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Friday, May 4, 2007

Pittsburgh: Yay or Nay?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Back here, I raved about the city of Pittsburgh. Since I was basing my cheers entirely on a three-day vist The Wife and I made to promote our dirty co-written fiction, I was relieved that, in the comments on that posting, DarkoV, MQ, and The Holzbachian contributed not just their own enthusiasm for the city but considerably more experience. More recently, I had the chance to feel vindicated for all of us when the Places Rated Almanac declared Pittsburgh the "most livable city" in the U.S., ahead of such strong and better-known contenders as Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco. Now, though, comes Bill Steigerwald, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, to add some lemon to the discussion. According to Steigerwald, Pittsburgh -- for all her heartiness, her gorgeous neighborhoods, and her advantages -- is in a death-spiral. Taxes are high, politicians are deluded and corrupt, and people are leaving. One especially sad passage: It's bankrupt. Its school district spends $16,000 a year per kid. Its parking tax is the highest on Earth: 50 percent. City police and firefighters irresponsibly pad their numbers, salaries, and pensions -- and openly trade their mayoral votes for sweetheart contracts. Meanwhile, local school and property taxes are among the highest in the country. So are public bus and taxi fares. And, oh yeah, highways are congested, in bad shape, and under-built. Yes, Pittsburgh is highly livable. But it's also dying. Don't you hate it when satisfyingly simple pictures get complicated? But you can still buy an awful lot of very nice house for amazingly little money in Pittsburgh. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 4, 2007 | perma-link | (8) comments

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Scott Chaffin installs some compact flourescents and suspects that someone's funnin' him. * Mike Snider thinks that traditional poetic forms are an invitation to the poet to get up and dance, while free verse encourages passivity. * The lenses in my new eyeglasses just popped out ... * Claire is enjoying Stephen King's book "On Writing." * Ronald Brak sees "300" and is amused. Funny passage: The screen is filled with so much beefcake it almost made me wish I could take a pill to turn me gay for a couple of hours so I'd enjoy the movie more. There is a scene which shows King Leonidas having sex with his wife, which I guess is some pathetic attempt to establish that he's not gay. Let's just say it's not successful. * Jewcy's Neille Elel visits India and fails to find enlightenment. * Musician, entertainer, and crankily exuberant guy Shouting Thomas gets off a great passage about the live music world: I remember that this conversation was repeated a thousand times in the 70s: "Wouldn't it be great if we could go out to hear music in a smoke-free, alcohol-free environment where the men weren't hitting on the women?" Well, no. This is not such a great thing. People go out to hear music to let their hair down and raise a ruckus. The search for the great hippie, pacifist venue led to the complete collapse of the live music business. * Economist Thomas Sowell talks a lot of sense here and here. Sowell's quite a giant, isn't he? My own favorite Sowell book is "The Vision of the Anointed," an enlightening look at why our elites think and behave the way they do. * If she were still with us, Barbara Stanwyck would be turning 100. Anne Thompson praises Stanwyck, and links to some lovely writing about the star. * Chris Dillow thinks that being raised rich can have its disadvantages. * Are girls with girly names less likely to pursue math and science? * Randall Parker takes a look at the cost of the Iraq war. * Roger Scruton denounces Jean-Paul Sartre. Great line: "Sartre was a kind of athlete of negation, able to wrestle Nothing out of Something whatever the subject or the cause." * James Kunstler sets aside Peak Oil and lets rip on (to my mind) his best subject: how ugly and tacky so much of America has become. Now that's some vivid writing. The visitors' comments on his posting are well worth a read too. * Gregory Cochran is convinced that the Bushies inhabit an alternate reality. * Kevin Carson asks a good question: What to do when the free-market alternative just isn't available? * Ilkka gets on the treadmill and picks up a copy of Oprah's magazine. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 3, 2007 | perma-link | (35) comments

DVD Journal: Renoir on the Cheap
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some good news for movie nuts: a 3-disc collection of some of Jean Renoir's rarer movies has just been published, and the price is very right -- $19.95. Extras are slim, but reviewers report that the prints are first-class. The less-good news: These are movies best reserved for the already-convinced. I've seen most of the movies in this set, and I do love "The Little Match Girl," a beautiful semi-experimental treatment of the Anderson story. But the other films aren't so successful. As a major Renoir nut, I wouldn't have missed them for the world. (My fellow Renoir nuts will know what I mean.) But they're hard to recommend to anyone who isn't already pretty far gone. Those who haven't caught the Renoir bug yet would probably do best to start with "Rules of the Game" and "Grand Illusion," his most celebrated movies, before exploring the more uneven stretches of his work. But it's all to be savored, IMHO: A deep immersion in the work of Jean Renoir can be one of the most rewarding of all art experiences. It certainly has been for me. He's also a crucial figure in film history. You wouldn't know it from the movies that are yakked about and produced these days, but Renoir has been one of the most influential of filmmakers. The French New Wave guyz saw themselves as Renoir's spiritual children; Orson Welles called him "the greatest of all directors"; Altman, Coppola, Satyajit Ray, and Bertolucci revered and learned from his work. The most democratic and least domineering of major film artists, Renoir represents an approach to moviemaking as something tentative, humane, free, and open. You don't get to call yourself a bigtime filmbuff, let alone a cineaste, without spending a lot of time on Jean Renoir. Sorry, you just don't. Early Renoir If anyone has sampled Renoir and has come away puzzled by his reputation, I'd be happy to take a swing at explaining what many people find so special, even lovable, about him. First hint: Newbies are often dismayed by what seems like a lot of awkwardness in Renoir's movies. How about considering the possibility, just for a minute, that these awkwardnesses might really be something more along the lines of "direct encounters with our essential humanity"? Those moments you're wincing at and looking away from? What if they aren't embarrassments? What if instead they're some of the high points of 20th century art? Also enthusiastically recommended: "Boudu Saved From Drowning," "The River," and "The Golden Coach." Why aren't "Toni" and "The Crime of M. Lange" available on DVD yet? Those are topflight Renoirs too. Here's a 1960 interview (audio included!) with Renoir. His appreciativeness, gusto, and enthusiasm -- as well as his childlike, soulful, big-bearish playfulness -- are all on full display. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 3, 2007 | perma-link | (6) comments

Blogging Notes
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'll be on the road again next week, Nikon S5 and MacBook at the ready. This time it's Miami and then up along the coast as far as Philadelphia. Being Puget Sound-based most of my life, Florida is just a squidge off my usual bi-coastal track: never ever been there. Ditto most of the rest of the route till we hit the DC environs. That should make the trip interesting. I'll blog as best I can, but likely posting will be less than my usual four items per week. Places we're visiting include Miami, Key West, St. Augustine, Savanna, Charleston, the NC capes, the Norfolk area, the Delmarva peninsula, Washington, Wilmington DE and perhaps Philly. Art-wise, I hope to catch the Sorolla exhibit at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, as much as I can in Washington museums, the Delaware Art Museum and the Brandywine River Museum. Not to mention the Art Deco and Spanish architecture in the Miami area. The plan is to use all this as blog-fodder. I suspect there are other interesting art museums and architectural sites along the route that I'm ignorant of, so any tips will be appreciated. No guarantees that I'll visit everything suggested, because Nancy will have places she'll want to visit as well. Normal blogging will resume in June. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at May 3, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments

Weak Newspaper Ad Sales?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- What follows is anecdotal, not statistical, even though some numbers are involved. But hey, this is about newspapers, and that biz thrives on the personal, the anecdotal. (I'm excepting the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Investor's Business Daily and their ilk, natch.) Circulations have been falling at big city dailies for a while now. And it's known that classified ad lineage is getting hit hard by Internet-based classifieds. Moreover, I'm pretty sure there are real statistics out there regarding ad lineage in general. I won't let that stop me from tossing your way a few numbers I collected. Lately I've been noticing how anemic the Seattle Times -- largest circulation in Washington state -- has seemed. Some sections didn't appear to have many advertisements at all. So I tallied the Business and Sports sections for four days this week, starting Monday. Institutional and public service ads were not counted. The Sports section had 650 column inches of paid advertising out of a potential 5,544 inches -- 11.7 percent. Nearly half of that was on Monday, a big sports news reporting day. The average for Tuesday through Thursday was 8.9 percent. The Business page had 132 ad inches out of 2,112 -- 6.3 percent. About half of that was due to a full backpage ad that appeared Tuesday. If I were the paper's publisher, I'd be breaking out in a sweat over this sales performance. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at May 3, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bookbiz Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Jim Miller points out a Guardian article comparing women's and men's tastes in book-fiction reading. Like Jim, I don't know why anyone was surprised by the results -- dudez like heroes and ideas, galz prefer to compare feelings and receive validation, etc. But apparently some people were. * Jim also makes some refreshingly down-to-earth (and hence un-P.C.) comments about a Seattle librarian's reading list for children. It can sometimes seem as though teachers and librarians want to prevent little boys from reading, can't it? My own working assumption: School is a conspiracy against boys. (UPDATE: Steve Sailer writes about one small publishing house that has made a point of publishing books for boys.) * Thanks to FvB, who points out a NYTimes article about how newspapers' book-review sections are shrinking. Book publicists eager for coverage are now almost as likely to approach litblogs as they are traditional publications, it seems, and the National Book Critics Circle has even launched a Campaign to Save Book Reviews. The smart 'n' sassy Book Babes comment. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 2, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments

Mormons on PBS
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I got an early look at PBS's current two-part American Experience documentary about the Mormons and found it very worthwhile. It certainly has plenty of the PBS-docu tics that I mocked back here: over-solemnity, slowness, humorlessness, draggy music. But it redeems the form by being surprisingly multidimensional, nuanced, and open. If Mormonism sometimes looks as bizarre as Scientology, it has also done a lot of people a lot of good. If Mormonism can seem as square as the Chamber of Commerce, it has also had to survive as much persecution as any radical group. If Mormonism looks as sci-fi and made-up as "Star Trek," well, how did other major religions look when they were only a little over a century old? It's a great story, thoroughly researched and quite decently told. Check your local public TV station for a schedule, or watch the entire thing online here. Related: I raved about Patrick Allitt's Teaching Company series "American Religious History" here. Currently on sale, Allitt's series is full of all kinds of great, crazy stories. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 2, 2007 | perma-link | (28) comments

Vernon Smith on Being Aspergery
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Those fascinated by Aspergers Syndrome should find this video interview with Nobel economist Vernon Smith a treat. Link thanks to Tyler Cowen, whose visitors' comments are pretty fascinating too. Steve Sailer suspects that economists are especially prone to having Aspergers. I have my own hunch that many systems-lovin' eggheads have Aspergers. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 2, 2007 | perma-link | (8) comments

Many Different Eco-Crowds
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Donald's recent posting has got me thinking about eco-matters, as well as recalling time I've spent on the eco-fringes. I don't have a lot to add to the general global-warming discussion -- I'm completely unqualified to say much about it. To be completely honest, it strikes me as a dull topic that someone somewhere generated entirely for media-promotional reasons. Which, if I looked into it further, I might or might not respect. But, having spent a lot of personal time exploring the eco-world, I do feel I have one much-more-general contribution to make. To do so, I'm cleaning up, knitting together, and reprinting here some comments that I dropped on Donald's posting: One thing I'd add is that it's a goof to talk about environmentalists as though they're one big homogeneous group. They aren't. I've spent bunches of time exploring the eco-world, and I can testify that eco-people and eco-orgs come in all kinds of flavors. There are people who really like ducks and trees lots better than humans, for instance. (I feel that way myself sometimes.) There are one-issue people -- people who are doing what they can to protect manatees, or coral, or local forests. (God bless 'em.) There are far-out radicals who want the midwest to be declared a grass-and-buffalo preserve, and who argue that we need to create nature-corridors to reconnect the "natural" parts of the country. (They make remarkably convincing arguments for this, IMHO. Plus I often simply like the bioregional eco-anarchy people a whole lot.) And there are people like Bjorn Lomborg, who's eco but realistic. (I think he's great too, if not the final word on anything.) The Sierra Club / Gore squad is the most visible of the eco-worlds because they're the best-funded and most aggressively political part of the enviro world. But they aren't the entire eco-world by a long shot. Believe me, there are a lot of eco-people who despise or at least resent the "Inconvenient Truth" crowd. Small -- but to me important -- point here: You can be eco and dislike the Sierra Club / Gore crowd. You can be Xtremely green -- as in 'way-beyond-Al-Gore green -- and not be obsessed by topics like recycling and / or global warming. I personally buy most of the criticisms people make of the Gore-Sierra Club crowd -- that they're basically a bought-and-paid-for branch of the Democratic Party, and that they have sold out entirely to them. (You don't hear the Sierra Club talking much about population growth these days, do you? Guess why.) Which doesn't automatically mean that they aren't right about a few things ... Speaking only for myself, I dislike the Gore / Sierra Club axis (while liking some of the individuals, of course) for being such determinedly political people. Speaking for fringey ecopeople I've known who dislike the Sierra / Gore-ites more generally ... Their reasons tend to boil down to: The "Inconvenient Truth" crowd is too political -- their... posted by Michael at May 2, 2007 | perma-link | (16) comments

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Ultra-Eco Lifestyle
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- What price are you willing to pay to Save the Planet ? One option is to live an 18th century lifestyle. That's more or less what one chap in northern New England did, as reported in the Wall Street Journal 10 or 15 years ago. A bit too extreme? Okay, here is what's happenin' now according to an article in today's Seattle Times, a paper beating the drum for its "Climate Challenge" initiative. The link to the article is here. But it might disappear, so I'll liberally quote from the article to highlight some of its information. The trash container at the curb is not much bigger than a shoebox. And inside the house, at 7:15 on a weekday morning, all the lights are off. It's not because no one's home. "I'm just raising the blinds to let in the natural light," Gina Diamond said as she walked from window to window. It's morning in a low-carbon household, where reuse and recycle is more than just a slogan, buying used is encouraged and the electric lights go on only when it's dark out.... They haven't abandoned modern conveniences. The refrigerator hums near an electric stove and a dishwasher. When Diamond needs to get ready in the morning, she pops a movie into the DVD player for Lily to watch. But looking closely, subtle differences emerge. Laundry hangs on a drying rack in a nearby hall. To save electricity, they rarely put their clothes in the dryer. The curly glass of a compact fluorescent light bulb pokes from the lamp over the dinner table. Diamond got out a milk carton labeled organic. The raisins Lily plopped onto her cereal were bought in bulk and stored in a reusable container. That helps explain why a week's worth of family garbage fills one small trash bag. "I try to reuse things as much as I can before I recycle them," Diamond explained.... The household rules are pretty simple. Walk or ride a bike when you can. Take the bus if that doesn't work. As a last resort, drive the family car, a Subaru station wagon. Buy organic, locally grown food if possible. Buy less stuff, and get secondhand things. Only use electricity when needed. In practice, it gets more complicated. Take eating. Diamond is an "aspiring vegan," meaning no meat, milk or eggs. [Richard] Farnham [her husband], who grew up in London eating his mom's roast beef, still relishes a good burger. Lily [their daughter] doesn't eat meat but drinks milk and eats eggs.... She wants to buy food grown nearby, to cut down on fuel used to transport, say, bananas from Central America to Seattle. But she can't give up fresh fruit in the winter. So they get a lot of their produce from a local farm that delivers a box to a nearby neighborhood center, and then add fruit and vegetables from elsewhere in the winter.... She traces her start down this path to 1987,... posted by Donald at May 1, 2007 | perma-link | (31) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Virginia Postrel has discovered Yi-Fu Tuan. I'm a big fan of Tuan's "Passing Strange and Wonderful." * Vince Keenan reports that Mike Hodges' followup to "Get Carter," the 1972 "Pulp," isn't half bad. * Mencius thinks that he has boiled leftism down to its central idea. * Bluewyvern turns up some amazing book artists. * Crime-fiction nuts should be making Steve Lewis' Mystery*File a regular stop. * Alicatte thinks Lancome may have overdone the Photoshopping on Clive Owen. * Moira offers some nuanced thinking about courtesy and the truth. * Michael Pollan argues that our farm policies subsidize obesity. Link thanks to Tyler Cowen. * Eddie Muller presents his list of the 25 best film noir movies. (Man, that's awkward: "film noir movies." Have you got a better way of writing it?) I wrote a blogposting about film noir here. * Thriller fan D.A. Ridgely reports that "Fracture" may not be perfect but is still worth a watch. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 1, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments

Nate Likes Avenir
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Nate Davis gives Avenir -- one of the Mac writing tools that I recommended recently -- a spin, and likes what he encounters. He also does a better job than I did of describing what Avenir is: It's a database-driven interface with containers for notes on characters, scenes, chapters, etc. It even has a very optimistically designed section for keeping track of your submissions! ... I like that this program is fairly minimalist -- it stays out of the way and lets me just free-form ramble to get things started. But it's there to step in with containers for this and that when things get complicated. Nate reports that using Avenir has even helped him become unstuck where one of his writing projects is concerned. I've been making a lot of use of Scrivener myself, and the experience has left me more convinced than ever that the Avenir / Scrivener class of software marks as much of an advance over the word processor as the word processor represented over the typewriter, at least so far as longer pieces of writing go. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 1, 2007 | perma-link | (0) comments

Long Books
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Tyler Cowen asks, "What's Wrong with Long Books?" Fun thoughts from many visitors. I pitched in with this comment: Well, many books are too long. It's commonly acknowledged in the bookbiz that many nonfiction books, for instance, are just blown-up magazine articles. Also, when you think about it, isn't it incredibly ... audacious or arrogant or something for authors to ask us to read (for instance) 600 pages? Even if you read at a very good clip, this author is asking you for at least a 10 hour commitment. Tyler, who seems to have 60 hours in a day, might breeze through such a book in a weekend, but it'd take me a couple of weeks. And what individual -- and whose individual voice -- merits that kind of attention? Would you voluntarily say, OK, I'm going to listen to Person X yak on for 10 hours straight? I mean, would you do that often? By contrast, a season of a TV series (about the equivalent in length) has all kinds of talents and personalities pitching in for your entertainment's sake: designers, performers, multiple scriptwriters, directors, photographers, costume and music people ... Downside: commercial anxiety, too many cooks, etc. Still, the book-length thang (and our fetishization of it) strikes me as weird. Books are as long as they are in many cases not because that's the right length for them but because book-publishing requires that length. Books are book-length not because it suits us but because it suits the book-publishing business. What if you've got a story that tells itself naturally in 80 pages? It seems to me that most stories run naturally as prose things around 20-80 pages. Beyond that is padding, writin', atmosphere, authorial ego ... All the more reason to value novels that do justify 400 or 800 pages, of course. But why not acknowledge that they're rarities? Besides, I'm simply not 600 pages' worth of interested in many stories, or many subjects. I solve the problem for myself practically where nonfiction is concerned by buying abridged audiobooks. I'll listen to a four-tape version of a biography while commuting or exercising and be quite happy about it (and I'll be done with it in fairly short order too). But the 600 page full-length bio? I'm just not gonna get around to it. One of the great things about the internet is that it's freed writing from the old length-predicament of "either it's an article or a book." Why do we make such a big deal out of the book-length writing performance? Is it entirely because of history and school? Is there any reason to expect people in the future to have the same attachment to the book-length performance? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 1, 2007 | perma-link | (13) comments

"Youthful Desires"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I spent some of the weekend reading Darrell Reimer's story collection "Youthful Desires." I had a very good time, and I suspect that anyone who took to (for instance) the early movies of Richard Linklater will enjoy "Youthful Desires" too. (You may know Darrell already; he blogs at WhiskyPrajer.) Darrell's fiction is of the same general school as Linklater's "Dazed and Confused," or (in book terms) Tom Perrotta's early story collection "Bad Haircut" and Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity." This is a landscape / mindscape / writing-scape inhabited by bright young boy-men with searching brains, more mixed-up than they know, yet sweet and open, caught between adolescent lustiness, nostalgia for childhood, anxiety about entering the adult world, and amazement at the vastness of it all. What makes Darrell's book distinctive is that his language has its own out-of-the-mainstream music, and that his young men have their own special concerns. Darrell -- who, if I remember right, is the son of a Mennonite pastor -- is amazingly unself-conscious about shifting into metaphysical-speculation mode. Wondering about the divine is a natural part of what his young men do. Yet Darrell isn't imposing ideas, let alone using fiction as a mere vehicle for philosophizing. The stories and characters have their own life; the ideas and speculations are part of the loam that the stories grow from, alongside testosterone, confusion, grogginess, and giddiness. Darrell's young men are wondering what they might do in life, hoping to get laid, and asking themselves what God might be up to. In one story, Darrell's protagonist has thrown himself into bodybuilding as -- he hopes -- a redemptive activity, and Darrell's evocation of this kid's disordered thought processes is shrewd, funny, and brilliantly done. Like Perrotta and Hornby, this is Lit Lite -- yet it's also Lit Very Likable, Lit Very Amusing, and Lit Very Touching. (And who says that achieving a shallow-yet-setting-off-deeper-notes tone isn't a considerable achievement?) Darrell keeps his stories very personal and informal. The collection -- which Darrell has published himself via -- never feels not-handmade; it never feels not like a labor of love. This may be workshop-style fiction -- though indie-cinema creators should find a lot of rich material here, Jerry Bruckheimer certainly won't be buying these stories to supply plot-lines for next summer's action movies. But it isn't fiction that has been workshopped-to-death. Darrell isn't out to be the toughest, most virtuosic writer in writing class. He's using workshop techniques to show off his subject matter. This is amateur fiction in the best sense, in the sense of fiction that has been written from love. I want to add a small thing here about the amateur-vs-professional pickle. The professional publishing process involves many stages, and it has much to recommend it. The processes tend to ensure that a certain level of gloss and professionalism is attained and sustained. While this can often be a good thing, at other times the process is destructive. What can happen... posted by Michael at May 1, 2007 | perma-link | (3) comments

Monday, April 30, 2007

Random Web Marketing Poetics
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Readers who've tried to post comments here in recent months know that there can be delays ranging from a couple of minutes to several hours before the comment appears on the 2Blowhards site. That's because we sometimes get bombarded with spam comments. So we inspect prospective comments (when we happen to be on the computer) and only post those that are legitimate, relegating the others to the trash bin. Too bad my incoming e-mails aren't so carefully vetted. Actually my MacBook has software that tries to sort junk from okay e-mails, but I still allow the software to display the complete list of incoming rounds just in case there's a misidentification (and every week or so there is one). The war between spammers and scanners is interesting, each side innovating to try to get a step ahead of the other. One spam dodge is to include randomly-generated word sequences to cover the message about, say, "meds." (Well, that's the sort of spam I seem to get. Hmm. What do they know about me that I don't?) Sometimes those random-word blocs can be interesting -- almost poetic. Here's one I received today: and beaujolais some katz ! warfare the you're try quadrille the marketwise a retaliate it's eardrum it's criss and detest it dubhe a cameron a idol , lifelike may albrecht And one from a few days ago: be chile may glisten ! bloodhound may bank ! fluoridate ! pica , brothel some powerful it's chantey it derate some for but britannic and conglomerate be gigahertz try universe a crease some lennox try christie and saturater on instance or tuscarora the charm the birthday the cyclorama it's amerada may yea it astatine try implicit , barnacle a southampton a adhesion some zeroth some invariable , athlete on severe but wainscot but cochlea ! chromosome may abound or atop Who knows ... some day this stuff might get collected, published, and proclaimed as edgy, trangressive literature. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 30, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fact for the Day: Teens and Financial Expectations
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- From news story in the Contra Costa Times: American teens believe ... that when they get older they will be earning an average annual salary of $145,500. Interestingly, boys expect to earn an average $173,000 a year and girls $114,200 ... The fact is, only about 14 percent of U.S. households have incomes between $100,000 and $200,000, reports the U.S. Census Bureau. The median household income in the United States is actually $46,326. Gotta love the big dreams and expectations of the American adolescent ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 29, 2007 | perma-link | (16) comments

Timing and the Digging of Pop Culture
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Not long ago I wrote about Ice Cream vs. Sherbet and mentioned that the cowboy character Hopalong Cassidy's picture was on the inside lids of Dixie Cups containing an ice cream - sherbet mix. What I didn't mention was that I was not a Hoppy fan. I was a couple of years too old, it seems. Age differences can be a huge thing for many youngsters, me included. Moreover, age differences have effects in inverse proportion to one's age. For instance, I recall from Kindergarten days that first graders would taunt us on the playground by crying out "Kindy-garten BAAY-bees!!" And those first graders seemed a whole lot bigger and older than us, so we simply kept our mouths shut and put up with the taunting. When I was a first or second grader we once went up to the upper floor of the school and were walked through an eighth grade classroom. Those eighth graders (they were around age 13) seemed like adults to me. They were really big like my parents and the boys had hairy legs showing above the socks. As I noted, age differences seem to lessen as one ages. Though it wasn't until I was perhaps a Junior in high school that girls only a year younger became "interesting." As college Freshmen, Seniors seemed noticeably more mature than us. Matter of fact, it was the cooler, older heads in my frat house that kept initiation hazing from getting dangerously out of bounds. (See here for my post on Hell Week.) As for the title of this post, here's the deal with me and pop culture icon Elvis Presley. Elvis hit the national scene in a big way in 1956. I was a high school senior the fall of that year. Junior girls were going mad over the guy. (My wife, who was a high school Junior that year, just told me that yes indeed she was an Elvis fan.) But not suave, sophisticated 16 or 17 year-old me. I thought Elvis was kid stuff. You know what? I've never really cared much for Elvis. Had I been born a year or more later, I might have dug him. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 29, 2007 | perma-link | (6) comments

Kirsten Has Some Advice
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Kirsten Dunst thinks the world would be a better place if everyone toked up on a regular basis. Is her agent yelling at her right now for making this statement? And was Carl Sagan really the world's biggest pothead? Meanwhile, say hello to the iBong, the brainchild of a couple of computer geeks from -- where else? -- Austin, Texas. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 29, 2007 | perma-link | (8) comments