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  1. Giovanni Boldini: The Paris Connection
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  3. DVD Journal: "Spider-Man 3"
  4. Saturated Fat
  5. A Note From Jeanene Van Zandt
  6. DVD Journal: "Hot Fuzz"
  7. Wishful Projections
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  9. Watson, Population Groups, Etc
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Giovanni Boldini: The Paris Connection
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- One of the quirks of 19th century painting is that the greatest feather in an aspiring academic artist's hat was being awarded a Prix de Rome scholarship to study in Italy -- yet young Italian artists had to come to Paris in order to make their names known. Such was the case for Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931). Starting his career in Florence, he moved to Paris in 1871 after a London sojourn. By the 1890s he was one of the most fashionable portrait artists in Paris, though he is not well-known today. Boldini's specialty was flashy, sketchy portraits of women. He married journalist Emilia Cardona in 1929, when he was 87: Cardona was 30. This was the same year Alaida Banti died. Alaida was the daughter of artist Cristiano Banti, who assisted Boldini's career after the young artist moved to Florence from Ferrara. Alaida was a teenager when she met Boldini and fell in love with him. Cristiano did not approve of the relationship. My Italian is too sketchy to pursue this, but apparently Boldini and Alaida maintained some sort of relationship even after he left Italy. He proposed marriage in 1903 but this was thwarted by Cristiano, who died the following year. I have no idea why they didn't marry after the death of her father. Nor do I have any idea what this might have to do with Boldini's art. But gossip can be interesting, don't you think? Rather than go into other, more relevant details of Boldini's life, let me offer some links for you to explore. Here the Wikipedia entry in English and here is the Italian version which offers more detail and illustrations. A biographical sketch can be found here, and it contains an assessment by Time on the occasion of his death. Finally, here is another Italian link which has a number of examples of Boldini's work. Gallery Giovanni Boldini Diego Martelli in uno studio pittore - c. 1867 Martelli was an influential critic and buyer of art. The original painting is smaller than it seems, but I can't find its exact dimensions. Place Clichy - 1872 Boldini painted street scenes, landscapes and still lifes in addition to his portraiture. Giuseppi Verdi in cilindro - 1886 This is one of Boldini's best-known and most-reproduced works. James McNeill Whistler - 1897 Although Boldini specialized in portraits of women by the 1890s, he also had male sitters. Lady Colin Campbell c.1897 Hmm. Seems I've been neglecting those female ritratti. So here goes ... Nudo - 1911 Well, I suppose it's a portrait of sorts. But who cares. Mademoiselle de Gillespie - 1912 This seems a little stylized, so I wonder what she actually looked like -- a non-exhaustive Web search drew a blank. La Marchesa Luisa Casati con uno leviero - 1908 One of Boldini's flashier efforts. What did she really look like? How much is Boldini fooling/teasing us? Photo of Luisa Casati - 1912 Maybe Boldini didn't over-dramatize too much.... posted by Donald at November 10, 2007 | perma-link | (11) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * So what drugs is Amy Winehouse on? Hmm, maybe the better question would be, What drugs isn't she on? (UPDATE: Viacom has put the kibosh on this particular clip, so the link I've provided is now a stale one.) * Marc Andreessen turns up some hilarious (if not exactly unexpected) facts about Boomers. Ning, Marc's own social-networking company, offers what many folks are sure to find an appealing and helpful service. * Terrierman thinks that biologists ought to get out into the field more often. That Cuban Almiqui is one weird-looking animal ... * Do you ever visit Luke Ford's blog? I find him brilliant and fascinating, if in a somewhat evil, blank-faced, Warhol-ish kind of way. * Are you tempted by blogging but put off by the way it seems like too damn much work? (And, y'know, it can be a little demanding.) Then why not try Tumblr, one of the new "microblogging" services? * Michael Eades tells the amazing story of Charles Tyrrell, the 19th century's enema tycoon. * Culturebargain: Bernard Rose's 1992 horror movie "Candyman" (from material by Clive Barker) delivers both as a scare picture and as something deeper, more cultured, and more mature. In the way it combines effective cheap thrills with a disturbing psychological dimension, the film reminds me of the David Cronenberg / Stephen King / Christopher Walken "The Dead Zone," also a richly emotional pop movie. Many bonus points to Bernard Rose for featuring a very touching, young, and beautiful Virginia Madsen in the lead role. A used DVD of the film can currently be bought for around five bucks. * MBlowhard Rewind: I discussed three books about sex by women authors. Best, Michael UPDATE: Sometimes the mainstream media do actually start to get it. Don't miss Amy Harmon's article for the NYTimes about the way genetics research is generating all kinds of new information that the "we are all alike" crowd is sure to find unnerving. How are we going to deal with "the inescapable message that people of different races have different DNA"? Half Sigma and GNXP's Jason Malloy win well-earned mentions from Amy Harmon.... posted by Michael at November 10, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments

Friday, November 9, 2007

DVD Journal: "Spider-Man 3"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- "Spider-Man 3" is the kind of calamitous misfire that makes you gasp, "What on earth were they thinking?" -- except that in this case it's all too clear what they were thinking: epic solemnity with a message, reluctantly enlivened with occasional special-effects firestorms. Say farewell to your hopes for an evening's fun entertainment and brace yourself instead for themes and lessons; unresonant villains; 134 plot turns too many; a complete absence of subtext; an almost two-and-a-half-hour running time ... Though they do come up with some beautiful and / or amazing special effects, the talented Sam Raimi and his team couldn't have done a better job of killing off my interest in their successful movie franchise if they'd tried. The love-interest character -- Mary Jane, played by Kirsten Dunst -- suffers worst. She comes across as a tedious, high-maintenance pain who's sooooooo not worth the effort. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 9, 2007 | perma-link | (9) comments

Saturated Fat
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Saturated fat is to be avoided whenever possible, right? It's the ultimate dietary no-no: Clogged arteries ... Heart disease ... Avoid saturated fats and you'll live forever. Although the conviction that saturated fat is evil must be one of the most basic beliefs in the modern educated American's mental toolkit, there's in fact nothing at all behind it. "Study after study has failed to provide definitive evidence that saturated-fat intake leads to heart disease," writes Nina Teicholz, whose article reads like a much-condensed version of Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories." Taubes' book, which I've now finished going through, really is startling. He details convincingly -- at enormous length and in devastating detail -- how today's health-tips industry took shape, how unhelpful its advice has proven, and how unsound the science the whole edifice is based on is. His judgment: It's "an enterprise ... that purports to be a science and yet functions like a religion." Pass the pork chops, please. Here's a good Frontline interview with Taubes. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 9, 2007 | perma-link | (50) comments

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Note From Jeanene Van Zandt
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I've written numerous times about the late Texas folksinger Townes Van Zandt, one of my very favorite artists. My biggest posting about him is here. The other day I received an email from Townes' widow, Jeanene Van Zandt. Since I was very moved by her reflections and her memories, I asked her if I could reprint her email to me as a blogposting in its own right. I'm pleased that Jeanene has agreed to let me do that. Here it is: It has been almost 2 years since Michael wrote this beautiful piece on Townes and Margaret Brown's documentary "Be Here to Love Me: A Film about Townes Van Zandt." A Google Alert led me to it. It moved me. It made me cry. I have been reading the remarks with a lot of interest, especially the ones that say they do not want to hear Townes’ music because he was a “bad man”. I am hoping that with this post I might change your minds. By now, the film is out on DVD. I am the girl in the story who asked God to "Please, don't let this be HIM!" However, the answer came back to me Loud & Clear, that it was "HIM". I knew that God wanted me to care for this man, His poet servant, and that our souls had known each other forever. You just cannot argue with that kind of stuff! We were perfectly suited for each other. Where he was weak, I was strong. Where I was dumb, he was brilliant. We loved all the same things and believed the same things. Yes he was difficult when he was drinking, but when you really love someone, it’s for better or worse. Townes used to say to me, “My soul loves your soul, and your soul loves mine. We’re just being taken along for the ride and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it!” I used to ask God all the time, “Why me? Why did you pick me?” I don’t ask that any more. I understand now. I do not regret one single moment I spent with Townes, and I spent 15 years with him. When the times were good and we were alone, no other woman felt so loved. I coped with the bad times by dividing Townes in half, Good Townes & Bad Townes. I just loved Good Townes so much that Bad Townes just couldn’t do enough to kill that. I have to agree with God. We were meant to be together. He needed me. He is gone, but I am still here with God whispering in my ear … Do not Stop. Never Stop. Do Everything you can do so that all people will hear these songs that I had my faithful poet servant write as on ode to me. And I never will. People need these songs. They have healing powers. You NEED to hear them. If I can... posted by Michael at November 8, 2007 | perma-link | (12) comments

DVD Journal: "Hot Fuzz"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- With "Hot Fuzz," Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright -- the British cut-ups who were behind the zombie spoof "Shaun of the Dead" -- generate a few exuberantly silly, high-low comedy moments, but mostly come a-cropper. (I liked "Shaun of the Dead" and wrote about it here.) "Hot Fuzz" is an attempt to bust open the pokiness and eccentricity of an Ealing-style comedy with a lot of go-go-go, Simpson/Bruckheimer, MTV aggressiveness -- think of "Bad Boys 2" ramming into "Passport to Pimlico." But since the two tones never really come together, the film plays like an amusing-enough ten-minute skit that 'way overstays its welcome. With his lowkey deadpan, his pushy brashness, his old-man / little-boy face, and his compulsion to see his ideas and predicaments in comically overblown, American-movie terms, Simon Pegg is the Toby Young of actors. "Shaun of the Dead" can currently be bought for $9.49. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 8, 2007 | perma-link | (2) comments

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Wishful Projections
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Fairly often I come across the assertion that "homophobes" are actually repressed homosexuals. I'm inclined to doubt that the claim is generally true, though there's no reason to doubt that it might be true for some individuals. But for the moment let's assume that it is true. Now let's generalize and posit that anyone with a strong dislike of some form of human behavior secretly harbors such behavior himself. Seems perfectly reasonable, right? Surely the case of attitudes regarding homosexuality can't be unique. Therefore, it would be perfectly correct to assert that people who hate Republicans are really repressed GOPers. I knew you would agree. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 6, 2007 | perma-link | (35) comments

Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, In a recent posting, Auctionocracy, I provided a very brief overview of money in politics and argued the thesis that we've adopted a system of public policy that's openly for sale to the highest bidder. I wanted to follow that post up with several showing examples of how an industry's cash spent on campaign contributions and lobbying has paid off handsomely for that industry, but perhaps hasn't worked out quite so well for American society at large. In the first of these follow-up postings, I want to consider the healthcare industry. To recapitulate, I would remind you of a piece of information from my first posting, to wit that healthcare providers were the second-most prodigal political spenders, having forked out $420 million in contributions during the 1998-2006 campaign cycles, and $2,043 million in lobbying during the years 1998-2006. (These figures were compiled from data at, which I wholeheartedly advise you to visit here.) In their generosity, the healthcare providers were only exceeded by the plutocrats of the financial services industry and they come in well ahead of the "political" donors, who scraped along in third place. I also wanted to re-emphasize that in my numbers above I left out the $255 million in campaign contributions and lobbying expenses of the HMO industry because their economic agenda at least occasionally calls for restricting healthcare spending. This of course differentiates them from the hardcore healthcare providers (doctors, dentists, nurses, chiropractors, hospitals and nursing homes, pharmaceutical companies, medical supplies and equipment providers, dietary and nutritional supplement manufacturers) who are all united by a heartfelt and unambiguous desire for more healthcare spending, and whose campaign contributions and lobbying dollars are spent to bring that glorious consummation about. Simply talking about dollar aggregates may not suggest how much effort that the health care industry puts into its political arm twisting; this piece by Maureen Glabman from 2002 may provide a clearer impression. After noting that in that year there were 17,800 registered Washington lobbyists, she points out that: An estimated 40 percent of those 17,800 lobbyists promote health care agendas, according to James Albertine, president of the Alexandria, Va.-based American League of Lobbyists. To put it another way, there are 13 health care lobbyists for each of the 535 members of Congress. Well, what has the healthcare industry gotten in return for its campaign contributions and its fleet of lobbyists? I am delighted to announce on behalf of those never-say-die influence peddlers that their hard work and determination has paid off better than hitting the Trifecta. The healthcare industry receives a gusher, a veritable Niagara of public subsidies, luxurious enough even to make the farm lobby or the military-industrial complex speechless with envy. As Maggie Mahar reports here, (based on figures from 2004): [T]taxpayers bankroll [i.e., subsidize] 51 percent of the nation's $2 trillion health care bill: this includes paying for private insurance for public employees (accounting for 6 percent of total health care spending), Medicare (17 percent... posted by Friedrich at November 6, 2007 | perma-link | (9) comments

Watson, Population Groups, Etc
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Like many people, I've read the news reports about James Watson's comments about Africa and brainpower, and the other news reports about condemnations of Watson, about Watson's apology, about his dismissal from the institution he founded. Main reactions, not that my reactions deserve paying-attention-to: I'm as scandalized as many are by the spectacle of Watson being crucified. At the same time, I think you have to be a bit of a social-political retard not to realize that topics of the kind that Watson touched on and statements of the kind that Watson made carry a charge. You can't realistically say the kind of thing that Watson said and expect the world at large to act deferential and grateful towards you. Prick the giant monster that is political correctness and you will have a serious fight on your hands. Given that, once what was said was said ... Well, in the case of James Watson as in the case of Larry Summers, I felt let down. Both men tested a taboo -- yay to that -- and then both men backed down. (Boo, hiss.) Lordy, what wusses. To be fair, perhaps neither guy had any idea how badly he'd taunted the monster. Perhaps both men were taken by surprise by the reactions they provoked. Even so, once the fray was underway I'm sorry that Summers and Watson didn't grow a pair, find their inner "300" Spartan warrior, and put up a serious fight. Why? For a simple and practical reason. Some people I've met who work in the genetics field have assured me that tons of information about biological-genetic differences between the races is going to be emerging over the next few decades. Given that fact, it seems to me of the utmost importance that numerous discussions about how we're going to handle this kind of information get underway, and pronto. We seem already 'way past the point where denial, self-righteousness, and attempts to control the conversation will prove productive in anything but the shortest run. So far as getting started with these conversations go, Steve Sailer and GNXP's Jason Malloy have seemed to me to have a lot to contribute, agree with them or not. They also command about a thousand-trillion times the knowledge and information that I do. (Jason here, Steve here and here.) I also enjoyed scrolling through the comments on Jason and Steve's postings. The world is full of so many brainy, interesting people ... But, but ... Well, there are two things that emerge sometimes from the rightie side of the table that baffle me. #1. Some righties seem to feel that the West made a suicidal mistake when it let itself say, "All cultures are equally valuable." According to this crowd, the person who thinks that all cultures are interesting and valuable ensures that all values crumble. The culture that agrees that other cultures are nifty too succeeds only at paralyzing its own will and undermining its own self-preservation... posted by Michael at November 6, 2007 | perma-link | (62) comments

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Subway Nerd Nirvana
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Blogging will continue to be a little light from me because I'll be on the road most of this week. This afternoon's event was a 2Blowhards staff meeting during which Michael and I plotted world domination or better grammer in my blog posts or something or other. At the same time, Nancy and The Wife were having their meeting -- concerning what, I dare not guess. Following that, Nancy and I returned to downtown [CENSORED] where in a gift shop I spied the following book. Even though it was first published in 2003 (under a different title) I hadn't stumbled upon Transit Maps of the World until now; perhaps that's because the expanded, retitled Penguin edition appeared this year. So far I only thumbed through the book while Nancy was finishing her shopping. What I saw looked fascinating: page after page of those London Underground-style map/diagrams for transit systems in places ranging from Paris to Athens to Atlanta. In addition to the maps are text and some photos. Besides being grist for folks interested in urban geography and transportation, the maps might be helpful when doing preliminary trip planning. I'll dig into the book more deeply soon, and let you know if it fails to match these first impressons. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 4, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments