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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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bozeman Slick
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Time was, the fancy "slick" (for the quality of the paper) magazines were based in big cities such as New York and Philadelphia. These days, they are able to originate almost anyplace, as this Bozeman, Montana based publication indicates. Whether or not Western Art & Architecture will last is hard to tell, given the present economy and trends in some print media sectors,. At least that other trend of decentralization of culture continues. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at July 26, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Videos for the Day: "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Written by Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell and Sol Marcus, the song was first recorded (in 1964) by the pianist / chanteuse (and civil-rights movement heroine) Nina Simone: The song became a hit when its moroseness was given a kickin' R&B beat by The Animals: Santa Esmerelda released a 16 minute-long Latinized disco version of the song in 1977. Quentin Tarantino included some bars from it in "Kill Bill": And Elvis Costello made an impact when he took the song slow and raw in 1986: Votes? Me, I adore The Animals' version and feel some fondness for the postpunk soul of Costello's. Best, Michael UPDATE: JMW rightly scolds me for neglecting to include Joe Cocker's version of the song. Here's a live rendition:... posted by Michael at July 26, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

Friday, July 25, 2008

Audiovisual Through Time Entertainment Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Anne Thompson takes a look at the team that will be replacing Ebert and Roeper. * The Headless Werewolf writes that giallo star Edwige Fenech is one of his very favorite Scream Queens. As well as one of movie history's raving beauties, I'd add. (That last link is NSFW.) * Video Twitter. * Angry black man Chris watches/listens to some current hiphop videos and feels his spirits sink. * An inspired video mashup. * I'm reconsidering my childhood ambition to become a race car driver. (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin.) * MBlowhard Rewind: I woke up to the one movie ad-line that makes me absolutely certain I don't want to watch that movie. Commenters on the posting are hilarious. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 25, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Foujita, the Serious Show-off
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Paris in the 1920s was crammed with artists. A few, such as Picasso, Matisse, Brancusi and Léger are still famous or at least well-known to art fans. Many never got much notoriety and are deeply buried in the footnotes of art history. Then there was a middle group whose members were fairly well known at the time but whose reputations since have fluctuated at best or, more often, slowly faded. How many of you have heard of Kees van Dongen (from the Netherlands), Moïse Kisling (Poland), Jules Pascin (Bulgaria) and a Japanese import who was usually called by his family name, Foujita (French spelling -- the English version is Fujita). All four expatriates were party animals. I first encountered them in this book, a photo-filled tour of the Paris art world of the first 30 years of the last century. The book uses famed model, singer (sort of), writer (an autobiography), painter (amateur) and art world personality (huge!!) Kiki (née Alice Prin) as its title's centerpiece even though she didn't arrive on the scene until the early 1920s and became artist-photographer Man Ray's muse and mistress. Furthermore, pages and pictures devoted to Kiki are a small share of the total. That's okay, because the rest of the cast is an amusing and often, eventually, tragic lot that I, at least, find fascinating. As for Foujita, we find him at Kiki's book-signing party (p. 189), And there's a spread (pp. 180-81) devoted to him. Photos include three of him and third wife "Youki" (née Lucie Badoud, who later married poet Robert Desnos), one a portrait, another a publicity shot in his studio and one of them on the beach at Deauville. Another Deauville photo has Foujita and famed musical hall star Mistinguette hugging. Yet another shows him with singer Suzy Solidor on a beach wearing beach costumes he designed and made. Finally, there's a photo of Foujita riding a mini-bicycle along a boardwalk. Page 175 shows him playing drum for a miniature-circus performance by Alexander Calder (of later mobile fame) in his (Foujita's) studio. There's another spread (pp. 150-51) with a photo of the building where his fancy studio was located, and another of Youki, the expensive Ballot automobile Foujita bought her with their Basque chauffeur. Other pictures are of Foutjna vacationing in the Pyrenees and of painting Anna de Noailles. Pages 130-31 have party group-photos that include Foujita. A third spread (pp. 100-101) deals with early days of the Foujita-Youki relationship. There's more, but you surely get the idea that Foujita was a publicity hound as well as a successful society painter during the Twenties. So I found it interesting to read this fairly recent biography of the man by Phyllis Birnbaum, who knows Japanese and has spent plenty of time in Japan. I haven't read other books about Foujita to give me a wider perspective, but Birnbaum's biography strikes me as being fair in that she presents opposing takes on him by Japanese... posted by Donald at July 24, 2008 | perma-link | (3) comments

Un-PC Reading 2.5
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Back here I linked to a bravely un-PC column by Kevin Myers asking why the West bothers trying to save Africa. Hibernia Girl points out that Myers has written a followup column, and another, both of them as un-PC as the original column. * Don't miss Hibernia Girl's shrewd musings about why some societies require their women to cover their hair. * Back here I wrote about how much I value the work of the journalist Steve Sailer, who is so un-PC that he barely registers on the MSM's radar screen. I'm pleased to notice that Steve got a substantial mention in a recent CNN article about Barack Obama. As I wrote on Steve's blog, "I've long suspected that many in the MSM read Steve Sailer. Here's hoping that more of them will start to come out of the closet." * Back here I linked to some un-PC essays about current relations between the sexes by F. Roger Devlin. The smart and funny Roissy has picked up on Devlin and has written a provocative blog posting about the essays. Don't miss the commentsthread on Roissy's posting -- or for that matter the commentsthread on this brief warmup posting: It's Thursday vs. Clio. Perhaps F. Roger Devlin's ideas are on their way to becoming full-fledged memes. Here's Devlin's latest. Thanks once again to 2Blowhards commenter "anon," who introduced us to Devlin's writing. * More on dating, singlehood, pairing-up, women, and men. (Link thanks to Cheryl Miller.) * The Rawness attempts to explain why some women have a hard time getting hitched, part one. The Rawness is always a rockin' read. * How will Obama win over the elderly Jews? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 24, 2008 | perma-link | (19) comments

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Literary RIPs
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Back in those happy days when trilobites ruled the planet and I was taking English classes in college, the literary scene included poetry, short stories and the perennial hazy shadow of The Great American Novel. And now, there is desolation or a seriously good imitation of it. Poetry? Pretty invisible aside from precious little journals. True, Hilton Kramer and Roger Kimball include it from time to time in The New Criterion, but the cause is pretty well lost for the near term. And I'm no help. Although I'm capable of writing the stuff, I have zero interest in reading it. Moreover, my prospects of becoming the Lone Ranger in that regard are zilch on steroids. Short stories? When I was a kid, mass-circulation magazine such as Saturday Evening Post and Collier's -- not to mention the women's magazine my mother read -- had lots of short fiction to complement their other articles. Today, mass-circulation magazines that include fiction represent a diminished species. My impression is that, aside from anthologies, short fiction is mostly found in "little magazines" and genre magazines (think mystery, sci-fi). As for The Great American Novel, I'm not sure that there ever was such a thing. Rather, it was a semi-mythical Quest that writers with a couple of halfway decent-sellers under their belts wanted to take on. Maybe the whole idea was simply a joke. Still, I've seen it mentioned for about as long as I can remember. Actually, the notion of encapsulating a large nation is a single novel seems absurd. And it was absurd even in the time of Theodore Dreiser and Sinclair Lewis; Small-town Minnesota or big-city Illinois are not each other, nor are they Pennsylvania coal-mining country, the Deep South or Monterey's canneries. About the only country remotely capable of being encapsulated by a work of fiction is the Vatican, and even that would be a toughie to pull off. Later, Donald UPDATE: Mulling over the concept of The Great American Novel 15 minutes after posting the above, I suppose the phrase might have to do with a great novel written by an American. This would make sense in the context of American cultural inferiority to Europe that lasted into the 20th century. However, the phrase doesn't scan that way. The implication I've always drawn is that the theme of such a novel must be about America and reveal much about the character of the country. That is, the whole package -- author, subjects, theme -- must be home-grown. Since I never was an English major in college, I'll cop out and plead ignorance, letting Michael and others more familiar with the game take over in Comments.... posted by Donald at July 23, 2008 | perma-link | (49) comments

ST News
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Shouting Thomas makes it through a terrible stretch and discovers that life on the other side can be good. It's fun reading his observations about Philippine folk basketball and sticking it out in the music biz too. Buy a copy of ST's rollicking new party CD -- slyly entitled "Innocence" -- here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 23, 2008 | perma-link | (5) comments

Monday, July 21, 2008

Audio Musings 1
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- For a number of weeks now The Wife and I have been spending our days in an audio studio, recording, then editing, and now mixing an audiobook that we've co-written. If you're interested: It's a raunchy satire of the movie world, done in a radio-series- like fashion: 50 roles, 30 actors, 17 stories ... Our very own foul-mouthed, tons-of-story-lines, late-night HBO series, in a way, if minus the imagery. We'll be a little less ambitious next time out, that's for sure. Once we wrap up mixing chores, we'll be offering our masterwork online and charging for downloads. The audio-production process is fascinating -- a matter of hours upon hours of painstaking tedium interrupted by occasional bursts of giddy hilarity and satisfying creativity. Audio production is also its own distinctive little world, I've discovered. The techies, engineers, and producers are often fun, sparky, driven people. They're also far more down-to-earth and rough-and-ready than the writin' crowd, thank god. There's a distinctive character type that seems to thrive in the field: part geek, part rock 'n' roller. Many in fact have come to the field after spending years in bands; many continue to play in bands and / or make recordings on weekends. About 15 people work at the place where we're laboring over our epic and silly project. Two quick observations about them, and -- in honor of election year -- two quick questions. Observation #1: 12 of the 15 people working at this studio are males. Of the three females, two are office assistants. In other words, all but one of the audio engineers are male. Question #1: Do we have here a sign that the audio engineering field is biased against women? Observation #2: An amazing number of these guys show up at work wearing low-slung tight jeans and black death-metal t-shirts. Question #2: Is this proof that the field is biased against people who aren't metal fans? Time to call in the EEOC? Semi-related: I wrote back here and here about some of the differences between book-world people and movie-world people. A superb producer of audiobooks, frequent 2Blowhards commenter Charlton Griffin offers his latest production here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 21, 2008 | perma-link | (17) comments

Small-Car Styling
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Should little cars look quite similar to big cars? Nowadays most people would probably say No. But that wasn't always the case, as we shall see. Before we take a look, it's probably a good idea to mention a few engineering-related items that I hope will set the scene -- nothing very technical. By around 1910 most car makers standardized on the power train arrangement where the motor was near the front of the car, power was applied to the rear wheels and the linkage to the engive was a long drive shaft centered in the frame. About 1930, a few manufacturers began making cars where the engine powered the front wheels, eliminating the drive shaft at the price of added complexity. This arrangement was perfected and used in most cars by the 1990s. An arrangement that held theoretical appeal during the 30s and up to the mid-60s was rear-wheel drive with the motor also in the rear. Most of the time, engines were installed front-to-rear, the long axis in parallel with the long axis of the vehicle. Where there was the motor in front driving the rear wheels, this tended to result in a comparatively long car. Long, compared to a engine-front/drive-front arrangement where the motor was "transverse" -- its long axis at a right angle to the car's long axis -- this making for a very compact power train. Aside from the engine area, the major spaces in a car are devoted to the passenger compartment and the luggage area (trunk, in the USA). To make a car really compact, not much can be done with the passenger compartment because it has to be large enough to hold even fairly tall humans. So cutting luggage space to a minimum and using a transverse-mounted motor are the main routes to keeping overall length down. An ultra-compact car such as the Smart takes more radical steps including eliminating the rear seat and nearly all storage space. Gallery English Ford Model Y - c. 1935 This was E.T. "Bob" Gregorie's first production design. He worked at Ford from 1931 until the late 1946 with a year's hiatus following Edsel Ford's death. For much of that period he was styling director. Design-wise the Model Y was essentially a miniaturized standard car, vintage early 1930s. Fiat 500A - 1939 Topolino (Little Mouse) was the nickname given to the first version of the Fiat 500. Its small size was largely due to the elimination of the rear passenger seat, making it a small, Italian version of what in the USA was called a "business coupe" but without much storage area. Volkswagen - 1949 Although its design took most of the late 1930s to evolve, mass-production had to wait until after World War 2. The VW had a rear-mounted air cooled motor that drove the rear wheels. This configuration, along with a desire to make the car aerodynamic, resulted in an automobile that did not resemble standard cars of... posted by Donald at July 21, 2008 | perma-link | (11) comments

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Political Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Obama, the brand. * Bill Kauffman thinks that John McCain's Town Meetings have been farces. (Link thanks to fellow Kauffman fan Dave Lull.) * Crazy immigration policies in England have led to rising housing prices and declining services. Now who could ever have forseen such a development? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 20, 2008 | perma-link | (11) comments

More on Parking
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Does "free" parking come at too high a price? UCLA prof Donald Shoup thinks that we have our priorities -- and our pricing schemes -- all wrong. "I don't see why people should have to pay market rents to live in a neighborhood, but the cars should live rent free," he says. Watch an interview with Shoup here. Listen to one here. Here's Shoup's book about parking. I wrote about how well-done parking arrangements can help bring a downtown back to life back here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 20, 2008 | perma-link | (8) comments