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Saturday, December 2, 2006

Gals, Guys, Gifts
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Could it be that there really are more men than women among the super-high-IQ crowd? Britain's Dr. Paul Irwing, who describes himself as a leftie who wishes that this weren't the case, says that it's true. I don't know what the fuss is about myself. 1) In my own experience, men have been much more common than women among the cognitively high-powered. 2) Given that women are so much (and so obviously) better than men at so many things, why be surprised that men should show a few talents of their own? I gassed on about G and the arts here. Best, Michael UPDATE: From the BBC: "Although the average IQ of men and women is equal, men are more frequently found at both extremes of intelligence."... posted by Michael at December 2, 2006 | perma-link | (24) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Deborah Foreman, the adorable and funny star of the '80s teen-hits "Valley Girl" and "My Chauffeur," now works as a professional yoga teacher. L.A. residents can line up private coaching with her. * Did dogs really descend from wolves? (Link thanks to Steve Sailer.) * Kara Hopkins describes the many tangles that the illegal-immigration issue is catching the Democrats up in. The question, in a word, is: Who to stand up for -- working-stiff Real America (white and black), or appealingly-exotic new arrivals? * That scream you heard in that movie you just watched ... Why did it sound so famliar? * Part of what was overlooked during the fuss over Bjorn Lomborg's "The Skeptical Environmentalist" was that Lomborg is himself an eco-fan. To the dismay of some on the Right, he isn't anti-eco; to the dismay of many of the party faithful, he's let's-get-our- priorities-straight eco. Here's a new interview with Lomborg from TCS. * Is neoclassical economics objective or value-addled? (Link thanks to ALD.) * Does the triumph of big-box shopping deserve to be celebrated by free-market fans? Are the festivities qualified at all by the fact that many of these outfits have received millions in government aid? I just learned that 84 of Wal-Mart's 91 distribution centers have received government subsidies, some in excess of $10 million. * Perhaps economics doesn't have to be autistic after all. Here's a fun profile of Ulrike Malmendier, a sensible-sounding young star of the behavioral-economics school. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 2, 2006 | perma-link | (5) comments

Are Videodiscs Going Extinct?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- So, high-definition videodisks, eh? Two competing DVD formats, wouldn't you know it. Which to choose? ... Slate's Sean Cooper argues that it's a moot question. His bet is that before either format can establish itself we'll be happily downloading high-def movies onto hard drives. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 2, 2006 | perma-link | (6) comments

Friday, December 1, 2006

A Regional Cinema?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I've been having a good time following "Something to Be Desired," a Pittsburgh-set and Pittsburgh-made web-based dramedy about a group of young and funky media kids. It has twisty storylines, saucey and vivacious performers, lots of well-observed, satirically-portrayed behavior, and scrappy-fun production values. It's absorbing, perceptive, and amusing in equal measure, and it works well on a three by four inch computer window. Watching it is like watching a cross between "Sex in the City" and "The Office" performed by your friends. Episodes even arrive complete with extras and outtakes. Despite its many virtues and charms, what "Something to Be Desired" mainly has me thinking about is the future of movies. Context-setting time: A frustration shared by many movie fans throughout the years of the traditional cin-e-ma was that movies were so damn centralized. Such a beautiful, lavish, and promising artform ... But wasn't it a terrible pity that it depended so much on money and industry that movies were produced in a mere handful of locales? In the U.S., for instance: How bizarre and distorting always to see ourselves through the lens of LA and NYC. Wouldn't it be liberating and exciting to have a New England cinema, a Texas cinema, a Puget Sound cinema, a Finger Lakes cinema? Now that a thousand such micro-cinemas are finally in fact blooming -- which is great, of course -- the question arises in my mind: Does it make sense to refer to these creations as movies at all? I remember wincing when, early in the iMovie days, Steve Jobs referred to edited-together iMovie videoclips as "movies." "No they aren't," the longterm moviebuff in me huffed. "Movies are an art and entertainment form with a history and language all their own. These are just ..." Well, what are they exactly? More important: Why look down on them? In the last few years I've found myself far more fascinated by developments in the edited-together-amateur-video world than in the pro/ trad-movie world. YouTube ... Playing with iMovie myself ... Videoblogs ... Emailing clips to friends ... Video playlists ... These creations and phenomena may not emit stardust or come wrapped in a dream-nimbus. Yet they have their own virtues. And what's not to be dazzled and amused by? Perhaps convenience, accessibility, and informality can have their own poetry. But what to call this new work? "Something to Be Desired" isn't "a movie" or "a TV show" in any traditional sense as far as I can tell. In fact, I confess I don't have any brilliant suggestions. To myself, I think of all this stuff as "audiovisual-through-time entertainment," a term I agree is severely lacking in the catchy department. I also find myself musing: Hmmm, perhaps what made traditional movies so stupendous and hypnotic -- in fact, so movie-like -- was a consequence of everything the radicals (myself occasionally among them) bemoaned: the money, the effort, the hierarchies, the industry ... Perhaps even the geographical centralization. God knows it... posted by Michael at December 1, 2006 | perma-link | (12) comments

Population Panic
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Europe ... Low birth-rates ... Etc., etc. Is this topic a source of much concern to you? I can't say I lose much sleep over over whether Italian women are averaging one or three births per. I often do, however, feel a little surprise at the number of people who look at Euro birth rates and feel some combo of "it's a disaster"; "it's the fault of the collapse of Christianity"; and "something -- and something political -- has got to be done." This line of thinking, feeling, and bullying (or what strikes me as bullying) seems to me to make some huge and bizarre assumptions. For example: 1) constantly rising populations are always and everywhere a good thing; 2) people are being forced into their current reproductive behavior against their will and against their own best interests; and 3) if there is indeed a problem, the best policy isn't to let people respond on their own, it's to force them to behave properly. I don't know about you, but I look at each one of these assumptions and think, "Sez who?" As I wrote in a comment over at GNXP: It seems to me that, where the whole European birth rate thing is concerned, a few points get overlooked. Maybe a reason why many people start to have fewer kids at a certain income level is because that's how they choose and prefer to live. They're educated, they're prosperous, and they're behaving freely. This is a problem? Maybe another reason they have fewer kids is that they've made a kind of semi-conscious consensus decision that they're happy with the population level where it is. Maybe they'd even like it to be a little lower. Maybe they don't want to live in a country that's more crowded than it already is. Do we not respect this freely-expressed preference? Do we feel entitled to tell them that they're wrong? On what basis? And I marvel a bit at the usual "something's gotta be done" concern. I mean, people could start breeding faster tomorrow, and entirely without bossing, policy changes, or coercion of any kind. Let's be wary of assuming that people tomorrow will be behaving exactly as people today are. Back in 1970, "overpopulation" was a huge concern. Weirdly, people all on their own started having fewer kids. Now "depopulation" seems to be a worry. Why not trust people to respond to this as they choose? I mean, who's to say that tomorrow's 22 year olds won't start popping kids out like little bunnies? I thought most of y'all are vaguely libertarian. They why not root for letting things take their own course? But I see this all as a subset of a more general pattern: letting experts highlight a trend and label it a problem; letting them work us into a panic about the pressing urgency of this supposed problem; and finally letting them get away with the leap from "it's a problem" to... posted by Michael at December 1, 2006 | perma-link | (34) comments

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pulling Our Weight
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Worldwide, overweight people now outnumber underweight people. In South Africa, 56 percent of women are now either obese or overweight, compared to fewer than 10 percent who are underweight. Health experts predict that diabetes will soon become a major health problem in Africa, and economists are concerned that obesity will be a drag on the world's economy. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 30, 2006 | perma-link | (11) comments

Sensual Aircraft
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- The first duty of an airplane is to fly. That rules out many possible shapes that might otherwise be attempted. Assuming a designated role or function (cargo carrier, bomber, interceptor, etc.), adequate power, a structural system, aerodynamic and other constraints, the aircraft designer still has some aesthetic freedom to shape the airplane. Therefore some airplanes appear pugnacious, some are fussy, some are bland and some are downright ugly. Others are beautiful ... sensual, even. Below are examples of planes I find sensual: 2Blowhards Airplane "Centerfold" De Havilland Albatross. The DH.91, first flown in 1937, was not a commercial success. It experienced serious technical problems, the final ones in service being written off due to wood-rot (they were largely of wooden construction). Lockheed Constellation. Shown is a C-121 military version of the famed civilian transport that served from the mid-1940s into the 1960s. Early "Connies" were shorter than the one pictured, and had round windows; they also had the most voluptuous fuselages. Later versions had lengthened fuselages and larger wings, making them a bit less attractive. Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne launch aircraft. Nearly all of Rutan's designs appear delicate, feminine. SpaceShipOne was the first non-government man-carrying craft to exceed an altitude of 100 kilometers. F-86 Sabre. America's first swept-wing jet fighter. Served from the late 40s into the late 50s. Famed for dominating Russian and Chinese piloted MiG-15s during the Korean War. The first three aircraft pictured strike me as being something like haute-couture models (for 7,000-foot runways). Slender. Delicate. Part of the slenderness has to do with the fact that all three airplanes have what are termed "high aspect ratio" wings. That is, long, narrow wings that are suitable for efficient long-range cruising and not for the violent maneuvering essential for a fighter plane. The final aircraft is a fighter and a lovely one indeed. Note especially the subtle shaping of the air intake and surrounding parts of the nose. Rather than fashion-model delicacy, the Sabre is more zaftig, but not too zaftig. Sort of like its 1950s contemporary, Marilyn Monroe Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 30, 2006 | perma-link | (7) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some recent, and very NSFW, paparazzi shots of Britney prompt a few questions. For example: If you were going out on the town in a short dress, would you leave your panties behind? I know I wouldn't. And: Do the stars flash the photographers on purpose? It seems to be a very effective way of generating interest, after all. And if showbiz isn't about demanding attention ... The main question it leaves me wondering about, though, is: Has the pubic-grooming thing finally gone a little too far? It isn't just the gals. I notice in the gym's locker room that the young male set is now going in for shaving, waxing, and trimming. Not that I look, of course. Still, what a strange experience it is to be surrounded by male crotches that have obviously been fussed-over. God knows that upkeep is usually to be valued, and that novelty and variety are often appreciated too. But this whole "I am a plastic, Photoshopped version of myself" mania isn't even particularly sexy, is it? I mean, except maybe to a 14 year old. Back in the day, learning to find body hair alluring was considered a central part of growing up. It was a sign you'd graduated from kid-hood. Perhaps the obsession with total, overall smoothness is yet one more sign that we've handed control of our culture over to the tastes of 14 year olds ... Can I be the only person -- let alone the only veteran of the '60s and the '70s -- who's wondering, "Who declared body hair un-erotic?" Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 30, 2006 | perma-link | (14) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Three more of my favorite Teaching Company series can also now be bought for bargain prices: Patrick Allitt's American Religious History, Kenneth Harl's Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor, and David Zarefsky's Argumentation. I raved about Allitt's series here; about Harl's here; about Zarefsky's here; and about Zarefsky's inspiration, the philosopher Stephen Toulmin, here. I should add that I've received an email from a visitor who disagrees with me about the Harl series, which he found naive, and biased towards the Turks. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 30, 2006 | perma-link | (1) comments

Timothy Taylor on Sale
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I notice that Timothy Taylor's lecture series about Economics for the Teaching Company are currently on sale. I've listened to them all, and I've found them all to be superb: clear, enthusiastic, and hyper-informative. Taylor seems to see economics not as a hard science full of immutable and unbendable truths so much as an ongoing, open-ended conversation. He's no Aspergery fundamentalist, but he's no relativist either; in the course of the Econ discussion, a lot of smart, useful, and helpful things have been said. That's a view of econ I can get with. This is human behavior -- and not the properties of minerals and asteroids -- that's being observed, described, and analyzed after all. Economics as he presents it isn't physics. It's more like a blend of psychology, philosophy, and sociology -- only with far more reality checks than those fields sometimes permit themselves. Bless his heart, Taylor also presents his subject in non-techie terms. (Let's hear it for that underused resource, namely plain and vivid English.) Which means that his lectures are an excellent way for the math-phobic among us to crack this annoying but essential and finally fascinating subject. My humble suggestion: Start with his Legacies of the Great Economists. It's a fun history-of-thought survey that'll give you an overview of the terrain. Then move on to Economics for the real content. History of the American Economy in the 20th Century will bring you up to the present here at home, and Contemporary Economic Issues will help you make sense of the headlines. Back here, a bunch of us traded tips about a lot of intro-to-econ resources that we've found useful. Best, Michael UPDATE: Tyler Cowen points out an article that attempts to explain why most people don't get economics.... posted by Michael at November 30, 2006 | perma-link | (0) comments

Downloadable Bob
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Thanks to Brian, who points out that Bob Dylan's Theme Time radio shows can be downloaded here. Brian writes: "They make great drive-time listening. Make sure you click on the "Archive" versions if you want them divided into tracks; otherwise it's just an hour-long file. I recommend Drinking, Jail, and The Devil to start off with. He gives the nod to Sister Rosetta Tharpe's YouTube video on episode 17, Friends And Neighbors, saying 'it'll blow your mind'. Who'd've guessed Bob was YouTube hip? But then again he's hip to everything, ain't he. Theme Time set lists are here, Theme Time forums are here. Speaking of His Bobness, have you seen this? Have mercy"! Mercy indeed! That's a clip that deserves a place in the same pantheon as David Hasselhoff's rock videos. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 30, 2006 | perma-link | (3) comments

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- * To me, the Pulitzer Prize has become a negative indicator for journalism. The more Pulitzers a newspaper can claim, the more wary I am as a (potential) reader. Jeff Jarvis isn't so hot on them either, as this recent post indicates. * Now that I'm in rant-mode, kindly permit me to vent on television screens in public places. While I concede the need for TVs in sports bars, I am not amused by TV monitors surrounding non-bar dining areas of restaurants. I was really not amused last week in an Albertson's supermarket in Las Vegas where a TV placed near the vegetable section was blabbing away about recipes and food preparation. Is there to be no escape? Woe! Woe!! * Time was, to earn a Ph.D. one had to demonstrate proficiency in two foreign languages -- this in addition to the doctoral subject-matter. At Dear Old Penn I somehow got away with only having to know a teensy amount of German. Other universities were allowing substitution of a computer language for French, Latin or whatever. The slide down the slippery slope continues. Apparently public schools in some states can now allow students to take sign language instead of French or Spanish and have that count as a "foreign" language. I have nothing against sign language even though I don't speak (finger?) it. Still, this strikes me as going a step too far. That goes for computer languages, too (and I've programmed in J, APL and Basic). Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 29, 2006 | perma-link | (16) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Some clever and funny totebags can be seen here. * Religious conservatives give more to charity than secular lefties do. (Link thanks to ALD.) * Searchie confesses to being a "flower nerd." * As far as Turkey's bid to become part of the EU goes, Rod Dreher can't see what's in it for Europe except disaster. Nice sentence: "Seeking peaceful coexistence in no way requires political union." * Alice confesses that, despite disliking the Beeb's politics, she still prefers the BBC's programming to American cable. * GNXPers (and commenters) yak about synaesthesia. * In the 1950s, Ann Bannon wrote lesbian-themed pulp fiction. She talks to WNYC here. (Link thanks to Michael Bierut.) * Are stop signs really necessary? (Link thanks to Design Observer.) * The usual thing to run into is atheists claiming that religious belief is irrational. Jim Kalb surprises by arguing that it's atheism that makes no sense. Thrasymachus responds. Dave Lull points out a review of a new book about the great Michael Oakeshott that specifically addresses Oakeshott's heretofore not-much-discussed thoughts about religion. * Brenda Walker wonders how the NYTimes can publish a piece about black people leaving Watts and not once use the word "immigration." * What are the worst-designed everyday objects? Blister-packs, napkin dispensers, and CD jewelboxes are currently in the lead. * Bluewyvern turns up some wacky hotel rooms. * Is the time right for adult, character-driven sex to reappear in feature films? (Link thanks to Prairie Mary.) * Steve Sailer has been wondering why so many great athletes come from the West Indies. * The Communicatrix once gave jazz great Anita O'Day a lift. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 29, 2006 | perma-link | (5) comments

The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- So when was rock 'n' roll born anyway? Perhaps the easiest way to take on the question is to look at the dates of some of the best-known early rock songs. Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" was released in 1954, the same year as "That's All Right Now (Mama)," Elvis Presley's first single. Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" came along in 1955: Chuck Berry is so impish and sly, isn't he? Could any other man make cardigan sweaters look sexy? And why do some of his lyrics deliver such intense pleasure? Lordy: "As I was a-motivatin' over the hill / Saw Maybellene in a Coupe de Ville / Cadillac a-rollin' on a open road / Nothin' out-runnin' my V-8 Ford" ... I don't know about you, but I feel a thrill every time I hear them. But these familiar early-rock songs were preceded by a lot of music that was awfully hard-rocking. Was it rock 'n' roll too? As Wikipedia notes, "The line separating late 1940s rhythm & blues from early rock & roll is not always clear." I'll say. Some examples: Roy Brown, who released "Good Rocking Tonight" in 1947, and Fats Domino, who was already making recordings in the full Fats mode by 1949. And no one should overlook the great jump-blues immortal Louis Jordan, who had found his style with songs like "Caldonia" by the early 1940s. If that music doesn't rock, then my pseudonym isn't Michael Blowhard. It's fun to realize how much the gals were caught up in the birthin' process too. I linked before to this amazing video of Sister Rosetta Tharpe shaking things up with her hard-rocking, funky gospel. But why not do it again? Not enough people know of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. If that performance doesn't give your spirits a big boost, then you may want to check and make sure you've still got a pulse. Among the many things I love about that clip is the way Sister Rosetta moves during her guitar solo. Talk about being over, above, behind, and in the beat! Talk about struttin'! It doesn't come as a complete surprise to learn that Sister Rosetta was one of Little Richard's favorite performers, does it? Hmmm, let's see ... Since there's an obvious continuity from Little Richard to Prince, would we be justified in seeing a line of descent that runs from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Prince? So her influence is still very much with us. Small American-music history lesson: Sister Rosetta Tharpe was already a popular performer in the 1930s. Here's a rare treat: Sister Rosetta Tharpe alone with her guitar. And then there was Ruth Brown, aka Little Miss Rhythm. To be frank, this whole posting is just an excuse to link to a Ruth Brown performance that I love. And isn't that part of the fun of asking questions like "When did rock and roll really begin?" I'm most definitely of the "it's the adventure, not the... posted by Michael at November 29, 2006 | perma-link | (12) comments

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Contrarianism Is Creative?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- [The setting: Army barracks, South Korea, 1964] One of the more artsy guys in Seventh Logistical Command's headquarters company was showing us the new suit he had custom-tailored in Taegu. Since we GIs couldn't easily hop over to Hong Kong (at the time, a place noted for nice made-to-order clothing at reasonable prices), we had to make do with local tailors. This was when South Korea was a largely isolated country, commercially -- not quite yet having signed a normalization treaty with next-door Japan. Although Koreans struck me as being hard-working, what they produced seemed shoddy because they didn't often have the chance to see what world-class products were like. For example, I had two Harris Tweed sport jackets made, one of which had a botched collar. To return to the subject, the dark brown suit had a "creative" cut. The trousers had no cuffs ... but the sleeves did! Cuffed sleeves were hardly innovative; check paintings and artifacts from the 18th century, for instance. Unlike the large, showy cuffs from 200 years earlier, the sleeve cuffs we witnessed were just like contemporary pants cuffs. In other words, this guy's concept of creativity was to pull The Old Switcheroo. Yes, yes, styles can evolve via a contrarian dialectic. Skirts begin skirting the floor? ... then raise 'em (perhaps gradually) above the knee. Nevertheless, I sometimes think that many post-1900 artists strive too hard for creativity (and not quality). When being "creative," they often simply produce something that opposes what The Establishment favors. Never mind that it's often the Establishment of 1910 that they're still rebelling against. Blockhead that I am, I don't believe that art has to be creative to be good or even great. I think current art would be much better if artists placed creativity towards the bottom of their lists of objectives. Even if creativity is the top priority for a given art project, being blindly contrarian isn't a guarantee of success. And how did we react to that suit with cuffed sleeves? With mumbles of "Hmm. Interesting." Along with other noncommittally polite sounds. Far be it from us to stifle Genius. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 28, 2006 | perma-link | (4) comments

Conundrums of the Web Age
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- On her blog, Jackie Danicki writes that she was assaulted while in the London Tube. At the top of the posting, she includes a photo she managed to shoot of her assailant. Was she right to publish this photograph? Some of her commenters think she wasn't. Mindy McAdams is more alarmed by Danicki posting the photo than by the fact that Danicki was assaulted. Samizdata's Perry de Havilland, on the other hand, cheers Danicki's action. My own hunches / feelings run along these lines: "I can certainly see the potential for vigilante-justice-style abuse. But, really, screw the worrywarts. If someone attacked me or someone I care about and I managed to snap a photo of him, I'd certainly put it on the web too. What's really worrying is the state of crime and policing in London." Also, of course: "What a funny new era we live in." What are your own hunches and feelings about the Jackie Danicki affair? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 28, 2006 | perma-link | (17) comments

Them and Me
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Here's an interesting one to suck on: a review of an expansion at the Museum of Modern Art. What do you make of it? I find it interesting in only one way: the writer's total willingness to accept 1) that modernism is / was not just an art development but a genuine religion-replacement wannabe, and 2) that the International Style in architecture isn't just an attempt at a complete architectural language, but a potentially still-valid one. I find myself speechless in the face of this kind of thing. How can you accept these notions without digging into some other questions too? For example: Was it smart and / or productive for modernism to try to function as a replacement religion, and for people to look to it as such? For another: How about a simple acknowledgment that the International Style was the most destructive movement in all of architectural history? Me, I'd finally try to say something more or less along the lines of, "Well, if you're curious about this modern-art-as-religion thing, and if you want to see and experience yet another talented guy attempt the impossible, namely to redeem the International Style, you might consider visiting MOMA, the monomaniacally rectilinear, white-and-light high church of modernism. What a curious historical phenomenon, eh? And patooie on it." But that's the diff between me and a real art-world pro, I guess. They look at at modern-art-as-religion and think, "Gosh, what a great idea! I still share the dream ... " I look at it and think, "Well, I'm sure glad we've awakened from that particular self-delusion. Maybe, despite all the inevitable flow back and forth between them, it makes more sense to think of art and religion as separate if related things. And maybe it would be wise to remind ourselves that it's usually a mistake to displace our religious yearnings onto art and culture." The artworld pros look at the International Style and think, "Wow, abstract geometricism was so beautiful that it's worth sacrificing ever more humanity in order to make it work." I look at the International Sytle and think, "Lordy, what a misguided and disastrous experiment that was. Best to set it aside, and maybe even to put it under lock and key. The time's long overdue for us to get back to going about our building-and-culture schemes in far more modest and time-tested ways." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 28, 2006 | perma-link | (21) comments

Monday, November 27, 2006

Chocolate Art
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Why eat chocolate when you can create works of art using it? What kind of art? Representational art, for one thing. Below are some examples I encountered during my travels this year: Here's the ocean liner Titanic at the Fassbender & Rausch store in Berlin's Gendarmenmark, a block or so off Friedrichstrasse. I wonder if the ship is solid chocolate or simply a layer spread over a form made of some other material. This is the Brandenburg Gate. There are more sculptures on display, including one of the Reichstag (pariament) building. The fancy chocolate shop in Las Vegas' Wynn casino displays this item. I have no clue how they did the drapery -- especially without getting finger prints on it Chocolate art need not represent anything but itself. Below are two views of what is claimed (if I correctly recall the sign I glanced at) to be the world's largest chocolate fountain. It's at the Bellagio casino / hotel in Las Vegas. It's more than six feet high... ...and features both dark and light chocolate. On the other hand ... why create art with chocolate when you can eat it? Suits me. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 27, 2006 | perma-link | (7) comments

More Tributes to Altman
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Garrison Keillor recalls Robert Altman. (Link thanks to Anne Thompson.) Lots of sweet and heartfelt tributes and notes of sympathy can be read here. My favorite: "For everyone who really loves art (movies, books, whatever), there is always at least one person out there who means more to you than is rational. For me, Robert Altman was that person. He was a man I never met, yet I feel as if my father has passed away. I will miss him terribly and always." I feel that way myself. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 27, 2006 | perma-link | (3) comments

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * I loved this combo artist's notebook / journal / scrapbook by a Vancouverite. * Bob recalls the days when he assumed that everyone would soon own a flying car. I remember those days too. * MD evokes a visit to Northhampton, Mass. * Blue-eyed men prefer to mate with blue-eyed women, while brown-eyed men have no preference in eye color. * Steve Bodio offers a heartbreaking tribute to an early love. * It's the latest YouTube thing: showing off your double-jointedness. Today's kids get to perform not just in front of their fellow junior-high students, but in front of the entire wired world. * Dan Santat's demo of how he created this year's Macy's Parade poster is a nice lesson in the kinds of constraints that commercial art is often produced under. Renaissance art was created under rather similar circumstances. * Lordy! Imagine getting in the ring with this Russian behemoth! * Progressive liberal Joel Hirschorn thinks that, where illegal immigration is concerned, super-rightie Pat Buchanan is onto something. * Nice pigtails! * A well-turned sentence from Toby: "I have come to the conclusion that much of the trophy art of the contemporary art world ... has a lot to do with dick size." * Speaking of dick size ... Rod Dreher recalls meeting porn king Al Goldstein. * John Massengale reviews Alain de Botton's "The Architecure of Happiness." John also provides a short summary of what the New Urb / Chris Alexander crowd is all about, namely always returning to the question: "How does the building (neighborhod, park, whatever) feel? How does it affect you?" * The Cranky Professor has some tips for those who want to learn Latin. * The new-style sex-education film. (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin.) * In a joint posting, Richard S. Wheeler has found what he considers one of the greatest of all western novels, while Ed Gorman raves about Harry Whittington. * The holidays, as they are all-too-often really lived. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 26, 2006 | perma-link | (5) comments

Chateau Whimsy
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Once upon a time, every backwoods winery wrapped itself in a fancy brand-name -- usually French-looking. Take that back ... I remember Thunderbird from college days. But you get the idea. The grocery store wine shelves were creaking with bottles of Chateau This and Chateau That. Along with so much else from our lamented past, wine brand names have stepped down from the pedestal to become diluted by whimsy or sullied in edginess. Here are some brands I saw recently: Dynamite 3 blind moose Toad Hollow dog house white truck four emus Barefoot Red Bicyclette Smoking Loon Fish Eye Clean Slate [yellow tail] ... check out those brackets, Michael B! La Bastarda Fat Bastard Besides these, I've seen some seriously edgy names but, alas, failed to take notes at the time. Contributions from readers are welcome in Comments. So are any observations linking (or denying any link) between wine brand-names and The Death of Civilization. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 26, 2006 | perma-link | (10) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- One of the nicest consequences of the YouTube-ization of the broadcast world is the way that lo-fi animation is staging a comeback. Enough with network glitz and gloss, with committee caution, and with defensive overproduction. Let's use ever-higher technology to connect with the human touch once again. The Post-It Boogie: post-itUploaded by sabo-tage Whiteboard Dreamin': Some people have a lot of imagination, resourcefulness, talent, and patience. And, of course, time. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 26, 2006 | perma-link | (2) comments