In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Fact for the Day
  2. Question for the Day
  3. 'Burb Thoughts, Info, Questions
  4. Demographics, Politics, Discourse, Frankness
  5. Immersion in Another Life
  6. Fred and Bill
  7. Erotica Linkage
  8. Maintainting Kinship
  9. Which Conservatism?
  10. Architecture and Urbanism Linkage

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

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