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« Yowch | Main | Yoga Everywhere »

December 15, 2006

Elsewhere

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* The best movie posters of 2006. (Link thanks to Design Observer.)

* Does the whole "Web 2.0" thing still mystify you? Here's a list of Web 2.0 applications that you may want to test-drive.

* Thanks to Tatyana for pointing out this fun little Pandora podcast. It's a quick and EZ intro to vocal harmonizing.

* The "uncensored history of the blues," via -- what else? -- podcast.

* So soy milk may in fact be bad for you? Did you know that most soymilk labeled as "plain" is in fact full of added sugar?

* There are days when MD is in the mood for a little quiet, a little mystery ...

* Dean Baker thinks that Larry Summers misses the point on inequality.

* Rod Dreher thinks that news organizations should fret less about racial/ethnic/gender diversity in the newsroom.

* Blog99 thinks that economists and sociologists don't pay enough attention to entertainment.

* Kevin Kelly is as enthusiastic about publishing books the Lulu way as I am.

* Thanks to Peter L. Winkler, who points out that the blog called Pod-dy Mouth is reviewing print-on-demand books.

* 20 million years, and now this.

* Yahmdallah tells another of his sitcom-worthy romantic-adventure tales. Converting to Mormonism for the sake of a girl -- now there's a premise and a half!

* Yahmdallah also links to a terrific page where artists ... Oh, it's a little hard to describe. Anyway: there's a theme for the day, and a bunch of artists send in images on that theme. So the theme may be "Superman," and you'll get a page of 20 examples of Superman by various artists. In any case, it's a riot to see what they come up with, as well as a lesson in how visual people think and create.

* Tyler Cowen calls three recent books his must-reads of 2006.

* I raved about Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects" back here. Just now I ran across and enjoyed this terrific interview with Zombie, who's a well-known rocker -- as well as a very smart guy about the glories of '70s movies. (Link thanks to Polly Frost.)

* So comets may indeed be the mothers of us all ...

* Video interviews with Berkeley economists can be watched here.

* Raymond Pert comes up with a brilliant and enlightening comparison between "Othello" and "Bonnie and Clyde." Raymond also puts up a podcast of himself (great voice!) reading a soulful, funky poem.

* The artist Bill Wray -- best-known for his work for Mad magazine and the Ren and Stimpy Show -- has recently been turning his attentions to fine-art-style oil painting. Keeping it fresh -- I like that. I like what he's been producing too. (Link thanks to Sex in Art.)

* A super couple of sentences from David Chute: "Try making a movie that boldy explores the sunny side of life and submitting it to Sundance. You'll wise up in a hurry."

* Alan Mott reads a disappointing book about the porn movie world, but wins this week's Funniest Book Review Award.

* Slate magazine blind-taste-tests steak. And the winner is ...? Well, let's just say that Nina Planck wouldn't be surprised.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at December 15, 2006




Comments

It's great to get a tip of the hat from a site I respect and enjoy as much as this one.

That post, and in particular the expression "fashionable nihilism," struck a nerve with a couple of other friends. Some critics might see the final shot "Chinatown" as a cultural turning point in this respect: the classic hardboiled dicks always managed to eke out at least a partial victory.

Posted by: David C on December 15, 2006 6:29 PM



What do they say? tragedy is easy, comedy is hard. So, on top of our elite's cultural bias against the upbeat, there is the added factor that it is harder, much harder to do the positive well than its opposite, the glum.

The problem is that so much that is "life affirming" falls into, or falls for, the trap of sentimentality. I was thinking of a good example of a life affirming picture, and Robert Rossen's The Hustler came to mind. This might seem ridiculous on the face of it; the film's full of terrible suffering and defeat. But that's the whole point. The final triumph of Newman's hustler, the essential artist, over the soul dead George Scott "handler," who must make everything around him dead, wouldn't mean anything if it weren't won at a terrible price. In other words the film is not sentimental.

There's a look that passes between the hustler and Minnesota Fats near the very end of the picture, a look between two great craftsmen who have something, something that can never be defeated, never taken away: one of the great moments in film history. But such moments by their very nature must be a rarity. And so must great life affirming films be -- a rarity.

Posted by: ricpic on December 15, 2006 9:42 PM



"but wins this week's Funniest Book Review Award"

And sadly it's all true.

Allan
(who admittedly is leaving this comment more to attract attention the extra "l" in his name than anything else, but who appreciates the compliment just the same)

Posted by: Allan on December 16, 2006 4:44 AM



Thanks for the nod to Bill Wray. I've followed his work for a while, and he deserves a look. Same with a number of the painters he links to on his blog. I would encourage others to take a peek--you'll be happy you did.

Posted by: BIOH on December 16, 2006 11:19 PM



Re Rod Dreher piece on diversity in the newsrooms:


The diversity machine is a thrashing panicking nonswimmer holding onto the neck of the almost exhausted newspaper business. Rather than save itself, many papers will go under.

The diversity proponents go on and on about getting black or latino voices. I cannot tell you one thing I learned about Latinos, Asians or blacks from these "inside" sources (Latino reporters, black reporters). If they have some special color coordinated power, then give me a few examples of the secrets these reporters have revealed that us poor pale saps could not have found out?

Let us also be honest. What a scam. These folks get to sit there and demand that they be given jobs based on their race. This makes them a valuable commodity because there are not enough of them to go around, so papers bid for mediocrity. But, the white folk would be rude to notice such a reality . No one finds the humor in a policy that pays off like this one. It would be like Rod saying hire Rods, pay Rods more. What crap. Groups demanding this should be ashamed.

Also, should papers represent their readers or the general population. The LA Times put a major effort into a solid Spanish language product and no one wanted it. Hello. Maybe to most , or a large number of Latinos, newspaper reading is not part of the picture? The reality is newspaper business has survived on older white people --- yet I bet this is the least talked about group in any newsroom.

Posted by: sN on December 17, 2006 4:26 AM



Michael: I am on the side of all those who rail against “fashionable nihilism.” I was reminded of this again as I recently listened to critics on a radio show temper their praise for the current Will Smith movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” not because it was bad or poorly made or acted, but because it was too upbeat. One critic was apparently “disappointed” because the character Smith played was not ever shown to be a victim of overt racism.

RE - Rod Dreher on news organizations and diversity: I understand what he is trying to say, but he stumbles badly. His suggestion that the conventional stable of columnists represents some kind of meritocracy is obviously nonsense. One of the reasons that countless blogs exist is that a lot of people, for a lot of different reasons, believe that … “mainstream media,” including pundits and columnists, is often out of touch with a wider range of opinion, and that others can do better.

Dreher notes that an excellent, popular, and influential columnist like George Will would never “accept his paycheck being cut in half” to split time with an “acceptably diverse” columnist, and then talks about what such a columnist is worth “on the market.”

This is a bit of whistling past the graveyard. As newspaper readership continues to decline, common sense and “the market” suggest that many syndicated columnists will adapt, be dumped, or see their contracts modified downward to reflect readership trends. Is George Will or Maureen Down “excellent” if no one reads them? As an aside, it’s interesting that the NY Times has decided to try to protect the value of Dowd and its other columnists by forcing online readers to pay for them as part of the Times Select option.

RE: The Funniest Book Review Award. Interesting stuff, but I wonder why people who think that all porn is awful cannot account for its astounding popularity. And I’m not sure that the best porn aspires to be art since the best porn is, almost by definition, utilitarian. But of course, critics jump all over themselves to announce how they were not in any way aroused by the explicit sex in mainstream films such as “Nine Songs” or “Romance.” To understand how stupid this is, imagine a critic saying that he or she never laughed at a “Some Like It Hot,” thus proving how that film should be considered to be serious art. Also, I disagree that pornographers are outlaws. It’s funny how many people involved in the porn industry are also involved in mainstream movie making. For many of these folks, I get the idea that it’s just a job.

Posted by: Alec on December 17, 2006 7:06 AM




Dreher's comments that the current pundits represent a meritocracy is a bit foolish. I would say, however, it is the only opposing point one would be allowed to make in the diversity argument and keep one's job at a newspaper of significant size. He can't argue that opening the pages to "more voices" would probably be opening the pages to a lesser quality. That argument is not allowed.

I think to be fair if you are going to discuss racial issues with someone who works in a very PC oriented field, you have to start by listing the arguments they cannot make without risk to their job.

Let's be honest the "opening" of the pages to "other voices" in all likelihood would be to minorities with leftist agendas and an endless deck of race cards. YAWN.

A lot of newspaper columnists suck. To add some more to their number based on race is simply a recipe to have them suck to a greater extent. For a dying business, it does not sounds like a plan.
sN

Posted by: sN on December 18, 2006 3:52 AM






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