In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bah and Humbug
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Here's a list of the best Christmas movies for the Grinches among us. Me, I'm soooo not into the season that I don't even want to watch the anti-Xmas movies. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 22, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hot, Commercial, Public
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Get your sizzling and controversial ad campaigns here. Are you as much of a fan as I am of the current American Apparel ads? They often strike me as startling and brilliant. Ad people, stylists, and clothing designers, eh? -- forever finding new ways to shock us, scandalize us, and make us feel titillated. How do they manage it? The American Apparel ads strike me as amazingly evocative of being 14 and finding everything that's happening to your body (and to your friends' bodies) momentous and hot -- about messing around with undies, belts, a mirror, and a digital camera while Mom and Dad are out of the home. And, hey: What would it be like to be a model? Or maybe the star of your very own porn movie? These are questions that must be on a lot of teenage minds these days. What do I think (and how do I feel) about the fact that this kind of material is widespread, that children aren't protected against it, and that its subject matter routinely plays with illicit behavior? Pleased you asked, but I'll save my no doubt uninteresting answers for another day. Generally speaking, though, I feel about these ads the same way I feel about online porn: Since it isn't as if tut-tutting is going to make this material go away, why get hung up on the moral angle? No one has to find any of these developments interesting, let alone attractive, of course. Tuning out is always an option. But at the same time, what could be the harm in taking note of what's going on in the world? These days, when I go to the movies, it's usually not to see a specific movie; it's to see what movies these days are like. Curiosity can be a strong motivator. Nothing wrong with arguing over morality, of course -- it just isn't a conversation I'm often eager to take part in. Besides, practically speaking, it would take a lot to persuade me that a few minutes spent surfing through the American Apparel website contributes -- or contributes much, anyway -- to the moral rot of the world. Semi-related: I wrote about "Havoc," a misbehaving- overprivileged- teens movie by Barbara Kopple here, and about a movie by Larry ("Teenage Lust," "Kids") Clark here. I wondered how and why thongs had become such a big part of contempo culture here. If you want to eyeball examples of the work of one of the photographers who established the contemporary wood-paneled-basement, glaring-flash, almost-but-not-quite kiddie-porn style, do a Google Image search on "Terry Richardson." Small suggestion: Turn "SafeSearch" to "Off." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 21, 2007 | perma-link | (16) comments

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Art School Confidential
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few weeks ago, Friedrich called my attention to James Elkins' book Why Art Cannot be Taught. I read it and found it a little hard to follow. Maybe that's because I've had a cold and couldn't focus. Or, more likely, my feeble mind can't deal with even semi-scholarly material any more. Nevertheless, I found the book interesting because it presents an inside view of art schools (in this case, the school at the Chicago Art Institute, circa 2000). My own art school experience was quite different from Elkins' description. Aside from the 40-year time difference, I went to a large state university and wound up majoring in Commercial Art, not the same breed of cat as Fine Arts. Elkins deals mostly with the critique, which apparently is how BFA and MFA students are evaluated and directed in their progress. This kind of critique involves up to half a dozen faculty members from various fields (not all from the student's field) "tasked" with evaluating the work and/or the student herself. (Note the "herself." Elkins annoyingly uses a female generic gender rather than the traditional male generic. Doubtless this is a noble gesture on his part, but it brought me to a halt every time I encountered it.) The critiques I experienced in studio classes took place after the class had partly or entirely completed a project -- painting a portrait, say. The instructor would walk from easel to easel and make a few comments. No faculty herd, which I suppose must have been reserved for Masters level students. One thing that struck me was how many fields are now considered worthy of instruction in art schools and college art programs. Since my students days, photography, textiles, video, performance, computer, neon, holography, kinetic sculpture, installation and other "arts" have been added to the curriculum. I'm ashamed that I've never thought to get on the internet and look up what various leading schools are offering: it should be interesting. Elkins acknowledges that the general public does not look at artists in as kindly a light as artist students themselves do. He also stresses that art students reflect their own times (and influences) to such a degree that, after a period of years, one student's work seems indistinguishable from all the others. And this is likely to be true for all the presumed inventiveness of today's art school; in 50 years the probability is that the stuff will look pretty similar. Moreover, almost no student currently enrolled is likely to ever be self-supporting by art sales, and even fewer will be "known" even locally. Nevertheless, cohorts of students continue to pass through the educational system and faculty members congregate time and again to conduct critiques that, in the long run, are likely to be meaningless in the history of art. Elkins makes the following claims about what students cannot learn in today's art schools and colleges (pages 72-82): Art that involves traditional techniques. Art that takes time.... posted by Donald at December 20, 2007 | perma-link | (11) comments

For Whose Benefit?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Why do our rulers and bureaucrats devote so much energy to benefitting foreigners? Steve Sailer cites the example of Southern California, a warm and beautiful region which immigrants keep piling into and natives keep fleeing. Whose good is being worked for here? England seems to be a similar case. This is apparently the way it works in England these days: You elect a leader because he has promised to create jobs. He does indeed create jobs. Then he imports a lot of foreigners to fill them. (See also here.) Now, aren't you glad that matters have worked out so well? Protest your leader's schizo policies, and not only do you get labeled a racist, you get your entire political career destroyed. Donate to Steve Sailer's fund-raising drive here. I've derived more knowledge, information, provocation, and entertainment from reading Steve in recent years than I have from looking at the NYTimes and The New Yorker combined. Let's keep Steve hard at work. Hibernia Girl asks some substantial questions. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 20, 2007 | perma-link | (58) comments

Raw Milk: Telltale Issue of Our Time?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm finding it fascinating that raw milk has become a flash-point issue -- one of those possibly-unresolvable conundra that many establishment people wish would just go away, yet that permit some underlying feelings and convictions to show themselves off in more glory than they often have a chance to. A little background: In most states, it's against the law to sell or buy raw (ie., unpasteurized and unhomogenized, straight-from-the-cow-or-goat) milk because of fears of contamination. Yet some people feel that raw milk isn't just ultra-tasty (having tried raw milk, I agree wholeheartedly with this verdict), it also benefits their health. So: Perhaps the sale of raw milk should be strictly prevented on public-health grounds -- public-health grounds that we're justifiably proud of, and that we should be completely unyielding about. After all, in pre-pasteurization days, tons and tons of people used to get sick because of milk-borne infections. On the other hand, why shouldn't freedom and liberty prevail whenever possible? Provided that the public is made aware of the risks, why shouldn't people be allowed to conduct business as they see fit? After all, if we permit the sale of cigarettes ... The controversy seems to be emerging as a newsworthy one. (Here, here.) An informal coalition of hippies, home-schoolers, health buffs, libertarians, local-farming fans, and foodies are pushing the freedom-and-raw-milk cause, while governments are cracking down so hard on the raw-milk scene that they're beginning to make some people think, "Good lord, it's Waco all over again." And editors and policymakers are beginning, if reluctantly, to take note. Whee! It's also fun that, as with many up-to-date issues -- immigration policy is another example -- traditional notions of "left" and "right" have zero relevance to any of this. After all, what kind of guidance can you derive on the raw-milk issue from saying, "I'm a Democrat"? Is Ohio the state that's toughest on raw milk producers? Ron Paul seems to be the candidate most sympathetic to the raw-milk cause. (Tyler Cowen and many commenters are interesting on Ron Paul here.) Here's raw milk central. Nina Planck, whose book "Real Food" I liked very much, is a raw-milk fan. Here she manages to make the case for raw milk and for Gary Taubes' book "Good Calories, Bad Calories." On the third hand, this can't have been fun to endure. And here are some reasons why you might want to avoid raw milk. How deeply should our governments be involving themselves in public-health matters anyway? If we're OK with our rulers and bureaucrats swinging into action when a plague threatens, how about flus? Smoking? Obesity? Trans-fats? ... School meals? ... Raw milk? Not that my opinion matters (or should matter) one iota, but I certainly can't see why people who want to buy and drink raw milk shouldn't be allowed to. Tens of thousands are injured and killed every year because of cars ... Leafy greens and salad bars sicken many more people than raw... posted by Michael at December 20, 2007 | perma-link | (26) comments

100% Cotton Art
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Michael Wade points out a gallery of mugshots showing suspects wearing wonderfully goofy t-shirts. Which reminds me of one of my favorite half-baked theories: that "the funny t-shirt" is one of America's most vital art forms, and that the people who create clever t-shirts may be America's most unfairly-overlooked artists ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 20, 2007 | perma-link | (2) comments

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Architecture and Urbanism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Charles Paul Freund documents a juicy case of preservationism gone loony. * New York Magazine's Year in Architecture sure isn't my year in architecture. * John Massengale has a funny go at a typical New York Times architecture review. It would be sooooo much easier on the nerves if the Times would just admit, once and for all, that they don't run architecture coverage, let alone architecture criticism. Instead, they run starchitecture propaganda. * Town planners have a lot to answer for, writes Stephen McClarence. * These days, it looks like it's the starchitects (and their sponsors) as well as the planners who have it in for our cities. Check out this recently approved addition for the Tate Modern, for example. Does that say "London" to you? It says "Vegas-gone- deconstructionist" to me. * Here's an excellent introduction to the heterodox architect and theorist Christopher Alexander, a hero of mine. Here's the transcript of a legendary debate between Alexander and avant-gardist Peter Eisenman. * Katie Hutchison thinks that there's little that's as beautiful as a worn, painted floor. * MBlowhard Rewind: The architecture establishment would like you to believe that the history of architecture is the record of one blazing innovation after another. Back here, I argued that architecture history is better understood as a series of revivals. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 19, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments

Surrealized Schmaltz-Bot
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Arts & Letters Daily scores again, tickling my linkage fancy with this New York Magazine book review by Sam Anderson. Early in the review which deals with a book about singer Céline Dion, Anderson lets loose with the following: Dion is the Antichrist of the indie sensibility, an overemoting schmaltz-bot who has somehow managed to convert the ethos of Wal-Mart into sine waves and broadcast them, at kidney-rupturingly high volume, directly into our internal soulPods. A book pondering the aesthetics of Céline risks going wrong in about 3,000 different ways. Most obviously, it could degenerate into one of those irritating hipster projects of strategic kitsch-retrieval, an ironic exercise in taste as anti-taste in which an uncool phenomenon is hoisted onto a pedestal of cool simply as a display of contrarian muscle power. The rest of the piece is more sympathetic. My interest has nothing to do with the book. It concerns Dion's long-running show that recently concluded its stay at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and its Cirque du Soleil-style staging. As long as I'm in stage-setting mode, let me mention that I lost interest in pop music in all its forms many, many years ago. Yes, I hear it now and then, and scanning newspapers, magazine and the web lets me know names of performers and groups even though I usually don't know what they or their songs sound like. Nevertheless, I knew who Dion was because her hit song from the movie Titanic was unavoidable at the hight of its popularity. My wife Nancy is a Dion fan so, in November 2003, we took in Céline's show at Caesar's. She was disappointed. It's possible that the show evolved and was different in its closing months from what we witnessed when it was about a year old. Regardless, all I can do is report what I saw. And what I saw was a fish out of water. Dion would have been better served if she had performed in a more intimate setting than the cavernous hall attached to the casino. An audience of, say, 350 people, a piano on stage for her to lean against from time to time and a backup quintet (much like the Tony Bennett performance we saw in November) would have worked better. Instead, here was poor Céline on the huge stage, firmly planting her feet, twisting her torso and making those raised-arm gestures that are supposed to indicate that the singer is feeling powerful emotions. Poor lady: she seemed to lack the dancer-gene and her physicality was more pathetic than inspiring. The staging by Cirque du Soleil alumnus Franco Dragone was even harder for Nancy to take. Besides the apparently mandatory Chaplinesque characters who repeatedly wander across the stage -- to provide "continuity"(?) -- in many Cirque performances, there were surrealistic effects such as a grand piano, bench and pianist slowly sailing across the stage a dozen feet or so above the floor. I suppose someone must have... posted by Donald at December 19, 2007 | perma-link | (12) comments

Back Then
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Rick Darby -- who was there -- watched a recent History Channel documentary about 1968. Great passage: That's the liberal mentality for you: people can't be trusted to make their own judgments and draw their own conclusions. They are racists to the bone, ready to run amok unless the information they receive is carefully filtered by their betters in the media. Gerard Vanderleun -- who was there too -- points out that Bill 'n' Hill were, er, co-habiting nearby. Funny passage: If the Clintons, during their first prolonged cohabitation, were at all "normal" for the time their evenings at home would have consisted of rolling a fat doobie, probably three or four; whipping up some chicken curry smoking a fat doobie; getting some dim candles going along with a stick of incense putting on a tried and true series of records; and hopping into bed and, as we said then, "balling" until they passed out. That was pretty much the standard evening's entertainment in the summer of 1971 in Berkeley. Why doesn't anyone use the term "balling" these days? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 19, 2007 | perma-link | (6) comments

Jamie McDonald Responds
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Back here I wrote a blogposting about "Pulp Fiction Art," a documentary that I'd watched on DVD. I enjoyed the film but also expressed some quibbles with it. Jamie McDonald, who directed the film, sent me an email about my posting: Now for my review of the review. As the filmmaker of this documentary, I take exception to a few things. You say there is a lack of attention put on the illustrators themselves. I don't see how you could come to that conclusion considering that an artist is profiled an average every 6 minutes in the film. Also, all experts who worked on this film agree that I have included all the major artists of the genre in this film. As for your comment that there was not enough info or footage of the artists. That was one of the main points of the whole documentary: First, only a handful are still living. Out of the four I found, only two wanted to talk. Which is the other point of the film. They didn't want to be known for this art, thus many are unknown. You also called the film zig-zaggy and disorganized. Others have commented just the opposite -- telling me I have given a linear quality to a art form/business that is hard to catagorize. The very nature of the art form, its history and definition, is by its nature very unorganized. Many of the conventional facts about the genre are still argued by many of the experts in the field. I'm proud to say no one has argued with the facts as I have put them down on the film. As for the length of the film. Two things; it was made for television. Second, most art history films are 60 minutes because of the subject matter. Though I think Jamie may have overlooked the part of my posting where I urged visitors to put his film near the top of their Netflix queues, I'm glad he took the time to send me his thoughts. In the pre-web days, it used to be massively frustrating for artists that they almost never got a chance to respond to critiques of their work. I think it's a great development that, where discussing art goes, electronics allow for a much more freewheeling to-and-fro. Do be sure to give Jamie's film a watch. Whatever my quibbles with it were, I got a lot out of it, and you'll almost certainly get a lot out of it too. You can buy a copy of "Pulp Fiction Art" here. Jamie's website for the film is here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 19, 2007 | perma-link | (0) comments

Grinch Moment
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I don't know how you're contending with holiday season but, as for me, I'm (as I am every year) holding my breath until it's over. In NYC, holiday season extends from mid-November (what with Thanksgiving madness) through January 1. To my mind, that's a much-too-big chunk of the year. There are times when I don't mind humoring the general culture. Gotta go along with things, might as well be cheerful about it, life could certainly be worse, etc. And in the abstract I can even summon up some benevolent feelings. I approve of rituals, it's fun hearing from people, and I'm a big fan of parties. But the reality of America's holiday season just plain grates on me. Lordy, at the end of the year we really overdo it, don't we? By my lights, anyway. The sentimental feelings, the cards, the crowds, the shopping, the jiggered work schedules -- and especially the way the whole process drags out for week after week ... It's too damn much. It feels like a form of social bullying. And it does leave me feeling resentful. Why don't we confine the fuss to a single week, treat ourselves to one big party, and limit present-giving to children only? That would suit me, at least. The way we actually go about the holiday thang, though ... Well, sometime in early December I put my head down, do my best not to feel too irked, and try to stay focused on my real end-of-the-year goal, which is to survive the obligations without coming down with the flu. I suppose the holidays can be fun for very young kids, and maybe for parents of very young kids too. But for everyone else ... Why don't more people feel ashamed, even embarrassed, about the amount of emotional-physical-financial emphasis that we place on the holidays? Hey, Americans: What do you say we finally get around to growing up? And if I never hear any of the more-familiar Xmas carols again -- especially in "swinging" or "jazzed-up" versions -- I'll definitely die a little happier. Deep in Grinch mode, Michael UPDATE: Stephenesque recalls the exact moment when he lost faith in Santa.... posted by Michael at December 19, 2007 | perma-link | (14) comments

Male Members
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Attention, dudes: Don't tick off a Thai woman! Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 19, 2007 | perma-link | (3) comments

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Usability expert Donald Norman tries to make some sense of the washrooms in the New York Times' up-to-the-minute new headquarters. Back here, I asked what still strikes me as a key question: America, land of dynamic and exciting innovation, or country where you can never be sure how to use the faucets? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 18, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments

Hollywood Starts to Crumble?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The LA Times reports that striking moviebiz writers are "are negotiating with venture capitalists to set up companies that would bypass the Hollywood studio system and reach consumers with video entertainment on the Web." Creative people are shaking off the middlemen and taking their products directly to the people, in other words. Bottleneck? What's a bottleneck? But isn't this development almost exactly the kind of thing that Marc Andreessen predicted would be the result of a Hollywood strike? Marc elaborated here. Short version: The entertainment biz is likely to be reshaped in the image of Silicon Valley. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 18, 2007 | perma-link | (7) comments

Fab Freebies
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Lexington Green points out an amazing free resource -- the website of Alan Macfarlane, a topnotch British prof and anthropologist with a special interest in economics. Macfarlane, who is well-known in Britain for his popularizations as well as for his academic achievements, has put an almost overwhelming amount of his work online: books, lectures, interviews, research, and more. I've only begun to scratch the surface of what Macfarlane has made available but my head is already spinning in the most pleasant of ways. Check out this jaw-dropping collection of interviews with prominent anthropologists and sociologists, for just one instance of what's there to be explored. Download 'em and put 'em on your iPhone. I'm looking especially forward to the talks with Clifford Geertz, Mary Douglas, and Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza. Lex describes Macfarlane as "anti-Marxist" and "sensible and empirical," and he calls Macfarlane one of his own intellectual heroes. That's one terrific recommendation. Lex suggests starting with this TV series, as well as this collection of downloadable e-books. * Thanks to visitor Brian for pointing out this Paul Cantor lecture series about culture and the market from the Ludwig von Mises Institute. (Where has Brian been recently? I miss his brains, humor, and spirit.) I'm about midway through the series and I'm enjoying it thoroughly. Cantor is brainy, exuberant, and very likable -- a wisecracking and irreverent, yet truly culture-entranced, guy. He's a spritzer, and he's very spontaneous, so the talks are alive. Yet he manages to keep his material organized too. To do Cantor a small injustice, his theme here is, "Commercialism ain't bad." And his main goal in the series is to get people with an interest in culture over the cultureworld's usual anti-commercial bias. In this, his series resembles Tyler Cowen's "In Praise of Commercial Culture," a book that looks with every passing year more and more like one of the most important arts books of the past few decades. (Here's a semi-informative review of Cowen's book.) Cantor is very generous in acknowledging Cowen's work, as well as the contributions of other researchers and writers. Hey, here's a discovery that you make if / when you go into the cultureworld: Most of what you wind up talking about with other arts and culture types isn't ideas and aesthetics. Conversation inside the NYC cultureworld is often anything but highflown, in fact. Usually what you wind up talking is jobs, money, grants, and gossip. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Artspeople gotta pay the bills too, and this is their shoptalk. Still, it's one of those disappointments that culture-besotted newbies have to look forward to. The sad fact is that if you're hungry for sizzling yak about the arts, generally speaking you gotta turn elsewhere. Cantor is sensible and vivid on some really important questions: The market as a feedback mechanism, for example. It's common to think of "the market" as something that degrades the purity of aesthetic creations, and there's no question... posted by Michael at December 18, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments

Monday, December 17, 2007

Schjerfbeck's Drift to Modernism
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Finland produced some interesting artists who were active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I wrote about Albert Edelfelt here and Axel Gallén (Akseli Gallén-Kallela) here. Another artist whose work impressed me a few years ago as I made a mad, just-before-closing-time dash through Helsinki's Ateneum was Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946). Although she lived into her 80s, Schjerfbeck was sickly and faced economic problems early in life. Biographical information can be found here and here. What interested me was Schjerfbeck's transition from being a traditional/realist to a Modernist painter. This was made quite clear because the Ateneum devoted an entire room to her work and all I had to do was stroll along the walls and note the paintings' dates. The following Gallery section should give you a sense of what I saw. Gallery The Convalescent - 1888 In her mid-20s Schjerfbeck was still painting in a mainstream non-Impressionist style; her brushwork and sketchy background suggest John Singer Sargent's work. Portrait of a Young Girl - 1886 Painted two years before the painting shown above, this work is sketchier, but still within parameters set by the better non-Impressionists elsewhere in Europe. I find this a very satisfying painting aside perhaps for a minor quibble about the treatment of the girl's garment. The Seamstress - 1903 By the dawn of the 20th century Schjerfbeck edged away from free brushwork to a more "designed" approach. Again, a satisfying work because the stylization is kept under control. Self-Portrait - 1915 Modernist influence has now sunk in. Whereas the face is correctly proportioned, what can be seen of the torso seems distorted. The painting style has moved from "sketchy" to highly stripped-down. Schjerfbeck's good compositional sense remains intact. Einar Reuter - 1919 Modernism has taken hold completely. All the qualities I liked in the Schjerfbeck paintings shown above are gone. Varjo Muurilla - 1928 Better composition and color use than for the Einar Reuter portrait. Pretty abstract, but nice. The last painting shown above seems better than what I remember seeing at the Ateneum. My impression was that Schjerfbeck's work had pretty well gone to pot before 1920 in a quest to be "with it." Even so, she still had enough compositional and color sense to salvage a little something during and after abandoning her younger approach. Many of her contemporaries who were seduced by Modernism (or felt compelled to switch out of fear of losing sales) were less successful. If I can find good examples of this, I'll pass them along. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at December 17, 2007 | perma-link | (3) comments

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, The scandal raised by former Senator George Mitchell's report on steroid and other drug use in professional baseball raises an interesting question: why exactly are sports fans upset by performance enhancing drugs? Granted, our society honors professional athletes and is worried about illegal drugs, so it's possible that this is ultimately an anxiety about making drug use seem glamorous or simply profitable. But I don’t think that any amount of recreational drug use by athletes would generate this level of social disapproval. After all, it is certainly possible to view steroids or epogen or human growth hormone as chemical training aids, like lifting weights or running sprints. Use of performance-enhancing drugs has associated dangers, but you could say that's an issue for the athlete to ponder. Are their benefits (fame, fortune, records, sexual opportunities) attractive enough to counterbalance their risks? We allow athletes to make their own choices about the possible dangers to their person and lifespan from bulking up to play football, for example. Likewise, we allow pitchers to risk permanent injury to their shoulders, elbows and wrists from hurling baseballs at more than ordinary human speeds. Why aren't we willing to let them make up their own minds about performance-enhancing drugs? You could also make the argument that because such drugs are either stigmatized or illegal, the people who do use them are getting an unfair advantage over those who are more law abiding. Of course, this could be resolved by making them legal and de-stigmatizing them. I don't think people want to do that; most fans seem to want to eliminate them altogether. Why is this? Not to dismiss the force of these other arguments, but the best answer I've been able to come up with is an evo-bio one. To wit, that most people unconsciously view sports as a display of reproductive fitness, not merely one more entertainment option among many. And those people don’t want their athletic displays of reproductive fitness being fiddled with by chemical means. If you make this assumption, it sorts out what is really different about performance-enhancing drugs from other training aids. It’s okay to allow athletes to train for competition, because the discipline and capacity for hard work are also sexually desirable, inheritable traits. It’s okay to build up your body with weights, because the ability to maximize your muscularity is again an inheritable trait. And being crafty about your training regimen is a tribute to the athlete’s intelligence, another capacity transmittable to one's offspring. Steroids, on the other hand, are clearly not inheritable and thus 'cheating'. A less reproductively fit athlete, one likely to produce less capable offspring but who is taking steroids can appear better than a more reproductively fit athlete who isn’t juicing. Granted, if you would allow all the athletes to juice, presumably the most genetically gifted would still shine through relative to the other elite athletes. But in that situation you would trample on yet another emotion inseparable from... posted by Friedrich at December 16, 2007 | perma-link | (21) comments