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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  7. This is Not Art
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  9. Gale Garnett, Women and Drama
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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- * A couple of days ago I wrote about a Yale art student who claimed to have impregnated herself, then aborted, as an art project. I'm not sure why I bothered. I should have known that uber-satirist Iowahawk would pounce, offering an "advertisement" for the "Dynamic Transgression" method of art instruction. (If you're in the mood for potty humor, be sure not to skip the coupon at the bottom.) * Seattle's suburbs got upwards of six inches of snow last night. I've never experienced snow here later than April 3rd or thereabouts (though I heard that we got a late-April snow in 1972). I can visualize the forthcoming headline: New Ice Age Sign of Global Warming -- Gore Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 19, 2008 | perma-link | (60) comments

Errant Thought
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Somebody -- I feel badly I can't remember who -- observed that in the first millenium BCE religion went through a shift in attitude towards sex. Religions that had arisen before the mid-first millenium, such as Greek religion, Judaism, and Hinduism, were pretty matter of fact about sex. Whereas religions that arose after the shift, such as Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, find sex to be a much more questionable topic. Just noodling with this idea, I came up with a possible (or possibly goofy) explanation. It seems to me that the pre-shift religions derived from pastoralist cultures, and the post-shift religions derived from agricultural-trading cultures. The pastoralists, who lived in large part by breeding animals, would have found sexual fecundity an unambiguous and wholly natural good thing. The agricultural-trading cultures would have found sexual fecundity a mixed bag, as those societies would have been faced with a constant tendency to outgrow their arable land or the trading capital. I just toss this out there to stimulate discussion. Interested to hear your thoughts. Cheers, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at April 19, 2008 | perma-link | (12) comments

Friday, April 18, 2008

You Can't Say That !
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It's quite amazing that in some modern countries it's not just impolite but against the law to say unappreciative or critical things about various racial and/or ethnic groups. Why, you'd almost think that some powers-that-be are doing what they can to prevent certain key debates from occurring, wouldn't you? Reason's Jacob Sullum explains how the game works in Canada. In a nice touch, Sullum refers to Canada's "human rights commission" martinets as "kindly inquisitors." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 18, 2008 | perma-link | (16) comments

DVD Journal: "Twentynine Palms"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Twentynine Palms: A real snoozer of a Euro art film, American road-movie division. Two chic Euros take a drive into the California desert, stay in crappy hotels, eat awful food, and swim in tacky pools. Every now and then they pause to argue or to have sex, or both. It takes nearly-forever for next-to-nothing to happen in Bruno Dumont's film. Oh, the emptiness of it all -- and, of course, Oh, the crudeness and brutality of America. Easy joke: Makes “Zabriskie Point” look like Busby Berkeley. Fast-Forwarding Score: One-half of the movie. Preferred arty-erotic purchase: Clement Virgo's seductive and very alive "Lie With Me," with daring and attractive performances by Eric Balfour and Lauren Lee Smith, now on sale for a mere $7.99. I wrote about "Lie With Me" and some other arty sex films back here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 18, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Katie's Book
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Good news. Katie Hutchison -- an inspired new-traditionalist architect as well as a most-excellent blogger -- will be writing a book for The Taunton Press, one of the best publishers in America. Read about Katie's appropriately modest and touching subject, namely small retreats, here. (MBlowhard mini-rant: An architect writing not a work of chic hyper-theory but instead something sophisticated-yet-accessible that might be of use to normal people -- now that's an event to be celebrated!) If you know of any successful and appealing examples of small retreats that deserve consideration for a place in the book, be sure to get in touch with Katie, who can be reached at katie-at-katiehutchison-dot-com. I rhapsodized about The Taunton Press back here. Sample some of their beautiful books here and here. Don't be completely surprised if -- as you let your eye and mind play over their products -- you discern a certain kinship with the thought of Christopher Alexander ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 18, 2008 | perma-link | (0) comments

Time for a More Nuanced View?
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, When the professors at our Lousy Ivy University taught me about the wonderful benefits of free trade in their discussion of two countries trading two products, I don’t remember them addressing a number of points which now seem rather striking to me. Like, for example, the impact of free trade on where R&D activities will occur. The following is from a post in February by The Angry Bear: Where is R&D going? China, of course. Take a gander at the following article. Some highlights: Sixty-two percent of global companies ranked China first "as the most attractive location for prospective R&D." Multinationals have set up 1,160 research institutions by the end of 2007. Total revenue of the hi-tech industry (foreign companies) exceeded 706 billion U.S. dollars. Patent applications as of 2006 put China fourth in the world. And here is the kicker: 40% of those applications came from foreign companies. Yes, yes, globalization will raise all boats. The only boats I see rising are the foreign companies in China. Nor do I remember any discussions of free trade and national security like this one by Emmanuel at the International Political Economy Zone on the bid by Chinese telecom manufacturer Huawei and Bain Capital for U.S. defense contractor 3Com: …the only way to avoid furriners buying ever larger chunks of America is to get US finances in order. With $170 billion giveaway packages to further fund the US jihad on fiscal sanity (and whose proceeds probably end up in China anyway), nobody is counting on that to happen soon. US deficits from here to Chongqing will only see to it that more and more of America is sold off. Enough with this protectionist nonsense. This is free trade, pal: if the US wants more borrowed time, it had better be prepared to give up this "national security" jive talking. The real owners of the US are in the PRC. Deal with it. Or any discussions of how free trade with a government-run economy might turn out, like this one by Brad Setser on the World Bank’s China Quarterly report: The [World] Bank wasn’t able to find much evidence of a real rebalancing of China’s economy. Investment growth continues to outpace consumption growth. Industrial production continues to grow faster than services. So investment and industry are continuing to rise as a share of China’s GDP…The Bank also highlights another key point - for all the talk of the strong growth in Chinese consumption, consumption is still falling relative to GDP. Or exactly how currency manipulation generally might impact 'free' trade, as from this post by Macroman on the economic communiqué issued at the recent G7 meeting: Macro Man has long thought that the endgame for the current dollar downtrend will be a commitment from the relevant authorities to act to turn it around. However, it's far from clear that the G7 are the relevant authorities; after all, it's not Japan or Germany or the UK that is... posted by Friedrich at April 18, 2008 | perma-link | (14) comments

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This is Not Art
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- So it was a hoax. That Yale art student didn't really collect material from repeated self-impregnations and abortions as an art project. The New York Sun reports that she was actually doing "performance art." Key graf: "Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art," a Yale spokeswoman, Helaine Klasky, said. "She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body." So far as I'm concerned, none of the episode was art. It was a self-promoting public relations stunt justified by Feminist gibberish. The sad thing is that real art gets tarred by such juvenile acting-out. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 17, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Women and Drama 2: PatrickH Has Been There
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- On my previous posting, visitor PatrickH volunteered a comment that deserves not to be missed. Here it is: It is hard being a woman, though. And I mean "just being a woman". Being a man is an emotional piece of cake by comparison. How do I know this? Well, I was once a woman myself, for a short while. I took clomid (fertility drug-lots of estrogen effects) as part of a post-steroid recuperation cycle, and it put me in a very female frame of mind (quite the contrast to the effect of the 'roids, I can tell you). I was hypersensitive to the tiniest sign of suffering in another being, was always on the edge of weeping, and was filled with a kind of wistful, formless yearning that, while not unpleasant to feel, had no object that could fulfill it. I also came to want to withdraw from people (for a time) and just sit and "be me". I absolutely NEVER understood what women meant when they said that, but I do now. You just have to get away from being FOR OTHERS, something that as a man I never bothered thinking about, let alone trying. Now I know why women need to get away from that. It's exhausting to be that wide open to other human beings...all the time! It's hard being a woman. I know. I was one, for a while. Get this man a book deal. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 17, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gale Garnett, Women and Drama
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It's 1964, and Gale Garnett (all of 22 years old) performs "We'll Sing in the Sunshine": Many old hits make me cringe when I revisit them, especially ones that I loved when I was very young. So I'm pleased to find that I still enjoy the dark-toned, easy swing of this song. As I listen to it again, and then again, I find myself returning to its mix of tones: sweet-sour; cheery-depressive -- to the way the singalong folkiness of the tune is stung into life by the iciness of the lyrics: "I will never love you / The cost of love's too dear / But though I'll never love you / I'll stay with you one year". That isn't a cheery view of love, or of life. Gale's big-eyed, Greenwich Village, heavy-spirited, "I'm trouble, but of a kind you owe it to yourself to find out more about" presence adds a lot to the flavors and textures. The song and performance would be easy enough to dismiss as silly -- to find overdone and affected. But there's some startling steeliness and zing alongside the childishness. "Hey," Gale is saying: "So what if what we have isn't the real thing. Let's see what's there in any case. It'll move us in its own way, whatever that'll prove to be." A little pop ditty is sharing with us an almost Edith Piaf-like fatalism, in other words. The cheeriness does nothing to diminish the darkness. I may be out-of-it where contempo pop music is concerned, but it certainly seems to me that you don't find a lot of worldweary fatalism in today's mainstream pop. It's a little startling to realize that this life-is-a-tragedy- but-let's-relish-the-sadness-of-it tune wasn't just a cult hit. In fact, it made it into the top ten. As it turns out -- according to a profile by Canadian journalist and playwright Brad Fraser -- Gale Zoe Garnett has led exactly the kind of life that "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" makes me picture. She lost her virginity at 13 and was orphaned at 15; she feels she was really raised by gay friends. Ups and downs seem to have been numerous; so do lovers. Garnett sounds like she has achieved a lot of hardwon personal style; she certainly has a sexy-weatherbeaten / evasive-blunt way of talking about sex and romance. Fun to see that, like me, she feels that many youngsters would do best to begin their sex lives with lovers much older than they are. "So-called intergenerational sex is actually, if you're going to have sex, a far safer choice, in my mind, than peer sex," she tells Fraser. If Gale Garnett ain't a genuine bohemian, than I don't know who is. Here's a novel that she wrote. I notice that the book's girl-protagonist begins her sex life at the age of 13. It occurred to me as I read Fraser's article that I once saw and enjoyed a Brad Fraser play. "Unidentified... posted by Michael at April 16, 2008 | perma-link | (5) comments

Lego Living
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- So there I was, innocently strolling the streets of downtown Seattle doing my usual scene-check. Then I came upon something odd -- even for Seattle. Let me show you ... Hello. What's that? The thing on the roof of that building? Hmm. Some sort of structure. Looks like a chair in a window. And there's a sign below it with an arrow pointing upwards. The sign explains that those are modular apartments intended for urban use, and this link is provided. I went up on the roof to look at the display more closely. The units seem to be about the size of mobile homes. I snapped this photo of a poster with a conception of what such modularized apartments might look like. Okay, so the actual apartments are to be assembled on plots of land. But the idea of putting such units on roofs, as the demonstration units are, is kinda odd, intriguing and possibly repellent. This raises the concept of trailer trash to a whole new dimension. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 16, 2008 | perma-link | (17) comments

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Disciplines
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The wonderful bondage and spanking model Amelia Jane Rutherford -- who once trained as a ballerina -- wonders provocatively if there might be a connection between the taste for ballet and the taste for bondage. Here's a nice collection of NSFW stills of Amelia, whose specialty is elegant, poised, and demure, yet very, very bratty. Amelia really does seem to love her work, and to have found herself a calling. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 15, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Sex, and the Sexes
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The Rawness offers the ladies a lot of sensible tips. Jo responds with a sweet list of attributes the Perfect Guy might have. * Girls like book clubs. * Seems like an excellent way to spend a Continuing-Education kind of Saturday afternoon ... * Hardcore Marilyn. * MSNBC's Tony Sclafani wonders why junior celebs are pushing their virginity vows on the rest of us. * Tony Perrotet writes an introduction to the history of opera castrati, who were the rock stars of their era and who often led remarkable love lives. An informative and enjoyable film about the era is "Farinelli." It's full of beauty, costumes, sex, and Handel arias. * Can porn be feminist? Check out the number of comments on that one. * MBlowhard Rewind: I offered the hunch that -- for a young man in today's hyper-pumpy world -- the final taboo may be simply feeling exhausted, or not being in the mood. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 15, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Quote for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- From John Gray: "Repressing [religion] is like repressing sex, a self-defeating enterprise ... The attempt to eradicate religion only leads to it reappearing in grotesque and degraded forms." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 15, 2008 | perma-link | (32) comments

Stones Memories
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Charlie Watts tells Bob Costas that he didn't expect the Rolling Stones to last longer than a week. Keith Richards tells GQ that working with Jean-Luc Godard on "Sympathy for the Devil" was "like working with a French bank clerk." Semi-related: I wrote about a tedious but rather touching recent Godard movie here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 15, 2008 | perma-link | (1) comments

Monday, April 14, 2008

Cindy Sherman Is Simpler Than the Intellectuals Imagine (And So Is Most Art)
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- When the photographer Cindy Sherman made her Untitled Film Stills back around 1980, critics and academics dreamed up all kinds of hyperintellectual arguments to tell us what she was really up to in the photos. Since Sherman was both in these sorta-recreations of iconic "female" images and in charge of them, we were given to understand by the experts that Sherman was -- at the least -- criticizing "power," undermining sex roles, and making numerous weighty feminist and theoretical points. Fun to learn then -- from a quick interview with New York magazine -- that Sherman in fact put nothing of what the critics saw in them into her photographs. Theory? Nope. Feminist points? Not a one. In fact, Sherman explains, the photos mainly arose out of her feelings about dressing up in costumes and putting on makeup. Hey, quel surprise: She's an artist, and not an intellectual who just happens to be expressing her wickedly complex theoretical structures through, weirdly enough, photography. A great passage from a recent Shouting Thomas comment: To reiterate... musicians aren't very bright. If they were, they wouldn't be musicians ... The same is true for just about all artists. If they had any sense, they wouldn't be artists. I'm reminded of a funny crack uttered by the much-missed Vanessa del Blowhard some years back about developments in downtown theater. There was a stretch in the '90s when edgy theater artists were showcasing garish colors, laughtracks, snappy pacing, game-show formats and such. The critics were treating themselves to a field day explaining that what these deep, complex, and (as always) "critical" artists were up to was subverting our media-drenched assumptions with their media-based strategies. Vanessa, who actually hung out with a number of these actors and directors, laughed and said to me, "What nonsense. These kids are creating theater pieces that resemble live versions of television because TV is what they really like. They like TV, and they want the theater they create to be like TV." Incidentally, I rather enjoy Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills -- I'm not putting her down. I'm having a chuckle at the fabrications of intellectuals, and I'm wondering why, where the arts go, anyone cuts critics and intellectuals any slack at all. A life free of their theories, rationalizations, and projections can be such a pleasingly straightforward thing, can't it? Incidentally: Girls' love of trying on clothes, experimenting with makeup, and posing in front of mirrors and cameras -- well, if I were in the culture-observing game, I'd venture the thought that it's one of the most powerful forces at large in culture today. That's pretty simple, isn't it? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 14, 2008 | perma-link | (33) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It's happy blogaversary to some showstoppingly good bloggers: supersharp and ever-flirty Alias Clio; that poetic muser-in-the-city Bixblog; and Roissy, whom no one will ever be able to accuse of having come out of the gate on timid feet. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 14, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I've been MIA for the last few days because I've been subjected to an MIA -- a Massive Influenza Attack. Went to bed Wednesday with a tickle in my throat; woke up Thursday with a 102 degree fever; and am only just now re-emerging into some kind of feeble consciousness. Not much has been going on in my brain besides registering aches and pains, marveling at the usual flu hallucinations, and vowing that I'll do a better job of remembering to be grateful for good health once I in fact have my good health back. Well, there has been one small question that has been on my brain. A usage thing. How do you use the word "flu"? When you're sick with it, do you say, "I have 'flu"? Or "I have the flu"? I understand that "flu" is short for "influenza," and that there's no reason to place the word "the" in front of it. But saying, "Oh, it was a little case of 'flu" just doesn't suit my mouth. I feel affected and pretentious if I use the word "flu" without "the" ahead of it. Where do you stand on this key question? Back with a tad more vigor, I hope, in a day or two, Michael... posted by Michael at April 13, 2008 | perma-link | (8) comments

Blogging Note
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Yes blogging has been light at the good ol' 2B ranch the past few days. And it will likely stay that way into next week. Partly that's because I'm on the road. We flew down to LA and won't return to Seattle till Tuesday evening. If I can post something before Wednesday, I will. Comments also have been slow to appear. That's because I get to my computer about twice a day while on this trip. And Michael hasn't been vetting and posting comments at all for a few days. Several weeks ago he indicated that there might be times when other events would force him to cut back on blogging, and this might be such a time. Please have patience. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 13, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments