution and modesty should prevail; that the issue should be openly recognized as an important one; and that the tastes and preferences of the people currently inhabiting the country should play a major role in an ever-ongoing conversation. But, honestly, I'm old enough so I don't care much if my opinion prevails. I do think it's outrageous, though, that a topic of such importance still isn't being adequately discussed. News reporters and editors may have no choice but to take some note of the cars that have burnt in the Paris banlieus. But the commentariat has barely begun to acknowledge that many countries have major problems on their hands. Are you OK with the fact that the U.S.'s population is growing much, much faster than it would without illegal immigration? Are you cool with the fact that the country's ethnic makeup is undergoing a drastic re-ordering? I'd be a much happier man than I am if I heard these questions being argued about openly. Hence my determination to continue raising these topics despite the risk of appearing to be a monomaniac. Let it never be said that it's possible to visit 2Blowhards without encountering the topic of migrations and immigration! BTW, as far as I'm concerned, the real heroes of this battle have been the Center for Immigration Studies, Steve Sailer, Peter Brimelow and the team at VDare, and Randall Parker -- courageous, informed, and sharp-eyed researchers and commentators. In immigration/migration-related news recently: * In Britain, more than 55% of Pakistanis are married to a first cousin. In some British cities, three-quarters of Pakistani marriages are between first cousins. Are you surprised to learn that genetic problems abound? Steve Sailer suspects that cousin marriage may be one reason why Muslims have such a hard time integrating into Euro and Euro-derived societies. * Steve (and some of his readers) has been wondering if the polygamy that many African immigrants practice has been contributing to the riots in France.... posted by Michael at November 21, 2005 | perma-link | (75) comments





Sunday, November 20, 2005


Book-Length Fiction?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Where on-the-page-fiction is concerned, why are we so addicted to the novel-writing/novel-reading experience? O, the assumptions many of us make : On-the-page-fiction isn't really real unless it's a novel. A fiction-writer isn't really a fiction-writer unless he's churning out novels. Many readers even seem to feel that they haven't had an honest-to-god fiction experience unless they have immersed themselves for a couple of weeks in a novel. It seems such an odd fixation -- a fetish, really. As a practical matter, I have a pretty good idea how this state of affairs came about. It's a matter of publishing requirements, traditions, educations, and convenience. (How odd that novels are just about as long as well, as books are! Coincidence? I think not!!) But on a dumber yet more basic and emotional level, I'm quite puzzled. From a consumer's point of view: How often are you really in the mood for an on-the-page fiction experience of novel expanse -- ie., one that demands numerous nights to complete? I'm someone with a reasonable if not overwhelming appetite for on-the-page fiction experiences, yet my desire for fullblown, multi-week-long novel-reading adventures is very limited. After all, in terms of time, reading a 400 page long novel isn't like watching a sitcom, a play, or a movie -- perfectly satisfying fiction experiences in their own rights. Reading a 400 page long novel is more like committing yourself to making your way through a whole miniseries. And how many miniseries do you have room in your life for? Which brings up another point: how sensually impoverished on-the-page fiction is. A miniseries (or a movie, a play, or even a sitcom) offers not just words and storytelling, but also direction, color, design, photography, music, and especially acting and personalities. In sensory terms, even bad movies are rich and intense experiences that offer a lot of variety. Watching a film, you know that the camera will cut away to someone else soon. You're certain that the location will change. There'll always be something or somebody new to look at and listen to. By contrast, on-the-page fiction offers nothing but the author's words -- nothing but the author and his/her skill and talent, really. Just that one person ... Yet, despite this fact, a novel-author also wants to stake a claim on the reader's full attention for, say, 15 hours. Whoa, Nelly. In real life, I don't know a soul who can hold my attention for such a long time. Yet that's what a typical novel is: a 15 hour long performance by one person -- snoozola, man. I'm also struck by how arrogant it seems for any artist to say, "Here's the deal. I'm going to tell you a tale, and it's going to last for 15 hours. And for those 15 hours you are going to have nothing but my imagination, my craft, and my voice to enjoy." I'm not sure I want to be in the same room... posted by Michael at November 20, 2005 | perma-link | (30) comments