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  1. Roberts / Taubes
  2. Jon and The Nicholas Brothers
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  7. Gas Leakage, er, Linkage
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  9. The New Class and Its Government Nexus, Part I
  10. My Theory of Everything

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Roberts / Taubes
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Seth Roberts, thanks to whose Shangri-La Diet I've been able to lose 10 pounds with the greatest of ease, interviews Gary Taubes, the author of "Good Calories, Bad Calories," an expose of how far wrong our health-tips industry has gone in its love affair with carbs and its demonization of fat. While the Taubes book strikes me as a major achievement, the interview is a special treat. It offers some things the book doesn't, namely Taubes' reflections about the experience: How he woke up to the fat-and-carbs con, how the establishment has reacted to his work, and how it is that well-meaning "expertise" can turn destructive. In case I haven't been clear enough about this before: The Gary Taubes book reminds me of "The Painted Word" and "From Bauhaus to Our House," Tom Wolfe's books about postwar American art and architecture. In tone, of course, the two writers are very different. Taubes is earnest, detailed, and scholarly in a popular-magazine way, where Wolfe is a stylist, a flamboyant caricaturist, and a provocateur. But, in substance, these three books are all real eye-openers. (Let's just say that in each case the emperor really does seem to have no clothes.) They're also helpful culture-explainers -- the kind of books you read thinking, "Oh! So that's why ..." Incidentally: I have enough experience in the culturesphere to be confident that Tom Wolfe was right. But where Gary Taubes and other members of that team go? I don't have the independent knowledge to be anything but hopeful. It's possible that my bullshit-meter is failing me, and that I'm gullibly buying into a lot of craziness. I have no real way of knowing. Thanks to Dave Lull for the link. Here's Seth Roberts' website; here's Seth's blog. I talked to Tom ("Fat Head") Naughton, who has made a documentary about the carbs-and-fat silliness, here and here. By the way: Should you really be on statins? Link thanks to Dr. Michael Eades. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 25, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

Jon and The Nicholas Brothers
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Speaking of Tumblr blogs ... Jon Hastings has been having a most excellent time with his new Tumblr blog. The highlights of Jon's Tumblr efforts, as far as I'm concerned, have been links to performances by the Nicholas Brothers: here, here, here. What's that? You say you don't know the Nicholas Brothers? Can that really be so? Then it's high time you made the acquaintance of Harold and Fayard Nicholas, a dancing-brothers team who started out as child performers in the vaudeville years, appeared regularly at the Cotton Club, were headliners in movies, and were still creative and active into the 1990s. (Harold died in 2000, Fayard in 2006.) Michael Jackson is one of many younger dancers who learned from the Nicholas Brothers, and Harold and Fayard are gods of the current tapdance-revival scene. Their work is known not just for its style, its class, and its acrobatic virtuosity -- watch those trademark leaping splits! -- but also for its high spirits, its humor, and its exuberance. It has got to be some of the happy-making-est art ever. The Nicholas Brothers were (as far as I'm concerned) Genuinely Great American Artists, and were certainly in a class with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly -- with the very best popular American dancers ever. (Jon also linked to a priceless scene of Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse dancing together. Rall is really something, isn't he? A friend of mine studied tapdancing with Rall in college; she tells me that he was a dynamite teacher. And Fosse: Now there's another Great American artist ...) One of the highlights of my own culture-spectating life was attending a tribute to the Nicholas Brothers around 1990. The brothers themselves appeared in person after an hour's worth of dance clips had left many in the audience sniffling tears of happiness. Seldom have I applauded with such heartfelt enthusiasm as I did when the Brothers stepped before us in the flesh. It's amazing that one act can have given so many people such a great deal of pleasure. Read more about the Nicholas Brothers here. Here's an especially good-quality version of their legendary number from the 1943 film "Stormy Weather." Speaking of happy-making performers, dig that wonderful Cab Calloway. Has American culture hit many peaks as glorious as the Big Band years? Hey, I just remembered that I can embed the clip myself. Here we go: If you're tempted by blogging, do consider signing up for a Tumblr blog. Tumblr-style blogging is an awful lot of fun. I wrote back here and here about some more happy-making art. Thanks to Jon Hastings. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 25, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

A Quick Word of Explanation ...
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few surfers may have noticed that, even as Donald and Friedrich have been writing meatier-than-usual blogpostings, I've been chipping in with lightweight stuff. Ultra-lightweight, really: linkathons, free-association binges ... A quick word about that. Jamais deux sans trois (never two without a third), the French like say about the way crises, disasters, and other intensities often arrive in clusters. Well, the last few months have delivered a big cluster of ups and down into my life. At the sad end of things, health problems have hit some people I care about hard. On the sunnier side of the street, a superduper life-change may be in the offing for yours truly. Fingers crossed! What all this has led to, needless to say, has been a lot of tension, anxiety, and racing emotions. While I'm enjoying the back and forth of blogging as much as ever, I've been less able than usual to pull together elaborate blogpostings. I sketch 'em out -- whee, it's always fun to make plans. But then I find myself too agitated to push them through to completion. My backlog of half-finished blogpostings has grown to impressive dimensions. Time for a decision, clearly. Here it is: Until my life calms down a bit, I'm going to let myself be a little scatterbrained, darn it. One thing I'm going to do for a stretch is treat 2Blowhards like a Tumblr blog -- a place to post quick little things: observations, links, pix. I'll have some fun. Love that blogging, of course. But it'll be quick, undemanding fun. Maybe some of my efforts will provide a little something in the way of entertainment and provocation for a few visitors. I hope to be back in the usual ranting and overwriting saddle again in a few weeks. Until then, please look to Donald and Friedrich for heft and substance. And please forgive some more nervous-and-superficial-than-usual blogging from me. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 25, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Philip Weiss thinks that Jacob Heilbrunn has written 2/3rds of an important and interesting book about the neocons. Philip blogs here. Heilbrunn himself recently analyzed what drives the influential and combative neocon honcho Norman Podhoretz. Nice passage: The United States, Podhoretz says, has only fired the opening shots in a lengthy campaign that should include attacks on Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria in turn, wiping out their regimes and creating the conditions for democracy in the Middle East. Podhoretz never pauses to discuss the feasibility of carrying out such measures; to him it is self-evident that the U.S. must exercise moral and military leadership, heedless of any financial or human costs, for the stakes are nothing less than survival or annihilation. Timothy Noah reviews Heilbrunn's book here. Podhoretz makes his own case here. Steven LaTulippe, a former Air Force officer, extols the virtues of isolationism. Bill Kauffman points out the similarities between anarchism and conservatism. (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin.) We interviewed the nothing-if-not-provocative Bill Kauffman not long ago: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five. Here's my intro to the series. Best, Michael UPDATE: I notice that Bill Kauffman has a new book coming out soon entitled "Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History of Anti-War Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism." Pre-order a copy of it here. Fun to see that the book has been blurbed by both George McGovern and Ron Paul.... posted by Michael at January 24, 2008 | perma-link | (0) comments

Striptease Surfing
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Postmodern burlesque queen Dita van Teese says that she sees striptease as a classic art form. Back here, I praised "The Notorious Bettie Page," a biopic about one of Dita's inspirations. Here's Dita's own website. Here's one list of essential reading for those interested in striptease and burlesque. Dita deserves a lot of credit for her role in helping revive the form, by the way. Don't overlook one of my favorite books of recent years, Toni Bentley's "Sisters of Salome," nonfiction about four women of effrontery and talent who made nudity expressive in dancing the role of Salome. Bentley -- steely, reckless, incisive, sensual -- is a seriously sexy writer. She's notorious for "The Surrender," her arty memoir of erotic awakening. Hey, I'm thanked in the acknowledgments of that book. Read it and guess which thankee I am. (Read an excerpt from "The Surrender" here.) I wrote previously about Toni Bentley back here , here, and here. Oh, and here too. Toni Bentley's website is here. On this page, you can read an excellent review that Toni wrote of a book about the history of striptease. Isn't it fun when free-associating winds up turning into a great big circle? Interesting the way that sometimes just happens ... Here's hoping that "Conservative Bohemian" Alias Clio will be fascinated by this line of linkage. After all, Conservatives know about the virtues of restraint, while Bohemians know how to turn abandon into a virtue. Restraint and abandon ... That's a nice description of the appeal of striptease. A. Clio muses about beauty and beehive hairdos here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 24, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

Generational Musings: Politics
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- It's up to you readers to decide whether or not I've attained Geezer status. (Personally, I'd vote No.) Regardless, I know I've long since reached the point where I can't count on people conjuring up shared images when I mention something. So I think it's time for some musings, and to keep things simple, I'll focus on politics and related world events. In the same sense, a problem for politicians and political commentators is that their audience does not share the same set of experiences. By this I mean, for example, people who remember Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speechifying and circa 1980 "stagflation" might view politics and economics in a different light than those born later. My very own eyeballs have seen, in person, presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon. I was close enough to Truman (in 1960, I think it was) to shake his hand, had I not hesitated. I clearly remember the Korean War and all those that followed, though my memories of World War 2 are fuzzy because it ended when I was nearly three months shy of my sixth birthday. Readers age 50 have John F. Kennedy memories akin to my Second World War ones. Readers age 40 are ditto when it comes to Richard Nixon resigning the presidency. You get the idea. Of course, I was in the same situation regarding my elders. When I graduated from high school, it was only 40 years after the United States entered the Great War and there were plenty of men still in the labor force who had gone to France. World War 2's end was only 12 years past, so its veterans were largely thirtysomethings. As for Franklin D. Roosevelt, I knew his name and that he was "President" (the guy who ran the country or something like that). My only really strong memory of FDR was when he died. My mother told me that Roosevelt was dead and, when I got to school for my Kindergarten session, I would see the school flag at half-staff. And, by golly, indeed it was. Speaking of FDR, up through the 1950s and perhaps into the 60s there was a wooden news stand on the sidewalk near the southeast corner of Pike Street and Third Avenue (or perhaps Second) in downtown Seattle. Amongst the newspaper and magazine displays was one of those official government portraits of FDR. The old guy who ran the stand was clearly devoted to the former president. Other people were not. FDR was hated in his time, and the force of this still wasn't spent by my high school days. I hadn't yet read deeply about political and economic matters of the 1930s, focusing more on military matters. At any rate, there were plenty of books and magazine articles dealing with two major issues. One issue (which seems to be with us yet) is whether or not Roosevelt allowed the attack on Pearl Harbor to happen. The other issue was in... posted by Donald at January 24, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Gas Leakage, er, Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Fart-humor fans have a new treat in store for them. * Read about manteca beans, a variety of bean native to Chile that is described as "flatulence-free." Best, Michael UPDATE: Peter L. Winkler reminds me of the legendary recording known as "The Crepitation Contest." Download a copy of this underground fart-humor classic by right-clicking on this link.... posted by Michael at January 24, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Nikos Lectures
MIchael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Not to intrude on the flow of FvBlowhard's magnificent "New Class" series of postings -- go here and here... But I don't want to miss the chance to alert visitors to a welcome treat. Mathematician and architectural theorist Nikos Salingaros will be delivering a series of fab-sounding lectures online on the theme of how to create buildings and spaces that have life-giving properties. Scaling, fractals, cellular automata ... If terms like those make you dizzy with interest and delight, then you won't want to miss out. Watch Nikos show how cutting-edge science can be merged with the arts and crafts. Algorithms, harmonies, and emergent systems meet the New Urbanism -- go, baby, go! This page contains details and dates. This page will keep an archive of the lectures for catch-up viewing. Lecture #1 -- on recursion, the Fibonacci Sequence, and scaling -- hits the web this Thursday. Hey, that's tomorrow. What with resources like the Teaching Company, the Mises Institute, and now Nikos, it's quite amazing what civilians have easy access to in the way of intellectually stimulating talks these days. Let no one say that this isn't a great time for those who love keeping their brains alive. If you haven't already, be sure to read the 2Blowhards interview with Nikos Salingaros: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five. It's as mind-expanding as anything we've published. Nikos' own website is here. I notice that another amazing thinker, traditionalist conservative Jim Kalb, has been mulling over some architectural questions recently: here, here, and here. 2Blowhards did a three-part interview with Jim: here, here, here, with an intro by moi here. Now, back to FvBlowhard's magnum opus ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 23, 2008 | perma-link | (0) comments

The New Class and Its Government Nexus, Part I
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, Almost a year ago I wrote a post, Risk, Reward & The New Class, in which I asked the question: “What permits the New Class to float above the risk-reward curve that the rest of us are tied to?” For those of you who haven’t read that immortal screed, the New Middle Class or, for brevity, the New Class, consists of financiers, senior corporate and government bureaucrats, and professionals (doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.), all of whom collect high incomes without being required to put their own money at risk. These people make up most of the people in the top 10% of the income distribution, and a very high percentage indeed of people in the top 1% of the income distribution. (Another, much smaller chunk, of the people in the top 10% and the top 1% are entrepreneurs, who are assuredly not members of the New Class; they are economic experimenters and risk takers, as their high bankruptcy rate demonstrates.) Now, as any economics textbook will remind you, the risk-reward curve represents the definitional relationship of a capitalist society—that is, if you want big returns you’ve generally got to take big risks with your capital. No upside without a possible downside. Contrawise, if you refuse to put your capital at risk, you are likely not going to end up rolling in dough. And yet we find that there is this unusual group, the New Class, which mysteriously doesn’t live by the same rules as the blue-collar worker or the entrepreneur. Hence, my question above: what gives? If we live in a capitalist society, as our editorial pages and our elected leaders and our economics professors assure us daily that we do, why is it that so much of the economic pie ends up in the mouths of people who are neither capitalists nor laborers, exactly? This question is rarely asked in this fashion (which might possibly have something to do with the fact that people who tend to ask questions like these, otherwise known as economists, are themselves charter members of the New Class.) However, lots of people ask a closely related question: why is the top 10% of the income distribution (as we have seen, heavily populated by the New Class) doing so well relative to the rest of the population? To take one example out of a myriad, in "Income Cap is Widening" of March 29, 2007 David Cay Johnson of the New York Times sets the stage by reporting that: Income inequality grew significantly in 2005 [the last year for which data is available], with the top 1 percent of Americans…receiving their largest share of national income since 1928, analysis of newly released data shows. The top 10 percent, roughly those earning more than $100,000, also reached a level of income share not seen since the Depression…average income for those in the bottom 90 percent dipped slightly compared with the year before, dropping $172 or 0.6 percent. Mr. Johnston then inquires... posted by Friedrich at January 23, 2008 | perma-link | (19) comments

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My Theory of Everything
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, For some time now I’ve been noodling around with a fairly coherent set of ideas, which I can only describe as “My Theory of Everything.” Very little of this theory is in any way original; mostly I would claim to have noticed how the various pieces of it fit together in a nice tidy way. (For previous posts that have explored elements of this theory, or which led up to it, I would send you to The Long View: Aristocracies Then and Now; Risk, Reward and the New Class; Auctionocracy; and Healtharchy. Anyway, I thought the time for acting coy about this is past, so I’ve decided to spill the beans about what I really think is going on in today’s society, economy and culture: The political, economic and cultural history of the United States over the past century has largely been the story of a new elite’s rise to power. This group, the New Middle Class, or New Class for short, includes the professions (law, medicine, accounting, etc.); senior corporate and government manager-bureaucrats; financiers; educators; journalists, etc. In short, the New Class is society’s technocratic elite, comprising roughly 10% of the population today, although a century ago it was much smaller. Members of this class can be recognized by the fact that they receive high financial rewards and/or occupy positions of social prestige and power in our (so-called) capitalist society but do not take risk positions with their own capital. They are above all not entrepreneurs, who made up the Old Middle Class and the old industrial elite. The New Class first made its mark on society with the Progressive reforms, then seized the opportunity to enormously restructure the nation during the Great Depression and World War II, and continued its rise to dominance in the postwar decades, usually justifying its management of affairs by claiming to act in the name of the community and the underprivileged (a roughly center-left political position.) However, after achieving unassailable dominance by roughly 1970 and feeling secure in power, the New Class has in the last four decades largely cast aside its onetime pose of egalitarian concern for society at large and worked fairly nakedly for its own advantage. Growing inequality in the U.S. over that 40-year period has been the result of an ever-increasing share of national income going to the New Class. (The New Class’s enthusiastic embrace of mass immigration and globalization generally likewise highlights the gap that has opened up between the interests of this elite and those of the balance of their countrymen.) Members of the New Class are bright, well-educated and hard-working and would do reasonably well in any society. However, their current spectacular level of financial and social remuneration (and their truly exceptional ability to get that remuneration without putting their own capital at risk) in a 'capitalist' society are in significant part the result of their control over government decision-making and the adoption of specific policies that are favorable to... posted by Friedrich at January 22, 2008 | perma-link | (35) comments

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Ultimate Career Move
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Ever-prolific Terry Teachout, in his 19 January "Sightings" column in the Wall Street Journal (a current link is here), deals with the effect of death on artistic reputations. Here is a sampling: Is dying really a shrewd career move? Cynics, art dealers and humorists seem to think so. ... [On the other hand] Arthur Rubinstein was one of the most successful classical pianists of the 20th century, but his recordings, unlike those of his arch-rival, Vladimir Horowitz, stopped selling soon after his death in 1982. It was as if his charismatic onstage physical presence had been necessary in order to persuade listeners of the artistic quality of his exciting but sometimes slapdash playing. ... What is it about the demise of an artist that so often triggers a reconsideration of his significance? In the short run, the Death Effect arises in part from the publication of obituaries that discuss the whole of his achievement, admiringly or otherwise. ... Not only can such articles stimulate renewed critical debate, but they may also have the unintended consequence of bringing a freshly deceased artist to the attention of younger readers hitherto unfamiliar with his work. [Teachout goes on the mention George MacDonald Frazer, author of the "Flashman" series.] ... Another aspect of the Death Effect is the undeniable but nonetheless macabre fact that an artist's death makes it easier for critics to sum him up -- and for dealers to set a price on his work. You can't trust a living artist not to lose his touch or change stylistic direction, much less to keep his output low enough to make it more valuable to collectors. ... I'll add that an obvious route to obscurity is to be an artist in a field where no permanent records are left once that artist has done his thing. Consider the performing arts in the pre-film, pre-digital video era. For instance, I strongly suspect that 18th century English actor David Garrick would be far less known today were it not for Boswell's account of Garrick's association with Dr Johnson. For artists such as painters and novelists who leave tangible products, there seems to be no surefire way of predicting posthumous reputations. The fickle hands of fashion and what group constitutes the arts Establishment at any given time determine this. Given that both fashions and Establishments aren't permanent, the likely result is a cyclical, roller-coaster reputation path for those artists who don't drop out of the picture permanently. In painting, it took Vermeer centuries to become famous. John SInger Sargent's reputation crashed right after he died, only to be revived circa half a century later. Andy Warhol's rep is still cruisin' without a speed bump 21 years after he went to that big Factory in the sky. My bet is that he'll eventually be rated as DaDa-like prankster -- not an important artist. But that's not likely to happen until the current Establishment gets pushed aside. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at January 21, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Women-and-Eroticism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Gotta love the New Burlesque. * Kelly DiNardo interviews burlesque artiste Ravenna Black. At the end of that posting you'll find links to interviews that Kelly has done with other current burlesque queens. * The rise and fall of Britney in one well-illustrated blogposting. Britney really was amazingly cute for five minutes or so, wasn't she? (Link thanks to those horny brainiacs at GNXP.) * Sarah Blake -- famous for looking like a fresh-faced co-ed -- confides that, when she went into the porn industry, she planned to work in the field for only 30 days. * Nude model Iona Lynn tells about one of her least-favorite photoshoots. * Flickr diva Katie West insists that she's really very shy. * Amateur porn producer Abby Winters says that she finds it important to stick to her paradigm. * MBlowhard Rewind: I read some books about sex by women authors, and looked back at the French erotic classic "Story of O." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 21, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Men fart more often than women do, but women's farts stink worse. Source. Fun to learn that Michael Levitt, the world's leading expert on farts and farting, is also the father of Steven ("Freakonomics") Levitt. Semi-related: Back here I wrote a bit about Joseph Pujol, the 19th century French music-hall performer known as le Petomane, or The Fartiste. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 20, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments