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February 18, 2006


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Here's one man who really, really loves his hobby.

* Wendy McElroy tries to separate the mythical Betty Friedan from the real Betty Friedan.

* David Apatoff thinks that graphic-novelists/critics'-darlings Chris Ware and Art Spiegelman have been wildly overpraised.

* Here's a real treat. Britain's brilliant first ladies of crime fiction, P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, swap shop talk. As far as I'm concerned, James and Rendell are giants of contempo fiction whether you're talkin' genre or non-genre ...

* Did you know that this year marks the 400th anniversary of the birth of Rembrandt? Robert Hughes writes a smashing tribute to the Dutch giant. Nice passage:

Certainly Rembrandt van Rijn did not feel an obligation to make his human subjects noble, let alone perfect. That is why, though not always a realist, he is the first god of realism after Caravaggio. And why so many people love him, since he was so seldom rivalled as a topographer of the human clay.

* Imagine owning a dog who could outscore you on the SATs ...

* I loved exploring the simple, moody, and poetic artwork and animations of Annika Bergstrom, a gifted young Swedish artist. Here's a conversation with Annika.

* Razib kicks off a rewarding bull session about Life's Largest Questions. Fun and thoughtful contributions by the likes of Dan Dare, NuSapiens, John Emerson, Agnostic, and Luke Lea.

* I notice that one of my favorite Teaching Company lecture series has just been updated and offered at a sale price. In "Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality," Robert Sapolsky covers a lot of ground clearly and enthusiastically. He explores how a single neuron works ... then a bundle of them ... then how a brain might work. He also looks at animals in the wild, at evolution, and at genetics. All very fascinating, of course. But, arts-dude that I am, I confess that I found the series most stimulating in terms of its implications for thinking about art and culture.

* To be dazzled by some up-to-the-minute, commercial computer-graphics work, go here and click on "reel." Trippy to the max!



posted by Michael at February 18, 2006


Twenty-aught-six seems to be a wild year for even birthdays. Rembrandt is 400, Ben Franklin 300, Mozart 250, George Bernard Shaw 150, Samuel Beckett and John Huston are 100, and Cicero is 2100 years young. Big names, round numbers. Is this above average or does it just seem that way?

Posted by: Brian on February 18, 2006 6:52 PM

Sapphire was one beautiful work, and the Shadow Realm...or is it my fondness for pearly-gray/cobalt/black chemes?

Posted by: Tat on February 18, 2006 10:13 PM

Could you elaborate on "its implications for thinking about art and culture"?

Posted by: Tim on February 20, 2006 7:35 AM

Brian -- I wonder if there are tea leaves that might be consulted about this ...

Tat -- I love the visual designer/engineer way you respond to stuff!

Tim -- I went through Sapolsky a long time ago, darn it. What I mainly retain is that the way nerves (and bundles of nerves, and on up the various levels of complexity ) work seems to reinforce traditional and classical views of the arts. There simply seem to be some basic structures and processes built into how we preceive and experience things -- and this is both barrier and gift. (My conclusion: why not work with these processes and structures rather than try to defy them?) Fred Turner's "Natural Classicism" does a good job -- well, a great job -- of synthesizing evo-bio and neuroscience into a view of culture. You might enjoy the book. You might also get a kick out of doing a search on Nikos Salingaros here at 2Blowhards. We interviewed him, and he wrote some pieces for us. He takes a math/chaos-theory/pattern-language view of culture and building specifically, and comes up with a lot of brilliant, stimulating and provocative ideas and conclusions. But the Sapolsky is fun (and cheap for what you get) too.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 20, 2006 11:14 AM

I can't believe the hobby of the man who loves his hobby isn't at least slightly kinky...what a disappointment. Dang.

Also, that's one darn smart dog. Or possibly that's an ordinary dog and the blonde lady in the movie should spend less time training him and get a life, or something.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on February 20, 2006 2:47 PM

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