In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

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  1. Food Porn
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  3. Chocolate Lifesaver
  4. Sciatica Be Gone
  5. "STBD" is Back
  6. DVD Journal: The Extras on "The Dreamers"
  7. My Heart Belongs to ...
  8. Clinton's Gifts
  9. The New Slums
  10. Guerilla Filmmaking 4

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Our Last 50 Referrers

Friday, March 30, 2007

Food Porn
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- No wonder the boys love watching Rachael Ray. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 30, 2007 | perma-link | (9) comments

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Blogging Notes
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- It's a good thing Michael has been bloggin' up a storm (as Instapundit sometimes puts it). That's 'cuz I haven't been. Perhaps no one noticed. My excuse this time is that the moving van pulled up to the house Tuesday and the day was spent unloading. Then on Wednesday we drove most of the way to Portland to fetch some bookcase shelves that the van crew mistakenly dropped off at the first house on their route. (The trailer was 51 feet long and -- cough, cough -- our load took up 75 percent of the length.) Today was the first unpacking day and we'll be busy into the weekend completing the first cut on that chore. Easter weekend and a few days on either side we return to California. I'll report on anything interesting I see in San Francisco and environs. Monday we went to Seattle's new sculpture park. I took photos and will post on that. Speaking of moving, I recall my move from Seattle to Philadelphia to attend Dear Old Penn. I was able to pack most of my possessions into a VW Karmann-Ghia coupe (though my mother might have boxed and mailed some other items once I got settled). Yes, it can be nice to be able to change residence so easily; the current move has been a pain. Nevertheless, given a choice of having lots of books, some computers, comfy furniture and an adequate collection of clothes versus have little or none, I say that the joys of materialism outweigh bother of occasionally moving the stuff. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at March 29, 2007 | perma-link | (2) comments

Chocolate Lifesaver
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Good news for those sweet of tooth: Chocolate -- or at least epicatechin, a type of flavonoid found in cocoa -- may help prevent heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 29, 2007 | perma-link | (3) comments

Sciatica Be Gone
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- One of the most tangible benefits I've gotten from yoga has been relief from piriformis pain. Piriformis syndrome is a variety of sciatica, caused by spasming muscles pinching the sciatic nerve. The pain tends to start in the hip -- OK, in the very undignified butt-muscle area -- and then shoot down your leg. I'd been bugged by piriformis pain for years and years. No idea how I develped it initially, and in my case it never became anything debilitating. But it was enough: a constant ache in my hip that was occasionally amplified by electric-bolt-like zingers. Like many with sciatica, I found it annoying not just for the pain itself but also for how the pain affected me and my habits. Sciatica typically disrupts how you're comfortable, as well as how you find comfort. Your favorite sleeping and sitting positions might well become unavailable to you; your nightly sleep might be interrupted, over and over, because the pain wakens you and obliges you to find some new position to settle into. Over the years I'd tried a variety of treatments for my piriformis syndrome, but I obtained a little relief from only two sources: ceasing carrying my wallet in my back pocket (wallets can throw your back and hip alignment off), and acupuncture. Conventional exercise and stretching didn't help much, nor did a number of visits to health-insurance-style physical-therapy outfits. Acupuncture sometimes took the edge off the pain, except when it didn't. My very first Bikram yoga class was a head-turner in many ways. After it, I felt weird but wonderful: wrung-out and emptied, yet freed-up inside too. It was such an overwhelming experience both physically and mentally that it took me a few hours to notice what was missing from my normal state of being: my chronic sciatic pain. It was gone, poof, like that. That night, for the first time in years, I slept in whatever position I felt like and I slept the whole night through. I've been going to yoga three times a week ever since. Yoga hasn't been a complete cure for my sciatica. If I let four or five days go by without a yoga class, the pain starts to knock on my consciousness again. But so long as I do yoga regularly, I experience no piriformis pain. It ain't a part of my life any longer. Actually, doing yoga regularly means considerably fewer aches and pains generally for me. (Over the decades those little aches and pains that won't go away build up in vast, vast numbers ...) I feel more fluid and happy in my body -- ten years younger than I otherwise do in terms of flexibility, ease, and cheeriness. Aches and pains still show up, but then they go away. I'm as creaky as ever when I roll out of bed, but yoga works out that rust too. That tweak in my left knee that I picked up trying to learn how to... posted by Michael at March 29, 2007 | perma-link | (12) comments

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"STBD" is Back
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm happy to see that -- after a wee break -- the affable and excellent comic soap opera webseries "Something to be Desired" is once again posting new episodes. (The latest one is here, but why not enjoy all of Season 4?) This Pittsburgh-made microbudget production is an irreverent marvel, full of likable wits, fizzy cut-ups, and outsized personalities. It also has an easygoing and winning personality of its own, half slick (in a good way) and half homegrown (also in a good way). Unlike many TV sitcoms, it's easy to grow fond of; it doesn't out-hip itself, and it doesn't take your reactions for granted, let alone try to boss them around. It goes its own merry way. I celebrated "Something to be Desired" back here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 28, 2007 | perma-link | (2) comments

DVD Journal: The Extras on "The Dreamers"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I spent a few hours the other night exploring the extras on the DVD of Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Dreamers" and had a very good time. They aren't extensive, and there's no pressing reason to go out of your way to indulge in them. But I was beguiled anyway. The DVD's making-of featurette provided many glimpses of the moviemaking process -- as always, my main reaction was "What a lot of work!" -- as well as some documentary reminders of '68 in Paris. The featurette is also a chance to meet the movie's screenwriter, the English novelist/critic Gilbert Adair; the film's classy producer Jeremy Thomas, who has worked with Rafelson, Roeg, and Cronenberg as well as Bertolucci; and to catch up with Bernardo Bertolucci, a one-time enfant terrible (he made "Last Tango" when he was only 31) who these days is looking quite pampered, regal, and rueful. Adair is the standout on the disc's commentary track. He's an articulate wonder, and he's also the rare writer who got a chance to provide source material for a movie, to write its screenplay, and to stay with the film throughout filming. He's appreciative and shrewd, as well as eager to share what he learned from the process. Unlike many writers, he seems to have no trouble with the idea that a movie might belong to its director. "I always have the novel," he says. Jeremy Thomas is nothing if not a producer, constantly recalling how hard it was to line up money, assemble extras, and obtain locations and permits. Bertolucci himself is sly, vain, pretentious -- someone who's clearly always the star of his own movie. He's somehow rather likable anyway. He's a courtly mischiefmaker; he retains much of his old sensuality and perversity, but he seems to have learned how to see through much of the era's political fog. He seems mainly to have been concerned with giving his movie a certain kind of fairy-tale reality, as well as a mythical and psychological dimension. For Bertolucci these days, the mythical and the psychological seem to be merging. It's a very pleasing disc. Even the DVD's menu is a druggy-sexy beauty. I tried to find out who designed it. Remember how, 10-12 years ago, movie titles became very stylish? Think "Se7en," for example. More or less overnight, it became a common experience to find a movie's titles far more intriguing and creative than the movie they adorned. Well, that was a wonderful era in recent design; there were a lot of hot young designers around who for some reason were using movie titles to make their mark. I have a hunch that DVD menu-design might well be a similarly happenin' field these days. But despite my best Googling I was unable to find out who made the menu for "The Dreamers." Drat. I yakked with Turbokitty about "The Dreamers" here. Short version of my own reaction: The film is lightweight, but it's also hypnotic, dreamy, and sexy.... posted by Michael at March 28, 2007 | perma-link | (9) comments

My Heart Belongs to ...
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Pussy Galore -- or rather Honor Blackman, who played the immortally-named character in the 1964 Bond film "Goldfinger" -- may be 79 years old these days, but she's as up-to-date as ever, and she still carries herself with an inspiring stylishness and confidence. She's a dynamo too. Blackman recently appeared in her own one-woman show, she conferred some glamor on a reality-TV series and, at the moment, she's about to step into a London production of "Cabaret." About Sean Connery she tells Stuart Jeffries: "Everybody thinks he was playing himself, but Bond isn't exactly an Edinburgh milkman. He's a fine figure of a man, sexy beyond belief." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 28, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments

Clinton's Gifts
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- When you've got the knack, why not exercise it? According to the WashPost, in the last six years Bill Clinton has earned nearly $40 million as a speechifier. A cousin of mine -- as Republican as can be, by the way -- attended one of these talks and reports that Clinton's charisma is quite amazing. "It's like he radiates a force field. You can almost see it coming off him," says my cuz. A nice quote from the Post: On one particularly good day in Canada, Clinton made $475,000 for two speeches, more than double his annual salary as president. And a fun snapshot of How The World Really Works: Many of Bill Clinton's six-figure speeches have been made to companies whose employees and political action committees have been among Hillary Clinton's top backers in her Senate campaigns. The New York investment giant Goldman Sachs paid him $650,000 for four speeches in recent years. Its employees and PAC have given her $270,000 since 2000 -- putting it second on the list of her most generous political patrons. The banking firm Citigroup, whose employees and PAC have been Hillary Clinton's top source of campaign donations, with more than $320,000, paid her husband $250,000 for a speech in France in 2004. Last year, it committed $5.5 million for Clinton's Global Initiative to help encourage entrepreneurship and financial education among the poor. Here's a Google Maps view of many of Clinton's gigs and how they paid. I'm looking forward to FvBlowhard's next installment in his series on The New Class. Episode one can be read here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 28, 2007 | perma-link | (37) comments

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The New Slums
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- What an evocative description of some appalling South American desert slums David Kelly has written! Half-naked children toddle barefoot through mud and filth while packs of feral dogs prowl piles of garbage nearby. Thick smoke from mountains of burning trash drifts through broken windows. People -- sometimes 30 or more -- are crammed into trailers with no heat, no air-conditioning, undrinkable water, flickering power and plumbing that breaks down for weeks or months at a time. Too bad anyone has to live like that, eh? Thank god our own country has managed to pull itself out of such miseries. Let's hope that poor countries improve their conditions too, and the sooner the better. Oh, whoops: wrong. Actually, these desert slums aren't in South America at all, they're in California. And they're ours to deal with now thanks to our nutty immigration policies. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 27, 2007 | perma-link | (10) comments

Guerilla Filmmaking 4
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Ever since The Wife and I co-wrote and co-produced a microbudget movie -- it's a short one, but it's a very ambitious one -- I've been treating myself to occasional reflections about the experience. (Previous installments here, here, and here.) Today, a way in which the activity has affected how I, gasp, see myself. * I'm a producer. When I first met photographers who spoke not about "taking a snapshot" but instead about "making a photograph," I found them affected and pretentious. But I quickly learned better. Because of course there's usually a lot more involved in creating professional or artistic photographs than just feeling inspired and pressing the release button: finding a subject, developing a career, choosing the film, keeping your interest alive, playing with lights, working out ways for your images to be seen ... A serious photographer isn't merely someone who has a knack for snapping nifty pix, he / she's also someone who leads a dedicated creative life. Come to think of it, and not that anyone asked, but ... I'd suggest to author wannabes that they stop thinking in terms of "writing books" and start thinking more in terms of "making books." It's a common delusion among wannabes that they can, by sheer force of writin' talent and effort, will books into existence. (And that the publishing industry -- and, beyond it, the world at large -- will just have to take note.) Nononono. There's much else that's involved. A few unavoidable stages in the book-making process: coming up with an idea, researching it, conceptualizing your project, pitching it, sharpening your angle or hook, finding a place for yourself in the publishing world, design questions, publicizing your story, maintaining a relationship with your audience, etc. It seems to me that if you think of "making a book" you'll set the writin' part of the activity in perspective. Writin' is an important stage in book-creation, god knows. (Though editing and designing have been gaining in importance in recent years.) But it isn't the only one. Thinking in terms of "making books" might serve as a regular and healthy reminder that bringing a book to fruition involves many different activities. Anyway. Although it's been a looooong time since I've had stars in my eyes about the culture-game, the experience The Wife and I had co-producing our movie brought the above lesson home with extra-special vividness. It turns out -- surprise surprise -- that the "filming" part of creating a film is just one of many stages you need to go through if what you want to wind up with is a finished movie. Knowing this in advance is one thing; it's another thing to live through the process. And we aren't done with our movie yet. Post-production and seducing the public into taking note still lie before us. I think the reason the lesson hit home hard in this case is that making a movie is such a get-your-hands-dirty process. It's... posted by Michael at March 27, 2007 | perma-link | (3) comments

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- In 2004, more than 55 percent of the children born in Brussels were born to immigrant parents. Source: Walter Laqueur's new book, "The Last Days of Europe." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 27, 2007 | perma-link | (2) comments

They're Watching Me
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I didn't know there was a security cam pointed at me, honest to god I didn't! Best, Michael UPDATE: Bryan outdoes me with a link to the not-to-be-forgotten Pickle Girl. I guess the easy joke would be: It reminds me of my wedding night ... Meanwhile, the Manualist gets funky.... posted by Michael at March 27, 2007 | perma-link | (2) comments

Monday, March 26, 2007

Politicized Religion, Retail Version
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards-- Although the U.S. Constitution prohibits an established religion, it doesn't prevent politics and religion from mixing. My impression is that Establishment Media have a tendency to cast evangelical Christian churches as hotbeds of right-wing politics where preachers send hordes of zombie-like members to the polls to vote as they have been ordered. The rightie blogosphere, on the other hand, is quick to point out the foibles of Mainstream Protestant churches at the national organization level -- their liturgical changes, consecration of certain bishops, divestment of funds in Israeli-based companies and so forth. Those are what I'll term "wholesale" views of the religion-politics picture. But what about the local scale? -- "retail," if you will. I can't offer a comprehensive answer. However, I'll toss out a few examples based on personal experience. One of my husbandly duties is to accompany my wife to church most Sundays. I have no problem with religion in the abstract sense. Yet I've never, ever liked going to church; nevertheless, I go to please her. My wife, being of Scandinavian descent, is partial to the Lutherans. In California she attended a church with a small congregation where the pastor steered clear of politics. Seattle is different. We have been attending the church where she was confirmed as a teenager. It's two blocks from the University of Washington. Here are items in the program booklet from March 25th. The Service of Confession and Absolution includes the following: In a world where poverty abounds, we confess our pride that makes us think that we can possess or consume whatever we desire. We confess our fear that compels us to spend more on preparation for war than on the feeding of those who are hungry or housing those who are homeless. We confess our greed that convinces us that we can possess more than we need to sustain our lives. We confess our anxiety that causes us to store up treasures on earth beyond the end of our days. We confess our guilt that prevents us from being moved by God's Spirit to respond to this global impoverishment. None of the above was said in the California church. The Seattle pastor spent most of his latest sermon dwelling on poverty (an apparent obsession of his, if the above confessions and the church's community outreach programs are any clue) and at one point ridiculed "hard-core capitalists" (his exact words). In the announcements section of the program booklet was this item: BANG POTS AND PANS FOR PEACE in honor of columnist Molly Ivins at noon today on 45th St, NE outside of University Congregational UCC. Bring your own signs, pots and lids! Join members of U. Congregational who want peace. Plan to be noisy for 15 minutes or so. Farther down the page in an events-of-the-week table was a 5:30 p.m. Monday meeting of the Freedom Socialist Party. In the room where post-service coffee was being served I noticed an activist bulletin board that had, among... posted by Donald at March 26, 2007 | perma-link | (48) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Michael Wade thinks that managers need to get their minds off their jobs on a regular basis. * Los Angeles: home of black/Latino gang warfare. * Logical Meme thinks we'd do well to decrease immigration from Mali, where polygamy is common. * A new study suggests that "the more frequently people play video racing games, the more likely they are to be aggressive drivers who take risks and get into accidents." * Netflix is offering a big prize to anyone who can improve their recommendations system. I complained about Netflix's bizarro recommendations back here. I guess I wasn't alone. * Chicklit is so yesterday. Today's new gal-genre is "yummy-mummy lit." * Time to get out for a walk. * Time to catch some Zzzzz's. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 26, 2007 | perma-link | (3) comments

Poster Brilliance
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The genius of Polish movie posters! Visitors to 2Blowhards compared notes about favorite movie posters back here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 26, 2007 | perma-link | (1) comments

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Everyday Every Day
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Yes, yes. Languages evolve. Some of what was considered ungrammatical in the past is okay today. Meanings of words change. Back in the 70s or 80s I read an article in The New York Times explaining how "transpired" originally meant nothing like its currently-accepted meaning of "happened." And yes, yes, I no doubt go along with a number of these nearly-invisible changes (nearly invisible because the changes can take a generation of two to effect). But there are limits, by gawd. Some changes annoy the hell out of me. The change that bothers me the most? It's the use of "everyday" when one ought to write "every day." The word "everyday" means "commonplace," as in the phrase "everyday low prices." And "every day" means, well, just what it says. So when I read sentences such as "He comes home early everyday," I reduce my IQ assessment of the writer by 10 points. Yes, yes, I know that my English usage ain't perfect either. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at March 25, 2007 | perma-link | (20) comments

Dear National Trust ...
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I just wrote a note to the National Trust for Historical Preservation. Somebody's gotta take the hard-reactionary stance, darn it. Dear All -- I'd been under the impression that the preservation movement came about in large part as a protest against what modernism has done to our environment. An anti-modernist stance is certainly why I at least am interested in supporting the preservation movement. So imagine my dismay in recent years as the National Trust has taken it more and more on themselves to speak up for and agitate for preservation of modernist buildings. I notice in your Jan/Feb issue two major articles cryin' the blues about supposed modernist masterpieces, for example. (One of them is here.) I'm very sorry to see that you've fallen for the architecture world's argument that modernism now deserves to be seen not as a disastrous episode in architecture history, but as a worthy-of-preservation moment. The argument the architecture establishment is making is yet another in a series of their endless attempts to legitimize and perpetuate modernism. "It wasn't so bad ... It was well-intended ... After all, some of the buildings were great ... It deserves love and care too ... Why not embrace it?" No no no. The current architecture establishment is the direct descendant of the original modernists, and they're doing what they can to entice preservationists into supporting their awful line of descent. They're doing what they can to co-opt their enemies. Don't fall for it. Insist on the facts: Modernism stank, and was a destructive and totalitarian disaster. We should be fighting these attempts to redeem modernism, not falling for them. Let's be clear: Modernism was a terrible disaster, the worst thing to happen in all of architectural history. The scale of its damage to our shared environment is on a par with what happens when wars devastate cities and countrysides. Well, I guess you already have fallen for the let's-preserve-modernism line, darn it. Would you mind directing me to a truly anti-modernist, pro-preservation-of-traditional-architecture organization? Best, Michael Blowhard (I didn't really sign my note "Michael Blowhard.") I wonder if they'll print it. Any bets? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 25, 2007 | perma-link | (31) comments

San Francisco Defaces Itself
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Philip Murphy cracks a lot of good (and well-aimed) jokes about San Francisco's hideous new Federal Building, designed by the awful Thom Mayne. Gotta love this p.r. passage from the design firm ARUP: The building "will embody a commitment to urban renewal and community spirit while providing a progressive workplace environment." When you hear the words "progressive workplace environment," it's time to run for the hills. Something to remember when you eyeball photos of the building: Those are your tax dollars at work. Yup, these days that's the kind of architecture your government is supporting -- and thus encouraging. 2Blowhards had some fun at Thom Mayne's expense, and set this kind of thing in a bit of context, here. Back here, I proposed calling these glossy new buildings "chic kitchen-appliance architecture." Best, Michael UPDATE: A nice elaboration from GK: "Just want to mention that your headline 'San Francisco defaces itself' isn't quite accurate. The federal government is exempt from having to comply with local zoning and planning ordinances, and it's generally agreed that the Federal Building would not have passed here. More accurately, you should say 'Feds deface San Francisco'. "Some critics, btw, have seen it as a good thing that the visionary federal government was able to bypass suffocating regulation by the people who live around their building." Yet more proof, as far as I'm concerned, that our elites really have it in for the rest of us ...... posted by Michael at March 25, 2007 | perma-link | (25) comments

Dining Out
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Tough-talking chef Anthony Bourdain disses Rachael Ray -- too bad, I like her myself, overperky though god knows she can be. But Bourdain shares a little political wisdom too: I don't think we should be legislating what people eat. We've reached the point where the government has to come in and tell us what to eat. That's wrong. I'm all for peer pressure. It's not a chef's job. A chef should be in the pleasure business. I'm all for vast publicity campaigns to let people know how bad this food is, but when you cross the line into legislating food, no. Now that's an attitude I can agree with. Plus, isn't his reference to "the pleasure business" great? Why does the cooking world have its head screwed on so much more securely these days than the other artworlds do? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 25, 2007 | perma-link | (15) comments

Lily Vs. David
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Actors: You can push 'em only so far ... Directors: You can push them only so far too ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 25, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments