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Friday, May 11, 2007

Unconventional Conservatism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Jim Kalb offers a thoughtful response to my recent posting about Chesterton. Jim is a reliably eye-opening and helpful thinker whose brain more people should get to know. I interviewed him a couple of years ago about traditionalist conservatism: Part One, Part Two, Part Three. * Daniel McCarthy reminds us that there are many different conservatisms -- not all of which love foreign adventures, corporate gigantism, and open borders. Not long ago, I interviewed one such out-of-the-mainstream dissident, Bill Kauffman: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five. I think of Bill as a ripsnorting, poetical, anarcho-Green isolationist. And cheers to that combo. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 11, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments

Amazing chutzpah!
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, Notice this story never mentions the role the New York Times itself played in smearing the reputation of Duke's lacrosse team. (To cite a few examples of journalistic piling on, let me recommend this, or this, or this, or this). Neither does it apologize in any way. Apparently it was some other New York Times that was so irresponsible! Cheers, FvB... posted by Friedrich at May 11, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments

Townes Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Uploading champ StAlphege shares a very moving clip from a televised tribute to Townes Van Zandt. (UPDATE: Here's another clip from the same show.) I blogged about Townes Van Zandt -- a heartbreaker of an artist in all too many ways -- back here. It's one of my better postings, if I do say so m'self ... Here's Jimmie Dale Gilmore doing Townes' "Buckskin Stallion Blues." Lordy, could that man cast a spell: If three and four was seven only, Where would that leave one and two? If love can be and still be lonely, Where does that leave me and you? Time there was and time there will be. Where does that leave me and you? Just typing those words out choked me up a bit, in a grateful-for- the-pain-and-the-beauty kind of way. I notice that John Kruth's bio of Townes (which I haven't yet read) is finally available. Only semi-related but too good not to pass along: Townes' best bud Guy Clark does a grave-yet-mischievous reading of his own "Dublin Blues," accompanied by the beautiful Karen Matheson. Matheson can cast quite a spell herself. Y'all are using TubeSock to download and save your favorite YouTube vids, aren't you? Given the ways of fate (and copyright lawyers), they aren't going to be available online forever. (UPDATE: Visitor Sam Boogliodemus does his downloading with the free Mux.) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 11, 2007 | perma-link | (2) comments

More Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Lose weight the YouTube way. (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin.) * Alias Clio shares some nostalgic yet unsentimental thoughts about what's become of manliness. * News flash: Men like looking at images of pretty women far more than women like looking at pix of handsome men. (Link thanks to Dave Lull.) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 11, 2007 | perma-link | (0) comments

More Joseph Spence
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I wrote back here about the one-of-a-kind Bahamian guitarist-singer Joseph Spence. I notice that someone has put a few recordings by Spence (alone, with Louise, and with the Pinder family) up on YouTube: here, here, here. I can guarantee that you've never heard anything like Joseph Spence's version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." Few if any visuals, but the glorious music is there to be enjoyed. Click on the link to my previous posting for additional info about this giant of an artist. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 11, 2007 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Busy days at work mean no time to pull any thoughts together. But nothing, not even the need to make a living, shall stand in the way of a linkathon! * Alexandra is hot for "Torchwood," a Dr. Who spinoff that sounds pretty hot itself. * Some more beautiful work from cellphone-cam virtuoso Hugh Symonds. * Beware the "man who is living to ejaculate." (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin. The audio is hair-raisingly NSFW.) * FilmFlap has some tips for microbudget filmmakers. Nice to know that I'm not alone in wishing that many directors would go back to using tripods ... * Steve Sailer notices that the major presidential candidates all want to raise the military's budget. Great Steve line: "Why? We spend 48-49% of the world's military budget." * Alias Clio is a huge fan of Paul Scott's "Raj Quartet." * Since I've mocked the godawful designs of the starchitect Thom Mayne several times, it was pleasing to see him in action and learn that he's every bit the self-bedazzled egomaniac that his work suggests. Notice his ecccchht Boomer view of himself as someone who is trying, trying to get his vision out there, while other people are forever getting in his way. Some Boomers never stop being whiney children. * Which Hoff vids have been the most popular over the last 30 days? (Link thanks to Reelpop.) * Brains on Film reviews what they describe as the worst porno movie ever made. I'm convinced. (NSFW, of course. Link thanks to Robert Nagle.) * Here's a painless way of learning some nifty facts about the online porn biz. (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin.) Hmm, I notice that most porn-surfing is done during work hours. Shame on you, America. * Yahmdallah catches up with a boatload of movies. Great line about Sofia Coppola's work: "Sofia Coppola has that languorous, entitled attitude of a rich kid raised in the epicenter of a cultural hub, and it just suffuses her work. No one is better qualified to document the life of a woman-child with too much wealth and not much else to worry about." And doesn't that sum it up nicely? * Sofia's dad Francis Coppola talks to Harry Knowles about his own new movie. Dad ain't done yet! (Link thanks to Anne Thompson.) * Chesterton nuts won't want to miss visiting The Hebdomadal Chesterton, where Craig Burrell posts a Chesterton excerpt every week. Craig has also posted a brief audio recording of Chesterton's voice. * The Man Who Is Thursday writes Charles Murray and asks him some questions about IQ and the arts. * Brenda Walker notices that whenever a white American parent kills his or her children, it becomes a huge news story. Meanwhile, when an immigrant parent kills his or her children, you seldom hear a peep about it from the mainstream press. * I was saddened to learn that we might be witnessing the demise of that very peculiar, guinea-pig-crossed-with-a-tiger creature, the... posted by Michael at May 10, 2007 | perma-link | (21) comments

Nagle Speaks
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm glad to see that Robert Nagle will be doing a live webcast tomorrow. Robert -- who's very smart and interesting about numerous up-to-date subjects -- will be talking about ebooks, text books, and digital storytelling. Robert sometimes comments here at 2Blowhards, and he runs his own blog here. He also writes fiction under a variety of pseudonyms -- I wish I knew what they are. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 10, 2007 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Skepticism About Multiculturalism
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It's quite amazing how quickly it has become acceptable to denounce multiculturalism in Britain, isn't it? Ignore what's said in this Norman Tebbit piece for The Guardian and focus instead on the fact that this is a respectable public figure talking openly about the failings of multiculturalism. You don't see or hear that yet in the States. But maybe the dam has finally burst, and perhaps the public discussion in the U.S. will soon be opening up. Link thanks to GNXP commenter Omar Khan, who points out that when elite attitudes flip, they usually flip super-quickly. On Monday, no one acknowledges the existence of a given topic. On Tuesday, all the smart set thinks of it as urgent, and shares the same urgent opinion about it. How does this happen? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 9, 2007 | perma-link | (13) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Daniel Gilbert thinks there are good evolutionary reasons why we're so bad at forecasting what our future emotional states will be. * Is chocolate better than a kiss? * Kate Marie falls hard for "The Wire." * Patrick Deneen pays a visit to Crunchy Green Giant Wendell Berry. (Link thanks to Rod Dreher.) * Have you made the acquaintance of the witty and mischievous Stephenesque? * Here's a brilliant little conceptual Flashy thing showing how it is your mouse really makes your pointer move. It may take a while to load, but the payoff is pretty delicious. (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin.) * Portraiture ... Landscapes ... Modernism ... Traditionalism ... My question for the day is: Why isn't high-class lingerie accepted as one of the fine arts? Where's the justice? * Speaking of chic undies, here's a fashion show that even straight American boys should be able to enjoy. (NSFW, but only mildly so.) * Alias Clio has a good word for Walter De La Mare, and shares some rueful and smart reflections about romance. Great, if sad, line: I've occasionally met married men who had strong romantic feelings about their wives. I don't think I've ever met a married woman who had romantic feelings about her husband. Clio's self-description -- "Conservative Bohemian with eclectic tastes" -- has a sexy music to it, doesn't it? As does her list of favorite art-things. Among them: "Night of the Hunter," Haydn, Barbara Vine, Boswell's "Johnson," Bach, and the Rolling Stones. Yeah, baby. * Here's yet another new blog full of rowdy and super-bright righties. * In this video, Barry Schwartz gives a compact version of his "too much choice makes us miserable" thesis. Though I don't find Schwartz's policy suggestions attractive, I think his main point is a good one. * Mom's gonna kill herself! Dad thinks college was a big mistake! (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin.) * If even a high-tech razor like a Mach 3 can leave my face raw, how did Early Man manage to survive the removing-facial-hair process? Here's a history of shaving. It turns out that the first razors were probably flint stones. Suddenly wearing a beard sounds very appealing. * Chris Dillow treats himself to a good wrestle with the conflict between liberty and social cohesion. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 9, 2007 | perma-link | (13) comments

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Chesterton's "Orthodoxy"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I recently finished reading G.K. Chesterton's "Orthodoxy." I found it a fascinating book for a variety of reasons. For one: Chesterton describes his book as a far more modest project than it turns out to be. According to what he announces at the outset, he's simply setting forth how he came to embrace Catholicism at its most traditional. [CORRECTION: Make that "Christianity at its most traditional." Thanks to several visitors who pointed out that Chesterton didn't commit to Catholicism until a number of years after publishing "Orthodoxy."] But he doesn't in fact keep the book that personal; he doesn't stick to his announced limitations. Instead, he winds up making an aggressive and ambitious case for Catholicism as the truest account we have of life, and the most trustworthy guide we have to that life. I suppose that Chesterton, a sly fox, was pursuing this bait-and-switch strategy deliberately. Does it really matter if he wasn't? Given what a spokesguy for limits and forms he generally makes himself out to be, perhaps it does, if only a little. Anyway: a quick personal aside. I have a tendency to treat myself to looks into Christianity or Judaism -- into monotheism, Western-style -- once or twice a year. When I do this and I blog about my adventures, I always receive solicitous emails from people convinced that I'm teetering on the verge of committing to some Christian faith or other. I'm guessing that, in the view of these correspondents, I'm blogging out of intensely-felt spiritual agonies, and that all I need is a little love and encouragement to enable me to fall into the embrace of the Church. The care and interest are both much appreciated, of course. But they're based on a misapprehension. I'm not blogging out of a sense of agony and yearning. Really I'm not. I take my looks into Christianity and Judaism out of nothing more than curiosity. Well, a strong curiosity, but mere curiosity anyway. Western monotheism is a knot I gnaw at. One reason for this: Western civ was partly formed by Western monotheism. I inhabit Western civ; I'm an arts-and-culture kinda guy. Hence, I'd like to understand the connections between Western monotheism and the life around me better than I do. The other basis for my curiosity and gnawing is even more dopey. Western monotheism has never worked for me in the most basic sense. Forget about ideas and beliefs, let's talk showbiz. I don't get it, emotionally or imaginatively. I stare at Western monotheism like I stare at a comic book series that fails to hook me. I find that I can tune in to the fascination and the magic for a second or two tops. Then it slips away from me again. As a result, I'd like to develop a better grasp on what it is I'm missing. (FWIW, and purely for the sake of self-indulgence: I not only don't get monotheism, I find it unappealing. It seems to... posted by Michael at May 8, 2007 | perma-link | (36) comments

Taken Down
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few hours ago I put up a posting linking to a Laurence Auster piece that contrasts black-on-white rape figures with white-on-black rape figures. My point in putting up the posting was to ask this question: Is it a good thing or a bad thing that our mainstream press doesn't discuss these kinds of statistics? Visitors Peter and Peter Johnson have alerted me to the fact that Auster's figures are in some dispute. The stats that seem far more likely are awful enough but nothing like the ones Auster used. They still seem to me much worth taking note of and discussing; it also seems to me worth saying that it's absurd that these figures should be so hard to get hold of and make sense of in the first place. But, given that the general discussion has veered off in the direction of accuracy, percentages, definitions, and survey methods, none of which I know a darned thing about, the responsible thing now seems to me to be to take my previous posting down, which I've done. The discussions at Half Sigma and at Auster's own blog will bring the curious up to date. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 8, 2007 | perma-link | (1) comments

Green Tea
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Maybe it's time to start drinking green tea more regularly. I wish I liked the taste of green tea better than I do. In fact, as an Asia junkie (and Asia fantasist), I feel that I really ought to love green tea. Negative-spacey, non-monotheistic ways of being and perceiving delight me so much that I feel that my soul should mesh deeply with everything Asian, green tea included. Yet, sadly, it doesn't. I don't really like green tea in the same way that I don't really like the game of Go. I get something out of both, it's true. But in both cases I have to actively talk myself into facing them. Here are a few tricks I've learned to make green tea more pleasant: Spend extra. Using high-quality loose tea can take a considerable amount of the curse off of the morning cup. Green tea made from fresh loose tea is a funky, substantial brew so rich that it can remind you of hand-crafted fermented drinks like brew-pub beer or expensive sake. (Hey, did you know that sake is in fact a fermented-grain drink? Although Americans tend to think of sake as Japanese wine, and though it certainly has its taste-and-consistency similarities to white wine, it's in fact more closely related to beer than it is to wine. Another couple of neat things to know about sake: 1) Don't drink the cheap stuff, and don't drink it hot. Bad sake is thin and lame, and is heated-up in order to disguise its weaknesses. The best sake is complex -- it'll stop you in your tracks and make you examine its qualities. It also costs a few bucks more, and it's never heated. 2) While many sakes are a clear amber, like flat ginger ale, some of the best sakes are unfiltered, which means that they're cloudy or even milky in visual appearance. Short version: The next time you order sake at a Japanese restaurant, be willing spend a few extra bucks. Specify to your serviceperson that you have no interest in any such lousy thing as "hot sake" -- you want good sake, and you want it at room temperature or perhaps cooled. You might even think of asking about their unfiltered brands. And then enjoy.) Even if you can't face brewing your morning cup up from loose tea -- and I usually can't either; I'm too groggy -- buy the expensive tea bags. No matter what the brand, the quality really is better than that of cheap bagged green tea, which almost always consists not of crumbled-up tea leaves but of tea-sweepings and tea-dust. Don't let the water come to a boil. Water that's boiling hot does something awful to green tea leaves. I'm not sure what that would be in a technical sense. Boiling water seems to me to scald the leaves, or something. In any case, the results are very displeasing. Don't let the tea steep for too long. I've... posted by Michael at May 8, 2007 | perma-link | (16) comments

Monday, May 7, 2007

Landscapes and Modernism
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- This is the second posting in an occasional series dealing with the practical limits of Modernism and what the future might bring should it and various "post" mini-movements drive into the ditch. My first post, Portraits and Modernism, introduced itself as follows: A theme I've been edging up to and that I plan to pursue from time to time in the coming months is the question of the future of painting assuming that Modernism and its spawn prove to be an aberration in the long-term history of art. The validity of that assumption can be left for discussion at another time... For now, I simply want to use it as a peg for a series of blog posts. One way of examining this is to look at subject-matter that is comparatively impervious to Modernism and see how artists have been dealing with it. My main conclusion? The lesson to be drawn from this is that portraiture, in any reasonable sense, cannot stray very far from representation in the direction of Modernism without becoming something other than portraiture. The same holds for landscape painting. And for still life painting, historical painting, religious painting -- for any kind of painting that requires some kind of representation. While it's possible for an artist to dash off an abstract painting and title it, say, "View of Toledo (Ohio)" hardly anyone could guess it was a "landscape" absent the title. Let's look at landscape painting to see how it weathered the Modernist movement. Gallery The Stone Bridge - Rembrandt van Rijn Let's start with one by Da Man. Yes, he's especially noted for portraits, but I can't resist a classical Dutch landscape showing ... lotsa sky. English Coasts - Holman Hunt, 1852 This is a Pre-Raphaelite work crammed with carefully-rendered detail. If this reproduction is halfway valid, the detailing doesn't descend to the level of hard-edge visual sterility all too common even today. The Red Roofs - Camille Pissarro, 1877 I suppose I should have used a Monet landscape rather than this Pissarro to illustrate Impressionism. Monet and some other Impressionists used highly visible, discrete brush strokes of fairly pure colors to cover their canvasses. Pissarro went over to such a style later in his career, but I've always found that kind of painting too ephemeral. I like more structure and solidity -- as in the Pissarro shown here. You can see some harbingers of Modernism, most noteworthy the flattening of depth and the "designed" composition. Mont Sainte-Victoire - Paul Cézanne, 1904 This is one of Cézanne's last paintings of one of his favorite subjects. The color blocks and flat brush strokes hint at the Cubism that was to appear a few years later. Landscape With Red Trees - Maurice de Vlaminck, 1906 Sketchy, flattened, almost poster-like (in the French manner). Colors are simplified and mildly Fauvist, being not quite what one really sees in nature. The Sea, Maine - John Marin, 1922 This Marin represents something close to... posted by Donald at May 7, 2007 | perma-link | (30) comments

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Politicized Religion Revisited: Some Data
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Not long ago I wrote about how politicized a nearby Lutheran church seemed. My wife and I continued our church-shopping in the University of Washington neighborhood, giving the Presbyterian church a test-drive last Sunday. The place was packed. Off-duty police were on hand to manage traffic along the street and the nearby parking garage. The service was pretty satisfying for me, one who has never been comfortable in church. Supporting the pastor was a choir of perhaps 40 people along with a brass (plus drums) ensemble: excellent music. The sermon was intellectually interesting, being largely a discussion of the city of Antioch -- its founding and its status at the time of Saint Paul. Apparently it was a seriously sinful town that was surprisingly receptive to the preaching of Paul and others. The pastor noted that Antioch was a pretty "diverse" place -- Levantines, Jews, Greeks, Romans, etc., and that diversity itself is an okay thing. Then he flipped the concept, noting that the diverse elements found singularity in Christ: neat job. All-in-all a good show, though Nancy was disappointed that there was no communion. But hey! -- these folks are Calvinists. (Follow up: today they had communion.) There was no talk from the pulpit about "hard-core capitalists" (as in the Lutheran service). And the church bulletin didn't mention peace rallies or meetings of left-wing political parties (as the Lutheran church also did). I hope I've established that the Presbyterian church seems to me far less political than the Lutheran church I described in the earlier post. Now here's the interesting bit: The Presbyterian church offers five services each Sunday whereas the Lutheran church has only one. Three of the Presbyterian services are "traditional" and are held Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon are two non-traditional services, and I don't know from experience if these are politicized or simply feature guitars or modern music, though I suspect the latter. For the heck of it, I surfed the Web to find out how many Sunday services other university-area churches offered. The Roman Catholic church had three regular masses and one small-scale one. The Methodist church had two services. Holding only one service were the Christian (Disciples of Christ), Congregational and Lutheran churches. The Episcopal church offered two services, but one might be a lesser one. What about involvement in politics? I don't know about the Episcopalians (but have my suspicions), Catholics and Disciples of Christ. But the Lutheran, Methodist and Congregational churches are strongly anti-Iraq war. Moreover, that Congregational church appears in the local news from time to time because its clergy take stands on various politically-related issues. Setting aside the unknowns, churches that seem politicized are doing far worse in terms of attendance than the non-political one. Yet Seattle (inside the city limits, especially) is a pretty left-wing place. Perhaps the politicized part of the populace is non-religious (distinctly possible) or maybe the politicized aspects of the churches are not an important draw factor for... posted by Donald at May 6, 2007 | perma-link | (20) comments