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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Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

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College administrator and arts buff

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Architectural historian and arts buff

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Entrepreneur and arts buff
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Media flunky and arts buff

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  3. The Most Damaging Artist
  4. "The Lady Is A Tramp"
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  8. Milk, Eating, Fat
  9. More Gyro
  10. A Real Campus Rape, Part Two

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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- * In about half an hour from now (it's almost 7:30 Saturday evening, Pacific Daylight Time as I type this) something called "Earth Hour" will be upon us Left-Coasters. The idea is that we should turn off the lights in the house for an hour in recognition of something or other. Nancy is off attending cultural events with my sister, so I have the freedom to honor Earth Hour in the most appropriate manner. I'll be turning on every light visible from the outside. After all, we had an unusually late snow yesterday and the neighborhood needs all the warmth and cheer it can get. * What ever happened to hat etiquette? It probably disappeared along with the fedora, circa 1960. Just in case you forgot, let me mention that men are supposed to remove their hats when entering a building -- especially a church or a house. But these days, in the baseball cap era, guys leave their hats on everywhere except church. I notice this mostly in restaurants. And if there was a mirror handy, I might even notice myself wearing one in a restaurant. I assure you that I only wear a hat indoors occasionally. Hat-wearing places for me include airports, shopping malls and bookstores -- the latter because I need both hands free for browsing. I tend to wear a cap in fast-food restaurants, but not in fancier ones. Even so, I'm not sure Mother would be pleased. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at March 29, 2008 | perma-link | (41) comments

Friday, March 28, 2008

Rachel Sweet
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Here's a 1981 clip of Rachel Sweet: Lordy, did I find Rachel Sweet entertaining. The mocking feistiness. The big-personality-in-a-tiny-body. The belter's voice. The glamorpuss bursting through a plain-Jane framework ... A quick word of explanation: Growing up in Akron, Ohio, Rachel Sweet was one of those kids who was a born performer. (As I like to ask: Can anyone come up with a good scientific reason why these people should be among us? Yet they keep turning up, generation after generation ...) As a kid Rachel took part in competitions; she toured with Mickey Rooney; she sang jingles. At 12, she opened in Vegas for Bill Cosby; at 13, she released her first single. As a pint-sized solo performer, she started out doing country music, but country didn't catch fire for her. At the time -- the late '70s -- there was a punk-rock moment happening in Akron; it was similar to the moments that Seattle and Portland experienced during the grunge years. Rachel laid down some tracks with local punk musicians and placed a couple of them on a Stiff Records compilation of the Akron Sound. (Really-truly, there was something called "the Akron Sound." Isn't that great? All regions should develop their own pop-music sound.) These tracks landed her a contract with Stiff, and "Fool Around," Rachel's first album, was released in 1978. Rachel was all of 15 years old. "B-A-B-Y" was everyone's favorite song on the disc: Beyond the fun of the music and of Rachel's look and performances, there were worries. Stiff Records -- and Rachel herself -- were obviously marketing Rachel as a little sexpot. Given her age, were we being subjected to (gasp) kiddie porn? In its way, the scandal echo'd another from a few years earlier. Tanya Tucker was 13 at the time of "Delta Dawn" and "What's Your Mama's Name?", and was a mere 14 when she recorded "Would You Lay With Me?" And of course the Rachel Sweet scandal prefigured a later one: Britney Spears, who was a relatively old lady of 18 at the time that "Baby One More Time" was released. When you watch these performances you can't help wondering, "Where did all this sexual oomph and erotic knowingness in such a young girl come from?" Me? Well, having known what it's like to have a headful of naughty thoughts since the age of 12, I wasn't exactly looking hard for an answer. Besides: Girls, eh? They're gonna act out. They just are. (I grew up with a sexy and popular older sister. By the time I was 14, I was pretty familiar with the whole blonde, buxom, cheerleading thing.) But more responsible people than I couldn't help fretting: "Is it an indictment of our society 1) that these girls exist and 2) that we should enjoy watching and listening to them?" Despite a lot of sympathetic press and a devoted fanbase, Rachel Sweet wound up having a nice but limited career as a... posted by Michael at March 28, 2008 | perma-link | (50) comments

The Most Damaging Artist
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- What is Art? Pretty nearly everything, it seems. All it takes is a self-proclaimed "artist" or his gallery guy or a copy-hungry reporter or art critic to announce to the world that this assemblage or that hardware store object is Art. I think this is nonsense. It has become a prime case of "If everything is Xxxxx, then nothing is Xxxxx." My own modest proposal is to call Art pretty much whatever was considered Art in 1900. What's been added since then strikes me as being mostly "art" -- and much of it doesn't even rise to that level. As a corollary to my modest proposal, those things now called "Art" but that were not Art in 1900 ought to be called Other Stuff. There is so much Other Stuff around, I'm tempted to write the powers-that-be at London's Tate Modern humbly requesting it be re-branded the Tate Other Stuff. And who is to blame for getting us into this fine kettle of Other Stuff? The man who I consider the artist who caused the most damage to Art: Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp is known for such Other Stuff works as designating a urinal as a piece of sculpture and painting a mustache and beard on a print of the Mona Lisa. His "readymades," including that urinal and a bottle rack along with his other art-world pranks blazed the path for what all too many Post-Modernists have been doing since around 1960. I wonder about all this talk of contemporary "artistic creativity" when it should be obvious that Big Dada did it first. End of rant. Have fun in Comments. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at March 28, 2008 | perma-link | (10) comments

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"The Lady Is A Tramp"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Time to class the joint up a little bit. OK, a whole lot. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 27, 2008 | perma-link | (5) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Fred Reed -- who has lived in Mexico for the last five years -- writes with a lot of brains and authority about some of the reasons why allowing mass immigration from Mexico is a very, very bad idea for the U.S. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 27, 2008 | perma-link | (15) comments

Radical Fat
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Read about the world's most radical low-carb / high-fat diet. (Video here.) Here's a blogposting in praise of lard. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 27, 2008 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Maybe it'd be a good idea to take the TV out of the kids' bedrooms. * Lester Hunt adds some shrewd thinking to Thomas Sowell's fab "A Conflict of Visions." * $179 will buy you a neoclassical dildo. And speaking of dildos ... * One the most common architecture-and-design mistakes these days is opening things up too damn much, and bringing in too much damn light. Katie Hutchison shows off a small house with large -- but not oversized -- windows. * WhiskyPrajer flips for "The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard." I love that collection too. * Is Globalization the best way to a prosperous future for all? (Link thanks to ALD.) Or the latest example of totalitarian-utopian insanity? * DesignObserver's Stephen Heller takes a look at the graphics that the Ron Paul campaign inspired. * Are the Dems once again throwing away the Presidential election? * Michael Bierut points out the online pocket-protector musuem. * Asian people apparently love nagging. * When David and Moira saw the Soweto Gospel Choir, the white people in the crowd managed to stay in their seats. Come on, white people. Even if you can't dance, you gotta do better than that. * So maybe there is a way that more money can increase your happiness .... * Home prices in California are dropping by $3000 per week. * Hyper-dynamic, self-empowered, alt-porn feminist / BDSM performer / gallery-owner Madison Young inks a deal with Girlfriends Distribution. (NSFW) * Youthquake in Chile. (Link thanks to Marginal Revolution.) * Slow Food, Slow Cities ... and now, Slow Parenting. (Link thanks to Alice Bachini.) * When a euphemism isn't euphemistic enough... * MBlowhard Rewind: I wanna be like this guy. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 26, 2008 | perma-link | (18) comments

Milk, Eating, Fat
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The Boston Globe takes note of the surge of interest in raw milk. The curious may enjoy spending a few minutes at the website of raw-milk advocates, The Weston A. Price Foundation. With their praise for sauerkraut and kefir and their belief in coconut oil as a cure for almost anything that might ail you, the Weston A. Price bunch can seem like crackpots. But such solid food-and-eating types as Gary Taubes and Nina Planck respect Weston A. Price. I admire Taubes and Planck; I've enjoyed raw milk every time I've drunk it; and I'm currently getting a lot out of "Eat Fat, Lose Fat" by Weston A. Price honchos Sally Fallon and Mary Enig. Hey world, it's time to get over your terror of fat. Me, I've given up the dumb 'n' easy carbs and have taken to helping myself to a lot more fat than ever before, including regular servings of coconut oil (which tastes fine in coffee or chai tea). Result: No problems maintaining the weight-loss I was able to accomplish via Seth Roberts' "Shangri-La Diet." Alt-health guru Andrew Weil has cut back on the dumb carbs too, and has lost some of the Santa Claus poundage he was previously known for. Both Sally Fallon and Mary Enig appear as interviewees in Tom Naughton's entertaining and informative eating-and-weight-loss documentary "Fat Head." I interviewed Tom here and here. Jimmy Moore has done interviews with many of the people on the low-carb, don't-fear-fat side of the fence. Can I have a little more butter with that? Only, make it organic. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 26, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

More Gyro
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Julia Vitullo-Martin -- who usually covers urban affairs and architecture -- discovers the pleasures of Gyrotonics. I regularly visit two of the studios she visits, including this one. (Hi, Billy!) Nice sentence: "If every New Yorker regularly did Gyrotonics ... ours would be a far more beautiful, happy, and relaxed city." I think so too. Hot in Hollywood predicts that Gyro will be the next chic exercise fad. I wrote about Gyro back here, here, and here. Call me prescient, or call me a fashion victim ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 26, 2008 | perma-link | (0) comments

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Real Campus Rape, Part Two
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Yesterday I introduced “Hannah,” a professional woman who, as a college coed in the 1970s, was the victim of a stranger-rape. In that installment of our two-part interview with her, Hannah told us about the rape and the investigation. Today, in Part Two, Hannah takes us through the trial, ventures some reflections, and fields a lot of questions from me about distinctions between different kinds of bad sex. A warning: In this part of the interview I talk too much. Apologies in advance for that. Luckily, Hannah handles my garrulousness with grace. *** 2Blowhards: Tell me about the actual trial. Hannah: The county prosecutor was young, energetic, humorous, and easy to work with. He met with me once, and called me several times to prepare the case. Preparation consisted of him telling me the questions he would ask me on the stand, and me replying. He told me what the courtroom would look like, who would be sitting where. We probably spent a total of 2 hours on prep. The jury was a mix of race and sex. All of them seemed my parents' age or older. I wore what was for me a dressy outfit: woolen slacks, sweater, and scarf. When it came time for my testimony, I was sworn in and the prosecutor started asking me to describe what happened on the night of whatever it was. This was different from grand jury in that I had to describe what happened, and he couldn't ask leading questions. Was your rapist present? At the end of my testimony, the prosecutor asked me to look around the courtroom and see if I could identify my attacker anywhere. He had told me beforehand where Albert, my rapist, would be sitting, but I had no problem spotting Albert and pointing to him. I didn't make eye contact with Albert at anytime, and I tried to pretend in my mind that he wasn't there. We broke for lunch, and Winnie, Ryan, and I went to a nearby coffeehouse. We didn't stay, though, because Albert's family was in there eating. We went somewhere else. Did the defense attorney then have at you? Yes. After lunch I was cross-examined. I remember the defense attorney as a sleazy, short, fat, gray-haired man, sloppy-looking. I'm not sure if this was accurate, or if it's me demonizing him. He asked me to repeat things from my testimony over and over. He tried to catch me up on questions, for the most part unsuccessfully. One thing I did blow. He asked me if Albert had helped me up, and I said no. He then had them put something in as an exhibit, and showed me a copy of my written statement from the police station where I said that Albert had helped me up. He asked me how I explained the discrepancy, and I said it had been a year and a half, and I had forgotten that detail. He tried to trip... posted by Michael at March 24, 2008 | perma-link | (30) comments

A Real Campus Rape, Part One
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few weeks ago, Blowhards and visitors compared notes about what seemed to many like a particularly absurd case of is-it-rape-or-isn't-it? on a Northwestern college campus. Soon after I was contacted by a woman who actually was raped while in college in the mid-1970s -- raped in the traditional sense, if I can be allowed to put it that way. I asked her if I could interview her about the experience. She kindly agreed, then gave me a remarkably frank and open interview. I think that you'll find her descriptions and reflections very interesting and thought-provoking. I should add that I also suspect that you'll find her evocations of the era enjoyable and informative. She's very eloquent and direct. Have I mentioned recently how much I love the way that blogging has made the mini-memoir such a vital and accessible form? Life as it's actually lived, baby -- gotta love that. In this interview/memoir, you'll make the acquaintance of a smart, thoughtful, and soulful woman. A quick word to the uptight: “Hannah” and I use some earthy language. If you aren’t in the mood for uninhibited talk, please surf off now to another blog. We link to a lot of good ones in the left-hand column. To everyone else: “Hannah” has agreed to field questions and to participate in any conversations that might crop up in the comments. So please feel free to make observations and ask questions. She’ll be dropping by today for Part One, and for Part 2 tomorrow. Today, Part One: The Rape, and the Investigation *** 2Blowhards: Maybe first we should set some context up. What was your background? Hannah: Middle class, middle of the road. Culturally Jewish. We celebrated the holidays and kept the traditions, but I had no religious training, and only went to temple for the high holy days. My parents were sexually conservative. I'm sure they expected me to be a virgin when I married. How about politics? My family was politically moderate to liberal. My dad did not want me to apply to Harvard. He thought it was too radical (but he had no problem with Columbia -- funny). I wasn't particularly political myself. But if you think about what was going on then, I was a lot more political than the average kid today. While I was in high school, we went through Vietnam, Cambodia, Kent State, the first Earth Day, the Pentagon Papers -- how could you not be a little political? That was unbelievable stuff. What kind of person were you as a girl-slash-young-woman? 35 years ago, I would have told you I was strong, capable, practical, and competitive. Sexually neither wild nor conservative, but somewhere around the middle. Anti-war but not particularly political. I thought I was more of an intellectual than I was. Was that an accurate self-assessment? Looking back, I see that I was very naive and idealistic. I trusted people. I came from a typical small public high... posted by Michael at March 24, 2008 | perma-link | (20) comments

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * PrairieMary wonders if the westerns she just watched were really westerns at all. * I'll bet they have questions. * Didn't the name Sony at one time inspire trust and loyalty? No longer. * Gil Roth and his wife adopt a retired racing greyhound. * Jim Kalb questions whether science will ever give a complete account of life as we experience it. * Gerard Vanderleun reports that San Francisco has lost a lot of its charm. * Now this is a hobby and a half. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 23, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments