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August 18, 2006


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Nate Davis buys some new CDs, enjoys them, yet finds himself wondering what it is we get from music. Then he has the inspired idea of visually documenting his daily commute. We're lucky he did it on such a pretty day.

* Rachel spots evidence (here and here) that Hollywood may be becoming a little less neurotic about weight. We can hope.

* Mr. Tall has some good advice for those hoping to beat the heat while stuck wearing a suit.

* Claire plays the "One Book" game. My favorite Claire response is to the category "One book I wish I'd written." Claire: "Yoga for People Who Can't be Bothered to Do It."

* Greg Mankiw notices that Milton Friedman's 1980 TV series "Free to Choose" can now be watched on Google Video.

* Stephanesque shares an architect's image of Boston's new Institute of Contemporary Arts, scheduled to open soon. Sigh: Does reality really have to be turning into a computer rendering of itself?

* Alice creates a lovely drawing using ink and pizza grease.

* Girish recalls what it was like for him to move to the U.S. 20 years ago.

* Texas loyalist Scott Chaffin confides that ZZ Top "pretty much defines me." Not a statement you'll hear often where I live in New York City!

* Searchie gives an obnoxious tech-support geek a well-deserved telling-off.

* At Querencia, Matt wonders why no one foresaw that that engineered golf grass would likely jump a fence, and Steve shows off a plentiful mushroom harvest.

* Muslim comedians -- that has to be a good development. (Link thanks to Rod Dreher.)

* Razib wonders why the New York Times doesn't consider Asians to be "minorities."

* Citrus/ViewfromArizona/Roger has begun experimenting with videoblogging, and has even visited an Apple Store to get some tech-coaching. I'm looking forward to more. Roger's videocam skills are still works in progress, but onscreen he has a lot of presence.

* Derek Lowe wonders how much of a technical/scientific/medical optimist he really is.



posted by Michael at August 18, 2006


Whatever The Times may think, Asians aren't a minority because they're too damned smart to be a minority!
I guarantee that if there was a significant contingent of Cubans in the N.Y.C area, The Times would find away to declassify them as part of the Hispanic minority "community." Why? They're bright. They're enterprising. They rise! You can't be a minority and rise. Because the minute a group rises it can't be protected anymore. And then where would The Times socially minded sociopaths be? They'd be without a raison d'etre. And that's far more important than the plight of minority herds. God forbid people should be left alone to sink or swim on their own. Why that's, that's...ANARCHY!!

Posted by: ricpic on August 18, 2006 5:35 PM

Thanks for the link, Michael. Though I love the book for its content now, it was the title that first made me pluck it off a library shelf. I'm glad it caught your eye too even if it's only as a source of amusement.

Posted by: claire on August 18, 2006 7:58 PM

Cuban immigrants are only a minority if they vote Democratic. If they vote Republican they become "exiles" who may be insulted without consequence, and whose success in the USA may be attributed to their having been members of some imagined landed aristocracy in Cuba, even if they were middle-class professionals who came here with nothing.

Posted by: Jonathan on August 19, 2006 8:48 AM

Normally I defend the shiny glass boxes on this site because I actually like them but even I can't quite get behind the new Boston ICA if that rendering is accurate.

(Went home to IA for a visit and meant to take pictures of this cool new bank I saw, but I didn't, so here's a description instead. When would I ever have thought about architecture if I didn't read this site? See, some people can grow! Anway, it's prairie style and made with limestone that is native to the area and gleaming dark wood. It was so beautiful and fit the flat broad expanse of land perfectly. Of course, the rest of it was exurbia, but then free-marketer and lover of all growing, expanding, looking to the future things me, liked that.

Still, the building was a real gem. Beautifully thought out. And perfectly proportioned. Graceful building proprotions always do that for me).

Posted by: MD on August 19, 2006 1:41 PM

Thanks for the link. Knowing you've had a thoughtful reader is one of the greatest pleasures of the internet age.

Posted by: Nate on August 19, 2006 4:43 PM

Michael – I picked up on some of the same things as Razib in the New York Times story on elite schools (it especially caught my eye because my college girlfriend graduated Number 9 in her class at Bronx High School of Science). It also reminded me of how some newspapers here in the west discount Asian enrollment at California’s top colleges while focusing on “under-represented” minorities. But I loved the unintentional clarity of the graphics despite the obfuscations of the actual news story. It was interesting, for example, how little attention was given to the consistent and sharp decline in white attendance in all three schools since 2003. I wonder why that year was so significant, and where these students are ending up when they fail to get into these top schools.

Still, NY racial politics does not easily break down into the simplistic red state/blue state categories so loved by ditto-heads and others. For example, Dominicans, Haitians, and other Caribbeans are still considered minorities even when they out-perform American born blacks and Puerto Ricans. And there are quite a few Cubans in New York, including a few who escaped with substantial wealth and whine about the good old days when they could put their boots the butts of a Cuban servant class.

By the way, there is a rather prosaic explanation as to why Asian Americans are the invisible minority. Overall, they make up only 4.3% of the U.S. population, even though they are obviously strongly represented in many areas. I recall noting how responses from Asian American voters were not included in most polls and stories about the California recall election that gave us Governator Arnold, simply because their inclusion or exclusion was not statistically significant. And I have yet to read a local story about illegal immigration that quotes an Asian American.

Also, Hollywood’s fetish for thin women continues despite signs to the contrary. Men can be hefty, but not women (satisfying a fantasy that an everyday slob can get a hot babe). Even though a recent news story claimed that the Archbishop of Genoa once observed that he would make an exception to the Vatican’s opposition to cloning in the case of Sophia Loren, Patricia Arquette, star of the TV show, “Medium,” was told by a producer, “Honey, you’ve got to lose some weight” even though she plays a mother of three children, not an anorexic supermodel.

In a recent NY Times story, Arab Comic and social critic Duraid Lahham notes that sometimes being comedian is a tough job, especially in the Middle East. “One time,” Mr. Lahham recalled between continuous puffs on an extra-long cigarette, “in a conversation with an Arab official we were criticizing a lot, he said to me: ‘Talk all you want. We will do all we want.’ ”

Posted by: Alec on August 21, 2006 5:59 AM

Another thanks for the link- and also thanks for the encouraging positive artistic feedback!

Posted by: Alice on August 21, 2006 9:54 AM

My contribution to the "One Book" game.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on August 21, 2006 5:18 PM

Sometimes I wonder whether the NY Times editors read the articles they print. One possible factor that might explain some of the change in the distribution of students in elite schools is contained in an August 16 Times story ( “New York Area Is a Magnet for Graduates”). According to this article:

“Almost 5 million people over the age of 25 in the New York metropolitan area — more than a third of the region’s population — had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2005…. In Manhattan, nearly three out of five residents were college graduates and one out of four had advanced degrees, forming one of the highest concentrations of highly educated people in any American city.

The degree-holders are rapidly displacing the dropouts, a trend that may help reduce the demand for social services and drive down crime rates. But the trend also worries some sociologists who say it is evidence that lower-income residents are being pushed out.

Between 2000 and 2005, the number of people in the metropolitan area over 25 who had not finished high school declined by 520,000, a drop of almost 20 percent. During the same period, the number of college graduates in the region rose by almost 700,000.”

Elite schools may simply have a larger pool of elite applicants to pull from because of demographic changes in New York.

Posted by: Alec on August 22, 2006 3:49 AM

OK, Michael. I rose to the bait! Here 'tis:

Posted by: citrus on August 22, 2006 10:08 AM

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