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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Have you been getting enough sleep? The news: The Institute of Medicine issued a report confirming links between sleep deprivation and an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack and stroke. Some scientists are exploring possible connections between inadequate sleep and a decline in immune function. More here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 28, 2006 | perma-link | (4) comments

More on 1954 NYC Guidebook
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- The recent post containing excerpts from a 1954 New York City guidebook attracted several requests for more quotations and other information. I'm happy to comply. But be warned that this will be a long post due to the amount of detail involved. Let me start by quoting from Benjamin Hemric's comment to the previous posting. Benjamin is one of 2Blowhards' supermaven readers where New York City is concerned. My replies and / or quotes from the guidebook (prefaced by a bold-face headline -- part of the quotation) are inserted where appropriate. One of the things I like about such old guidebooks is that often can tell you indirectly quite a bit about the time and the place (e.g., what is valued and what isn't, where various businesses, like the publisher, are located, etc.), and I especially like that the author appears to be an opinionated guide, rather than just an objective lister of facts -- or worse, just a repackager of various press releases, etc. I have the reprint of the "1939 WPA Guide to New York," and I have some guidebook-like books (souvenir booklets and taxi drivers' directories) from the early 1960s. However, it would be interesting to hear about the city in-between those times. If you have the time, here are the things I hope you get a chance to took at: 1) Is there a listing for the Gilbert Hall of Science. A.C. Gilbert, who was really a remarkable guy (look him up in Wikipedia), had a toy company that had a small museum / showroom on Fifth Ave. I wonder if it is listed as an attraction? GILBERT HALL OF SCIENCE, 1 W. 25th St. (corner of 5th Ave.) -- home of the Erector set, American Flyer electric trains, Gilbert scientific toys (chemistry, magic sets, toy microscopes, etc.). 80-foot model railroad, push-button scientific exhibits are part of an elaborate toy display. Group tours (by appointment) include a magic show. [Page 95] 2) Also, nearby, the Lionel train people also had a very nice showroom that was open to the public. 3) At one time, there was a Museum of Science and Industry in Rockefeller Center -- although it may have been gone by 1954. If the museum is listed, I wonder where the entrance was? Nobody seems to really know. Sorry, but I didn't notice any reference to it. The guidebook doesn't go into much detail on any subject, I'm afraid. 4) I wonder what it says about the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although it was probably the largest museum in America at the time, it was tiny in those days compared to what it is today. It gets two mentions: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 5th Avenue at 82nd Street -- one of the world's great museums; varied permanent exhibits, many special showings. Free daily, Sun. afternoons. [Page 17] METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, 80th to 84th Streets -- 5th Avenue bus to 82nd Street -- sprawling monumental building along the... posted by Donald at October 28, 2006 | perma-link | (11) comments

DVD Journal: "Ask the Dust"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Were you as fascinated as I was by the way Robert Towne's film "Ask the Dust" (based on the novel by John Fante) came and went without leaving a trace some months back? The Wife and I caught up with the DVD of the film over the weekend. We didn't love it, but it did get me thinking -- as, admittedly, I'll tend to do anyway -- about now and the 1970s. A bit of filling-in-the-blanks for starters. First, the film's screenwriter / director, Robert Towne. From the the late '60s through the 1980s, Robert Towne was probably the most mysterious and legendary of all working American screenwriters. He had an uncredited hand in gestalt-shifting landmarks such as "Bonnie and Clyde" and "The Godfather"; he was a famously shadowy script doctor; and he was the main or only writer behind "The Last Detail," "Shampoo," and (most famously) "Chinatown," a script still used as a model in many screenwriting classes. Robert Towne More than that, though, Towne became a kind of professor / philosopher of the movie business -- an articulate thinking man with access to filmdom's higher truths. Born in 1934, Towne grew up in San Pedro, a port near L.A. He became something new in American culture: not a real-writer wannabe who sold his soul to the movie business, but instead a brainy real writer whose main goal was to write movies. The persona suited the times. In the 1960s and 1970s, art-mad people were taking movies seriously in ways few ever had before in this country. With his professorial, Euro-intellectual's beard and face, his intense-yet-confidential manner, his L.A. connections, his golden touch, and his access to fast-track types (and buddies) like Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty, Robert Towne established a new archetype: the backstage-mover-and-shaker / serious-writer / moviemaker / L.A. guy. He seemed an emblem of a new seriousness and depth -- a new adult-ness -- in movies, perhaps even in the culture more generally. How nice too that he moved well, spoke thoughtfully, and looked sexy. What he radiated was "Nobel winner who gets laid a lot," not "introvert-loser with an Underwood." A sexy thinker-creator! You had the feeling that if you could only spend a few minutes with Towne, you'd finally find out how the movies -- the myth and the reality, as well as the love and the money and the dreams ... -- really worked. Then, as the '80s turned into the '90s, Towne began to stumble. He turned to directing and -- though I liked his first two movies, "Pesonal Best" and "Tequila Sunrise" -- they weren't exactly earth-shakers. And the films whose scripts he worked on seemed to get cheesier. He attached his fortunes to Tom Cruise. Fine, of course, but hardly the stuff of misty legend. And "Mission: Impossible"? "Days of Thunder"? Robert, please. Well, a man's gotta pay the bills somehow. Still, his myth-sized reputation never crumbled; everyone seemed to find it convenient to... posted by Michael at October 28, 2006 | perma-link | (15) comments

Friday, October 27, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * More classic cat footage. (Link thanks to Kirsten Mortensen.) * Camille Paglia weighs in. * Doug Bentin recalls the scary pleasures of reading Robert ("Psycho") Bloch. * Urban specialists Fred Siegel and Harry Siegel are now blogging. * Why am I so late in catching up with Gawain's marvelous and wide-ranging cultureblogging? Recently he has been thinking about Sei Shonagon and enjoying Peter Brooks' film of The Mahabharata. More people ought to be spending time and brainpower on Sei Shonagon and The Mahabharata, sez I. Have I mentioned recently how much I love a lot of Asian art? And how patchy my knowledge of it is? Sigh ... * Los Lobos sure do a kickin' job with "La Bamba," don't they? Their version of "Let's Go" is a mood-lifter too. * Is there anything more lovely than Glenn Gould playing Orlando Gibbons? * Yahmdallah pointed out this page of dazzling, Magritte-like photographs. * John Massengale celebrates the great bookstores. * Kevin Pacheco alerts us to the Gap's new campaign, which makes eye-popping use of nonsense brackets. * WhiskyPrajer notices a useful and surprising "10 Best Western Novels" list by the crime novelist George Pelecanos. WP himself has been struggling with pagination. Why is pagination such a puzzle and a chore in so many word processors? * The worlds of neoburlesque and live literary readings are cross-fertilizing. Erotica writer Polly Frost interviews Canadian writer and impresario Nichole McGill about the scene. * He's an Austrian-leaning mostly-libertarian kinda guy, but even Tyler Cowen has to admit that life in Sweden can be pretty nice. (Here, here, here.) Many readers chip in interesting comments. * American women: And you think you've got some progress yet to make ... * Tim Worstall casts a skeptical eye at the gender gap. * Prairie Mary turns out to be a fan of war movies. * Watching this startling video makes Charlton Griffin want to take refuge in some end-of-civilization thoughts. * Steve Bodio shows off a beautiful French rifle. Reid Farmer watches the launch of a spy satellite. * SY Affolee offers a glimpse of her prep work for National Novel Writing Month. Hey, is it considered kosher to do prep work for NanoWriMo? * Why not check out the first Mobile Phone Film Fest? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 27, 2006 | perma-link | (7) comments

Federal Aid for the Arts?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- In his 1990 report on government aid for the arts, Bill Kauffman makes numerous points that, to my mind, are seldom sufficiently stressed. A few of them: 1) America's pre-NEA cultural life was dynamic and awe-inspiring. Somehow, despite the lack of federal funds, the U.S. managed to come up with Louis Jordan and Patsy Cline; Bessie Smith and Herman Melville; William Faulkner and Louisa May Alcott; the Lindy Hop and the Charleston; Frank Furness and Julia Morgan; Little Egypt and the Nicholas Brothers; Sister Rosetta Tharpe (again) and the Mediterranean Revival; Margaret Mitchell and James Thurber; Krazy Kat and hot rods; Billie Holiday and Bing Crosby; soul food and hardboiled fiction; the Wild West show and the Cord car; the Bakersfield Sound and Fanny Brice; the Chrysler Building and the shotgun shack; Mae West and W.C. Fields; "Trouble in Paradise" and the Harlem Globetrotters; and -- oh yeah -- jazz, "Mildred Pierce," Hollywood, Fats Waller, and Mad magazine. Can anyone reasonably ask for a richer, more kick-ass culture than that? And how well have we done since? Hmmmm: Conceptual art ... Post-modernism ... Deconstruction ... 2) Even at the time that government support for the arts was being debated, many artists and intellectuals -- including some of a progressive persuasion -- were opposed. Kauffman cites Paul Goodman, John Sloan, Larry Rivers, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Why did they look on federal handouts askance? Because they didn't want the arts to be co-opted by those in power. In fact, the people most in favor of handing out dough to artists were the politicians, not the artists. An example was Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who wrote to JFK: Federal subsidy of the arts "can strengthen the connections between the Administration and the intellectual and artistic community ... something not to be dismissed when victory or defeat next fall will probably depend on who carries New York, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois and Michigan." Schlesinger and JFK weren't interested in the good of the arts. They wanted the prestige the arts could confer for themselves. A nice quote from Kauffman: Elite museums in this country were founded and thrived on the patronage of well-heeled philanthropists. The rich, to use a biblical inversion, will always be with us; so will philanthropy. A populist museum, by definition, will attract an audience large enough to make subsidy unnecessary. Museums celebrating regional or particularistic culture are, properly, the concern of local communities and governments. Where, pray tell, does the NEA fit in? A fast one that's often pulled in day to day arts/political firefights is to argue that anyone in favor of the arts must, simply must, favor government aid to the arts. It's assumed to follow automatically. Baloney to that, of course. What do you say we pull a faster one right back at 'em? Let's argue that anyone who truly cheers for the arts should root for the arts to cut themselves entirely free from federal handouts. I wrote about something I called... posted by Michael at October 27, 2006 | perma-link | (25) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- So maybe it really does come down to calories and exercise. OK, all that and fiber. Plus treating food as a sensual pleasure to be lingered over rather than a tanking-up to be hustled through. A nice passage from Michael Fumento, the bete noir of the fat-acceptance movement: Europeans get almost no wonderful diet advice thrown at them, like we do -- by the government and those wonderful women's magazines that regularly offer "the last diet you'll ever need." Only the U.K. provides food labels with fat and calorie content. Without our "solutions," Europeans are so much thinner than we. Why? Our food portions look like something out of Jurassic Park. Michael Fumento debates Richard ("Eat Fat") Klein here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 27, 2006 | perma-link | (12) comments

Thursday, October 26, 2006

NYC Guidebook, 1954
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- One item I turned up a couple of months ago when I was moving out of the apartment was a 1954 New York City guidebook. Quite likely it was the one my parents bought for our big 1956 trip from Seattle to Detroit (to pick up our new 1956 DeSoto at the factory) and on to the East Coast and return. For the record, it's Complete Guide to New York City by Andrew Hepburn, a publication of The American Travel Service, distributed by Houghton Mifflin Company. Price: one dollar. Just for fun I thought I'd pass along some snippets, and here they are. Subways. New York's subway system, much maligned and a vast burden to taxpayers, is one of the most remarkable railways in the world. From the standpoint of volume of traffic it is easily the world's biggest -- nearly two billion fare-paying passengers are carried each year by all lines. The fare is 15 [cents], paid by token. [Page 4] Third Avenue Elevated -- Last of a once big system of elevated railroads, itself doomed to come down, is a picturesque, noisy, and not unpleasant way of travel. The line runs from City Hall north along 3rd Avenue the Length of Manhattan, and to 210th Street in the Bronx. It recently stopped running trains week ends. [Page 4] [Greenwich Village] So gay and gaudy was the reputation of Greenwich Village at one time -- as a center for artistic expression and unconventional life -- that now many visitors are surprised and disappointed to discover that much of the artistic front is false; that other things in the Village are just as important as artists and their work. [Page 52] Metropolitan Opera House fills the area between 40th and 39th Streets, Broadway and 7th Avenue, with an ugly, old building that deserves more attention than it receives. For almost 70 years it has been a mecca for music lovers, home theater for distinguished opera singers, New York's and the nation's headquarters for operatic entertainment. The interior, with five balconies, 35 boxes and great stage, has a luxurious, classic, old-world elegance in sharp contrast to the shabby exterior. [Page 28] THE THEATER. There are now 34 theaters ("legitimate" in Broadwayese) that stage conventional theatrical entertainment. The number offering shows varies with the season, often drops to as low as 20. To get tickets, you can mail a check (or go) to the box office, or you can use an agent. The agent's fee is limited by law to $1.20 per ticket, including tax. Ticket prices per seat usually range from $1.65 to $6.60 for musicals, $1.10 to $4.40 for other shows, tax included. [Page 33] For visitors interested in shopping ... BLOOMINGDALE BROS., Lexington Ave. at 59th Street -- 7 floors, 2 basements; full range of departments. Features a delicacy shop (imported food specialties), wine shop (selected European vintners), pet shop (harnesses, collars, leashes, canine costume jewelry), a fine furniture department with emphasis on... posted by Donald at October 26, 2006 | perma-link | (24) comments

Chris Isaak
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Chris Isaak's music sometimes doesn't do much for me. But occasionally his easy-swinging, comic/soulful, super-smooth, po-mo-Elvis, dreamboat-crooner act snaps into enjoyable focus. Herewith my faves. "Let Me Down Easy." Nice cyber-eye-candy -- and dig those cute go-go girls!: "Somebody's Crying": And, of course, the immortal "Laetitia Did a Bad, Bad Thing." The visuals count for, ahem, more than usual in the case of this particular performance: Good lord, could there be a bigger Laetitia Casta fan than YouTube denizen "Terriblegallo"? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 26, 2006 | perma-link | (5) comments

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fiction, Empathy, Chix, Names
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It seems that reading fiction can help you develop empathy. Dudes who want girlfriends, listen up: Take yoga classes; learn how to cook, dance, and flirt; and read a few novels, OK? In any case, girls sure look cute when they're wrapped up in a book. (Link thanks to Dave Lull, that literate lech.) Find out how many people in America share your name. I should warn you, though, that when I typed my real name into the search box, this was the result: HowManyOfMe.comThere are:0people with my namein the U.S.A.How many have your name? Pardon me while I treat myself to an identity crisis. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 25, 2006 | perma-link | (45) comments

Music and Lit
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- P.I. novelist Robert Crais is asked to explain the appeal of private eye fiction. Nice response: "What jazz is to music, detective fiction is to literature. Another color on the palette. The more colors you have, the richer you are." Amen to that, bro. Now why don't more people agree? Funny how so many people can accept jazz and movies, perhaps even rock and design and television, as legitimate forms, yet shy away from the idea that anything but the snootiest kinds of books can be worthy of attention. Crais is an inspired novelist, by the way. I've enjoyed and can recommend several of his novels: this one and this one. Funny and stylish, laid-back yet tense ... First-class popular literature. Oops, did I say "literature"? Here's Robert Crais' website. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 25, 2006 | perma-link | (2) comments

300 Million -- Or More?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Scary thought: What if the Census Bureau is guilty of undercounting? Virginia Abernathy thinks that we passed 300 million six years ago. She also thinks we're heading for a population of 800 million by 2100. Is anyone really in favor of this? Haya El Nasser provides a more establishment but still informative overview of the US and its population history. Nice graphic too. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 25, 2006 | perma-link | (4) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Hard to believe, I know, but child poverty is on the rise in LA county. Now why would that be? ... Digging deep to avoid the obvious, the LA Times blames the situation on the cost of housing. * Did you read the one about the English schoolgirl who -- having asked to be taught in English -- wound up in jail? * Eating out is the new eating in. * Why can't food recipes be copyrighted? Tyler Cowen and commenters propose lots of possible reasons. * So Yahmdallah sends this great idea for a compilation album to Rhino ... * Squub hopes Axl Rose is listening. * Steve Sailer (and correspondents) wonder if we're on the verge of running out of melodies. * Raymond Pert wishes that Neil Diamond would do a gig in hipper-than-hip Eugene, Ore. * It may be too late for cod. * I enjoyed Jeet Heer's article about the uneasy but close relations between literature and smut. * Rachel could have used a more adroit compliment. * In 1995, an American artist, William Utermohlen, learned that he had Alzheimer's. He began making self-portraits and continued doing so until he completely lost his abilities a couple of years ago. The New York Times reports, and runs a sad and moving series of Utermohlen's pictures. * Searchie writes that blogging saved her life. * Journalistic conventions and understandings in other cultures can be different than what we're used to. Oh, by the way: Have I mentioned that if you hand me an envelope full of bills I'll write a nice blog posting about you? * David Brooks thinks Andrew Sullivan's new book "The Conservative Soul" is important. So does this guy. * Wow. Someone sure didn't enjoy Sofia Coppola's new movie ... * Moira and David have been visiting the Four Corners. Scroll up and down their blog for many stunning photos of this spectacular area. *The youthful mania for body art is forcing employers to rewrite dress codes. * Daniel Libeskind's Denver Museum of Art features tons of his patented "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" spaces, many of which turn out to be ... well, let's say a little challenging to display art in. * A mysterious someone has vowed to go without conventional TV for a year, blogging all the way. * Have college Republicans become less thoughtful than they once were? Daniel McCarthy strongly suspects that they have. Daniel completes his thoughts and musings here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 25, 2006 | perma-link | (7) comments

Religion, Anthropology, Belief, Etc.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Just because, as blog-proprietor, I can, I'm dolling up and reprinting here a few of the comments I made on our earlier yakfest about Terry Eagleton, Richard Dawkins, and religion. * I have a broad conception of religion that I owe to early immersion in anthropology-style thinking. (Nothing impressive: just book-learning and hanging with anthro friends.) It left me with the conviction that everyone is religious, and that every culture has its religion (or religions). After all, we all have hopes, we all take many things on faith, we all have our value systems, and we all have our ways of dealing with scary and glorious Larger Questions. Further, all societies have their myths, dreams, arts, gods, and directives. (Think of the American religion of success, for instance, as well as our fascination with celebrities.) Whether these folkways, habits, and processes happen to be written down, turned into formulas, and delivered articulately to audiences of well-dressed people for an hour every Sunday is interesting but not crucial. (All those self-help and how-to-succeed bestseller-wannabes? Maybe they're our holy books. All those photo-filled tabloids obsessed with fashions, scandals, Lindsay and Angelina? Maybe they're our religious visual art. Or maybe they are for some people, anyway.) To me -- soaked in anthro -- the religion-thang is as inescapable a human universal as art, music, storytelling, etc. Why fight this fact? * Here's one hyper-fuctional -- as far as I'm concerned -- way of looking at the "God" and "religion" questions. There's much that we know. There's also a huge amount that we don't know. We may or may not eventually know it all. (Unlikely, sez I, but what the heck.) And then there's undoubtedly 'way more than all that too. Hey, life is full of surprises! And then there's us. Here we are in the midst of all this churning cosmic bubbly custard, unquestionably part of it yet weirdly able to give it a little thought too. How'd that happen? Where'd the ability come from? And what purpose might it be serving? Take that whole bundle -- including what's known; we/us ourselves; what we know and don't know; what we don't even know we don't know; our ability to think a bit about it; our thoughts and fantasies and ideas and dreams; the many and often invisible forces animating and moving through It All; etc etc. OK, now why not give that mooshy, vaster-than-vast, pulsing 10-dimensional bundle a name? Why not ... call it "God"? I mean, you don't have to. But why not? Got a better name for it? I'm down with that too. Now let's discuss the topic -- the Infinite (Currently Incompletely Knowable) Churning Vastness Of It All, Of Which We're Only a Small Part. After all, just about everyone has some sense of wonder and fear in the face of It-All, and many people even have a few intuitions or flashes of maybe-insight or maybe-delusions about It-All, or maybe just the occasional feeling... posted by Michael at October 25, 2006 | perma-link | (15) comments

Donald Does Pebble: Field Notes
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Please don't become green with envy while reading this post. It might not be necessary. It's about our most recent visit to the Lodge at Pebble Beach golf links near Carmel-by-the-Sea on the central California coast. Glorious weather. None of that summer fog. Sunshine and 71 degrees Fahrenheit, just like it was exactly 45 years ago while I experienced that delightful nearby spa and health club called Fort Ord. Here are some photos I took. View on entering the main lounge. The outside light overwhelmed the exposure meter, so it's hard to make out details of the room. For instance, in the center foreground is a railing for a small overlook just inside the entry. Looking across the lounge towards the bar. This shows the room better. Two more painting are on the wall opposite the one shown. Closer view of the terrace. Nancy and I went there because ... well, partly Just Because. That and the fact that I'd lost my beloved orange Pebble Beach baseball cap and was looking for a replacement at the golf shop across the lawn from the Lodge. The weather and setting were so perfect we dallied in the lounge over a mocha and hot chocolate. Total cost for this reverse-slumming? Less than 20 bucks. It set us back $8.75 to get onto 17-Mile Drive and the drinks and tip came to less than $10. Okay, the new cap's list price was $29.50, Nancy spent about double that for a Christmas present for an in-law, and I bought Nancy earrings at the jewelry store near the golf shop. But all that was needed to cover entry and our seats was $20 minus change. Conclusion: Ritz can be cheap. Try it. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at October 25, 2006 | perma-link | (6) comments

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Eagleton on Dawkins
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm not usually much of a fan of Terry Eagleton, but I thought the working-over that Eagleton recently gave uber-atheist Richard Dawkins' current book about religion was a dazzler. Nice passage: Dawkins considers that all faith is blind faith, and that Christian and Muslim children are brought up to believe unquestioningly. Not even the dim-witted clerics who knocked me about at grammar school thought that. For mainstream Christianity, reason, argument and honest doubt have always played an integral role in belief. (Where, given that he invites us at one point to question everything, is Dawkins's own critique of science, objectivity, liberalism, atheism and the like?) Reason, to be sure, doesn't go all the way down for believers, but it doesn't for most sensitive, civilised non-religious types either. Even Richard Dawkins lives more by faith than by reason. We hold many beliefs that have no unimpeachably rational justification, but are nonetheless reasonable to entertain. Only positivists think that 'rational' means 'scientific.' Link thanks to the ever-essential ALD. Razib expresses agreement with Dawkins and scorn for Eagleton in the comments on this posting. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 24, 2006 | perma-link | (22) comments

Monday, October 23, 2006

Armies on the Rampage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Everyone knows that conquering soldiers often go a little wild as they advance. But how wild is wild? Anthony Beevor estimates that more than two million German women were raped by Soviet troops during the closing days of World War II. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 23, 2006 | perma-link | (48) comments

Movie Polls
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Andy Horbal reports the results of his "Best American Fiction Film of the Last 25 Years" poll here. Messrs. Scorsese and Tarantino will not be displeased. Have you voted in the 2Blowhards' own "Your Favorite American Fiction Film of the Last 25 Years, The Critics Be Damned" poll yet? I'll keep the lines open for two more days and then total the results up. Vote here. Me, I'm rooting for "Showgirls." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 23, 2006 | perma-link | (0) comments

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Redesigning the U.S. Map
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- A long-established American minor-league sport is bitching about political boundaries -- sometimes those of counties, but more often state boundaries. The matter came up recently thanks to Michael's interview with Bill Kauffman. In Comments, I chipped in with the following: I suppose I have no strong cred to be butting into the western NYS mystique thing -- I only lived in Albany for 4+ years, but also had to forecast the population for all of the state's counties and traveled the area as part of my duties. Personalities and subcultures aside, western New York is Great Lakes. Great Lakes is a sub-species of Midlle West. Buffalo is far more akin to Cleveland than to Albany, methinks, if you posit "geography as destiny." Redesigning state boundaries is a seductive idea I blow hot and cold over. Lots of regional "minorities" get screwed because a in-state regional "majority" crams legislation down their throats. But a lot of homogeneity theoretically can mean less national cohesion and could lead to a break-up at some indefinite future date. All that aside, I agree that it makes sense to chop NYS in two at a point somewhere near Bear Mountain. California can be separated along the mountains north of the LA basin. Eastern Washington and Oregon plus the Idaho panhandle might be merged. And there is that old, putative state of Jefferson that would take in southwest Oregon and California north of Shasta Dam. And that's only the start... That state of Jefferson I mentioned was a gleam in some peoples' minds many decades ago. It was already an old cause when I first heard about it back in the late 40s or early 50s. But I hadn't noticed anything about it in quite a while, so I assumed the ardor finally fizzled. I was wrong. Last Friday as I was driving north on Interstate 5 nearing the Oregon border I saw roadside signs touting the state of Jefferson. One even mentioned a Web site for the cause. And by golly there is indeed a web site: click here. The site includes a map showing one possible collection of Oregon and California counties that might comprise a future Jefferson. The example takes in Roseburg to the north and points below Red Bluff to the south. I'm not so sure that even Redding fits well into the Jefferson scheme. I suspect those southerly counties were included to boost the population, because otherwise Jefferson might not even hit a million people -- rather small for a state. (No I haven't checked the data because I'm traveling, so let me know in Comments if you think I'm wrong.) Enough on Jefferson: Let me elaborate on what I discussed earlier. No matter how how small you slice the political map, there'll always be a "minority" or another that will feel shafted, so that issue can never be eliminated. Nevertheless, many states seem to make little economic sense. Western Washington and Oregon differ greatly in... posted by Donald at October 22, 2006 | perma-link | (41) comments