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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tom Wolfe on Writers and College
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Tom Wolfe responds to questions literary on Time's web site (hat tip, Matthew Continetti, The Weekly Standard). One item: What are your feelings on the current state of fiction? Andrew Herold, JOHANNESBURG There's so little of it now that it's pathetic, and it's pathetic all over. Writers come from master-of-fine-arts programs now. If you add up the college education of Steinbeck, Hemingway and Faulkner, you get to spring break of freshman year. This comes from a guy who has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale. I, myself branded with those scarlet letters, tend to agree that college isn't all it's supposed to be -- and should do for you. Discuss. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 31, 2008 | perma-link | (23) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Peter Briffa isn't as cheered by a book celebrating capitalism as he'd expected to be. * Does any blogger write more evocative life-snapshots than MD? Examples here, here, and basically all over her blog. * Self-described "genre slut" Polly Frost writes in praise of short fiction here and here. Great passage: While it may not a good time in conventional book-publishing for short fiction ... "Maybe we creators of it need to be more entrepreneurial. Maybe we need to take more advantage of the online world, of Amazon's Kindle, of self-publishing, of audio, of doing live readings." * MBlowhard Rewind: I wondered about the relationship between negativity and criticism in the arts. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 31, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Friday, August 29, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A line of questions for the day, prompted by this typically beyond-absurd Nicolai Ouroussoff piece from the NYTimes: Why are mainstream architecture critics so focused on such a narrow sliver of building-activity and aesthetic experience? And why are they so averse to taking note of life as it's actually lived? Translated into action, this latter question might lead a critic to -- oh, I don't know -- pass up the latest Gehry or Hadid and instead visit the malls, developments, schools, restaurants, and parks that real people really interact with, learning about and from them, and offering critiques and appreciations. A pretty radical thought, I know ... And -- further! -- why are civilians (and editors, who are supposed to represent the interests of their readers) so willing to put up with this kind of twee carrying-on? Funny how certain kinds of kooky behavior can become the expected thing, isn't it? For example, we take it for granted that an architecture critic should be spending most of his column inches pontificating about the likes of Steven Holl. Yet if the Times' food coverage only concerned the latest $500-a-plate chic eateries -- neglecting cheaper places, farmer's markets, home cooking, etc -- we'd all be having daily laughs at the expense of the newspaper's clueless and pompous twerpery. Further comparisons: What if a magazine's "music coverage" only took in the latest bits of spikey experimentalism? Of if its "movie coverage" paid attention only to the hottest expressions of post-avant-garde-ism? All of which makes me wonder: Where architecture and architecture criticism are concerned, why don't we have a more active (perhaps even a "vibrant") let's-ridicule-these- snobs-out-of-existence movement in the blogosphere? My hunch of an answer: Since many people spend zero time taking note of their environment, it never occurs to them to search out quality conversation about it. Too bad. Link thanks to the smart, funny, and quirky Gil Roth, who has recently been reading Montaigne and enjoying the company of Rufus the daffy and irresistible greyhound. For some reason, when I try to link to Gil's site, the effort torpedos this posting. Gil's site, which otherwise behaves perfectly well, is at: Get to know Rufus at: Go and visit. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 29, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The country most afflicted by spam is Switzerland, where 84.2 percent of all email is spam. (The percentage in the U.S. is 79.8.) Source. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 29, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ideal Speech Length
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- It's political convention time and, for some strange reason, I got to thinking about the length of speeches. As I write this, Obama has yet to deliver his acceptance speech. But the speechifying at the Democrat convention is nearly over and I'm pleased to report that most of the ones I heard were blessedly brief. Even Bill Clinton who, given ten minutes, went on for only around 20, discounting applause. That's a big improvement over his State of the Union speeches that seemed to soak up an hour or so. I suppose the ideal speech length is equivalent to Abraham Lincoln's (well, he's the guy I 've heard it linked to) quip that one's legs should be long enough to reach the floor. In other words, it should be long enough to do the job, but no longer. That, and the speaker should leave 'em wanting more. Nevertheless, I hark back to the monthly army "training" sessions I had to endure while stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland. Part of the drill was a "character guidance" segment given by one of the chaplains. The best of that lot was Father Nosser. He'd walk into the room. light up a non-filtered Camel cigarette, droop himself over the lectern and start talking. Eight or so minutes later, when the cigarette was about 3/8ths of an inch long, he'd grind it out and stop his lecture. Smart guy, that Father Nosser. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 28, 2008 | perma-link | (5) comments

Ropke Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- An underknown giant in economic thought -- or so it seems to me -- is the German "ordoliberal" Wilhelm Ropke ). An advocate of the free market, Ropke nonetheless spent much of his career gnawing over the question: "What if the activities of the free market undermine the social conditions that the existence of a free market depends on?" Many who argue that a society isn't just a marketplace turn out to be either boring ol' leftists or boring ol' rightists, of course. Considerably Crunchy (localism, federalism, respect for small farms and businesses) yet much preoccupied with the basics (soundness of currency, noninterference, ease of trading), Ropke seems to me to offer a refreshing alternative to the two-teams-and-only-two-teams shootout that we're used to (dogmatic "freemarketers" vs. top-down, dial-twisting Keynesians). He was anything but a True Believer, disliking Socialism and statist capitalism equally. "Good man!", sez I. There aren't many Ropke resources on the web at this point -- the fate, perhaps, of those who don't play along with the usual version of the usual story. But some of them are awfully good. * John Zmirak's short intro to Ropke makes a punchy and likable starting point. Zmirak's longer essay introduces some depth and complexity into the picture. * Zmirak's book-length intro to Ropke is a clear and fast read. (John Attarian writes a very informative review of the book here.) Zmirak himself is a very interesting guy in his own right, provided that your tolerance for being-interested-in- and-amused-by Catholicism is pretty high. He makes regular appearances at Taki's magazine. * Shawn Ritenour's article-length biography of Ropke fills in much of the personal story. * Note where these links lead: Vdare ... The Mises Institute ... Weird, isn't it, the way that someone as Small-Is-Beautiful and Crunchy -- someone as downright liberal -- as Ropke has these days become the property of what's currently thought of as the fringe Right? How to explain this? * Alan Carlson's brainy and handy-dandy intro includes this concise passage: Röpke once declared: "It is the precept of ethical and humane behaviour, no less than of political wisdom, to adapt economic policy to man, not man to economic policy." He was a fierce foe of both state socialism and uncontrolled capitalism. He advocated a market-friendly but socially responsible free enterprise economy based on widespread ownership of property and economic enterprises. Fun to see Carlson making a connection between Ropke and the New Urbanism. * Ropke may be one of those cases where you're better-off sticking with the secondary material. Though a magnificent thinker -- and nothing if not clear in his presentation of his perceptions, ideas, and arguments -- Ropke was a sadly boring writer, ponderous-old-Swiss-professor division. His "A Humane Society," "The German Question," and "The Economics of a Free Society" are great books, but if you're like superficial me and like prose that has some tang, zip, and spin in it, you may spend a lot of time in... posted by Michael at August 28, 2008 | perma-link | (16) comments

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cross-cultural Tidbit
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Yesterday while out for coffee I sat near a women reading a Peter Rabbit story to her daughter. The lady was wearing a tee-shirt with various writings on it including the URL for KosherKungFu dot-com, the School of the Macabees website. Seattle is such an interesting place to live. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 27, 2008 | perma-link | (1) comments

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Munich's Master Poster Artist
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- He wasn't a professional painter. I don't even know if he painted as a hobby. So I can't call him a Peripheral Painter for that reason. Nor can I call him "peripheral" because his work is well known to poster-art buffs. On the other hand, even though New York's Museum of Modern Art has a few of his posters in its collection, his work wasn't avant-garde enough to satisfy modernist purists. That and the fact that he did posters for government agencies during Hitler's regime in Germany. The artist in question is Ludwig Hohlwein (1874-1949) who began his studies as an architect, but made his career as a Munich-based poster artist. I haven't been able to find much biographical information about him aside from here and here. The second link is to Paul Giambarba's illustration site, which is well worth perusal. Below are examples of Hohlwein's work. The Giambarba link has some of these as well as other examples. Many more can be seen by googling on Ludwig Hohlwein and then linking to Images. Gallery Combination of a top poster artist and top automobile. Makes me want to dash off and buy that car. (Hope it has air conditioning, a six-speed automatic transmission, a GPS and good fuel economy.) "Spring in Wiesbaden" seems to be a travel ad from just before or after the Great War. Hohlwein was born in Wiesbaden, which might have provided added incentive to do a really nice job. Speaking of the Great War, this is an advertisement from early in the conflict (to judge by the helmet) for some kind of "strength and energy" confection. A portable typewriter advertisement, probably from the 1920s. Much of Hohlwein's work, including this, seems to have been done using watercolor washes. Note the skillful portrayal of facial and other planes. Advertising a line of mens' clothing. Another fashion poster, but probably late in his career if the dress is any clue.. The swastika tells us this was done during World War 2. I'm not sure why Hohlwein portrays what appears to be a bare-chested man wearing a stahlhelm (steel helmet) and holding onto a pole of some sort. The caption translates literally as "air protection" or "air security" which might refer to an air warden or air defense -- though wehr might be a better word than schutz for the latter meaning. This is a detail from a poster advertising a brand of cigarettes. I think this is an extremely skillful piece of work. My only quibble is the low spot on the hair above the forehead that seems to be too low to accommodate the likely shape of the woman's head. On the other hand, it's likely Hohlwein worked from a photo to get the facial shading, so who knows? Oh do I wish I had Hohlwein's drawing and watercolor skills!! Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 26, 2008 | perma-link | (8) comments

Sex Relations
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few links for those who have been fascinated by what Roissy and F. Roger Devlin represent and say: * Expectations about office behavior seem a little different in Russia than they are here in the States. * A wiki devoted to spanking. The entry on "paddle" is very informative. * Kathleen Parker praises men and argues that they've been unfairly browbeaten for decades. (Link thanks to ALD.) Neil Lyndon writes that when he said similar things 20 years ago, "the response to my work was a torrent of abuse," he recalls. "I lost all my work and income and was bankrupted." * BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman says "The worst thing you can be in this industry is a middle-class white male. If any middle-class white male I come across says he wants to enter television, I say 'give up all hope'. They've no chance." * The world's best condoms. Best, Michael UDPATE: The Olympics ... Where the athletes are concerned, it isn't just about sports. "I am not implying, for one moment, that every athlete in Beijing is at it," writes Olympian Matthew Syed. "Just that 99 per cent of them are." A passage that should interest the evo-bio crowd: It is worth noting an intriguing dichotomy between the sexes in respect of all this coupling. The chaps who win gold medals - even those as geeky as Michael Phelps - are the principal objects of desire for many female athletes. There is something about sporting success that makes a certain type of woman go crazy - smiling, flirting and sometimes even grabbing at the chaps who have done the business in the pool or on the track. An Olympic gold medal is not merely a route to fame and fortune; it is also a surefire ticket to writhe. But - and this is the thing - success does not work both ways. Gold-medal winning female athletes are not looked upon by male athletes with any more desire than those who flunked out in the first round. It is sometimes even considered a defect, as if there is something downright unfeminine about all that striving, fist pumping and incontinent sweating.... posted by Michael at August 26, 2008 | perma-link | (26) comments

Monday, August 25, 2008

Manny Farber, RIP
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I was very sorry to learn that the painter and film critic Manny Farber has died. He was 91. I loved his art (a few examples are here) and his criticism. The Wife and I spent a little time hanging out with Manny and his wife, the artist Patricia Patterson (they often wrote together), and I can report that I found him a lovable guy: spikey, difficult, and maybe even a little paranoid, but brainy, funny, and soulful too. There can't be many critics who made as big an impact on a medium with a single volume of writing as Manny did on movies with his legendary "Negative Space." But, as far as I could tell, his heart was really in painting. Half of him may have been a wisecracking, off-center, neurotic intellectual -- but his bigger half was a color-drunk west coast sensualist. Some highlights from the press and the blogosphere: David Chute offers some personal reflections, a lot of quotes, and a sensible evaluation. A 2006 Duncan Shepard memoir of his friendship with Manny and Patricia is also a fine snapshot of an amazing era in American art. Michael Sragow recalls his own friendship with Manny. Carrie Rickey recalls Manny's influence, as well as his impact as a teacher. Robert Pincus offers an appreciation of Manny's art and supplies a good short biography of him too. Green Cine Daily rounds up many more links. In sadness, Michael... posted by Michael at August 25, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

DVD Journal: "Youth Without Youth"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Tim Roth and -- inevitably -- a mirror Have there been many movie directors as obstinately wrongheaded in their evaluation of their own talents as Francis Coppola? As far as the world is concerned, Francis Coppola is someone who occasionally -- all-too-rarely, in fact -- delivers rounded, worldly, stately narratives that feature a moving amount of warmth, mass, and dignity. He's a grownup entertainer / artist -- William Wyler with some additional splashes of blood and tomato sauce. But as far as Coppola himself is concerned, Francis Coppola is an enthusiastic, inventive kid, amusing himself with dolls and toys -- a born innovator bounding between surrealism and the early New Wave, playing mischievously and irrepressibly with ideas and styles. Oh -- and not only that, he's also misunderstood. In the world's eyes, the first 2/3 of "Apocalypse Now" was pretty good -- too bad Coppola blew it in the final third. In Coppola's own view, the last third of "Apocalypse Now" was what the film was all about. Why doesn't anyone get that? His recent "Youth Without Youth" was the first film he'd made as a director in ten years, and it's the latest in a long string of movies Coppola has done in pursuit of his image of himself as a childlike visionary / charmer, a string that includes "You're a Big Boy Now," "One from the Heart," "Rumble Fish," "Tucker: The Man and His Dream," "Dracula," and "Jack." The main thing these films share -- in addition to an addiction to stylistic hijinks -- is an almost complete absence of emotional impact. As a style-noodler Coppola is unquestionably some kind of talent. Yet what's most striking about these movies is how little they convey in terms of human presence. Nothing counts, nothing takes; everything seems unanchored and arbitrary. They spin, they throw off a few sparks, and then -- pfffft. What? You were hoping for something more? In terms of its style, "Youth Without Youth" -- set in Romania from the 1930s through the 1960s, starring Tim Roth as a nerdish old scholar who's struck by lightning and regains a second chance at life, and taken from a Mircea Eliade novel -- is melancholy as all get-out. But it's basically as weightless as "One From the Heart." The '30s-ish title cards, the never-quite-a-melody old-Hollywood-style score, the self-conscious touches of movie magic ... They don't illuminate the material or promote engagement with what's onscreen. They register as mere style choices, which means they feel contrived, troweled-on, and about a quarter-inch deep. In the case of this movie, what Coppola mainly wants us to do is think about ideas. Our experience of time, mainly: cyclical vs. linear time seems to be what's fascinating him these days. Story, character, visuals, involvement -- these are there simply to get us thinking. I'm OK with playing with ideas, strangely enough. What I'm less OK with is the way that Coppola seems to have lost interest in "selling"... posted by Michael at August 25, 2008 | perma-link | (19) comments

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Did you know that the Census Bureau has revised its estimate of how many Hispanics will be living in the U.S. in 2050 twice in the last decade? Upwards in both cases, as if you didn't know. Current best guess: In 2050, the U.S. will be home to 133 million Hispanics. That's an increase of 100 million in just 50 years. Steve Sailer asks a wonderfully blunt, Steve-esque set of questions: Is adding 100 million Latinos to the U.S. population a good idea? Will it "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity"? (That’s the first sentence of something called the "U.S. Constitution"—a once-celebrated document put together way back when by a bunch of long-dead white guys, some of whom were slave-owners.) We the people are supposed to have a say in such things. But how can we have a say when we're not supposed to talk about it? * Mexico is opening a full-scale consulate in Anchorage, Alaska. * The Irish Independant's Kevin Myers continues pointing out uncomfortable facts. For example: "Contrary to almost all predictions about the impact of immigrants upon an economy, a majority of Nigerians [in Ireland] are not economically active at all." He also continues asking hard questions: Why are so many people, from a country to which we have no moral or legal or historical obligations, living off this state? Why are they being allowed through immigration, if they have no jobs to go to? Why are they choosing to come to Ireland, when 20 countries or more lie between their homeland and ourselves? And finally, and perhaps most important of all, why is no one else asking why? * A round of applause, please, for Hibernia Girl, who's retiring from the blogosphere to return to school. Immigration restrictionists and skeptics are usually portrayed by the establishment as knuckle-draggers, haters, and (inevitably) racists. Ever cheerful, generous, and clear-eyed, Hibernia Girl didn't just supply regular shots of information and common sense, she showed that resistance to the establishment's immigration plans can be a humane and sophisticated stance. A fun fact that she passed along recently: 59% of Irish voters want "much stricter limits" on immigration to Ireland. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 24, 2008 | perma-link | (47) comments

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Seeing Yellowstone Park ... Before it Explodes
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Your Faithful Scribe is drafting this posting at the edge of Yellowstone National Park and will add photos when I get back to Seattle. And I plan to be quick about it because this place might be atomized and blowing east at 30,000 feet any old time between now and half a million years in the future. You see, much of the park is a gigantic volcanic caldera where several immense eruptions occurred within the last two million years or so. There's a "hot spot" under the Earth's surface that a continental tectonic plate has been sliding over for tens of millions of years, a dead part of it being Idaho's Craters of the Moon area. It's similar to the situation in the Hawaiian Islands except that the Wyoming rhyolite rock helps create explosive rather than lava-flow type eruptions. For more information, click here. I'm here because Nancy's treating her grand-daughters and son & wife to a trip to someplace they've never visited. I'm along to do the driving. Snapshots are below. Gallery There are various ways to get to Yellowstone, but we had to fly because we had four days of high school reunion activities immediately prior to the time we were scheduled to be there, so there was not enough time to drive. This photo shows a Horizon airliner (of the type we flew) pulling up to the Bozeman, Montana terminal. Nice little airport, nice terminal, nice weather. As for ground transportation, we had four adults, two children and a bunch of luggage to contend with, so a Chevy Suburban filled the bill. The Suburban was redesigned last year, which means it's the latest and greatest. Actually, it really was a good vehicle for our purposes. There was enough storage space and elbow room, and the big slug handled well as we wandered through the park. If you wish to tour the park in style -- 1938 style -- there are a few touring buses like this one back on the roads. There were several generations of such vehicles roaming Yellowstone, Glacier and perhaps a few other national parks circa 1915-50, the one pictured being of the last generation from the mid-30s. They were built on a modified White truck chassis and have a canvas top that can be rolled back, allowing passengers to enjoy the sun and lofty sights. The modernized buses have modern steering wheels, instrument panels and other features. I love seeing 'em, but didn't take a tour in one, alas. Backing off a few yards to show the bus in front of the classic 1904 Old Faithful Inn. View of same bus taken from the deck over the porte-cochère of the Inn. That white smudge in the background is Old Faithful venting steam during an interval between shows. Once you hit the road there are occasional impediments, so don't expect to breeze from site to site. When I first visited the park in 1953, the problem was bears... posted by Donald at August 23, 2008 | perma-link | (8) comments

Friday, August 22, 2008

Music by Colleen
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- That adorable, spunky, and thoroughly dirty-minded born performer Colleen finally makes an appearance on YouTube, singing a very 21st century kinda blues: "The Dirty Keywords Search Song." NSFW, as though you were in any doubt. Go here for a wee bit more, or visit Colleen at her usual webhome. Colleen writes about doing the gig here. Hey, The Wife and I have done In the Flesh too. Spanking fan, cupcake aficionado, and In the Flesh impresario Rachel Kramer Bussel is a culture-world mover and a shaker in more ways than one. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 22, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Work / Life
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Speaking of retirement, attitudes towards work, etc ... Here's a nice passage from an email sent to me by occasional visitor Karlub: For the last two years I have a work-life which is ideal: About four hours a day from the house. It only works out because of lifestyle adjustments, the biggest being only having one car between me and the wife, and shelving any desires for grander housing. Still have enough dough, though, to eat well and hit concerts and plays every once in a while. Point is, I've done the 60 hour a week pace with more money. This is way better, and I would be happy to do it this way until I croak. Of course, that assumes my clients will let me. That's all to say I agree with your outlook. I am flummoxed by people for whom work is the key to their psychology. I'm a work to live guy. Not a live to work guy. It is inconceivable to me, in fact, that anyone would voluntarily have any other outlook. How about you? Are you a live-to-work person or a work-to-live one? Thanks to Karlub. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 22, 2008 | perma-link | (10) comments

The Retirement Process
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- As has often been noted on this blog, it's tough times in the old-media biz. One after another, companies whipsawed by the digital revolution are reorganizing processes and shedding staff. Announcements about layoffs and other spasms appear in the press almost weekly. One recent victim of these developments has been yours truly. Or should I say "beneficiary" instead of "victim"? In brief: The company where I worked for decades recently ran a buyout program, offering a package of enticements to the aged and the deadwood (that'd be me) in an attempt to get them to leave voluntarily. Translation into English: My employer let its long-term employees know that they'd throw a bunch of money at us to go, and that such an offer wasn't likely to come around again for a long time. Not only was the writing on the wall, the wall was closing in. After treating myself to a good long think about the offer -- of the duration of, say, a few deep breaths -- I headed upstairs and handed in my acceptance. For a couple of months now, in fact, I've been a free man. Don't feel too envious of me. The dough thrown at me to go wasn't gigantic. It wasn't even big. And the benefits package given to me is certainly nothing I'm gonna sneeze at, but it doesn't really come to a lot. True, barring a worldwide calamity, The Wife and I will never have to work again -- and we're only in our mid-50s. But in order to maintain our freedom we'll be living like college kids. OK, now that you mention it, it is a little like winning a small Lotto jackpot, or maybe winding up with that small trust fund we all dream of inheriting. OK, now that you mention it, you can envy me a little bit. OK, now that you mention it: I wake up every morning, think to myself, "I don't have to go to the office today," and smile in deep self-satisfaction. I found the process of retiring quite interesting. From the first rumors of the buyout to now, it has been more than six months. It has been such a distinctive and weird stretch of time in fact that The Wife and I have decided that someone somewhere should make a movie about such a process. Easy, good, out-there-for-the-taking title: "The Buyout." It's an idea rich with opportunities for ensemble acting, for sociological and psychological observation, and for satire, let me tell you. And it'd certainly be timely. Robert Altman, where are you now that we need you? A few observations about the retirement process: Have you heard of the expression "short-timer"? A "short-timer" is someone who's still at work even though he has already made other arrangements. I believe the term originated in the military. Gustav Hasford used the expression as the title of his 'Nam novel "The Short Timers," which became the basis for Kubrick's "Full Metal... posted by Michael at August 22, 2008 | perma-link | (26) comments

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Alexander Effect
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- James Kunstler confesses that it didn't all come together for him until he read Christopher Alexander and Andres Duany. I've run into professional architects who have told me similar things -- that they were out there, practicing architecture for a living, yet they didn't really "get it" until they stumbled across Alexander's great "A Pattern Language" and / or his equally-great "The Timeless Way of Building." "Suburban Nation" -- by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck -- is pretty damn mind-opening too. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 21, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Apatoff Performing Arts Link
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I suppose I ought to write about Performance Art. But, Hey!, I don't have to. That's because occasional commenter David Apatoff (who has a very nice blog dealing with illustration) has done so already. Here is the link to the relevant post from early this year. Preview: an "artist" who artfully decided to totally opt out of art for a year, presumably out of disappointment or spite over a performance project that failed to gel. And there are other examples of what's been happening in that line of "art." Enjoy. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 21, 2008 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Genre Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Polly Frost bemoans "audio overload" in contempo horror films. One especially concise, "I wish I'd said that myself!" passage: "A person’s nerves can only take so much before they tune out entirely." * Vince Keenan is dazzled by a new Lawrence Block novel. * Andrew Klavan makes some good psychological-crime novel suggestions. As it happens, psychological suspense is my own favorite narrative genre. I wrote about the genre back here. * I see that New York's legendary Mysterious Bookstore has just started a blog. Many of the entries are written by crime-fiction dean Otto Penzler himself. * Listen to an interview with Otto Penzler -- who is, IMHO, a major figure in contemporary American book-fiction -- here. Is it a complete coincidence that the interview was published by a rightie outfit? Sigh: Why doesn't the leftie-arty set see more in genre fiction? It may be worth pointing out that genre fiction is, in the U.S. at least, the book-fiction of "the people." Hey, didn't lefties used to make a big deal out of their commitment to "the people"? * MBlowhard Rewind: I raved about two novels that struck me as genuine 20th century greats -- but that you won't find on any official canon: James M. Cain's mean yet fullbodied "Mildred Pierce," and Francis Iles' sly, creepy, and beyond-brilliant "Before the Fact." (UPDATE: Mr. Tall enjoyed "Before the Fact" too.) * A fab bit from a recent Robert Townshend comment about American crime writing: There are no grand moral backgrounds, no straining for hard-boiled glamour. The prose is level, which always helps. The evil is shabby and domestic. I feel relaxed-in-a-good-way when I pick up a Goodis or James M. Cain, also Woolrich, Fredric Brown, others. The quality is very uneven -- nearly all these guys died of the booze -- but I usually pick up their works with a sense of relief and refreshment. And ain't that well-said? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 20, 2008 | perma-link | (10) comments

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Homage to a Catalan
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- If I were ordered to produce a league table for nations with respect to Western painting as reported in standard art history narratives, the Big Three would be Italy, Holland/Flanders and France. At or near the top of the following rank would be Spain, largely thanks to Velásquez, El Greco and Goya in pre-Modern days. In more recent times, regardless of what one thinks of their work or personalities, it's impossible to deny that two of the most famous 20th century painters were Spanish: Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Dalí was Catalan, Picasso spent his mid-teen years in Barcelona, Joan Miró was from Barcelona, and Hermen Anglada (who I wrote about here) also was from Barcelona. Catalonia, in Spain's northeast, has been uncomfortably Spanish. Catalans have their own dialect, which causes friction with the rest of the country. The region's proximity to France helps make it more "European" than distant parts of the country. These matters and others are treated in the book Barcelona 1900 which deals with the tug of mainstream European avant-garde art and architecture on Barcelona's artistic community. An artist featured in that book is Ramon Casas i Carbó. I wasn't aware of him, but liked his work and thought I'd show you some examples. For biographical information, click on the link above. Gallery Après le Bal - 1895 Before Bathing - c.1895 Madeleine - n.d. From the name, it was probably done in Paris. Mujer Conduciendo - early 1900s This "woman driver" looks like it might be intended for a poster. Julia Peraire portrait - c.1907 Julia was his model, later mistress, and eventual wife. Julia sketch - early 1900s In 1906 he met Julia Peraire who was born around 1888. I wonder a little if this is the same Julia because the woman looks older than 18 and the style of clothing she is wearing was on the way out in 1906. Portrait sketch of Pablo Picasso I'm tossing this in just to show that Casas could depict males. Actually, he did a lot of drawings and paintings of men, but I like looking at his women better. Sketch of woman Lautrec-like, but not so caricatured. Sifilis poster Casas did a good deal of poster art. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 19, 2008 | perma-link | (10) comments

Movie Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * David Chute suspects that Asian Westerns may be the next hot movie thing. * Bay Area film buffs: Get thee to the Pacific Film Archives, where a series of films based on the writings of noir god David Goodis has a few more days to run. Kelly Vance writes a helpful intro to the series, and to Goodis too. * Supersmart Ramesh Ram enthuses about about "HellBoy II," and is lovin' his Kindle. * Anne Thompson notices that celebrity noses are growing smaller. Sigh: Must everything in America always evolve in the direction of corporate cookie-cutter blandness? Life needs more tang, not less, dammit. * Michael Bierut raves about a new documentary about Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers. * Costume-lovin' blogger The Costuminatrix loves the coats in "Brotherhood of the Wolf." * MBlowhard Rewind: I rhapsodized about the French actress Sophie Marceau. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 19, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Monday, August 18, 2008

Political Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * It's almost enough to rekindle my faith in humanity: The percentage of people who think Congress is doing a good job recently dipped into the single digits. * Meet the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate, Bob Barr. Link thanks to the smart and interesting Nathancontramundi, who also reprints a great passage from one of my faves, Wilhelm Ropke: "The welfare state itself takes care of a sort of comfortable stall-feeding of the domesticated masses. Is this not bound to work to the benefit precisely of existing large firms?" * Dave Lull wonders if Peggy Noonan has taken to channeling Bill Kauffman. Hey, team: Politics in America isn't just a matter of Dems vs. Repubs, it also has to do with our rootless, centralizing elites vs. the rest of us. Nice passage from Peggy: OK, quick, close your eyes. Where is Barack Obama from? He's from Young. He's from the town of Smooth in the state of Well Educated. He's from TV. John McCain? He's from Military. He's from Vietnam Township in the Sunbelt state. Chicago? That's where Mr. Obama wound up. * Lester Hunt examines what sounds like a kooky new idea: the tragedy of the anticommons. * Agnostic wonders if porn really has gone mainstream. Don't skip the comments. Postmodern Conservative responds. * Randall Parker isn't thrilled by the way honor killings have begun showing up in American crime stats. * Orthodox Agrarian feels inspired by the folk culture of the Scandinavian peasantry. * Is what really drives many liberals a crusading, even zealous desire to achieve one world? * Thomas Fleming explains some of the cultural differences between the U.S. and Mexico. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 18, 2008 | perma-link | (11) comments

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- In Iraq, Al-Qaeda leaders have attempted to prevent women from buying cucumbers. Source. Still, there's no getting around it: A woman handling a cucumber can be a suggestive thing. My suggestion: How about we enjoy the moment and maintain a decent amount of self-control at the same time? Hey, how about we experience that combo -- arousal, humor, and dignity -- as sexily worthwhile in its own right? Enlighten me please: What is it that fundamentalists find so threatening about contrasts, dissonances, multiple levels, ironies, paradoxes, provocations, and flirtations? I pretty much live for 'em myself. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 18, 2008 | perma-link | (81) comments

Reunion, One Step Removed
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Once again, it's 50th high school reunion time. Not mine: that was last year. This time it's Nancy's, but I went to some of the events, including a Friday casual and the Saturday main show. Believe it or not, there are some high school sweethearts from the same class who got married and stayed alive and married; they go to one 50th together, and that's it. Much more often a class member is married to someone who didn't attend the same high school. So the spouse has the choice of not showing up and letting the side down or attending and being pretty bored. Well, I suspect a man is more likely to be bored than a woman; women, tending to be more social, are likely to start talking and making new friends on the spot. I happen to be in yet another category. Nancy and I attended the same high school, classes of 1958 and 1957, respectively. She knew a lot of my classmates and had a great time at my reunion events last year. I know some of her classmates, so I was at least able to visit with a few people. My rule of thumb is that high school kids are more aware of people in classes before theirs than in the classes behind them. That's because older students hold leadership positions or otherwise are in the spotlight while younger students are still learning the ropes and looking for role models. Whereas I remember some of the '58 guys by name, I found it hard to find common experiences to yak about. I suspect that's because we weren't in many classes together, unlike the case with my own classmates. The gals are a different matter. I was a pretty shy guy in high school and didn't date heavily until I entered college. But I did pay strict attention to the cute younger ones, including Nancy. My main gripe about her reunion is that many of the women I would have loved to have seen again didn't make it to the events. Some had died, others live too far away, and still others apparently had no interest in attending. In some ways, perhaps it's just as well that those cutie-pies didn't show up. Fifty years take a toll on everyone, and the very prettiest girls often seem to be the ones hardest hit. My theory is that's because the contrast is so stark. Less-attractive girls and most guys (who were never "pretty" in the first place) get the same sorts of wrinkles, saggy skin and rattier hair, but the changes seem more appropriate somehow. On the (inevitable) other hand, I noticed a few women who struck me as being more attractive than they were in high school. One seemed to have lost her facial "baby fat" revealing some nice bone structuring. Her smooth skin suggested a little surgical touching-up; but I can't prove that, and like to think what I admired was... posted by Donald at August 18, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Bryan Meets Arthur
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- "The Black Swan," complexity theory, the movie business, Gary Taubes, evolutionary thinking, behavioral economics ... and what all of them may be able to tell us about sensible eating and staying fit. Bryan Appleyard meets the fascinating Arthur De Vany, who's quite a phenom. Nice passage: Almost all dietary and fitness regimes are based on a homeostatic view of the body – meaning it is a self-regulating system that maintains itself in a continuous, stable condition. The average is the ideal. So we are told to eat regular meals consisting of a balance of the food groups and to take regular exercise, dominated by steady aerobic activity like cycling or jogging. This is all wrong. Link thanks to Dave Lull. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 18, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Less-Forgotten Painters
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Regular readers know that from time to time I write postings about painters who can be unknown to people who took Modernist-centered art history classes in college (myself especially included). My impression is that many of these neglected painters are beginning to be pinged by cultural gatekeeper sonar. Impressions are one thing and numbers are another, usually better, means of trend-tracking. And I have some numbers. Not great numbers, but better than nothing. What I did was grab a couple of "art and artists" "dictionaries" (I'm cribbing from two nearly identical titles) and compared the artists they covered with those I wrote about. The first book is the Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists, 7th Edition. It was first published in 1959 and the 7th Edition came out in England in 1997. Only Giovanni Boldini and Jules Bastien-Le Page have their own entries. The other book is the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Art & Artists, 3rd Edition. The first edition appeared in 1990 and the latest in 2003. Artists I wrote about that were mentioned are Cecilia Beaux, Boldini, Albert Edelfelt, Axel Gallèn, Philip de Laszlo, Helene Schjerfbeck, Valentin Serov, Joaquin Sorolla and Mikhail Vrubel. The Oxford book has about 650 pages and the Penguin only 580, but that difference is too small to account for the disparity in citations. The Penguin edition is only six years older than the Oxford one, but the first editions are separated by 31 years, which might (or might not) be a factor with greater impact than the tastes of the compilers. A better test would be to compare various editions of the books to see how many of my "peripheral" artists were added over time. Unfortunately, I don't have earlier editions handy. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 17, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- High school cheerleading accounted for 65.1 percent of all catastrophic sports injuries among high school females over the past 25 years. Source. Photo found here. Best, Michael UPDATE: Enjoy loads of funny and smart comments at Marginal Revolution. My favorite: "I like human pyramids!"... posted by Michael at August 16, 2008 | perma-link | (10) comments

Question for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- In an amusing column about the Olympics, The Times of London's Simon Barnes asks, "What’s happened to women’s breasts? Once, female swimming champions had them, now they don’t. They have broad shoulders and wide chests, but no lumps on them." He supplies an answer too. Link thanks to visitor Barry Woods. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 16, 2008 | perma-link | (0) comments

Friday, August 15, 2008

'Burb Thoughts, Info, Questions
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I dropped this comment on a recent posting about Bill Kauffman, Fred Reed, and James Kunstler. Since the commentsthread was dying out, and since I'm curious about how people will respond to some of my points, I'm reprinting it here. It's good to be blog-host. Was somebody arguing that all malls are bad? Let alone that Fred Reed, James Kunstler and Bill Kauffman are philosophers? I missed those parts of the posting. One fact that a surprising number of you bright people seem unaware of is that post-WWII US suburbia is anything but a spontaneous creation of the free market. There were suburbs before WWII, god knows. And the movement of some people from the city to the edges outside the city is apparently a constant in history. But post-WWII US suburbia -- collector roads, cul de sacs, strict zoning separating retail, industry, and residential, and zero access to public transportation -- is something quite distinct, and quite a weird, never-before- seen-on-the-face- of-the-planet type creature. Post-WWII suburbia is at least partly (if not largely) a function of a number of factors: government guarantees for home-mortgage loans; government sponsorship of freeway building (often said to be the largest civil engineering project in all history); a government-sponsored attack on city downtowns in the form of "urban renewal," which destroyed thousands of neighborhoods and hundreds of thousands of residences, and which forcibly displaced millions of citizens from their homes; and a handy-dandy tacit agreement between government and industry to support and encourage car culture. Notice how many times the word "government" appears in the above paragraph. OK, few people were forcibly moved to the new 'burbs (though some millions were indeed forcibly removed from their traditional city homes). But 1) that's a lot of carrots and sticks the country's elites were applying to its populace, and 2) that's a lot of top-down social engineering. Viewing post-WWII American suburbia as "normal," let alone as something that developed spontaneously out of people's freely expressed preferences, is like ... oh, I don't know, arguing that Cheetos grow on trees. They may be your personal favorite treat-- but your fondness for Cheetos is not a trustworthy guarantee that Cheetos grow on trees. In fact, they're the product of a lot of food engineering. Which of course is OK. But let's at least recognize that there are a few differences between an apple and a Cheeto. Now, would many people have moved to whatever kinds of 'burbs would have developed had the government not interfered, and if we'd all been left to our own devices? Could well be. Hard to know. A couple of questions for you market types? (I'm one myself, with some reservations.) 1) You're moving to a new city area. You're going to have to choose a place to live. We could think of you as a "housing consumer" shopping for a "housing product" in something called the "housing market." In and around many American cities the housing products... posted by Michael at August 15, 2008 | perma-link | (46) comments

Demographics, Politics, Discourse, Frankness
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The Census Bureau now predicts that whites will be in the minority in the U.S. by 2042. As a disliker of rapid population growth, I'll issue a semi-related groan over the fact that by 2042 the U.S. will likely have almost three times as many inhabitants as it had when I was born. Some subversive thoughts on the general topic come from Elizabeth Wright: What will be the consequence of other cultures dominating this formerly Anglo land? Will it matter ... if Asian groups, led by the Chinese and east Indians, displace the leading whites? (In the end, a century from now, regardless of the size of the Hispanic/Latino population, the Chinese and east Indians probably will have navigated their way to the national leadership positions.) As the Anglo-Euro population diminishes, why would people from these alien cultures subscribe to the prescriptions of a Thomas Jefferson, or care about the legacy of Magna Carta? When would the squabbling between the various ethnics begin over whose law is wisest and best fit to rule in the new, predominantly colored America? Punchline: The woman behind these words is anything but a white triumphalist, let alone a white nationalist. In fact, she's black. As I've tried to suggest in some previous postings on immigration policy, one of the things I dislike most about our current practices is that they're an insult and a disservice to the U.S.'s black population. A fun quote comes from Salon's Glenn Greenwald: One of the most striking aspects of our political discourse, particularly during election time, is how efficiently certain views that deviate from the elite consensus are banished from sight -- simply prohibited -- even when those views are held by the vast majority of citizens. I'll say. Greenwald is mainly writing about attitudes towards the mideast, but much same thing might be said about attitudes towards immigration policy. In polls, the percentage of Americans who feel that our policies are too liberal, if not downright nutty, runs from 60-80%. There are few political topics that many Americans feel as strongly about. Yet how openly -- and how regularly -- is the immigration issue discussed in our mainstream media, let alone by our most important candidates? The very smart, provocative, and rewarding Elizabeth Wright blogs here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 15, 2008 | perma-link | (27) comments

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Immersion in Another Life
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I almost never read multi-volume biographies. The only one I distinctly remember having read is William Manchester's two-volume effort taking Winston Churchill from birth to becoming Prime Minister. While Manchester put a lot of effort into the two Churchill books, he also wrote a lot of others; this biography is a lesser part of his literary legacy taken as a whole. Writers such as Emil Ludwig cranked out biographies of several subjects during their prolific careers. Then there are writers who concentrate (consecrate?) their career on only one person. Not being a Lit major or disciplined bibliophile, I can't rattle off names of extreme cases who spent essentially all of their careers chronicling a sole subject. I'm sure some savvy readers can provide examples. So let me at least toss out the name of John Richardson, who has written three parts of a projected (and not likely to be completed) four-volume biography of artist Pablo Picasso. The three volumes can be found here, here and here. Info on Richardson is here. Richardson seems to have written a few other books to help pay the bills for his Picasso project, so Picasso wasn't his life work, strictly speaking. And he had justification writing about Picasso because we knew the man. Some day I might get around to reading one of the books. Although the spending of decades to write a large biography of someone of importance is indeed a great service to many readers, I find it strange behavior. True, throwing oneself wholeheartedly into a cause is a disease of many young people. And having a "career" is a form of long-term devotion, though its motivation might well be wealth and a certain degree of notoriety or perhaps fame. But to devote one's professional life to the cause of re-living another human being's life seems, well, ... odd. Granted, a biographer needs to learn and report on a lot more than the details of a life; context is required to make sense of it. Perhaps the task isn't as limiting as it might seem. So maybe it's me that's the odd one who doesn't quite get the concept that vicariously living someone else's life can be more rewarding than living one's own. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 14, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Fred and Bill
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Two super-eloquent writers check in with some thoughts about place. Fred Reed riffs on a theme familiar to those who have read James Kunstler's rants about cities, towns, and sprawl. (Kunstler blogs here. Here's an especially lively recent posting. Bookwise, start with this eye-opener.) Great passage: I am not religious, at least in the sense of believing that I have the answers, but I am religious in the sense of knowing the questions. I know that there are things we can’t know, things even more important than making partner before the age of thirty. Doubtless most of us know this. Yet the tenor of life is not easily escaped. We try. People rush to Europe in search of the old, the quiet, and the pretty. Peddlers of real estate understand the urge, and hawk tranquil rural life while building the malls that will make it impossible. And so hurry comes to Arcadia. People then think of escape to the next small town. We spend a remarkable amount of time fleeing ourselves. Maybe instead we should build a place we like. Bill Kauffman writes to the local paper about the damage a mall did to his beloved hometown of Batavia, NY. (CORRECTION: The Batavian isn't the "local paper." It's an online local-news website for Batavia.) Dandy passage: The mall ought to have been dispatched long ago to that circle of hell reserved for brutalist architecture. For 30-plus years it has been a monument to misplaced faith in big government and capital-p Progress. Urban renewal was a catastrophe for many American cities, Batavia not least among them. The demolition of old Batavia was a crime against our ancestors, ourselves, and our posterity. Kauffman link thanks to Dave Lull. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 14, 2008 | perma-link | (23) comments

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Erotica Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The Polish women's volleyball team is the clear winner of the Best Shorts award at the Beijing Olympics. * Can anyone seriously dispute that women's beach volleyball is the greatest sport ever invented? * Franz Kafka: owner of a considerable porn stash. I love the defensiveness expressed by the Kafka-worshipping set, don't you? Hey profs: Kafka was a dude. He liked looking at sexy pix. Chill. * Erotica writer Mitzi Szereto is feelin' good about the publishing possibilities being opened up by Amazon's Kindle. * What do porn stars do after they retire? (Hyper-NSFW.) * MBlowhard Rewind: I mused about the topic of taboos. Short version: Perhaps we might consider violating and getting rid of them less and appreciating them and having fun with them more. Incidentally, and despite the fact that there's little I dislike more than making my motivations explicit ... OK, I also so hate making general rather than specific cases that I'm sometimes tempted to make a general case against the making of general cases ... But no, I won't go there ... Still, maybe the occasional wrestle with motivations and generalities can be useful ... The reasons I do these erotica linkages are twofold. In the first place, of course, linking to sexy stuff is easy and fun, and it gives my mischievous side a chance to romp. Sexy linkage-ery may be cheap thrills -- but I have great respect and immense fondness for cheap thrills. The entertainment I often like best doesn't shy away from titillation and provocation; in it, sensual and imaginative arousal are prized. So why shouldn't I, in my tiny way, play in the same spirit? In the second place, I like to think that I'm making a few points. Namely: Eroticism is a substantial part of life. Eroticism is an ever-more-prominent part of the spectacle that is popular culture. Eroticism is a culture in its own right, much as, say, dance is, or as cooking-and-eating is. Eroticism is, let's face it, one of the main reasons why many people are interested in the arts and the arts-life in the first place. Art seems like a sexy world, as well as a sexy thing to do, or to be caught up in, or just to visit. It seems to me that being open about all this ... Seeing it as something of legitimate interest ... As something that might or might not be delivering experiences of pleasure ... And suggesting that looking at it all from a contemplative, humorous, yet appreciative point of view (perhaps this describes the "aesthetic" point of view?) ... might be both interesting and rewarding. Works for me in any case. (And on a many-times-a-day basis!) If being involved in the arts -- and if following "culture" more generally -- didn't have a strong "sexy" component to it, I'd be flailing about in some other field entirely. If you disagree, please let me know. Always fun to compare notes. But... posted by Michael at August 13, 2008 | perma-link | (57) comments

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Maintainting Kinship
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm writing this from the Oregon Coast; regular blogging resumes on the 14th. Some cousins from my mother's side of the family decided it was time for a get-together, so some of us are doing just that. My mother had two brothers and the three of them produced a total of six children within a span of three years (the younger brother sired two more later on). Two of those six cousins lived in Seattle, so my sister and I saw them maybe half a dozen times a year. The bunch living near Portland, OR were harder to connect with, so we saw them once every two years or so (there wasn't an Interstate system in those days, and the drive took five hours). Upon reaching adulthood, most scattered. Me to the Army and then Philadelphia, etc., My sister to Sweden and Alaska for a while, the cousins to San Diego, Alaska, and elsewhere. Most of us are back in Washington state, but the only times I saw the out-of-towners in the last 30 years were at weddings and funerals. Anyway, the reunion is going well for the six of us and spouses who managed to make the trip. There is talk of doing it again. Funny how families can drift apart. Life itself -- jobs, children, whatever else -- can narrow kinship horizons. And geography can do the rest. I hereby publicly admit that I know nothing of the whereabouts of children of first-cousins on both sides of my family. Moreover, it would take serious digging to track down those on my father's side. This is conflicting. It's probably a good thing to keep track of family, but I don't do a very good job of it. And those cousins I lost track of, well, as far as I know, they've made no effort to locate me. C'est la vie. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 12, 2008 | perma-link | (12) comments

Monday, August 11, 2008

Which Conservatism?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Jack Kerwick thinks that neoconservatives don't deserve to be called conservative at all. * Bill Kauffman recounts some of the history of anti-war conservatism. Buy Bill's book on the topic here. Thomas Woods reviews the book. Bill wrote about Ron Paul here. 2Blowhards interviewed Bill Kauffman. Access all five parts from this posting. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 11, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Architecture and Urbanism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Architects go anti-modernism. * Should the federal government really be moving inner city residents to the suburbs? * How walkable is your neighborhood? My own scored 100 out of a possible 100. Have I mentioned that I haven't owned a car in over 30 years? * John Massengale isn't crazy about Beijing's Olympic architecture. A key passage: For every great monument like Bilbao, [contempo starchitecture] produces a thousand clunkers like Blue and San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum. And 100,000 anti-urban clunkers in Las Vegas, Houston, and American sprawl in general. * MBlowhard Rewind: I wrote about the failures of architectural modernism. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 10, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Friday, August 8, 2008

Whither Jaguar Styling
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- A year and a half ago I wrote about Jaguar's "Concept XF" show car that was said to be a preview of a new line of sedans whose styling was to be forward-looking and not rooted in past Jaguar designs. The sedan -- officially named the XF -- is in production and I noticed one on a local street a couple of months ago. No, that's not quite right. I almost didn't notice that the car was the new Jag because at first glance (I viewed it from the side), I thought it was a new Lexus! Now some observers might think looking somewhat Lexus-like would be a nice thing for a lesser car brand; what could be wrong with getting a little enhancement by association? A sprinkling of Lexus pixie-dust might be perfect for a brand such as Kia, but does nothing for Jaguar. The whole point of the XF is to create a new visual image that will define Jaguar for, at a minimum, the next few product cycles. Let's pause to compare the XF with the Lexus LS 460. No, the cars are not identical. But they aren't grossly different either. Gallery 1: Jaguar XF and Lexus LS 460 XF LS 460 XF LS 460 XF LS 460 Generally speaking, the Jaguar has a racier, more-curved roof profile and those large engine compartment exhaust gills back of the front wheel wells. The grilles differ as well as the shapes of details such as headlamp and tail light clusters. But major features such as the side panels, passenger compartment glass and door shapes are pretty similar. XF view showing grille The only styling features besides the name on the trunk chrome strip that tell me the XF is a Jaguar are the jaguar head on the medallion attached to the grille (see photo above) and maybe the fairings behind the headlights. So what else is usable as a styling theme that can be carried over to future Jaguars, identifying the brand to casual viewers? Hmm. That's a toughie. Perhaps those cooling gills -- though other makes such as Land Rover already use them, so that's not an exclusive feature. Okay, then it'll have to be the headlight cluster arrangement. It certainly can't be the overall shape of the car, because that's already 2008-vintage generic. The grille hole's shape might be a faint possibility if used in combination with the lights cluster. Other current Jaguar models have different grille shapes, so some facelifting would be in order if the theme I just proposed is used to bring the entire product line in synch with what Jaguar stylists and product planners have in mind for the future. Although the XF is a nice looking car, too much of its styling is like other cars; it is thematically weak, a bad thing for a brand built on distinctive styling. My opinion is that the break-with-the-past idea was a bad one. Jaguar has a strong styling... posted by Donald at August 8, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

What Is Making Us Fat?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Stephan catches the NYTimes making some dumb mistakes in a health story. It isn't fat that is making us fat, it's ... But best to hand it over to Stephan: Now that I've deconstructed the data, let's see what the three biggest changes in the American diet from 1970 to 2006 actually are: We're eating far more grains, especially white wheat flour We're eating more added sweeteners, especially high-fructose corn syrup Animal fats from milk and meat have been replaced by processed vegetable oils Wheat + sugar + processed vegetable oil = fat and unhealthy. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? This NYT article is just another example of how superficial journalism can really obscure the truth. Fun to read the comments on Stephan's posting about his three-eggs-and-butter breakfast too. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 8, 2008 | perma-link | (14) comments

A Brand Extension Too Far
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- At my tender age I've become used to buying products that I'm familiar and comfortable with. Breakfast cereal examples are Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Life and Wheat Chex. Trouble is, it can take me a minute or so to pluck a Life box from a supermarket shelf. There are two reasons for this. In the first place, there are lots of cereal brands on the market these days and a well-stocked store will stock most of 'em, it seems. And then there are the brand extensions, a marketing ploy that's been in full force for 30 years or more. So once I find the shelf with boxes of Life, I then have to sort through the various Lifes to find the one I want. (For the record, there's the original Life and in addition are Honey Graham Life and Cinnamon Life.) But that's okay. I'm a capitalist tool who thinks lots of brands and confusion trumps highly constrained choice (Nanny State Brand corn flakes, anyone?). Even so, even I have a breaking point. Today in our cereals/crackers cupboard I discovered Multi-Grain Wheat Thins. (For all the varieties of Wheat thins, click here -- the multi-grain ones are shown at the top of the right-hand column of the ten pictured brand extension boxes as of today.) To my feeble brain, the concept of a Wheat Thin not being jes' plain ol' wheat verges on the Zen. The other grain ingredients, the box says, are barley, millet, rye and rolled oats (there's also cornstarch, but I'm not sure that counts as a grain). Nabisco really ought to name them something like Multi-Grain Thins. They won't, because they lose the Wheat Thins brand-name inertia they've built up over the years. But at some point, too many brand extensions will ruin the brand by making it stand for nothing much in particular. The present ten varieties is already a lot to deal with, and debasing the wheat part probably won't improve prospects. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 8, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

More Dora
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Dora Torres? The 41-year-old Olympic swimmer whose physique -- and especially whose six-pack -- appalls and/or amazes? (Posting and commentsfest here.) She claims that the secret to her success is "resistance stretching": Did you catch that she's worked on like this for eight hours a day? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 8, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Eroticism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Ladies and gents, the following links should all be considered NSFW. Clear? Good. Now, on with the show: * God is good: Dita van Teese and Scarlett Johannson turn on the heat for Flaunt magazine. I wrote a little about burlesque queen Dita back here, and reviewed Scarlett's movie "The Island" here. * 35 years after "Don't Look Now" delighted viewers with a sophisticated sex scene featuring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, Nicolas Roeg (now almost 80) has released "Puffball," which also has some shocking scenes. Enjoy a visit with Roeg here. * Mark Lawson wonders if the internet has made cinematic sex irrelevant. * Erotica writer Polly Frost tells Readers Voice that she's a "maniac" for hooks, plots, and arcs. * Metal rules. * Alt-porn fans should enjoy the blog of Kristy Lee, a gifted young photographer who shoots a lot for Abby Winters. Kristy's "Book Shop Girls" is certainly an inspired couple of photos. * The blog Nostalgie is lots of fun for fans of '60s and '70s movies. * More nostalgia: a huge collection of covers from Lui magazine. Lui was an attempt to bring some Euro-sophistication to the men's-magazine genre back in the '60s and '70s. Interesting to learn that it was run by Daniel Filipacchi, probably best known in this country for masterminding long-term gal-favorite Elle magazine. * Hottest women on the web? * Veteran fetish video producer Carl La Fong says that if you aren't going to make your fetish material with care, then why bother at all? Which makes sense when you think about it ... As in, "if fetish material hasn't been treated fetishistically, what's the point?" Or am I wrong? * Good lord, what a messy love life she's had. * Somebody's erotic tastes were definitely shaped by a certain '60s Bond film. * The brilliant postpunk Swiss bikini-and-undies maker Maria Wagner is back with some new designs as well as a freshened-up website. NSFW in the spunkiest, most self-starting, and cutest kind of way. Maria's a fun model herself -- look for "Maria" among the models. That's her. * Jelena Jankovic - a topflight Serbian tennis player who looks like a Brancusi sculpture -- fetches some fresh tennis equipment. She certainly doesn't seem to have any trouble with the attention, does she? More of Jelena here and here, here. * Have a look at what Russia is doing with hiphop. As Barry Wood -- who sent the link in -- observes drily, it must be the first hiphop music to feature an accordion. * The French really do know what to do with public transportation. * Mark Morford thinks that the upgraded iPhone is nothing if not a perfect porn-delivery device. * MBlowhard Rewind: I marveled at a 2002 Cristina Aguilera music video. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 8, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Presidential "Race"
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- In the last few weeks a lot of ink and pixels have been spilled regarding the injection of race ("playing the race card") into the current presidential campaign. Here is one blog post I pulled off the Web documenting that there's an issue out there. It mentions that New York Times columnist Bob Herbert is upset that a John McCain video ad featured two white celebrity women and phallic symbolism as racist smearing of Barak Obama. (Apparently juxtaposing images of white women and a black man sends a racist signal.) I, your obedient servant, was aghast. Those racist RepubliKKKans are at it again! So I quickly polished my carefully honed Ivy League Ph.D.-in-Sociology research skills in an attempt to determine if this ghastly practice has spread beyond the confines of the usual right-wing fever swamps. And I discovered that it has!!! Gallery Rolling Stone - 20 March 2008 Jann Wenner has been known to stoop to publishing controversial items; anyone remember the "plaster casters" from the early days of the mag? The cover shown above has an image of Barak Obama that clearly suggests that the man might possibly be black/African-American. Time - 23 October 2006 Even mainstream news magazines have been in the process of inciting foul, mouth-breathing Klansmen to stagger away from their moonshine stills to vote their despicable prejudices. Observe that, one again, Barak Obama is portrayed as having somewhat dark skin color. Was some minor Time staffer playing around with Photo Shop or were senior editors involved in this smear? Newsweek, no date It was Newsweek that out-did the racism from the McCain gang. The vile video simply began with images of the white women before cutting to views of Obama. The cover shown above actually portrays Obama and a white woman together!!! Just what do you think those inbred rednecks will think of that? Oh, and note the not-so-subtle featuring of the word "Race" in the headline. Obviously the 2008 presidential campaign has turned viciously racist. I blame the mainstream news media. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 7, 2008 | perma-link | (5) comments

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Actress Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Being asked -- or expected -- by filmmakers to take her clothes off quickly became abhorrent to Greta Scacchi, fondly remembered by arthouse-goin' filmbuffs for her classy / luscious / racey turns in such '80s films as "The Coca-Cola Kid." Sadly, two of her best -- "White Mischief" and "A Man in Love" -- aren't available on DVD. This is mean of me, I suppose, but I never thought Greta had a lot to offer the audience beyond her beauty and her physical audacity. But reports from England say that she has become an imposing stage presence. Enjoy a little of what Greta so disliked doing here. (NSFW) * Sigourney Weaver never felt like the pretty one. People who know Sigourney only through her strong-jawed uber-woman (and often humor-free) film performances usually aren't aware of her gifts as a cut-up and and a comedienne. Too bad the movies so seldom made good use of her comic talents. Glamorous, bigger-than-life, and funny -- now that's a great combo. * MBlowhard Rewind: I rhapsodized about the super-talented, very sexy B-movie Euro-diva Joanna Pacula here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 6, 2008 | perma-link | (16) comments

Malehood in Trouble?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Judith Wood wants men to stop being so damn sensitive and weepy. * Is modern man in crisis? * Dani Katz wants to know why young guys aren't making the first move these days. Hey, youngdudez: Grow a pair, wouldya? Best, Michael UPDATE: More reactions to (and thoughts prompted by) F. Roger Devlin, by Tyler Cowen and many commenters, and at Figleaf. We had our own Devlin gab-fest back here. Read the latest Devlin essay here. * Tyler also points out an interesting New Scientist article asserting that most socially-dominent men get no genetic advantage out of being Alphas. Hmm, what will "Game" theory make of that? * Right Wing News asks three relationship experts to share some advice for the guys. I especially liked this bit: "It's a guy's job to have fun and to show a girl a good time." Quite amazing how clueless many American guys are, isn't it? Guyz: Courtship can -- and should -- be fun. * And, from the same article, a nice bit from "Game" expert Savoy: If you are a woman and you are wondering what a guy meant by something he did or said, usually it's the simplest explanation. Women tend to over-complicate men. Women, as a general rule, tend to assume what a guy is doing is related to her, his feelings about her, or his intentions to her more than it actually is. That's for darned sure. As I sometimes like -- or need -- to say to The Wife, "Honey, I'm doing everything I can not to open up a searching and deep relationship conversation here. All I'm really looking for at the moment is information." Then she gives me this real "disappointed in you" look, of course. It has got to be one of life's biggest disappointments for gals, that men are as simple as they are.... posted by Michael at August 6, 2008 | perma-link | (42) comments

Parental Frankness
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I have less than zero interest in kids. I find them to be uninteresting not-yet-people that do nothing but absorb time, money, attention, and energy. 15 minutes of smiling benignly at friends' brats and I've had my fill of children for at least six months. (A word for the tender of heart: I'm not making a general case here, I'm just talking about my own reactions to children.) Despite my kid-aversion, I rather enjoy checking in on friends' experiences as parents, at least when they're being frank and forthright. You hear funny stories, for one thing. For another, it's fascinating how treacly the popular-culture image of parenthood and kid-raising seems to be by comparison to the reality of actually birthin' and raisin' kids. And it's fascinating too the way that most parents know damn well that raising kids is often an exhausting, life-devouring business. An example. One new mom told me that when she gave birth to her son she felt no instant bond with him at all. Her friends (and books and magazines) had rhapsodized about transformative gushes of mommy emotion. But in her case, she pushed the kid out, waited for the emotions to slam her ... And nothing. There he was, there she was, and it looked like they were going to be spending a number of years together. Oh well. Another example: When one of those crazy mothers in Texas or the South killed four or five of her children, the press was full of outraged talking heads -- the professionally sanctimonious -- going on about how inconceivable the act was. Who could imagine a mother doing such a thing? But one daddy-friend of mine laughed and said that as far as he was concerned, the bizarre thing wasn't that a mother would kill her kids, the bizarre thing was that such murders didn't happen every day. "Kids," he said. "They run you ragged, they test your limits, they eat your life up. And then they do it again the following day." (Not to worry: Over time the mom I've told about grew fond of her son, and my daddy-friend strikes me as a very good father.) A standout in this parents-being-frank line comes from Sister Wolf, who confesses that she has always been fascinated by mothers who kill. One of many powerful, harsh-'n'-juicy passages: I was a new mother once again, with a baby boy who arrived two months early. He was tiny and precious and when I was finally allowed to bring him home from the hospital, he cried continuously. He cried for forty days and forty nights, and then he cried some more. Sometimes, at dawn, I would turn to his weary dad and sob, “What’s the point of him?” I honestly couldn’t remember. How lovely to put the usual Family Circle uckiness aside for a few minutes, no? But how much of such honesty can we realistically stand? If more people were more forthright more often... posted by Michael at August 6, 2008 | perma-link | (33) comments

Read and Discuss
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- In today's Leisure & Arts section of the Wall Street Journal, David Littlejohn registers his unhappiness with glass sculptor Dale Chihuly and the fact that the de Young Museum of San Francisco dared to install a major show of his work. I'm not sure how long the Journal keeps links live, so if you're interested in reading the entire article, click here soon. I happen to be something of a Littlejohn-skeptic. One reason is that he likes Rem Koolhaas' new Seattle Public Library main branch building and I hate the thing. (Yes, sensitive readers, I know that "Hate is Not a Family Value" but, alas, I sometimes allow my human weaknesses to come to the fore.) I also must report the fact that Chihuly and I overlapped briefly at the University of Washington's School of Art. But we didn't know of one another. That said, my assessment of Chihuly's work is a non-assessment -- I neither like it nor dislike it. Perhaps that's because, aside from rare instances, I'm indifferent to sculpture in a positive sense. But I can easily be negative about the silly stuff that passes as sculpture these days. Chihuly's works normally don't strike me as being silly, so I simply don't really react to them. ("Oh. That's probably a Chihuly, huh? Okay.") But the subject of this posting is not Dale Chihuly. It has to do with this paragraph from Littlejohn: The word most commonly used by Chihuly-fanciers to describe the works is "beautiful," a concept of little value in defining serious art after the Impressionists. Although some Chihuly objects appear snakelike or surreal, there is never anything troubling or challenging about them. It all looks strangely safe and escapist, even Disney-like, for art of our time. The writhing shapes and bright kaleidoscope of colors signify nothing but the undeniable skill of their crafters and the strange tastes of Mr. Chihuly. More specifically, I'm focusing on this sentence segment: "...'beautiful,' a concept of little value in defining serious art after the Impressionists." So he's saying that after 1885 or thereabouts, "serious" art has little or nothing to do with beauty and beauty has little or nothing to do with "serious" art? Discuss, if this interests you. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 6, 2008 | perma-link | (8) comments

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bloggers I Like to Read
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Believe it or not -- well, okay, you already probably believe it because I don't do much link-posting -- I don't read a lot of blogs. I have just over 20 sites bookmarked and should add a few more, but not many. As it is, this list normally takes me an hour to peruse each morning and I might spend another hour each day checking back for updates. And I'll click on interesting links. Most of this online effort is to gather news and opinions, but some of the sites I visit eagerly because of the quality of the writing (quality as I see it, benighted non-English major me). That is, I enjoy these bloggers' writing and look forward to reading more whenever I sit down at my computer. I'll mention some of my favorite blog-writers below. But first I need to mention that I'm excluding bloggers I know personally and those who comment here (many fine writers amongst them) -- to keep things as dispassionate as I can manage. One blogger I enjoy reading is Jonah Goldberg at the Corner on National Review's site. Jonah's writing influenced my blogging style in terms of using a casual, conversational style where appropriate and tossing in odd, funny bits. His early postings reflected his age (late 20s at the time), the casualness and humor dominating. Ten years, a book and many syndicated columns under his belt later, there is much less kid-stuff. Even so, I almost never skip a Jonah posting. So he's mostly a print-medium guy, but he does have a blog. That's Terry Teachout who is theater critic for The Wall Street Journal and writes for Commentary and other publications. His theater and music criticism strikes me as being fair and reasonable; perhaps that's because theater and music are definitely not my fields. And what he has to say about literary topics (about which I'm a dab better informed) also makes sense. Where I part company is painting. He seems to like soft, casually-painted landscapes and still-lifes whereas I go more for dramatic works featuring people. Teachout says he tries to write as he would speak, and his style is indeed conversational including the occasional colloquial or slangy phrase in his criticism pieces. The post 9/11 world brought forth a commentator on things military who blogged under the pen-name "Wretchard." Now he writes under his real name, Richard Fernandez. Fernandez is a Filipino living in Sydney, Australia. I don't know whether English is his first language, but he writes as if it were. His style tends to the "Just the facts, Ma'am" genre -- a spare, analytical stream of sentences and paragraphs with opinion and conjecture clearly labeled where necessary. I found this especially useful when military operations were discussed, because facts can be slippery during and immediately following operations and Fernandez seemed to know what he was talking about at the tactical level. The last blogger I'll mention today is Dean Barnett who... posted by Donald at August 5, 2008 | perma-link | (20) comments

Monday, August 4, 2008

More Self-Promotion
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Returning home after a day on the road, I was delighted to find two more voices praising the kooky webseries that I helped make. A brainy and supercool sci-fi site says of our creation, "It's probably going to be either too racy, or too weird, for most science fiction fans. But a vocal minority of SF viewers will embrace [it] with wanton glee." A "vocal minority" -- that's my kind of people! And one of the best movie critics writing has compared our series to early Almodovar. What makes this compliment doubly special is that the critic in question has repeatedly shown an inspired feeling for exotic popular entertainment. "Exotic popular entertainment" is exactly how we were hoping to be taken. We are not worthy of such attentions -- but that's certainly not gonna stop us from bragging about them. If you'd like a link to our webseries (and to the two above-mentioned pieces about it), shoot an email to me at michaelblowhard at that gmailish place. Related: I wrote about our adventures making our webseries here, here, here, here, and here. Back here I wrote about touring the country putting on live shows with The Wife. Three good early Almodovars are this one, this one, and this one. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 4, 2008 | perma-link | (1) comments

Olympics Time, Rant Time
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- And just when did you wash your hands of the Olympic Games? For me it must have been the 1976 round held in ... gee, I forget where it was. I used to pay attention to the Olympics. Honest, I really did. That was in the dark ages when an Olympiad was pretty much a track-and-field deal with a little swimming and a dash of other stuff tossed in. And the media coverage was easier to take. As a boy, it was in the form of sports page articles and the occasional newsreel at the local Bijou. Early television coverage wasn't so awful either. One could actually see many non-American athletes perform. And the focus was the events and not the recent coverage focusing on individual athletes and the "problems" they had to overcome or possibly even their "victimhood." (I'm not sure of this last one because I avoid TV coverage of the Olympics. Given the seemingly pervasive sob-story angle TV and local papers give the news these days, I assume it's ditto for the Olympics. Correct me if I'm wrong.) And of course there's all the money poured into a locality to construct the various facilities considered necessary nowadays for a proper Games. Money that might have better uses such as staying the the pockets of the local citizens. To all this I modestly offer two solutions: Have the summer Olympics permanently held in Greece. Better yet, get rid of the Olympics. After all, they still have all those "world championship" events and there just might possibly be such things as a "world record" for some event or another. So it's not really a no Olympics, no glory matter for the athletes. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 4, 2008 | perma-link | (12) comments

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hermen Anglada-Camarasa
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- [Applies lipstick to pig ...] I suppose a good result of having had a standard Paris-centric art history course in college is that I can experience the surprise and enjoyment of discovering interesting painters who weren't mentioned in class. One such artist I recently stumbled across is Hermen Anglada-Camarasa (1871-1959). The most comprehensive biographical information I could find during a brief Web search is here -- a Spanish-language Wikipedia page. Spanish isn't one of my languages, so I hope the following career snippet isn't too far off the mark. Anglada was born in Barcelona, the part of Spain with closest ties to France. He studied painting in Spain and then spent some time in Paris. In 1913 he moved to the Balearic Islands and seems to have spent the rest of his career there. The important thing is his art, and here are some examples. Gallery Le Paon Blanc - 1904 Sonia - n.d. Granadina - n.d. Des nudo bajo a parra - 1909 Sibila - 1913 Pino de Formentor - n.d. Acantilado en Formentor - 1936 My first reaction is to call him a less-stylized version of Gustav Klimt. The paintings of the women don't suggest much in the way of psychological depth, something critics tend to consider important. Even so, I find Anglada's paintings fun to look at and wouldn't object if one magically appeared on a wall in our house. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 3, 2008 | perma-link | (18) comments

Friday, August 1, 2008

Another Self-Promotional Break
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- That webseries I helped make? More people are enjoying it. A well-known horror-movie blog says this: "Snappy and sexy ... The characters are colorful and over the top ... Addictive ... I am completely and totally hooked." If you'd like a link to the series' website -- so far only the trailer can be watched (Episode One goes up next week) -- shoot me an email at michaelblowhard-at-that-gmaily-place. Our goal (I mean, of course, in addition to being entertaining) was to use the webseries format as a way to revive the '70s-style Midnight Movie. So if you don't like naughty words, scrappy production values, gratuitous nudity, and daffy ideas, I urge you to skip our production. Now back to our regular programming. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 1, 2008 | perma-link | (3) comments