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« Balint Zsako | Main | Poetry, Fiction, Length, More »

September 30, 2007


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Tom Wolfe visits Yale, debates deconstructionist god Peter Eisenman, and explains one of the basic cases against architectural modernism.

* Former Fed chief Alan Greenspan says that the biggest discovery he made during his tenure was that real-life people don't in fact behave like homo economicus. Why do we put eggheads who are this dim about what human beings are like in charge of powerful institutions?

* Raised Catholic in the San Fernando Valley, actress Mare Winningham has converted to Judaism. She talks to Jewcy about how she found her new faith.

* Roissy bumps into some silicone, and asks the day's key political question: Are lefty or rightie girls easier?

* Designer/illustrator/webguy Charley Parker is very generous with the computer tips at his blog. He's also a gifted -- as in organized and funny -- writer.

* Fred Elbel thinks that it's likely there are 20 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. As many as 12,000 more might be entering the country every day.

* Has this guy come up with a way to increase computer storage capacities by a hundredfold? I guess the computer revolution won't be slowing down any time soon.

* Richard S. Wheeler wonders why some people love reading fiction that offers nothing but formula.

* Fred Wickham works on his Indian accent -- then wonders if he should really be using it.

* Alec Tabarrok notices a study showing that, despite feminism and progress, women's happiness is lower now than it was in 1970.

* Rachael lets her attention drift and smacks into another car.

* Shouting Thomas offers some apt words about a new Frank Gehry building, and performs a catchy tune on a theme he knows well.

* Bargain DVD for the Day: Jean-Jacques Annaud's "The Lover", based on a Marguerite Duras memoir. It's a fancy-schmancey costume drama set in Vietnam in the 1920s, too high-toned to be soft-core pornography, yet too explicit to be your usual art-house fare. I thought it was a bit of a bore, but it's certainly easy on the eyes -- the Franco-Asian coupling was a mellow and exotic treat. And it's one of the rare frankly sexual films that chicks love. $9.99.

* MBlowhard Rewind: I cracked a few jokes at the expense of the book-besotted.



posted by Michael at September 30, 2007


Thanks for the plugs, Michael.

I especially liked the discussion of whether leftie or rightie girls are easier.

Roissy is correct in stating that the real question is: What are you left with after you bed the girl?

The left has been obsessed with the same theme for my entire life: if your love and sex life isn't working, somebody else is to blame. Family, church, government... somebody is represssing your sexuality.

The right, in the grand scale of things, believes that your love and sex life are personal responsibilities. You get what you deserve.

Over the long haul (and I speak from experience), you are better off with a conservative, religious, traditional girl. First, they haven't bought into feminism. So, they aren't going to blame you for the overall sins of the world. You won't spend your life apologizing at leftist social functions for the crime of being white, hetero and male.

With the leftie girl, if you couple up, you will face a liftime of contrition for sins that cannot be expunged. You are guilty because of your class membership.

With the rightie girl, if you couple up, you will be a sinner in the traditional sense. And your sins can be forgiven.

An easy choice in my book.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on October 1, 2007 10:50 AM

I really like the Frank Gerhy IAC building. Unless certain practical elements (e.g. too much heat gain due to the amount of glass) prove to be problematic it looks like a great building to work in. I can't imagine a high tech oriented holding company building a neo-gothic edifice; this building looks exciting and interesting, a visual treat, at least from all the views shown on the IAC web site. Whether the street level view is as interesting &/or "pedestrian friendly" is a question, but I suspect it is as or more pleasing than most other buildings in the neighborhood.

Posted by: Chris White on October 1, 2007 11:20 AM

ST: "You won't spend your life apologizing at leftist social functions for the crime of being white, hetero and male."

I have never, ever encountered this. As usual I'm open to the suggestion that this is a generational difference, but in this case I highly doubt it, since the left of ST's generation was overwhelmingly more white, heterosexual, and male than the present-day left (which still says quite a bit). I really have to attribute this to some kind of pathological hyper-defensiveness on the part of ST and others who feel beleaguered for being straight white men.

Also, the idea that feminism has made women less happy sure is tired, and really dumb, isn't it?

I would like the Gehry building if not for the weird frosting effect.

Posted by: BP on October 1, 2007 11:57 AM

When I blur my vision a little, the photo at the top of the NYT article on the computer storage guy looks almost like a beautifully composed abstract painting, almost cubist. Cool.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 1, 2007 12:13 PM

I walked by the Gehry building recently and the thing that struck me, because I wasn't expecting it, was expecting the opposite in fact, is that there is nothing massive or overpowering about it. That seems, to me at least, to be the great fault of most important modernist buildings: their "Mussolini" face. But this building is delicate, wistful almost. Maybe its the multitude of angles, maybe the setback of the upper floors, maybe the dark-light banding; all I know is that I was pleasantly surprised by its gracefulness.

Posted by: ricpic on October 1, 2007 1:37 PM

Well call me p@##^ whipped but I found the Roissy post & most of the comments tacky and (dare I say it?) sexist. What a load of horse manure.

Perhaps, if one is a youth brigade dude looking for a one night stand or a "pal with benefits", there is a point to be extracted from the slime, but for anyone interested in a true partner it is probably best to seek those with whom you share common values. A conservative religious gal makes sense for a conservative religious guy ... a liberal free thinking gal makes sense for a liberal free thinking guy. That said I find right winged gals tend toward a brittle surface beauty rather than the earthier, more sensual, appeal of left leaning women. And having spent the better part of my lifetime with a progressive woman I can attest that one can enjoy a rich romantic and sexual life with one.

And I am SO tired of hearing abut how beleaguered we white men supposedly are. It strikes me as the worst of solipsism and unseemly adoption of the same mentality of victimhood so derided by conservative pundits (mostly white men) when expressed by those groups with far more to complain about than we have.

Posted by: Chris White on October 1, 2007 1:47 PM

ST -- I want to put in a plug for non-political girls too (and also anti-political ones).

Chris -- As far as "design" and "art game" qualities go, I liked Gehry's earlier stuff a lot better than his current titanium-ribbon/avant-garde flourestcent-blub stuff, which strikes me as dippy. But my own main point where many of his creations are concerned doesn't have to do with pure-design questions so much as with "public gesture" questions. The ICA building has zero to do with NYC, zero to do with its neighborhood. It's a bit of context-less grandstanding, which strikes me as an affront, and as done somewhat at the expense of neighbors, workers, etc. In olden days, patrons and architects who wanted to do a showpiece did so in ways that stood out but also harmonized with context -- the Woolworth Bldg, the Chrysler Bldg are both big setpieces, but they're both very New York as well. These days, patrons and architects do what they want, often with no regard for much else. (Reminds me of what's happened to our politics as well...) The Gehry might be anywhere -- in the countryside, in Buenos Aires ... Anyway, I should visit and inspect (and photograph) the neighborhood and the way it interacts with it before gassing on any further ...

BP - Shouting Thomas has his own exuberant way of putting things, but since I certainly know exactly what he's talking about -- I bumped into it too (one example among many: hours of pussyeating devoted to making amends for Vietnam) -- I'd suggest that it is, or at least has been, or was, a very real phenom ..

PatrickH -- It *is* a striking photo, isn't it?

Ricpic -- I love your "Mussolini face" phrase -- so true. I haven't been by the Gehry except from the West Side Highway yet, where it looks really weird, like God dropped a giant Xmas-tree lightbulb into a grubby NYC neighborhood . Really ought to take a walk up and exlore it in person.

Chris -- Today's youth are a rowdy and uninhibited bunch, at least when we oldsters aren't around. If I were editing Maxim, I'd hand Roissy a regular-column post pronto.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 1, 2007 1:55 PM

i, too, would like to put in a plug for apolitical girls. bless them, they have their heads... and hearts... screwed on right.

Posted by: roissy on October 1, 2007 1:58 PM

"Also, the idea that feminism has made women less happy sure is tired, and really dumb, isn't it?"

BP, I can't agree with you on this one. Obviously, some paint feminism as a movement that was all bad, or, all good. Both of which are ridiculous. But, when I worked in NYC, I met so many women who did not want to be uber-cosmopolitan.

And, no problem, you dont have to be. But, what they really wanted was to find a husband and raise a family. And, within that situation, they would want to be the ones staying home and raising the family. But, they would not say that out loud in public. They were scared to.

If they ended up getting married and having children, no one would criticize. If they ended up staying at home with the kids, very few would criticize. But, if they came right out and said that this is what they wanted more than anything else, well, they could just feel the impending fire coming at them.

So, they would only talk about these things when they were in their small private circles. It was almost like they were making racist comments and did not want any outsiders to hear them. I felt bad for them.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on October 1, 2007 2:11 PM

"hours of pussyeating devoted to making amends for Vietnam"

What in holy hell are you talking about? And where do I sign up?

Posted by: the patriarch on October 1, 2007 3:17 PM

Regarding the happiness poll, this is my take: women in general weren't that happy in 1970, feminism was supposed to fix that, it didn't, and now women in general aren't happy about that. Conclusion: women aren't all that happy. Surprise to exactly no one who has been in a relationship with a woman for more than 2 weeks.

Posted by: the patriarch on October 1, 2007 4:39 PM

Michael, you say, "The ICA building has zero to do with NYC, zero to do with its neighborhood. It's a bit of context-less grandstanding ..."

I disagree. NYC has always been about change, the future and innovation. It is not a city (like Rome or Venice perhaps?) devoted to some Golden Age of the Past Which Must be Respected & Honored Always. It is also a city now filled with Glass Box Towers.

As for the neighborhood, I remember walking around that neighborhood ten or so years ago looking for galleries when they first began to appear in that part of Chelsea. Walking by those long blank walled buildings, avoiding the puddles of beef blood ... this was not Little Italy or even early SoHo.

The way it evokes sails, linking the building to the river as well as the streets, and its nighttime translucency all to me attest that this is quite the opposite of context-less grandstanding.

Posted by: Chris White on October 1, 2007 4:45 PM

Patriarch -- No wonder women like guys who can make them laugh.

Chris -- I suspect we've already reached talking-past-each-other phase but what the heck, it's always fun comparing notes.

1) I think you're talking at such a high level of conceptualism and abstraction that the normal New Yorker would have no idea what you mean. You might look at the Gehry and think "New York City is about change!" But most people are gonna look at it and go, "Whoa, that's weird!"

2) Besides, what does "New York is about change" really mean? It's a little like saying "NYC is about time" in order to justify creating a building in the shape of a wristwatch.

3) There's been plenty of grandstanding and innovation in NYC architecture over the years, but most of the best of it has taken place within a tradition and a context. The Woolworth was tall and had elevators -- innovation enough for one building. Otherwise, it spoke the common language: division into three parts, fronting on the sidewalk in the conventional way, using a familiar style. It wove itself into the urban fabric in a harmonious way. The Gehry defies conventional language and style, and stands out like like a person wearing a clown suit at the office.

4) Glass towers ... Well a few things. One's that they're awful. (And how did a crunchy guy like you develop such fond tolerance for glass towers anyway?) Another's that stylistically they mark the low point of NYC urbanism. On came the glass towers, down went NYC's fortunes. Another's that Chelsea is hardly full of the kind of swoopy-doopy experimental thing that the Gehry represents.

5) I can kinda get with the idea of doing something this attention-hogging and extreme if and when it's intended to be a highlight -- when the siting is right, when there are lead-ups and set-backs, and the neighborhood is organized around it to show it off, etc. I think the batting average is still likely to be poor, but at least there's a chance of winding up with a successful "event" creation along the lines of the Sydney Opera House. But the Gehry isn't that kind of thing. It's on a conventional site, on a conventional block. No preparation, no setting-aside. It's just a giant alien glass cupcake crammed into a conventional city block.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 1, 2007 9:28 PM

"hours of pussyeating devoted to making amends for Vietnam"

What in holy hell are you talking about? And where do I sign up?

Single best comment ever left on 2blowhards.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 2, 2007 12:22 AM


1 & 2] I think you are being a bit disingenuous here. You aver that the IAC building has "zero to do with NYC" but what does that mean? To parse that statement you need to have an impression of what NYC is; this is a very abstract concept. Any attempt at disagreeing with it must, therefore, be somewhat abstract and conceptual.

Whatever nostalgia and allure "Old New York" may have, New York City has been about the present and future, not the past, almost from its days as New Amsterdam. Heck, note that "New" designation in both of its colonial era names. Certainly my own impressions of NYC include those ubiquitous plywood fences that surround sites where some older building has been demolished so that a new building can be built in its place. NYC has always been about tearing itself down to rebuild itself in a new image for new purposes. It has also been about "great" men (and more importantly powerful corporations) making grand gestures to call attention to themselves.

3 & 4 & 5] Hmmm, you say, "there has been plenty of innovation and grandstanding but ... within a tradition and a context." Then you mention the glass towers of NYC and how Chelsea is "hardly full of the kind of swoopy-doopy experimental thing Gehry represents."

Much as I enjoy a lot of modernism and modernist architecture, I have no particular love of glass box buildings per se; many of them are boring and fail on all sorts of grounds. I remember watching the John Hancock tower being built in Boston when the huge sheets of glass skinning began to pop out and shatter on the plaza and streets around it, I thought it was badly designed, boring, and out of scale with the already vibrant as well as historic downtown area surrounding it. However, Gehry's building has a wealth of glass towers throughout Manhattan providing "a tradition and a context" for his innovations, let's leave aside the issue of grandstanding for now. And maybe those sail-like sides will react very differently than the Hancock's flat planes to the winds that come off the river.

And, while Chelsea may not have avant garde "swoopy-doopy" buildings, it is in the midst of re-inventing itself, moving from an area filled with anonymous meat processing facilities and taxi cab garages, etc. to being the primary locus for contemporary art galleries, new offices and upscale residences. The Gehry building may well become seen as the "event creation" that gives it a character and look more in keeping with its current and near future use as the center for cutting edge art.

Bottom line, based on the flash video on the IAC web site, I like it. It will be on my list of "gotta go see" items the next time I visit New York. Maybe when I do see it directly and from the street, I'll change my mind, but I suspect not.

Posted by: Chris White on October 2, 2007 9:00 AM

To me, the ICA Building violates the first law of design... which is that the design should express function. I cannot perceive anything in the design that expresses the function of the building.

What does come across is the odd ideal of a building released from all the traditional concepts of stability. It looks like it's melting and falling down. So, to me what it really expresses if a disastrous collapse of confidence.

Second, for those of you who want to tell me that there has been no assault on white hetero men... where in the hell have you been? What do you think the full scale campaign of fag worship has been about in San Francisco and New York City? Just to get you really exercised, I will state once again that young men are being drawn into the gay life solely to be fashionable. This is the era of the closeted, self-deceived straight man conned into pretending to be gay. How else do you explain a crock like "Gay Eye for the Straight Man?." The premise of the show was that straight men are style-less, clumsy clowns. For those of you too young to remember, I remember when it was stylish and chic to be a mature, sophisticated straight man.

The 90s in Manhattan was an idiot carnival of this nonsense.

The apotheosis of this campaign of villification against white men was the Duke lacrosse case. You really should get acquainted with this travesty to discover what has been going on. It's far worse than I thought. Illiterate blacks (yes, illiterate) have been promoted to tenure positions in English departments over qualified white men. Every university in the country is supporting a cadre of lunatic, crackpot feminists, gay activists and black nationalists. Those morons are terrorizing young white men on campus.

White men are fish bait in this fight. One of the odd attributes of white men is this "Aw shucks, I ain't gonna complain cause it would just look bad... and besides I'm too enlightened" crap. This is the role assigned to the dumbass "sensitive" white man by the left. It's the white equivalent of the house nigra.

Take a long look at the Duke debacle. It says it all. And, I've been with both the leftie and the rightie girls. No way in hell I'm going to go back to the idiot debate over whether doing the dishes is the same as slave labor in the cotton fields in the Jim Crow south.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on October 2, 2007 10:02 AM

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