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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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- You've visited the Art and Popular Culture wiki, I trust? Dedicated to seeking "connections, bridges and intersections between high culture, pulp and avant-garde," it's brilliant: full of oddball observations and provocative swatches of knowledge. Surprising, flattering, and fun to see that the webseries my wife and I helped make now has its own entry in the wiki, where it's compared to the work of Roger Corman and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Art and Popular Culture is the brain-and-lovechild of the excellent Jan Geerinck, who blogs here, and who evidently sees connections everywhere. Read more about Jan and Jahsonic here. Since I'm in a bragging mood, I'll also mention that our webseries recently received its first review -- from a very sharp horror site called Infernal Dreams, where it was covered alongside "Sorority Sluts" and "Redneck Zombies." That's the right neighborhood for us! Eight stars out of ten, and let me quote a few passages from the review: "An enjoyable series which speaks to the Sci-Fi fan, the technology fan, and the 'sex' fan ... The sharp-witted humor really drives the series forward and gives it that special 'signature.' What the creators have done with the series is that they have made sex fun again." I can now report that it feels really, really good when a critic gets what you've tried to do. Shoot me a note at michaelblowhard@gmail.etc and I'll send you a link to the webseries' website. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 19, 2008 | perma-link | (1) comments

Mystery Painting Identified
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few days ago I wrote a posting lamenting that I'd noticed an interesting print that I couldn't identify and pleaded for help from our art-savvy readership. Lo and behold, reader S. D'Arbanville came through (see the posting's comments) ... many thanks! The painting is Fin de Souper by Jules-Alexandre Grün, (1868-1934?) dated 1913. (In my posting I suggested that it was done between 1912 and 1920, so I got that bit right. On the other hand, I privately guessed that it might be by an English artist, missing the target on that point.) For information on Grün, I strongly suggest you click here; the link contains a lot of information about this comparatively unknown artist. It also claims to identify his self portrait in the painting as well as images of his wife and fellow poster-artist Jules Chéret. Here are examples of Grün's work: Gallery Fin de Souper in the light intensity of the reproduction I saw. Here is a lighter version. I prefer the dark one. Vendredi su Salon des Artistes Français - 1911 A Group of Artists - 1929 Poster, 1903. Poster, no date, but probably 1900-07. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at July 19, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

Friday, July 18, 2008

Music Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some confident and powerful grooves from Mississippi blues outfit Homemade Jamz: In case you haven't read about Homemade Jamz ... The three main members are siblings: Ryan Perry on vocals and lead guitar, Kyle Perry on bass, and Taya Perry on drums. Ryan is 16 years old, Kyle is 13, and Taya is all of 9. Here's their MySpace page, where you can listen to a few more tracks. Type "Homemade Jamz" into the YouTube Search box and riches will emerge. Read about them here, and watch a news report about them here. Fans of "Mustang Sally" (written by Mack Rice, made famous by Wilson Pickett) can enjoy a satisfyingly funky Homemade Jamz version here. Lots of closeups of the ultra-cute and talented Taya. In a very different vein: Thanks to The Fredosphere, who links to OC Times, the winners of this year's Barbershop Quartet competition: They're pretty soulful in their own way, no? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 18, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Un-PC Reading 2: F. Roger Devlin
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Installment Two in my Un-PC Reading series. (Installment One is back here.) This time around: an essay for all those who have explored Roissy's blog, or who have read up a bit on "Game," and who have wondered how and when relations between the sexes in this country became so hostile and abrasive. The topic is the neocon writer Wendy Shalit, who made a name for herself dissenting from feminist orthodoxy and praising sexual modesty. The author is F. Roger Devlin. What may initially baffle some readers is that Devlin, who is harshly critical of Shalit, dumps on her not from a libertarian or a leftie point of view but from a paleoconservative one. For Devlin, Shalit doesn't go or see far enough -- and not only that, she's a silly and vain twit. I link to the piece here not to have a laugh at Shalit (though Devlin is quite funny about her narcissism and her intellectual shortcomings) but because I found Devlin's more general discussion -- his survey of the state of things between the sexes, and his analysis of how matters got this way -- amazingly interesting. Thanks to a 2Blowhards visitor who signs his comments "anon" for the link to Devlin's essay. If I remember right, The Man Who Is Thursday has also enjoyed Devlin's writing. Oh, and "Un-PC"? Well, the essay's scathing view of feminism is part of that. But the tender of soul and the noble of nature deserve a warning too: F. Roger Devlin has published pieces in the notorious Occidental Quarterly, which is often described as a White Nationalist site. What are Devlin's views on racial matters? Beats me. Is Devlin a noxious and despicable person? Perhaps he is, and perhaps all he really deserves is shunning. But the three essays of his that I've read on the state of affairs between the sexes have been awfully smart and provocative. Download 'em all here. For what appear to be a couple of recent pieces, read "Home Economics" parts one and two. Why doesn't Devlin maintain his own website? I trust, by the way, that visitors to 2Blowhards have the subtlety to understand that linking is not endorsing, and to notice that I've nowhere indicated that I agree with all or even most of Devlin's points. I am happy to say, though, that I found the three Devlin essays that I've read daring and even enlightening, and that I've enjoyed thinking them over. Where do you think Devlin makes a decent point? Where in your opinion does he go awry? And how do you feel / what do you think about the idea of reading a piece by someone who has written for The Occidental Quarterly? Am I an irresponsible blogger for having linked to the likes of Devlin? Or are those who won't take a flyer on some far-out reading the real fools? What I'm really curious about, though, is people's reactions to Devlin's ideas about... posted by Michael at July 17, 2008 | perma-link | (79) comments

Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- It must be an election year. I'm noticing more references to "greed" than usual. Greed seems to be a perennial topic with emphasis on it ebbing and flowing, but never coming close to being absent. I recall acquaintances bemoaning greed at one point during the Reagan years, and they were tying greed to Administration attitudes and policies. This is typical. People on the left have a strong tendency to see greed as being either a right-wing or an AmeriKKKan phenomenon or both. Presumably non-righties and non-Americans are exempt from greed. Me? I've always assumed that greed is a human constant. Unless we're Hindus, we only live one life, right? So why not make the most of what circumstances hand us? Not all people are in a Go For It mode, but apparently enough have been so over time that there was hand-wringing over greed long before there were RepubliKKKans or AmeriKKKa. Does that make greed good? Not necessarily. But critics do need to calm down and realize that it's part of human nature. Or maybe they know that already and are using greed as a club to score political points while they ponder buying one Cadillac Escalade versus three Priuses this fall. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at July 17, 2008 | perma-link | (19) comments

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Un-PC Reading 1: Kevin Myers
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'd be curious to hear how visitors respond to three decidedly un-PC articles that I've run across recently. To spill my own reaction to all three: Wowee -- not sure I can go all the way there myself, but what a lot of interesting points and provocative arguments have been made. Today's non-PC reading: Kevin Myers in the Irish Times writes that Africa ought to be recognized as a lost cause. A few questions to kick the conversation off. Ever felt that way yourself? Do you experience a strong sense of moral obligation to solve Africa's problems? Myers makes numerous points. Which have some validity? Which don't? Me, I confess that I don't fully understand the "We must save Africa" stance. Seems to me like a lot of moral grandstanding goes into it, though that may be unjust of me. I wish Africa well, of course, and if you feel like contributing money or efforts I urge you to go right ahead. But why this sense that the entire world must, simply must, make a cause out of Africa? What's your own response to Myers' nothing-if-not-provocative editorial? Nose-holding and name-calling are hereby discouraged, though the futility of that injunction is also hereby noted. Related: Kenyan economist James Shikwati wishes that rich countries would stop sending aid to Africa. Perhaps our do-goodism has helped turn the continent into a professional charity case? Hibernia Girl comments here and here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 16, 2008 | perma-link | (25) comments

How Much Applause is Merited?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- This is an advisory. If you or persons within sight of your computer screen are sensitive to ranting, please activate your Curmudgeon Deflection Shields now. [Pause for shield activation] Saturday I got dragged into attending a concert at this venue. I'm not big on live concerts because hearing the same stuff via a recording is far more convenient and less expensive. Not that there was anything wrong with the concert, mind you. The guy in charge was a founding member of the Philadelphia String Quartet and the three twentysomethings who played the Beethoven with him seemed okay too. So I have to assume the concertos were competently played. What? Donald, the great Blowhard, can't appreciate musicianship? You betcha I can't. Appreciating performance art is for me akin to appreciating coffee. I can tell bad coffee. But I can't easily distinguish between adequate coffee and great coffee. Same goes for acting, ballet dancing, opera singing or, in the present case, fiddling. Whether something is competently done or great, it sounds pretty much the same to me. Doubtless some of this is because I don't attend many live performances and lack experience when trying to evaluate. And for music, there's the factor that my hearing has never been very good; even at age 20 I had trouble hearing higher frequencies that most other people hear. Moreover, I'm not musical. My father and daughter were/are, but that gene seems to have skipped my generation. Because I can't tell okay from great, the applause at the end of the performance puzzled me a little. Many in the audience went semi-berserk, wildly applauding and hooraying. You say: Because you are such a cultural dimwit, you failed to realize that the performance was obviously fabulous and deserved every huzzah the audience could muster. Maybe so. On the other hand, I've witnessed the same kind of gushing enthusiasm at the completion of almost every opera, ballet and so forth that I've witnessed. While I'm incompetent to evaluate performing arts (unless the joint is stunk out), the statistician in me finds it hard to believe that almost every performance merits such unrestrained enthusiasm. This makes me wonder if a characteristic of large portions of audiences is to applaud wildly no matter how good (or average) the performance was. So I'll chalk it up to a form of behavior for a subculture I'm not a member of. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at July 16, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Time to See "Tell No One"?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Frequent visitor Bryan emails me that he enjoyed the French thriller "Tell No One." I do love me the occasional Euro-crime movie. A good one is Dominik Moll's low-key- in-a-frightening-way, beautiful-to-watch "With A Friend Like Harry," currently buyable on DVD for $9.99. David Chute also enjoyed "Tell No One" -- which, interestingly enough, was adapted from a Harlan Coben novel. Has the time come for a trip to an actual movie theater? Here's the trailer for the film. Fair warning: a buttcrack goes on display briefly, and elegantly. Oh, those incorrigible Euros. Such sophisticates. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 16, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Witness one legal defence strategy that didn't quite work out. (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin.) * Republicans are feeling the passion. (Another link courtesy of that web-surfin' titan Charlton Griffin.) * The Onion offers some crucial election-year advice: How to pretend to care about politics. * Robert Sibley writes that, in London, it feels like the 1970s all over again. Robert provides some great descriptions of how bad conditions were in '70s London. * Onetime motorcycle rider WhiskyPrajer recalls why he gave the bikes up, and confesses that he still feels the lure. * I'd never thought of anteaters as promising pet material. Evidently I've been wrong. * Whiskey suspects that the economic downtown will mean the death of the niche market. * After disliking all the porn she sampled, Erika Lust decided that the time had come to start making it herself. Erika shares some NSFW photos of her process here. * MBlowhard Rewind: I praised James M. Cain's brilliant novel "Mildred Pierce." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 16, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

An Actor's Life
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- And say those lines with real feeling, goddammit! The multitalented Kate VanDevender has websites here, here, and here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 16, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Where Do the Good Ideas Come From?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Steve Sailer reads a new book and notices some good ideas in it. He also notices similarities that the authors' ideas have to ideas that he published years ago. I've often suspected that many journalists read Steve Sailer on the sly -- "on the sly" because of course no respectable person would ever read the likes of Steve Sailer, right? I don't always agree with Steve, but I'm never not glad that he's out there. Is there a ballsier American journalist working today? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 15, 2008 | perma-link | (80) comments

iPhone 3G in NYC
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The iPhone 3G may have been released last Friday but excitement about it continues, at least in New York City's SoHo. Here's a snap I took of SoHo's Apple Store early Monday evening. Donald marveled about iPhone-mania back here. Me, I'm a generally happy Apple user -- but I dislike cellphones intensely, no matter how chic they may be. And I wish they'd all just go away. People care about their cellphones? Why? TUAW reports that Apple has already sold a million iPhone 3G's. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 15, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Advertising and Taste
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Perhaps the new Cottonelle campaign is a clever attention-grabber. After all, why not be earthy and charming about bodily processes? It isn't as though they're about to go away. Or perhaps the campaign is a more-than- we-really- need-to-think-about step too far: And what's with the use of the adorable pooch? A dog has what to do with toilet paper exactly? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 15, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

Monday, July 14, 2008

Linkage from DO
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some fab links from the observant crew at DesignObserver: * Watch a designer pull together a magazine layout. * The latest art-stunt from Improv Everywhere featured sets of identical twins. Is it wrong of me to notice that Improv'ing Everywhere appears to be a very White People thing to do? "Design" seems to be accounting for ever more of the world around us, doesn't it? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 14, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Travel Advisory
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- In their quest to make airline travel ever more pleasant and civilized, American Airlines charges transcontinental coach passengers 10 bucks for a lousy sandwich. Plus we now have this recent innovation to savor: It's almost as though the airlines want the government to re-commit to a sensible national train system, isn't it? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 14, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

The Most Narcissistic People Are ...
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- The question posed by the title of this post is a toughie. Just what category of people is the most narcissistic? Movie/TV actors and actresses? Politicians? Fashion models? Those are strong contenders. Obvious ones, too. So I'll propose a not-so-obvious group, just to get your reactions. Marathon and other serious distance runners. It's bad enough watching them do their stretches and mental preparations just before a race. But what gets me is the measuring that some of them are into doing. They select practice routes and time themselves every time they run them. They strap on monitoring devices to get heartbeat and other measurements of their body's performance during such a run. Comparisons of the latest numbers with previous data are then made. In other words, they continually record and analyze statistics about themselves. Is this self-absorption, or what? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at July 14, 2008 | perma-link | (16) comments

Too Good
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- More economic wisdom than we probably deserve, courtesy of The Onion. (Link thanks to FvB.) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 14, 2008 | perma-link | (1) comments

Modern Classicist
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Meet Scottish classical sculptor Alexander Stoddart. Not having seen any of his work in the flesh, I don't really know how I feel about it. I do know, though, that I'm very glad that he's out there doing his impressive best to create persuasive classical sculpture in the modern world. A sentence from the article struck me especially hard. When Stoddart was an art student in the '70s, practising his representational art, "graffiti in the lavatories labelled him as a fascist because he refused to veer from the figurative path." Ah, yes, those liberal and open-minded art students. Here's Alexander Stoddart's website. Completely unrelated: Diana Rigg, who turns 70 this month, still smokes, drinks, and drives a sports car. Diana's daughter Rachael Stirling is also an actress, and looks a bit like her mum. Here's a visit with Rachael. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 14, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mystery Painting
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- We were visiting Spokane and northern Idaho last week, lodging at the Holiday Inn Express in Spokane Valley. In the lobby were a number of framed prints, including the one below. Sorry about the poor quality, but the lighting was bad when I snapped it and I tried to digitally enhance the image as best I could. Mystery painting: Title and artist, please. The scene is of a bunch of rich old gents and sweet young things around a brightly lit table. All are well dressed and seem to be having a swell time chatting things up. From the women's fashions and hairdos, I'd peg the date sometime between 1912 and 1920. Few critics would consider it a great work of art. However, I found it quite interesting to look at because it attracts and holds one's attention (if one is interested in people, at any rate). It also interested me because it seems skillfully done. For instance, note that the girl on the left is illuminated by two light sources: the yellow table lighting and a daylight source to the left of the scene. The figures are believably posed and nicely drawn. Nothing profound here. No irony or social commentary other than perhaps the age contrast between the sexes and whatever that might suggest. One might consider it a Great War era version of a Watteau. My biggest problems with it are that I have no idea what the title is and I don't know the name of the painter. Frustrating, because I'm really curious. Do any of you recognize it? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at July 13, 2008 | perma-link | (5) comments

Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Credit to an anonymous passerby who noted the following juxtaposition: Get it? If not, here's some background information. The banner with the Renoir nude is in front of the Seattle Art Museum, advertising an exhibition dealing with Impressionist painters. Across First Avenue is the "Lusty Lady," one of the last of the girlie show theaters on the street. Immediately to the right of the Lady is a combination condominium-Four Seasons hotel that's scheduled to open later this year. Along with the art museum, it's an indicator of the neighborhood's transition. When I was young, Seattle's First Avenue catered to sailors from ships that used to dock a few blocks away (that function has moved) as well as various species of derelict men. Besides girlie shows, there were pawn shops, taverns smelling of stale chili and staler beer, flop houses, missions and theaters featuring third-run movies. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at July 13, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments