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« 1000 Words -- Ina Ray Hutton | Main | To Aid? Or Not to Aid? »

June 12, 2007


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Not that I even want to see the movie, but Quiet Bubble's reflections on "Knocked Up" were awfully smart and fun to read.

* Visiting Mexico City, Corbusier shows how a sensitive, sane, and amusing architecture buff responds to what's before him.

* Anne Thompson has zero interest in "torture porn."

* Jim Kalb offers advice to a recent Haverford grad.

* Prairie Mary lists her favorite blogs.

* Unlike some of us, John Emerson has fond memories of the free-jazz and fusion-jazz eras. He volunteers some listening recommendations too.

* Mencius' reasons for arguing that there's no such thing as liberal-media-bias aren't the usual ones, that's for sure.

* Paul Boutin buys a classic '63 Avanti and writes an article sub-headed: "Thank god they don't make 'em like that any more."

* Dept. of Hardly-Seems-Possible: Rachel turns up a ladies' undergarment that's even smaller than a g-string. And no, it's not (as we used to joke in Boy Scouts) a cork.

* Fred links to some gorgeous "weather porn."

* Why on earth is GWBush so devoted to his nutty -- and unpopular -- immigration schemes? Mickey Kaus thinks it's all of a piece with what has led Bush to embroil us in Iraq. George Borjas has some insights too.

* That brainy and civilized filmgeek Girish rhapsodizes about South Indian food. He also links to a touching interview with Thiru Kumar, a guy who runs a vegan South Indian food cart in a park two blocks from where I live. I'll be checking Thiru's work out soon!

* Bill Crider and his wife receive some unhappy news. Visit and send love.

* Here's a very helpful list of overlooked crime novels. (Link thanks to Petrona.) Meanwhile, Maxine has archived her own (excellent) book reviews here.

* Jon and Steve gab brainily about that notion of "transcending the genre." What does it really mean? Anything at all?

* Alice offers some hilarious observations about men and clothes. One funny passage:

Men are pretty good at being confident in the face of ignorance- all it takes is a little extra ignorance, ie. ignorance about your own ignorance, and everything seems fine! (I am not being men-ist here. This quality actually makes me quite jealous.)

* Vince Keenan takes a look at the re-cut "Payback" and ... likes it pretty well.

* Susan enjoys a wrestle with John Updike's "Rabbit, Run."



posted by Michael at June 12, 2007


I'm somewhat surprised by your intimation that you don't like free jazz or fusion jazz. Is that true? What don't you like about it? Where do you put these genres in your cultural accounting of the 20th century?

Posted by: The Lock on June 12, 2007 3:58 PM

If I had deeper pockets, I'd have all of the free jazz entries on Emerson's list and then some. At least a couple of times a year I have to dig out "Conference of the Birds" and give it a listen to reset my internal hard drive. I'd also include more Braxton (esp. Creative Orchestra Music 1976); John Abercrombie (Timeless), etc.

Although it ended up with a bad reputation and certainly spawned a sizable cadre of mediocre noodlers, even jazz-rock/fusion produced its share of wonderful recordings. Tony Williams Lifetime, certain Jack DeJohnette projects, etc.

I generally resist genre-fication fixation and listen to nearly everything.

Posted by: Chris White on June 12, 2007 5:24 PM

In my reading of history, I've almost gotten more interested in asking new (or possibly more basic) questions than arguing over the answers. In wrestling with Mencius' ideas, what keeps coming up in my mind is...just what do we mean when we say "democracy" anyway? Particularly in the context of a continental, industrial, multi-ethnic nation-state? If ever Nietzsche's comment that "at the limits of our understanding we place a word" applies, it would seem that it applies here. Mencius keeps plumping for the notion that democracy is largely a purely intellectual construct, and thus those who control the discourse control the polity, but that strikes me as a tad too neat, although by no means entirely mistaken. (Too neatly postmodern, perhaps?) But there's economic levers and there's brute force levers in there too.

Anyway, democracy has got to be right up there at the top of items that need to be studied and poked and prodded, as opposed to simply assumed to be understood because they told you about it in elementary school, because it's really darn mysterious.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on June 12, 2007 5:55 PM

Thanks for the link :)

I was going to write about "transcending the genre" instead, but, you know.

Posted by: Alice Bachini on June 12, 2007 10:32 PM

Democracy is a way to overthrow the government without violence, that's all it is. Once elected, the people in power tax the public to death, sell themselves to the highest bidder, and try to control everything with the the police, jails, and as a last resort, the army. Everywhere this is true. Eventually the people in power will try to overthrow the democracy.

The problem with our democracy is that the citizens have a belief in government. The only reason our system works is that it was set up by men who hated and disbelieved in government, and tried to make it as weak and disorganized as possible. Slowly that vision has been eroded and usurped. We are going to come into some extremely hard economic times here soon that will undermine the public's belief in government. The question is will our democracy be overturned by those in power, or will the people tear down and get rid of the government and restore freedom and democracy (which, if you think about it, are the antitheses of government!).

P.S. Menicus thinks too much.

Posted by: BIOH on June 12, 2007 10:39 PM

Thank you all for your effusive praises of my blog on your web site. It's hard for me to find the time and energy to write, mostly due to the demands of my architecture job, but it definitely gives me motivation to continue writing with the kind of compliments coming from this esteemed website. Your architecture posts always provoke a response that I wish I could write about if given more free time. Although we might not completely agree on some issues found along the Modernist/Traditionalist divide, I totally understand where you are coming from and you argue your points very well.


PS: Check the link to my article. It didn't seem to work on my browser...

Posted by: corbusier on June 12, 2007 11:25 PM


The word "democracy" is so deeply embedded in so many of our thoughts that it really defies description.

I once had a conversation with my stepfather, who has a PhD from the Kennedy School of Government and has basically never done anything that didn't count as serving his country, in which I argued that "democracy" did not equate to "good government."

I found this very difficult because he did not want to define "democracy" simply as the practice of holding free elections. To him "democracy" means a system of free elections that produces a good government. If the government is bad, for example if it violates civil liberties etc, it is undemocratic. I was forced into my usual bad habit of trying to invent a term, in this case "electoralism," to just mean the "free elections" part...

But anyway. I'm on vacation for a week, I'll have more to say about this when I get back.

Posted by: Mencius on June 12, 2007 11:44 PM

Is "Knocked Up" plagiarism? A Canadian journalist and new mother argues that it is, and sues:

Posted by: Will S. on June 13, 2007 12:09 AM

As usual, most informative. Thanks!

Posted by: Lester Hunt on June 13, 2007 12:34 AM

Why on earth is GWBush so devoted to his nutty -- and unpopular -- immigration schemes?

Perhaps for the same reason he's so devoted to his nutty and unpopular holy war (yeah, yeah, ooooo, the terrorists, oooo...): "I'm the decider and I decide what's best."

Which brings us to the issue of democracy: who cares? We're not a democracy!

Posted by: Upstate Guy on June 13, 2007 8:31 AM

About that Avanti ... the writer had it as his only car. Fool. The thing is around 45 years old. It's gorgeous, and it's best kept as a sunny-weekend, drive-to-Studebaker-club outings vehicle. But for daily driving, a car younger than five years old is best.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on June 13, 2007 11:19 AM

Which brings us to the issue of democracy: who cares? We're not a democracy!

Posted by Upstate Guy at June 13, 2007

You're exactly right. We're not a democracy but a democratic republic. And to paraphrase Ben Franklin, we'll be lucky to keep it that way.

Posted by: Reid Farmer on June 13, 2007 12:52 PM


What would (or did) your step-father make of the original Athenian version of democracy? It wasn't exactly a paradigm of good government! One assumes neither Athenian slaves nor its imperial subjects would have praised its commitment to civil liberties. Or did he not consider "democracy" to be a category that was suitable for historical comparison?

I read recently of a scholar who refused to use the word "democracy" finding it pointless in the modern nation-state context and settled for (I think) polyarchy. He kinda had a point.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on June 13, 2007 4:26 PM

Good point, Friedrich. Also, people tend to forget the American constitution writers were terrified of democracy. Their example of democracy was the excesses and failure of Athenian government during the Pelopponesian War. It was not what they wanted. They viewed it as "mobocracy", or the right of 50.1% of the electorate to politically oppress the rest of the population.

Posted by: Reid Farmer on June 13, 2007 6:52 PM

But for daily driving, a car younger than five years old is best.
Heh-heh. There's a car you can drive for ten years for daily driving, that's right, that exemplar of aesthetics, the Toyota Camry...

Posted by: SFG on June 20, 2007 4:11 PM

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