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  1. Brand Style Continuity - Packard
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  5. Religious Enthusiasms
  6. DVD Journal: "This Film is Not Yet Rated"
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  10. Guerilla Filmmaking 2

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Brand Style Continuity - Packard
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- A month ago I wrote about a Jaguar show-car that I felt failed to maintain the marque's styling identity. I cited Packard as one instance of style / symbolic brand continuity, stating: The Packard approach was to make use of a collection of details that were always used following their introduction, though there would be some variation over time. These details included the "ox-yoke" grille-surround sculpting, red hexagons on the hubcaps, a pen-nib tipped side-spear and a cormorant hood ornament. Even though the shapes of Packard bodies evolved from boxes to "streamlined," Packards were always identifiable. I didn't want to dilute the article by adding pictures of Packards. But that meant readers unfamiliar with an automobile make defunct for nearly 50 years might have no clue what I was discussing. So let me make good on that. Below are pictures illustrating the items mentioned in the quoted passage above. 1929 Rumble Seat Coupe This car features the radiator / grille motif and the red hexagons on the wheels sported by Packards since early in the century. The pen nib spear and cormorant have yet to appear. 1932 Light Eight This new model had disappointing sales. A nice styling touch unique to it is the "spade" shape of the lower grille. The pen-nib spear is now present on the upper side of the hood. 1937 Convertible Victoria by Dietrich Classic styling is no longer in fashion so Packard had to make use of pseudo-streamlined shapes to remain competitive, albeit in a conservative way. Note that the cues are present even though the body and fenders are more rounded. The cormorant hood ornament (or "mascot") has now appeared. 1947 Touring Sedan This radical (for Packard) body style was introduced for the short-lived 1942 model year. But the styling cues remain -- aside from the cormorant which was generally reserved for the fanciest models. 1951 Packard This was Packard's final new body introduced before the firm was reduced to selling redecorated Studbakers in the late 50s. Competitors' '51 models had heavy, flashy grilles, so Packard had to follow suit. Even so, the traditional form remains. 1955 Patrician A major facelift of the 1951 body. The spear and cormorant are missing (though the object on the hood might be a stylized bird). After the 1956 model year "real Packards" were no longer built. Packard motifs on 2007-vintage bodies These are ballpoint pen doodles by me. Since hood ornaments are scarce these days, I omitted the cormorant, but the other cues are present. The image at the bottom is a wispy '32 Light Eight. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at February 23, 2007 | perma-link | (8) comments

Tech Support, 1100 AD
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 23, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Long Tail, Short Version
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A podcast recommendation: Russ Roberts interviews Wired editor Chris ("The Long Tail") Anderson. Anderson is an enthusiastic and helpful interviewee, and he supplies a more-nuanced-than-I-expected sketch of his Long Tail idea. Here's Anderson's own blog. I look at Wired only occasionally these days, but I'm pretty dazzled by the magazine when I do. Anderson seems to be an inspired and inspiring editor. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 22, 2007 | perma-link | (0) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * A Chestertonian in Hollywood. * A sad image: the last Neanderthals huddling together in Spain as the cold brutalizes them into extinction ... * Agnostic argues convincingly that Gypsy songbirds have a lot to recommend them. * 5000 years of religion in 90 seconds. * Peter Boettke thinks that you don't have to watch top-level pro sports in order to have a great sports-spectating experience. * It looks like food from cloned animals won't be getting clearly labeled. Thanks, FDA. * Jim Kalb brings a traditonalist-conservative eye to "Fargo." * Audition for reality TV ... and die. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 22, 2007 | perma-link | (6) comments

Religious Enthusiasms
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I enjoyed reading John Emerson's notion that religious enthusiasm can inspire behaviors that -- though often crazy and destructive -- also sometimes lead to evolutionarily beneficial developments. That's evolutionarily in quotes, btw. Feeling a little nutty and inspired myself, I dropped this comment on his posting: I don't find much to take issue with here, although I'd propose that we're *all* subject to enthusiasms, belief systems, dreams, stories, etc -- that, basically, life simply has a religious dimension. You can tune into or out of it, you can be stupid about it or non-stupid about it, you can ignore it or ridicule it or embrace it (or just kinda, you know, allow it to be what it is and get on with life). But there it is. And a personal hunch: the people who are loudest about denouncing it are often the people most helplessly under its sway. I like your idea about how religious conviction can inspire people to take risks. A related thing might be the way that much of the greatest art has been made with some relationship with some "God"-type power or figure in mind: in praise of, as a channel to, under the inspiration of, etc. Much art has been a kind of nutty adventure inspired by religious feelings, in other words. You might even say that today's commercial art (movies, pop music, magazines, glitzy buildings, etc) is art made in praise of the religion known as "global capitalism." If we can say that Renaissance art was made in praise of Catholicism and the Borgias, why shouldn't we admit that today's art is made in praise of the belief structure most of us inhabit? Global capitalism (or however you want to label it) promises earthly goods now and final deliverance eventually -- what's not "religious" about that? Suits me, anyway. Curious to hear whether these notions strike anyone else as evolutionarily beneficial or not. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 22, 2007 | perma-link | (7) comments

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

DVD Journal: "This Film is Not Yet Rated"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Despite my love of racy movies, I don't have anything against the idea of film ratings, or a film board, or a film-ratings board. In principle, anyway. Parents should have a reasonably accurate idea of what the kiddies might be seeing, and grownups deserve to know what might be in store too. How else to convey these facts at a glance but with ratings? Far be it from me to cry "censorship" when a film is slapped with an R or an NC-17. I root for a sensible ratings system for the sake of the movies themselves too. I want movies to flourish -- I sure do love that artform. And I want people's appreciation for movies generally to broaden and deepen. I don't think that can happen in the absence of a sensible ratings system. Throughout their history movies have often attracted immense criticism. They're big, they're a popular artform, and they're overwhelmingly immediate and sensual in their impact. Squaresville people (from both the right and the left, by the way) can get really worked up about them. Society often seems to be on the verge of cracking down on movies, and the films they seem determined to give the hardest time are often the very movies I prefer to watch. Besides, when too many people get indignant, moviemakers become cautious, and caution often equals boring. So, before putting the DVD of "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" -- Kirby Dick's documentary about the Motion Picture Association of America's ratings board -- into the DVD player, my only complaints about America's film ratings system were three. Along with a zillion other people, I'm baffled by the way the MPAA cuts violence a lot of slack while dealing harshly with portrayals of sexuality. Whose idea of a good idea is it to say: "Hey, violence is fun! It's great material for entertainment! Sex? Gee, I just don't know ..."? America, eh? I'm miffed as well by the way cartoonishness is cut more slack than realism, let alone emotional resonance. Per the MPAA, it's fine to blow something to smithereens so long as the action is exaggerated and no one's hurt. This seems a strange lesson to convey to kids. Don't we generally want the impressionable to understand that certain actions will result in pain and misfortune? The leeway shown cartoonishness prevails where sex is concerned too. Teen comedies feature extremely smutty imagery and behavior yet are dealt with more leniently than are films that feature resonant portrayals of sex. Whose idea of a good idea is it to say: "We're happier if and when you treat sex irresponsibily than we are when you acknowledge that sex has some power"? America, eh? My third quarrel with the ratings system is another "America, eh?" objection. It has to do with the NC-17 rating. The trouble here has nothing to do with the MPAA or with the rating itself. Certainly an "adults-only" rating makes sense and has... posted by Michael at February 21, 2007 | perma-link | (6) comments

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Get Rich Writing
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Planning on getting rich writing sci-fi or fantasy novels? Think again. Tobias Buckell writes that the average advance for a first sci-fi or fantasy novel is $5000. Five years and five novels later, the average author is pulling in around $13,000 per novel. Sci-fi pro Charlie Stross describes the dreary lot that is a professional writer's life. Nice quote: It's startling how many people think that the writer's life is one of glamour and artistic credibility rather than a mundane job, with everything that goes with that. If you want to do the art, you've not only got to put in your time learning the tools of the trade -- you've got to remember that it is a trade, and there are trade-like activities that go with it and that you can't afford to shirk if you want to keep doing the important stuff. Links via Peter L. Winkler, who thinks that print-on-demand won't be the salvation of the book publishing industry. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 20, 2007 | perma-link | (18) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Speaking of books of history, Jeff Sypeck's new look at Charlemagne is sounding mighty yummy to me. It's nice that the book is only 300 pages long, focuses on only four years in Charlemagne's life, and wears its for-the-popular-audience approach upfront and proud. Here's an interview with Sypeck, who shows a gift for conveying a lot of information and shadings in likable and swift ways. I raved about another short volume of medieval history, Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger's "The Year 1000," here. * So maybe it isn't completely unheard-of to like both hip art and modesty in government ... * The advice in this cute how-to video seems solid to me! (Link thanks to Rachel.) * Derek Lowe rhapsodizes about a chem lab's smells. * Yahmdallah recalls some of his favorite live popular-music shows, and recommends a freebie image-editor for Windows. * Drew links to my recent "Why do we think art is faggy?" posting and adds a lot of sensible and insightful thinking of his own. A great sentence: "We've stripped young males of so many opportunities to be masculine that a return to caveman-like behavior is one of the few avenues left." * Dean Baker thinks that copyright is about the worst way possible to reward and protect creative work. * Cowtown Pattie and Kman offer a little visitor some Texas hospitality. * It can be hard to get yourself to take a walk when there's no real place to walk to, can't it? (Link thanks to Tim Worstall, whose recent Britblog roundup shouldn't be missed.) * NZConservative discovers the fun of Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals." * I hope "Grindhouse" is half as tacky-snazzy as its trailer. (Link thanks to Anne Thompson.) * The ladies compare notes about their first tries at a crucial skill. (No naughty pix or sounds, but probably best treated as NSFW anyway.) * Fred shares a perfectly glorious (and short!) choral piece of his. Some beautiful Hallelujah harmonies slip-slide into and out of muddy and strange modernist / Renaissance regions: worship and gratitude for today that's also anchored solidly in the past. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 20, 2007 | perma-link | (1) comments

Easy Motoring Always and Everywhere?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- When traffic-safety rules and aesthetics come into conflict, how to rule? Right Reason's Lydia McGrew and I treat ourselves to a fencing match. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 20, 2007 | perma-link | (3) comments

Guerilla Filmmaking 2
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The Wife, our director buddy, and I are now midway through our two-week microbudget-movie shoot. Going very well, thank you. A comic-erotic-philosophical masterpiece is making its way into the world. And quite an adventure too: Remind me to tell you about the subfreezing evening when our actors spent three hours naked in an outdoor hot tub. God I love actors! At least when I don't want to kill them ... A few more observations about the process: Peanut butter. What is it about young men and peanut butter? One of The Wife's duties on our set is to supply the day's food. She does a swanky yet informal job of it, coming through with soups, salads, excellent coffee and tea, tasty pasta dishes, and endless amounts of high-class nibbles. What could be better eatin' than that? But the food that consistently makes the young guys working on our film happiest is peanut butter. Peanut butter on bread, peanut butter on toast, peanut butter on crackers ... Even peanut butter eaten directly from the spoon or knife. I should add that the couple of European young people on our crew have no interest in peanut butter, and that I've always avoided the stuff myself -- it makes me thirsty, sticks in my mouth in gluey ways, and usually leaves me with a case of the hiccups. But I'm an exception, I guess. (I recall that in his younger days, fellow Blowhard FvB was quite the peanut-butter consumer. His other main food groups were hot dogs and mayonnaise.) Does anyone have any theories about why it is that young American guys -- and perhaps especially young American guys with an interest in filmmaking -- so adore peanut butter? One of our actresses has ventured the guess that it's a "Mom is taking care of me" thing. Petty cash. It's quite amazing how the fives and twenties disappear when you're making even a small movie. The cash vanishes on swarms of minor, barely-noticeable expenses: parking, cabs, cold medicine, bulbs, train tickets, wigs, equipment failures, makeup. It seems to be a given of filmmaking that a plethora of tiny things is forever going wrong even when things generally are going very well. As a consequence, quick and frequent outlays of cash are a standard feature of the filmmaking process. I gotta say that fives and twenties are miraculous in their power to solve, avoid, or at least deflect minor calamities. Would films get made at all if the machinery weren't being oiled in this way? I wonder if there isn't another element that comes into play too. I wonder if the exhilaration and the high of filmmaking -- and filmmaking is indeed a high -- gets to people. Or maybe it just gets to me; perhaps I've developed a small case of big-shot-itis. In any case, making a film is a silly, quixotic, yet intoxicating activity; it seems to require and encourage a certain heedlessness of attitude. And... posted by Michael at February 20, 2007 | perma-link | (11) comments

Reactionary Radicals, The Conference
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A one-day conference on a classic reactionary-radical theme -- "Liberty, Community, and Place in the American Tradition" -- will take place in Charlotteville, Virginia on Saturday, March 24. It'll even be chaired by Mr. Reactionary Radical himself, Bill Kauffman. If you haven't done so already, please treat yourself to a read of 2Blowhards' interview with Kauffman, who is nothing if not a fun and big-hearted provocateur: Intro, Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five. Link thanks to Clark Stooksbury, who keeps a tasty variety of the Reactionary Radical thing simmering at his own blog. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 20, 2007 | perma-link | (0) comments

Monday, February 19, 2007

Recent Reading
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I envy Friedrich von Blowhard. More specifically, I envy his wide knowledge of history and, especially, the history of art. Maybe his Lousy Ivy Education wasn't quite as lousy as had been suggested. Or perhaps he has spent the years since then reading voraciously. I suspect it's the latter. On the other hand, I've been playing catch-up ball -- especially since I started writing for this blog. I've read a lot of history over the years, much of it military history. Military history can't easily be separated from political history, so I know something of that. As for cultural and social history, I'm mostly familiar with France, Britain and the U.S.A. A few years ago I began to analyze how I seemed to learn history best. I recalled that when I was around 20, I would read comprehensive histories of Egypt, France and Russia and afterwards have no real sense of what I had just read. Pharaohs, kings and emperors were mostly a blur. I found that I was more successful when I selected key historical periods, comprehended them, and later filled in the gaps. In the case of France since 1500, say, useful entry points were the reigns of François I, Henri IV, Louis XIII (and Richelieu), Louis XIV, Napoleon I and Napoleon III. And so it has been for art history. I was already somewhat familiar with the period 1915-55. But I realized that previous 40 years were more important for my analytical purposes and knew that I hadn't paid as much attention to the Impressionists as I should have. Worse, I knew next to nothing about their contemporaries who had been ignored or slighted in my art history classes -- academic painters, the Pre-Raphaelites, and so forth. Now that I'm getting 1875-1915 under better control, I'm beginning to study some artists who influenced that period. I've already read some books about Velásquez. And I'm starting to learn more about Courbet. I just finished reading this book on the history of art as related to artists' paints from the perspective of a chemist / physicist. I have to take the scientific bits on faith, never having taken a single chemistry class (though my father had a degree in Chemical Engineering). Still, it was interesting to get a better understanding of what artists had to deal with before the 19th century technical revolution in the area of synthetic colors. It's kind of amazing that they were able to do as well as they did, considering the limitations of their palettes. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at February 19, 2007 | perma-link | (3) comments

DVD Journal: "I Spit on Your Grave"; "Blood and Roses"; "Vampyres"; "Bare Behind Bars"; "Tarnation"; "Lie With Me"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Prior to going into production on our own tacky / arty microbudget masterpiece, The Wife and I logged in some serious time watching tacky and arty DVDs. We weren't exactly preparing, though -- our script was already written. The trashy-arty DVD-viewing just happened. Hmm: Maybe tacky and arty are just where our minds live ... * "I Spit on Your Grave." Low-budget '70s revenge / horror that fascinates many viewers. It's a violent, cheesy, no-class film, no question about that. Yet -- like "The Honeymoon Killers" -- the film transfixes because of its "objective," non-judgmental point of view. Is the rape horrifying or a turn-on? Are you rooting for the heroine to take revenge, or are you appalled by her extreme violence? You can't be sure whether the flatness of the presentation is a function of ineptness or of artistic intention. Is the film sick exploitation or a feminist masterpiece? But does it even matter? As the city girl subjected to country sadists, Camille Keaton (a grandniece of Buster Keaton) is terrific. The film's '70s color and '70s styles are a lot of fun too. (Netflix, Amazon.) * "Blood and Roses." Sophisticated vampire erotica from French director Roger Vadim's best period. Its French title ("Et Mourir de Plaisir") means "And To Die of Pleasure" -- yum yum! Vadim was notorious for his way with the ladies (he made the early careers of Brigitte Bardot, Jane Fonda, and Catherine Deneuve) as well as for his flair with jetsetting sex fantasy. He's less well-known for two things I really love some of his work for: his appreciation for women and his alertness to the erotic dimension. The film's stylishness may well be a little tacky, though I found it a likable kind of tacky. What's remarkable about the film though are its women (Elsa Martinelli and Vadim's wife at the time, Annette Vadim), who give themselves to the camera in many-sided ways that are unusual and pleasing, not to mention rare to find in present-day movies. Are we more liberated or less liberated now than we were in 1960, when Vadim's touch was at its best? (The film isn't on DVD, but you can sometimes find a videocassette of it at Amazon. If anyone's curious about sampling what Vadim was capable of, let me also suggest trying the very decadent "The Game is Over": Netflix, Amazon.) * "Vampyres." Passersby are lured into a country manor only to encounter two gorgeous and hungry lesbian vampires (Marianne Morris and Anulka). Yeah, baby! Cool as a cucumber English producer Brian Smedley-Aston and madman Spanish director Jose Larraz violate lots of vampire-genre rules and struggle with basic narrative coherence. Yet they deliver an excitable, hot-hot-hot movie that's primitive and surreal all at once. One fun angle that adds a lot to the creepy erotic delirium: Larraz has his actors play up the sucky/slurpy sounds whether they're kissing fondly or sucking blood hungrily. The DVD itself (put together by Blue Underground)... posted by Michael at February 19, 2007 | perma-link | (11) comments

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Where Were You in 1964?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Nearly a week ago I had elective surgery to tidy up part of my hydraulic system. So posting last week was in the form of articles that I'd cached to maintain the never-ending stream of content Blowhards readers expect and deserve. I'm in recovery-mode, and the present post is something easy to write, allowing me to transition back into the blogging zone. Faithful readers might have noticed that a trait common to all Blowhards writers is a lack of enthusiasm for many aspects of the "Sixties" -- roughly the period from the Gulf of Tonkin Incident to the fall of Saigon (1964-75). I'm about 15 years older than Michael and Friedrich. They experienced the Sixties before leaving college, whereas I was an adult during that period. I touched on my first brush with the Sixties while I was a Guest Blogger here where I mentioned: I entered grad school about the same time as the Free Speech Movement took shape down in Berkeley. That was in the fall of 1964; by winter of 1965 it had spread up the coast to Washington. I recall that one of the early issues championed by the Students for a Democratic Society was the poor quality of hamburgers at the student union cafeteria. They went on to other causes later. Another aside: 1964-65 also produced the concept of college students as being "exploited by the system" -- "student as ni**er" was one sweet phrase of the day. Students were powerless wretches under the sway of evil powers. This might have been what started me on my return journey to conservatism. I had just spent nearly a year in Korea where there was a nightly curfew imposed by the government and enforced by police patrols. And I had endured almost three years in the army where I was essentially on-call at any time. To me, being a college student in America was just about the most free thing imaginable. To tell students they were virtual slaves was ridiculous. But sometimes I wonder what I would have thought or how I would have acted if I had been born six or eight years later and had been a lower-division undergraduate in 1965. It's quite possible that I would have joined the SDS either to spite the "establishment" or maybe just for the hell of it. Chilling thought. Speaking of Korea, I was rummaging in the basement and located a photo taken of me there. Donald in Taegu, Korea, 1964 The photo was snapped while we were on alert. Normally I didn't wear combat gear because my unit (7th Logistical Command) was a support organization based far down the peninsula from the DMZ. Had the Korean War boiled up again, it's likely that the 7th Log headquarters would have been pulled back to Japan. It's hard to see, but the rifle slung over my shoulder is an M14, the replacement for the World War 2 M1 Garand. I was trained on... posted by Donald at February 18, 2007 | perma-link | (13) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Dave Lull points out that, after a six-year break, Camille Paglia is once again writing for Salon magazine. Camille is my favorite intellectual flamethrower. * Emily Yoffe contrasts the way the older folks are wary of putting their lives online while the sub-25s take it for granted. Yoffe argues (convincingly, to my mind) that we're witnessing the largest generation gap since the 1950s. (Peter catches my goof: The author of this piece is Emily Nussbaum, not Emily Yoffe.) * Thanks to Arts and Letters Daily for pointing out Po Branson's piece about how the praise many American parents lavish their kids with is backfiring. Reminds me of the spoiled-brat pathology I've been noticing most recently: "entitlement syndrome." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 18, 2007 | perma-link | (9) comments