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  1. Whither Jaguar Styling
  2. What Is Making Us Fat?
  3. A Brand Extension Too Far
  4. More Dora
  5. Eroticism Linkage
  6. Presidential "Race"
  7. Actress Linkage
  8. Malehood in Trouble?
  9. Parental Frankness
  10. Read and Discuss

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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