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June 09, 2006


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* I recently learned via Peter L. Winkler that the well-known showbiz personal manager Jay Bernstein has died. Bernstein, often to be seen on the E! Channel reminiscing about his glory days, literally started in the mailroom at William Morris, then later helped make the careers of Suzanne Sommers and Farrah Fawcett. Peter interviewed Bernstein once and liked him.

* Did you know that Americans dispose of 472 billion pounds of trash every year? That's only 2 percent of the country's total waste stream -- industrial refuse accounts for the rest. Let's see ... 50 times 472 billion ... (Sound of awesome computer-brain crunching great big numbers ...) That's a whole lot of trash. Can this really be true?

* James Kunstler wonders what a contemporarary Progressivism might look like.

* So now we need to worry about milk?

* Quiet Bubble confesses that he generally prefers novellas to novels. I'm with him on that.

* I have no idea what a good Bollywood musical sequence would look like -- popular Indian movies are a weak spot in my film education. But I was amused by this one, especially when the chorus joins in and everyone sings and dances in unison. MGM meets Shiva and Ganesha!

* Take your friends out for a cruise on this old/modern beauty. Cost? A mere 300 grand a week.

* Swinging through on a visit, Colleen sees the Midwest for what it is. I found Colleen's #9 especially, even urgently, true: "When visiting land-locked states and given a choice between the fish or the beef, pick the beef. Seriously."

* Ginny finds evidence of Hard and Soft America at the junior college where she teaches.

* Steve is growing a little weary of the Wall Street Journal.

* Anyone intrigued or annoyed by my recent musings about movie reviewing should enjoy exploring Andy Horbal's recent bouquet of movielinks.

* Medieavalist Jeff pays a visit to Whole Foods and finds a little bit of Olde Iceland on a shelf.

* How did I miss this when it first came out -- a Roger Scruton appreciation of Jane Jacobs. Fun to see that Scruton includes some praise for James Kunstler too. Scruton and Kunstler (and of course Jacobs) rank very high in my pantheon of writers about architecture and urbanism. I wrote my own love letter to Jacobs here. Scruton recently wrote a posting (and a followup) about the ethics of meat-eating for Right Reason.



posted by Michael at June 9, 2006


RE: Kunstler -- I wish you would write an appreciation of Kunstler, and maybe even a primer for those of us who came to him late in the game. What a breath of fresh air he is, and such a rare combination of funny and smart.

RE: fish or beef -- you know, I definitely pooh-pooh Midwestern fish (except for the rare, locally-fished exceptions), but just b/c you live on a coast don't mean it's guaranteed all-fire great. My god, why is fish so damned hard for people to cook in a way that's non-fishy!?!

Posted by: communicatrix on June 9, 2006 2:55 PM

I liked Ginny's article, especially about the second/third/etcetera chances available in America. A member of my family did the "soft" thing at a university, then spent a year or two in the real world before entering community college and eventually getting a four-year degree. Actually, I did the "soft" thing too as an undergraduate (for the first couple of years, for sure) but somehow managed to wing through to the BA.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on June 9, 2006 3:16 PM

The main problem with Kunstler is that he is stark staring bonkers, and so binded by his aesthetic distaste for suburbia (which I share, at least to some extent) that he is convinced it must, it simply MUST, be destroyed by the wrath of the energy gods. Any evidence to the contrary is regarded as heresy.

He can be fun to read, though...

Posted by: jimbo on June 9, 2006 3:23 PM

The Quiet Bubble blogger is male. I had to go check his "About" page to be sure. For a minute there I thought I was going to have to make another difficult mental adjustment. :-)

Posted by: Lynn S on June 9, 2006 3:29 PM

Kunstler is nothing if not a specialist in eliciting strong reactions, that's for sure.

I found Ginny's posting rather moving, didn't you?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 9, 2006 3:29 PM

Whoops, tks, corrected.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 9, 2006 3:31 PM

What's most noticable to me about Kunstler and Jacobs is how studiously they ignore the racial/ public schools, etc. components of the suburban explosion. Why do middle class folks leave cities? because they looove long commutes?

Posted by: hugh on June 9, 2006 4:33 PM

I've got to say, I'm still trying to "get" Kunstler. He seems like the ultimately one opinion guy: everything revolves around his hatred of suburbia and everything connected to suburbia. He doesn't seem to really know much Progressivism, either, which makes me wonder if he knows anything about its on-the-ground history or historical context (like the fact that it was a direct outgrowth of very high levels of immigration). Given his status as a sort of disciple of Jane Jacobs, and the fact that Robert Moses is one of the devil-figures in Ms. Jacobs' story, does Kunstler even know that Moses was probably the archetypal Progressive? Doesn't that give Kunstler any pause?

Really, I don't know what to make of this guy. Maybe he's got something going on, but it's not evident to me. (Which may be my limitation, goodness knows.)

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on June 9, 2006 4:36 PM

That fish/beef comment ignores one of the great foods of my native territory: fried catfish. Not catfish almondine, catfish Florentine, or catfish Bonne Femme. Abominations, all of 'em. I mean catfish breaded in cornmeal as it was intended to be, with sliced red onion on the side and hushpuppies, naturally.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on June 9, 2006 9:00 PM

"...everything revolves around his hatred of suburbia and everything connected to suburbia."
I hear you – I read the link and thought, "What a raving jackass. What does M. Blowhard see in this guy?" From the link:
If Americans get what they deserve they may give up on both progress and justice.
...because we the people have been bad and naughty, and should be punished; the final intellectual resting place of the spurned/thwarted/ignored do-gooder.

(And then I encountered all the apocalypse cheerleaders in his comments section. shudder)

Posted by: David Fleck on June 9, 2006 9:43 PM

The milk guy is yet another hysterical Chicken Little. Most adults don't drink much milk. But he hasn't put forward any real evidence why one shouldn't. A real test might be to look at Scandinavians, who drink a lot of milk, versus French and Italians, who drink almost none. Are Scandinavians really less healthy? I'm glad I don't live my life being scared of things as innocuous as milk and meat. What a terrible thing to be so fearful and so irrational.

Posted by: Robert Speirs on June 10, 2006 10:26 AM

Bloomington, Indiana is one of the most beautiful college towns I've ever seen...which is where our midwestern friend is eating beef. To those commenters who dissed Indy...hey, check out the area known as Broad Ripple, very hip clubs for a town that size. Also check out the area of Indy named "Meridian/Kessler"---it was laid out by the same guy who did Beverly Hills, CA and if you want to see a lot of square footage of beautiful home for a price anyone on either coast would faint over....Of course, Indiana also has a lot of cows and cornfields.

Posted by: annette on June 12, 2006 3:09 PM

Kunstler's site and blog aren't Kunstler. Read his books, especially The Georgraphy of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere and you'll see there is more to him than hatred of suburbia. He does go through the history of the creation of the burbs, including progressive involvement. In TGoN he mostly mentions the effect of the Depression and the War in causing the cities to be dilapidated, and how that started suburban flight, but in The Long Emergencu he does discuss inner city pathologies and how they forestall a return to the cities. (And in TGoN he devoted a chapter to social pathologies in rural America.)

Posted by: Omri on June 12, 2006 9:49 PM

Hi! I been so busy I haven't been able to do much posting (or reading) recently, but I followed the link to the Roger Scruton "appreciation" of Jane Jacobs, and the more I read it, the more I found myself vigorously disagreeing with it.

So just for the record, here's the comment I posted on the "Open Democracy" website. (I'm reposting it here because I get the impression [perhaps mistaken?] that no one ever reads the comments page on that website.)

- - - - - -

Hello! I just read Roger Scruton's essay, "Jane Jacobs (1916-2006): Cities for Living" and I would like to comment on it. Since I'm new to this forum, I hope I am posting my comments in the right location.

Although in his essay Mr. Scruton apparently meant to be complimentary to the recently deceased Jacobs, it seems to me that he has significantly mis-characterized her work and thereby does Jacobs an enormous disservice!

In the first of her seven books, "Death and Life of Great American Cities" (which is presumably the book that Mr. Scruton is discussing in his essay), Jacobs wrote about what makes modern American cities succeed or fail over time.

While Jacobs argued against the planning of cities by government bureaucrats, she was certainly not advocating instead for "spontaneity" at the expense of needed rules and regulations! (To put Jacobs' thoughts in perspective, would one say that present day conservative economists are advocating for "spontaneity" at the expense of needed rules and regulations because they are against the planning of national economies, instead of the planning of cities?!) In fact, Jacobs was in favor of just the kind of rules and regulations offered up by Mr. Scruton in his essay, and a good portion of "Death and Life of Great American Cities" is actually a discussion of Jacobs' ideas for more useful rules and regulations.

With regard to the aesthetics of cities (which seems to be Mr. Scruton's primary concern, although it was not Jacobs'), it seems to me that Jacobs again favored basic rules and regulations (e.g., high ground coverage, basic height and set-back regulations, etc.) over total "spontaneity." But such rules and regulations -- probably far fewer and less restrictive than those favored by Mr. Scruton -- favor an aesthetic that is compatible with the dynamic, lively jumble that is American cities at their best. And I, for one, would hardly characterize the cities compatible with such an aesthetic -- New York, Boston, Chicago, etc. -- as "shanty towns."

# # #

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on June 20, 2006 4:04 AM

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