In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

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Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

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Friday, December 30, 2005


Music Category
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It had been nagging at me for a while that we had no Music category in our blog's archives. So I created one -- and then subjected myself to the tedium of riffling through our past work and assigning the appropriate postings to my new category. Please Lord, don't let my hours of dull, dull work go to waste. Please steer a visitor or two to the blog's left-hand column. Please make him or her click on "Our blog archives by category." And then please, please have this visitor click on "Music," and spend a few minutes exploring the postings that turn up. Because you know that some good -- or at least offbeat -- recommendations and jokes are to be found there. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 30, 2005 | perma-link | (0) comments




Image and Word
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Words come easily to me. They're my most direct form of expression; they're what I turn to first when I have something to communicate. Despite being a primarily-verbal guy, though, I cheer the fact that, these days, words are taking a beating. [Brief interruption for those who haven't run across this argument. We're said by many to be living at a time when the dominance of The Word is coming to an end. For hundreds of years -- the usual account locates the origin of this state of affairs at the time of Descartes -- words have held sway over all the other media. And modes of thinking that words are sometimes said to promote -- linearity, rationality -- have lorded it over other kinds of thinking. Nowadays -- what with computers, screens, recordings, email, advances in printing, etc. -- that super-verbal era is coming to a close. Images and sounds are turning up everywhere, and so are clickable buttons. We're moving into a less-authoritarian era -- one in which books, paper, and linearity become mere parts in a more-fluid, ever-turning-over, interactive, multimedia jumble. Such is the story anyway. Some people think this is a good development. Many people think it's a bad one. Most people seem to stare in amazement, and to feel bewildered and ambivalent ...] As far as I'm concerned, the de-throning of The Word is a great thing. Why shouldn't words take their modest place among the other media? Why shouldn't they stop carrying on so pompously and learn how to play nice? This attitude makes me a rarity among verbal people. I have many writer friends who feel very depressed about these developments. They trained themselves in and for a very different world, and they feel as though much of what they care about is dying. There's no question it's a tough time to be a writer. So many people agree that we're living at a time when, after a long period of subjection to The Word, The Image and The Sound are asserting themselves. And good for The Image and The Sound. Still, things can sometimes be taken too far. Graphics get used not because they work well, but because they're cool, or attractive, or punchy, or something. There's nothing wrong with words, after all. But Image-people especially seem to get carried away on a regular basis, choosing imagery and graphics when a printed word or two might have functioned far better. Perhaps they're a little drunk on their newfound power? Here's an example. The photo is a closeup of the side of The Wife's iBook: Can you tell which wire or plug is meant to be stuck into that hole? I certainly can't, and the cute graphic that Apple's designers have supplied isn't giving me any help. Would it have killed the designers to print the word "Power" next to the plug? Why topple one tyrant (words) only to install another (graphics) in its place? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 30, 2005 | perma-link | (14) comments





Thursday, December 29, 2005


The Future of Entertainment
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Edward Jay Epstein predicts that the near future will deliver dramatic surprises in the movie and TV worlds. Scary fact: Wal-Mart now accounts for 30% of DVD sales, and "the studios dance to Wal-Mart's tune." That can't be healthy for entertainment. Meanwhile, Friedrich von Blowhard alerts me to some happy entertainment news: Disney will produce a new season of "Kim Possible" cartoons. FvB posted about his own love of the series here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 29, 2005 | perma-link | (4) comments




Women and Stress
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- American men are "catching up to women in life expectancy," reports Yahoo. The reason? "Medical experts say women are working harder, smoking more and undergoing more stress, which leads to the No. 1 killer -- heart disease." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 29, 2005 | perma-link | (5) comments




Elsewhere
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Dunking, gymnastics -- it somehow makes sense ... * I'm one happy Vedantist and yoga-newbie. Still, those Hindu-ish cults ... What's all that about? Here's a fascinating memoir about 30 years spent living with Yogi Bhajan. * Slate's Jill Hunter Pellettieri thinks foodies should go easier on that hyper-perky whirlwind, Rachael Ray. (Link thanks to a fluff-scoffing Steve Sailer.) * Somone has been giving Anne Hathaway's scenes in "Havoc" one heck of a close going-over. (NSFW) * Dudes: Have you ever wondered if you'd have been happier attending Florida State University? On the other hand, college life in Western Canada can evidently get lively too. (NSFW) (CORRECTION: Thanks to Intellectual Pariah, who points out that the Canadian party-heartiers aren't in "Western Canada." They're at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario.) * Erotic blogging and podcasting: another match made in techno-heaven. (No naughty visuals, but the audio is very NSFW ...) * Functionality or aesthetics? Why should we have to choose, wonders Virignia Postrel. Nice quote: "Aesthetics isnít a substitute for functionality, but functionality isnít a substitute for aesthetics either." * Everybody -- even fictional characters -- is doing it: The immortal Nomi Malone (heroine of "Showgirls") is now a blogger. * Will a woman-run corporation be a more trusting place than an outfit run by men? Here's a book that has its doubts. * I'm even more of a former film-buff than I thought. Of the 21 movies and shows Anne Thompson includes on her year-end lists, I've seen exactly one. * Razib asks a lot of provocative questions about Christmas, Christianity, paganism, and culture. * Jill tells a sad story about getting used by a rich kid. Great passage: "He was a good-looking hippy boy, with pretty curls and a dimple. He also seemed kind of aloof, in that way that was completely alien to me, that way that only very rich kids are. A sense of entitlement, which I mistook for confidence." Rich kids often are kind of aloof, aren't they? * Here's a clever way to become a regular videoblogger: do your vlogging during your commuting time. * Why not become a vlogger yourself? * Are you interested in sampling French graphic novels? Zompist supplies a page of recommendations. * News comes from the University of Rochester that all of digital photography's problems have now been solved. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 29, 2005 | perma-link | (13) comments




Women Who Convert to Islam ...
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- An interesting article comes from the Christian Science Monitor's Peter Ford, who notes that more Western Euro converts to Islam are female than male. What do these women find in Islam, he asks? Mary Fallot [one such convert] laughs when she is asked whether her love life had anything to do with her decision. "When I told my colleagues at work that I had converted, their first reaction was to ask whether I had a Muslim boyfriend," she recalls. "They couldn't believe I had done it of my own free will." In fact, she explains, she liked the way "Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it's easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points." Those reasons reflect many female converts' thinking, say experts who have studied the phenomenon. "A lot of women are reacting to the moral uncertainties of Western society," says Dr. Jawad. "They like the sense of belonging and caring and sharing that Islam offers." Others are attracted by "a certain idea of womanhood and manhood that Islam offers," suggests Karin van Nieuwkerk, who has studied Dutch women converts. "There is more space for family and motherhood in Islam, and women are not sex objects." Do we laugh at such women for finding modern Western life so difficult? Do we entertain the thought that modern Western life might be a little lacking in certain dimensions? Or, y'know, are broads just like that? (Link thanks to John Ray.) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 29, 2005 | perma-link | (9) comments