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

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  1. Game Time
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  4. Un-PC Reading 3: Secession
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  7. Fact for the Day
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  10. Great Depression Alt-Hist

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Game Time
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I live about three miles from the University of Washington football stadium. This seriously affects my life the five times a year when the Huskies are playing at home, especially when I need to get to the University Village shopping center that borders the athletic corner of the UW campus. Traffic gets nasty and parking difficult to the extent that fans ignore the "No Event Parking" signs by the Village's lots. During the football season other signs are posted warning of heavy traffic during certain hours on Saturdays. This week, we were warned that driving might not be fun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Hmm. That implies an early game. Sure enough, today's newspaper noted that game time today would be noon. And the Husky-Notre Dame game we'll be attending 25 October is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Noon? Five in the afternoon? Ominous signs that the World is Going to Hell. In my frat boy days, games started at 2 p.m. daylight savings time and then 1 p.m. when standard time returned. Mid-November, when the eight-game season ended, dusk would be approaching when the fourth quarter clock ran out. Thirty-some years later a regional sports television network installed floodlights at the stadium at its own expense -- that's how I remember my son's explanation of how they came to be. The result of having good field lighting is that the Huskies can play games whenever a TV network thinks it will fit its schedule, and the university, earning bonus shekels, happily goes along with the deal. So much for the student-athlete ideal of my mis-spent youth. Yes, I'm a self-confessed capitalist tool. But I'm also a conservative and therefore something of a traditionalist (provided the tradition isn't nonsensical or counter-productive). So I don't like my original alma mater turning into a two-bit street tramp. Oh well, I have enough other gripes about the place that I don't donate to them anyway. (BRIGHT NOTE: I noticed a gal on her way to the game wearing a tee shirt with the slogan "My quarterback is hotter than your quarterback" -- so maybe all isn't lost after all.) Later, Donald... posted by Donald at September 6, 2008 | perma-link | (5) comments

Dougjnn (and Peter) on YoungDudez
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- As you probably know, I've been fascinated by the postings, comments, and general carrying-on over at Roissy's. Lordy, what a spectacle. Yet I've also been puzzled by what underlies it. For a long time I assumed that what was being expressed was a simple matter: Young guys who grew up in a pussyfied -- er, feminized -- world were (once out in the real world) discovering that they'd been lied-to and brainwashed, and were discovering what it feels like to walk around as the fond and proud possessor of a pair of balls. But, over the months, it has also occurred to dim me that there seems to be more going on than just a lot of young lions giving each other permission to roar. A lot is being assumed by these young guys. There's some experience they share, or think they share. But I couldn't discern what it was. I felt like someone looking down from an airplane on a cloudy day and trying to make out what the landscape beneath is like. Finally, on this posting, I found the sense to just plain ask for guidance. MBlowhard: Can anyone clear up some confusion I have? I love following this blog, but I’m often baffled by it. It’s like reading about life on a planet that’s quite different than the one I know. Alphas? Betas? Cockblocking? It’s all news to me. So I try to make sense of what I’m encountering. Let me see if I’ve got it right. A lot of young guys commenting here seem to feel that, although they’re plausible provider material, they’re being prevented by contempo circumstances from winning girls and starting families. Do I have this right? Is this the basic complaint that underlies most of the other complaints and the carrying-on? Commenter Dougjnn (who has occasionally visited 2Blowhards) stepped up with a lot of helpful guidance. He spread it out over two comments; for the sake of clarity I've slightly rearranged a few of his paragraphs. Alphas? Betas? Cockblocking? It’s all news to me. Those are terms from the world of Game - broadly shared among its now many different gurus and teachers. But they do have real meaning behind them, and it’s not all common sense. There’s a lot of mainstream cultural misinformation (for ideology-driven molding purposes) about these things — what makes men and women most attractive in the “dating market”. They aren’t at all the same for each sex, and they aren’t what you’ve been told, or only partly are, and knowing what you haven’t been told is a key advantage. I do think there’s been a big change since the 70’s and 80’s which is I think the “back in the day” you’re talking about. Mostly: 1) A lot higher percentage of young women now earn comparably to similarly situated men, and what’s more, this has seeped into deep cultural awareness amongst them, such that they feel they can afford to delay marriage... posted by Michael at September 6, 2008 | perma-link | (83) comments

Friday, September 5, 2008

Quote for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- From the Washington Post's Robert J. Samuelson: For most Americans, living standards are increasing, albeit slowly, over any meaningful period. But rising health spending is eroding take-home pay, and immigrants are boosting both poverty and the lack of health insurance. Unless we control health spending and immigration, the economic report card will continue to disappoint. Unfortunately, neither Obama nor McCain seriously addresses these problems. Fun fact from Samuelson's very interesting column: "Since 1990, Hispanics numerically account for all the increase in the number of officially poor." More here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 5, 2008 | perma-link | (10) comments

Un-PC Reading 3: Secession
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Tyler Cowen raises a charged topic: secession. Commenters pitch in zestily. No idea why, but I've been thinking about secession myself recently. For no particular reason -- election season, maybe? -- I've found myself wondering, If the U.S. should break up, would I grieve? If Vermont, say, were to secede, would it bug me? Would I object? I don't think I would. And I say this as someone who's very fond of the U.S. The question, of course, is: Which U.S.? As that bard of Western NY Bill Kauffman says: "I love the old republic, and I hate the American Empire." The America of McCain and Obama can fall into a million pieces as far as I'm concerned. It's the people and communities that I care about -- and they might well do better for themselves by leaving the Empire. Bonus points: Here's the website of the American Secession Movement. Robert Higgs thinks that the historians who makes lists of Great Presidents get it all wrong. Thomas DiLorenzo thinks it's past time that people wake up to the damage that Abe Lincoln did. I asked visitors for guidance about Lincoln. Buy a copy of Bill Kauffman's wonderful Western NY classic "Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette" here. Bill calls Gore Vidal "the last Republican." By "Republican," I don't think he means that Vidal votes Republican ... I read some of Vidal's American history novels and blogged about them here. I interviewed Bill Kauffman. Get to all five parts from this page. Read about a genuine contemporary Vermont secessionist movement, the Second Vermont Republic. The blog No Treason is sympathetic to secessionism. Eco-leftie Kirkpatrick Sale talks to the New York Times about secession. Sale makes a bioregionalist case for secession here. Get to know a YouTube channel devoted to secessionism. As far as I've been able to tell, the dean of secessionism is the Emory philosophy professor Donald Livingston, who presents history as a story of the centralizers vs. the decentralizers. If it matters: I've listened to a number of Livingston podcasts and I've read a number of his essays, and I find his accounts convincing and his arguments compelling. In any case: well worth a wrestle. Sample Livingston's podcasts here. As for essays, try here and here. A nice passage from one of them: Talk about secession makes Americans nervous. For many it evokes images of the Civil War, and is emotionally (if not logically) tied to slavery, war, and anarchy. That the word “secession” is laden with these negative connotations should be surprising since America was born in an act of secession. The Declaration of Independence is a secession document justifying an act whereby "one people...dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another." George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were secessionists. Americans should be the last people in the world embarrassed by the thought of secession. Previous installments in this Un-PC Reading series are here, here, and here. Thanks to Dave... posted by Michael at September 5, 2008 | perma-link | (53) comments

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cloud Computing
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- How much of a cloud-computing person are you? For those with better things to do than keep up with stupid tech jargon ... "Cloud computing" means "computing on the web" -- using online applications rather than ones located on your own hard drive, and storing your documents on webservers rather than on your own machine. Although the term "cloud computing" is of fairly recent vintage, you may already do a fair amount of it. If you use webmail, for instance -- Gmail, say, or Yahoo! Mail -- then you're already cloud computing. The email program that you're using, after all, is Google's or Yahoo!'s -- and your actual email isn't stored on your computer, it's on Google's or Yahoo!'s hard drives. If you show off photos on Flickr, Picasa, or Smugmug -- or if you use Picnick or FotoFlexer to tweak your images -- hey, that's cloud computing too. In any case, cloud computing seems to be today's next great thing. If tech-industry visionaries are to be believed, paradigm-shift time is upon us yet again. Soon we'll all be doing much of our computing directly on the web, using server space and processing power from Google and others. Google's brand-new Chrome web browser is said to represent a big step in the direction of using the web browser as a kind of operating system, with the web itself as the computer. The two main worries some express about cloud computing: Away time and downtime. If you rely on "the cloud," how can you do any computing at all when you aren't connected to the web? And what happens if the outfits that supply your tools and storage misbehave? These fears aren't unreasonable, it turns out. Both Google and Apple's new MobileMe have demonstrated major vulnerabilities in recent months. Trust. Can you feel certain that the company hosting your documents won't peep at them? Let alone that they won't make legal claims on them? Smart people are scrutinizing those absurd Legal Agreements we all checkbox-off when we sign up for new web services, and they aren't liking what they're finding. No idea what to make of the above worries myself. Most of the computers I sit down at these days have nice internet connections. And if downtime does occur, I don't much mind taking a break from whatever project I happen to tinkering with. Hey, I'm a retired guy. As for entrusting my content to a company like Google ... Well, maybe I'm a sucker, but 1) they've got my email already, and 2) I'm such an impractical goof that I can't imagine of what interest my material could possibly be to them. In fact, as someone who spends significant time on the road, and who flits back and forth between different computers even when at home, I love -- as in l-u-v -- the idea of cloud computing. The less dependent I am on a single computer the better. And if I'm able to... posted by Michael at September 4, 2008 | perma-link | (11) comments

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Third-party Voting
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- [Yawn] Quiet week. Gotta pack for a trip to the Northeast and Canada. Peck away on that book chapter. Not much news. The Democrats nominated somebody or other for President last week and maybe the Republicans will do the same this week. Or next. Whatever. [Yawn] I'm bored. Oughtta stir things up around here. But that's what Michael's good at, not me. Oh, hell. Why not? Wave a red cape at that bull. Give the ant hill a good kick. Lotsa libertarians hereabouts, so why not talk about third parties and voting for them versus voting for one of the bigs. Lacking in imagination, I've never seriously considered voting for a third party candidate at any level above the local. To me, it's a case of damage control; if you vote for a third-party candidate instead of a guy you aren't too fond of, you increase the odds of winning for somebody whose politics you definitely don't like. Others disagree. I already know some of their likely arguments, but won't steal any thunder. It's a fact that no third party has advanced to top-tier status in this country in around 150 years. In the 20th century, there were maybe five halfway important outsider runs at the presidency, none of which captured more than a few states and none of which resulted in a new party that can be seriously considered to have endured. In chronological order, we have Teddy Roosevelt's 1912 Bull Moose Party, Eugene Debbs' 1904-1920 presidential runs under the Socialist banner, Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrat effort of 1948, George Wallace's American Independent Party of 1968 and Ross Perot's 1992 run. It can be argued that TR's campaign prevented Taft from winning a second term and that Perot did the same to the elder George Bush. But the Dixiecrats did not prevent Truman from prevailing. It has been said that minor parties have the effect of feeding ideas to major parties. I haven't studied this matter and won't pass judgment on that claim. What I do know is that major parties can be transformed internally due to generational change -- the recruitment of new adherents while older activists pass from the scene. For example, the Republican party was transformed over the 40 years between 1940 and 1980 from being isolationist to internationalist-interventionist while the Democratic party was going the opposite direction. Note that other aspects of the two parties changed less. So here we go. Is it worth voting for a third party in presidential elections? If so, why? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at September 3, 2008 | perma-link | (18) comments

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Is modern tech making conducting a tradional-style affair impossible? "There are just too many ways to get caught, and the technology-savvy realise this," writes Nick Harding. An interesting stat from his piece: Currently, the most common duration of an affair is less than six months (68 per cent of them). Twenty years ago, it was three years. I assume that those figures hold for England only, but still ... Source. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 3, 2008 | perma-link | (14) comments

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Book Draft Snippet
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm still chipping away on that proposal for a book about non-Modenist painting since 1900. I have two sample chapters drafted and am working on a chapter that is intended to set the stage before dealing with the art I wish to highlight. I'm finding that this is akin to writing the state-of-things chapter of a Masters thesis or Ph.D. dissertation. Slow, nasty work; it's rather like trying to pull chickens' teeth. At any rate, it finally seems to be shaping up so I'd thought I'd toss out a paragraph for you to ponder. No guarantee that it'll even be in the draft I mail to publishers; and if it's panned, I'll probably jerk it. In preceding paragraphs I suggest that paintings with staying power are likely to be connected to life experiences common across centuries. I continue with ... Now, I expect some readers to recoil in shock and accuse me of implying that for art to “last,” it must appeal to the lowest common denominator of emotion and taste. I made no such implication, but raise the matter of popularity at this point because it is one of those issues that is constantly present, yet seldom in the forefront of discussions about art. To condemn something for being popular is a form of elitism stemming from the belief that the very best art is a rare thing. So far, so good, regarding the art itself; excellent examples of anything are rare by definition because if they were not excellent they would be good, average or not good -- most things being near average. Where elitism goes wrong is when some elitists think that the same thing holds with regard to art appreciation and that it is they who know best and the other 90 percent or whatever share of the population does not and probably cannot properly appreciate art and whose preferences in art should be dismissed as naïve or even boorish. While it is true that some people put more effort in appreciating art than others, it does not follow that the heavy appreciators necessarily have the best taste; it is possible that they have gotten themselves so wrapped up in theories and wanting to be part of an “in-group” that the art they are supposedly appreciating becomes a secondary matter. I hope to launch the proposal after I get back from a trip to Boston, Québec, etc. Let me thank vanderleun for some thought-provoking tips regarding the publishing industry. But if I screw this up, it it'll be my fault, not his. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at September 2, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Meet the GOP's biggest donor. (Link now updated and functioning.) * Steve Sailer lifts the lid on the way the game is played in Chicago. Obama makes a few appearances. One especially nice passage: Contract set-asides for minorities provide a lucrative opening for crooks like [now-jailed Obama backer, Syrian immigrant Tony] Rezko. The demand for "diversity" provides an excuse for a thumb on the scales, a justification for diverting the contract from the lowest bidder to a political ally who employs a minority frontman. Most of America's pundit class hasn't figured this out yet, but Rezko grasped how "diversity" works soon after getting off the plane. * While most Republicans are standing up for their girl Sarah Polin, rightie Heather Mac Donald writes that McCain's choice was a disgraceful "diversity ploy." Where's Preston Sturges when you need him? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 2, 2008 | perma-link | (20) comments

Monday, September 1, 2008

Great Depression Alt-Hist
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Hey history buffs! It's alternative history time again at 2Blowhards!! This time, the subject won't be war. Instead, suppose the Great Depression of the 1930s had simply been a nasty recession lasting two or maybe three years instead of grinding on for nearly a decade in the United States. To set the stage, some economists contend that the bad economic times were as severe as they were and continued far longer than normal because of a reactive imposition of protective tariffs by the United States and other economic powers. Let's assume this contention was true and that, instead, tariffs were not altered, resulting in a shorter, less-painful downturn. I am not an economist, though I brushed elbows with them professionally for most of my working career. So please do not assume that I necessarily believe that the collapse of world trade was a factor in how the Depression played out. The explanation superficially makes sense, but I'll leave it to Lex Green, his Chicago Boyz buddies and other knowledgeables to discuss that. Do keep in mind that our present wealth of economic data didn't exist in 1929 or 1930, so the actors at the time as well as current researchers have a lot less to work with when studying economic events of that era. Regardless, the hypothetical I'd like us to play with is a shorter, gentler depression or whatever it might be called. Now for my two cents. If the United States was clearly on the economic upswing by the start of 1932, Herbert Hoover might have remained in the White House. And even if Franklin Roosevelt or another Democrat had won that fall's election, the likelihood that the New Deal would have happened would be nil. I suppose a few programs might have made their way into law, but not the whole thing. Today's politics and economics would be considerably different, absent the New Deal push to big government. I'm less sure of the impact in Europe. France, if I understand correctly, was a little late to the Depression. So an early end to it might have allowed that country to skate through without a lot of damage. The Popular Front might never have happened or happened in a different way. As for Germany, Hitler's assumption of power was one of those near-run things. Given a recovering economy in the fall of 1932, there's a good chance he would not have been able to make his bid in 1933. Whether he might have been able to pull it off later is impossible to say, though I'm inclined to doubt it. Finally, it's likely that the Auburn, Pierce-Arrow and Reo automobile companies would have been introducing their 1940 models in the late summer of 1939. And what is your alternative version of history without a Great Depression? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at September 1, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

More Self-Promotion
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Another enthusiastic and insightful review for the webseries that The Wife and I helped create has just appeared. No link, as I'm still being a little coy about my real identity, but here's a brief excerpt from it: The humour is bold throughout. The blend of sci-fi and sex comedy come together in a way that seems designed for the exciting new medium of the web serial ... And the homage to stylistic genres of art movies is cleverly compiled and adds another level of enjoyment to the whole experience. [Webseries title here] is already becoming cult viewing that needs to be seen. Campy, sexy, a little intense, funny, and seething with kooky ideas -- that's our webseries! Let me know if you'd like a link to the series' website, where three of our six episodes are now viewable. And -- ahem -- if you're someone who's interested in getting involved as a producer / financier in the low-budget movie world, don't be shy about saying hello. Me and my posse have some dy-no-mite ideas that we're raring to put into production. My email address is michaelblowhard at that gmaily place. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 1, 2008 | perma-link | (3) comments

Slow Food, Raw Milk, Butter
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- John Schwenkler -- already infamous as the guy who argued that good food should be a conservative cause -- writes the definitive article about today's raw milk wars. John has been covering Slow Food Nation too: here, here, here, and -- yummiest of all -- here. His day-to-day blog is here. Directly related: Food is Love adores butter so much that she eats chunks of it straight. But it's always the good stuff. Semi-related: Would Edmund Burke have approved of Michael Pollan? Completely unrelated: If Sarah Palin is elected, will she become our first VPILF? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 1, 2008 | perma-link | (5) comments

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