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September 12, 2007


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* While this TV-commercial parody struck me as no more than pretty funny, it may be the slickest TV-commercial parody I've ever watched.

* Mick Hartley thinks that, where Jack Kerouac is concerned, Anthony Daniels is all wet.

* Rick Darby looks at a few gaudily painted airliners and wonders if everything these days has to be turned into a billboard.

* Jenny figures out where to put her ideas.

* Witold Rybczynski's slide show about green architecture includes a few images from the '70s, another era when eco-architecture seemed to be the inevitable next big thing. Those were some seriously ungainly buildings.

* I was planning to make fun of this NYTimes piece about an absurd new Bernard Tschumi building ... But John Massengale, bless him, has got there first and has done it better than I ever could. One especially amusing line: "Non-architects know that a blue glass tower that looks like it's falling over doesn't really fit into a low-rise neighborhood of hundred-year-old stone and brick buildings."

* The term "public intellectual" makes Alias Clio shudder.

* Michael Bierut wonders if the ditziness of Miss South Carolina might not illuminate a little something about the graphic design field. "Perhaps design is the field of mindless prettiness," he writes, daringly.

* Irina has a wrestle with her ego.

* Andrew Sullivan turned up this brilliant little action-comedy gem.

* Dean Baker doesn't think things are so bad in Germany.

* Jeff Harrell's account of living with borderline personality disorder is startling, moving, and very interesting. (Link thanks to Jonathan Schnapp.)

* Tyler Cowen wonders if the government should really be subsidizing philanthropy.

* Bruce Grossman celebrates a couple of brawny and hilarious football novels that I'm fond of myself: Dan Jenkins' "Semi-Tough" and Peter Gent's "North Dallas 40." I dig those books even though I'm not a football fan.

* The Man Who Is Thursday dares to admit that he has never enjoyed "The Lord of the Rings."

* Allan Wall -- an American living in Mexico -- watches a recent debate among our Democratic hopefuls, and doesn't like what it bodes for the U.S.

* The pop ditty that I can't shake out of my mind today is this easygoing and ridiculously catchy thing ...

* MBlowhard Rewind: I told the story of the creation of the American teenager.



posted by Michael at September 12, 2007


The Man Who is Thursday is a really perceptive blogger, but I feel that the blogger that writes at the Occasional is the best blogger on the web, in regards to book reading. What he says is really startling and refreshing. I think the reason for this is because he is practical, which is a quality that's lacking from New York Times book critics. Web blogging's where it's at.

Posted by: David Brown on September 12, 2007 5:38 PM

I'm with Thursday. On a couple of occasions years ago I tried reading one of the LOTR books and found it utterly unreadable drivel.

Posted by: Peter on September 12, 2007 6:04 PM

Kerouac was great, but not if great means the maker of perfectly crafted sentences.

They danced down the street like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn burn burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"

A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too big world.

I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was -- I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I'd never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high cieling and really didn't know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds.

We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one noble function of the time -- move!


Posted by: ricpic on September 12, 2007 9:22 PM

Michael, that Tschumi building is certainly blue. Very blue.

I don't know if you checked out the Nestle Chocolate Museum that had a link on that page about the porch. Chocolate lovers may be disappointed, but NYT-types will want to lick this building.

What can I tell you? It's a giant origami-bird, and it's red. Very red.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on September 12, 2007 10:40 PM

Note to all LOTR lovers out there. Please don't hate me. Some of my best friends are LOTR fans. (cringe)

There is something to the book, else so many people wouldn't like it. It has a good story and Tolkien's world is an interesting place. However, if you come to it as an adult you probably won't be able to get past the bad writing.

Posted by: Thursday on September 12, 2007 11:07 PM

I have to agree with you Mr. Brown, Akshay over at The Occasional Review is pretty fantastic isn't he.

Posted by: Thursday on September 12, 2007 11:12 PM

Loved your essay on adolesence. I was born in the mid 1960s and looked forward to adulthood, which I thought of as involving (among other things and in no particular order)meaningful work, travel, dinner parties, elegant and sophisticated banter, and martinis.

Now, as a middle-aged adult who dislikes most of current pop culture, and as a non-parent is not involved in a child-centered existence, I feel a little let down by the actual experience! I wouldn't want to be a teenager again, but it's been a while since I've enjoyed, as host or guest, a good, grown-up dinner party.

Posted by: Linda on September 13, 2007 8:31 AM

I watched the coal video, and thought: "This is a parody?"

Coal is great. It has fired the lights of Times Square for over a century. What exactly is the argument against it? That it exacted a human cost? That there was an environmental cost to pay for it? Zounds! I thought everything was free!

The music biz is full of this shit. Everybody's against cars and oil. Cars and oil are what made the modern music biz. Without oil, how would bands drive to and fly to the gigs? How would the audiences get there? Vinyl records were made from... oil. Oil and gas are wonderful things. Once again, I'm supposed to be amazed that the use of oil and gas exacts human and environmental costs. Who woulda thunk it?

The villification of the past is probably the dumbest intellectual current out there.

Thank God for coal, oil and gasoline! Thank God for cars! Perhaps we need to change what we do in the future. The culture created by coal, oil and gasoline is great. I love it. Sing the praises of the wonderful men who explored for coal, oil and gasoline! They were great heroes.

So, it's time to change and move on. We never would have gotten to this place without the great explorers, developers and capitalists of coal, oil and gasoline. They paved the way for the great future when the human and environmental costs for energy will be greatly diminished.

Demonizing the use of coal, oil and gasoline is just plain fucking dead brained dumb. Ditto for nuclear power. Those idiots who stopped the U.S. from building new reactors deserve nothing but contempt. They are clowns.

And, not incidently, the investment that the U.S. (and the rest of the West) made in Middle East oil should be defended. The jerk who coined the "No blood for oil" phrase is the dumbest adolescent in the history of the planet. Every moron who mouths this phrase should be required to eat two (preferably cold) turds for breakfast. This mentality is the ultimate in pansified white man hair shirt baloney.

I didn't get too excited, did I, Michael?

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on September 13, 2007 9:38 AM

A Comments twofer:

(1) A while back (don't recall if it was a post or comment -- too lazy, as usual, to check) I outed myself regarding LOTR. I plowed through it all back in the 60s, but had to whip myself to keep going. Tried to re-read it when the 1st flick opened and got through a little more than 100 pages and quit.

(a) About that Blue building. Yet another reason people in NYC deserve "combat" or "hazardous duty" pay for living there. Let me single out one of the lesser problems with the design. Looking at the photo in Massingale's post, I could not gauge the scale of the thing. That is, how many stories it had and where the floors were. Sure, if I'd spent more time studying the photo I might figure it out. But I think that a building designed to house people ought to have proper visual clues indicating that it's a habitation and not a large example of wedding-gift glassware.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on September 13, 2007 10:18 AM

I with ya'll on LOTR. I loved the story itself - that was thrilling. But the prose is turgid.

Posted by: yahmdallah on September 13, 2007 11:41 AM

I read LOTR at just the right age: twelve. It was then, and remains today, the supreme reading experience of my life. And yet...I really have to agree with Thursday's adult perspective on the limitations of the writing. My first reaction was to defend LOTR, but that was, quite literally, my twelve-year old self talking. If, like many who don't care for LOTR, I'd first encountered it after puberty, who knows what I'd have thought?

Maybe the book should be considered a classic for young readers. Judged by that standard, it still seems to me a masterpiece of world-creation, a work of immense coherence and resonance, the two traits, IMO, of really good fantasy writing.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 13, 2007 12:58 PM

"I read LOTR at just the right age: twelve. It was then, and remains today, the supreme reading experience of my life."

Exactly. I read LOTR over and over at that age.

Have you read the Gormenghast trilogy, Thursday. Perhaps it's Tolkien for grownups.

Posted by: CyndiF on September 13, 2007 1:20 PM

I haven't read the Gormenghast books, but I mean to eventually.

One fantasy series I did really like was Ursula LeGuin's original Earthsea Trilogy.

Posted by: Thursday on September 13, 2007 2:34 PM

* The Man Who Is Thursday dares to admit that he has never enjoyed "The Lord of the Rings."

I'll have to take a walk on the wild side and agree with him. I tried to read the first book back in the late 60s and I don't think I was able to get 50 pages in.

Of course I did enjoy the National Lampoon parody "Bored of the Rings"

Posted by: Reid Farmer on September 13, 2007 5:41 PM

Thursday, take CyndiF's advice. The Gormenghast trilogy is as creatively coherent and considerably more intricately detailed than Middle-Earth. Titus Groan, the first book in the trilogy has a fight sequence that far exceeds in the virtuoso brilliance of its description any other fight scene I have ever read. And there's much, much more than fight sequences, I should add.

Oh, and unlike LOTR, it's a very funny book.

Great call, CyndiF.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 13, 2007 6:16 PM

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