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. Blogging Note
  2. Annabella at 15
  3. DVD Journal: "Marie Antoinette"
  4. DFW RIP
  5. More Westlake
  6. Mood Lift for the Day
  7. More Scruton
  8. Fact for the Day
  9. Hot Latins
  10. Quote for the Day

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, September 20, 2008

Blogging Note
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I am alive and well and traveling in Canada. But expen$ive internet service prevented me from posting this week. In the meanwhile, I've been snapping pix and absorbing the scene. Will return to regular posting the 25th, They are having an election up here as well (voting in mid-October), so the news is politics, politics, politics just as it is "below the line." The big difference is more major political parties leavened by regional differences. Sporty, but I don't think it's an improvement over a two-party setup. More anon. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at September 20, 2008 | perma-link | (1) comments

Friday, September 19, 2008

Annabella at 15
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A spin-off from my recent posting about Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" ... Here's the website of Annabella Lwin, the onetime jailbait-sexpot singer for Bow Wow Wow. Here's the record jacket that made her notorious even in punk circles. Be forewarned: Annabella was only 15 when that sexy photo was taken. What ought to be made of the under-ageness question? Do we have no choice but to draw a line and condemn the image as evil? Despite the fact that it's funny and cute? Despite the fact that it has already attained minor-modern-icon semi-immortality? And despite the fact that the punk scene was teeming with lovably trampy 15 year old girls? Bonus point: The girl in "Mademoiselle O'Murphy," aka "Nude on a Sofa," was 14 at the time Boucher painted her. Kiddie cheesecake? Or a classic work of art? Shortly after the painting was completed Louis XV took the little charmer as a mistress. Read more here. So what kind of misbehavior-slack do we need to cut the arts scene? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 19, 2008 | perma-link | (39) comments

Thursday, September 18, 2008

DVD Journal: "Marie Antoinette"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Sofia Coppola's 2006 biopic of the Austrian-born French queen is sporadically amusing, occasionally pretty, and not-too-annoying, at least if you can take it as a sassy, indie-chick, art-school-style costume party. It's pretty much a yawn otherwise -- and, needless to say, a complete wipeout as a trad-style movie. For one thing, it's story-free. The film couldn't care less about "what?" or "how?" questions. It's entirely concerned with "What did it feel like for her?" As The Wife said, "It's like eating cookies with your girlfriends and mulling someone over together. 'Was she really so bad?' 'It wasn't her fault she was rich.' 'I could see myself doing that.' 'I don't know, she didn't have a good marriage. She deserved to take a lover.' 'So what's wrong with liking to shop?' 'I don't care what anyone says, I feel sorry for her'." For another, there are no performances to speak of. What the performers are doing here is something more like "lending their looks and spirits to the general mood" than anything like acting, at least in the reading-lines-and-pursuing-objectives sense. It's like they're all -- major characters included -- extras in a director's crowd scene. For a third, it's drama-free. Suspense? Involvement? Setups and payoffs? No thanks. What you get instead are "sections," as in "This is the cheesy-horror-movie, blue-lit, meeting-the-scary-relatives section"; "This is the ironic-but-fun, cut-cut-cut, Paris-Hilton-goes shopping section"; and "This is the gauzy, hippie-chick, 'Elvira Madigan,' free-love section." It's a kicky 123-minute long, ultra-feminine video mood piece, in other words. In the making-of material on the DVD, Coppola can be overheard saying delightedly, "This could totally be an Adam Ant video!" So how well does "Marie Antoinette" come across as a frou-frou, kooky-performance-art, hip-fashion-magazine spectacle? YMMV, of course, but I was a little startled by how charmless much of the movie felt. It felt like one of those offbeat college productions whose appeal doesn't extend much beyond participants, friends, and parents. I didn't love Sofia's earlier movies -- "The Virgin Suicides" and "Lost in Translation" -- either. But in them Sofia did show some dreamy if solipsistic talent. As narcissistic reveries, they worked. Here her filmmaking seems flatfooted and uninspired -- as a postmodern ringmaster, she has a ways to go before she becomes her generation's Fellini, at least if my responses are worth paying attention to. Perhaps it takes more in the way of dynamism than Sofia seems interested in coming up with to put this kind of show over? But maybe this is just the impatient-for-more-action male in me speaking ... All that said, the rococo clothing, hair, decor, and foodstuffs are to die for, it's fun spending time in and around the actual Versailles, and I'm always happy to hear a little Gang of Four and Bow Wow Wow. A few questions the film left me thinking about: Coppola certainly has a lot of taste, of a mix-and-match, downtown-trust-fund-kid sort. But is taste the same thing as talent? What is... posted by Michael at September 18, 2008 | perma-link | (15) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- What has your response been to the suicide of David Foster Wallace? In an email he gave me permission to copy and paste, frequent 2Blowhards visitor PatrickH wrote an eloquent passage: I am so depressed over the death by suicide of David Foster Wallace. Why, I’m not sure. I just am. He was a kind of hero to me...a man of hugely varied interests, of great curiosity, and in his own way, fearless. I read and learned from (and was massively frustrated by) his book on the mathematical concept of infinity, even though it was organized in such a perverse way as to be virtually useless to the reader. Infinite Jest is a book so overrich with, well, everything, that I could reread it a thousand times and still not get to the bottom of it. Sigh. I knew he was married, and I am angered that he would treat his wife this way (Spalding Gray made me angry in the same way), but I was even more appalled at first because I thought he had children. It doesn’t make me any less depressed by his loss, but it does make me less angry, knowing he hasn’t abandoned any children. I have no idea why he did what he did, and for all I know he could have been very sick physically, or perhaps mentally (I’ve known what it’s like to be clinically depressed), so he no doubt had what must have felt to him to be compelling reasons. But self-murder is still murder, and to take a human life is a kind of cosmic blasphemy that only gets more difficult for me to accept as I get older. Sigh. Damn. I wish he hadn’t done what he did. Because I was never a fan of DFW's writing, my own response was the generic one I usually have to news of suicides: "I'm so sorry"; "Gosh that's awful"; "I wonder what the real story was"; and "What an asshole." Killing yourself -- unless we're talking about horrendous, physical, end-of-life situations -- may be an individual's own business in some ways, but it's also often a terrible thing to do to the people who know and care about you. Gil Roth was saddened by DFW's death too, and links to a couple of worth-reading pieces. I wrote some unappreciative and ungallant words about DFW's writing in the comments here -- but read the posting for the comments by Mr. Tall, who makes a very interesting case for DFW. Best, Michael UPDATE: Because I'm an asshole too with no sense of the decencies, I'm going to venture a probably-unfair and definitely-out-of-line thought. Here it is, and do take it with a giant grain of salt: "DFW's suicide illustrates something for me: that the combo of philosophy, 'literary fiction,' early acclaim, academia -- DFW was the son of teachers and spent much of his own life teaching -- and playing the 'genius' game is one seriously unhealthy... posted by Michael at September 18, 2008 | perma-link | (44) comments

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More Westlake
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Is the crime writer Donald Westlake America's greatest living fiction-writer? I'm certainly open to the possibility -- I've praised Westlake repeatedly, maybe even monotonously, on this blog. (See here for one long-winded example.) In fact, I'm happy to consider Westlake a genius. Lordy, if he doesn't qualify, which of our fiction-writers does? The LA Times' Richard Rayner -- writing about Westlake's "Parker" novels -- expresses a similar kind of X-treme admiration: The Parkers read with the speed of pulp while unfolding with almost Nabokovian wit and flair ... not so much masterpieces of genre, just masterpieces, period. I'd get rid of that weasely "almost" myself. But Rayner's piece is -- by hyper-cautious mainstream book-journalism standards, anyway -- an excellent and daring one. It's nice when Americans take a little appreciative note of the riches that are already ours, isn't it? Now, how long until we see the NYTimes Book Review Section venturing to publish such an appreciation? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 16, 2008 | perma-link | (14) comments

Mood Lift for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some uncharacteristically light-hearted good times from The Animals: Wonderfully clunky mid-'60s camerawork and editing, and sweet screaming girl-fans too. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 16, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

More Scruton
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Here's a beautiful, many-sided, and stimulating new interview (conducted by Diederik Boomsma) with the British philosopher Roger Scruton. Islam, architecture, conservatism, the nation-state ... Loads going on here. One of many fab passages: Question: If modern architecture and modern art is so ugly and devoid of meaning, why don't more people criticize and oppose it? Answer: Everybody criticizes modern art and architecture except the professional critics who know on which side their bread is buttered. We are returning to a more humane architecture, thanks to Leon Krier, et al., and the New Urbanist movement. What would it take? Enlightened patronage, such as displayed by the Prince of Wales; a spirit of defiance towards pseuds like Rem Koolhaas and Daniel Libeskind, a willingness to tell the truth about people like the fascist Le Corbusier and the communist Gropius, and a decision finally to say that the city is ours, not theirs. Bonus points: Another long interview with Scruton. A blogposting I wrote about how rewarding I've found it to wrestle with the thoughts of humane conservatives. I'm no conservative myself, but I've certainly learned a lot from exploring the works of smart and classy righties. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 16, 2008 | perma-link | (1) comments

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards Remarkable numbers of people are actively blogging these days, of course. But even more have tried blogging and given it up. The total number of abandoned blogs now exceeds 200 million. Source. The Wife shares a hunch: that most of the people abandoning blogging are women. "I think men's brains are wired for op-ed pieces," she says. "I think blogging has probably saved a lot of marriages by giving men an outlet for all those op-ed pieces. It has certainly helped our marriage." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 16, 2008 | perma-link | (8) comments

Hot Latins
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Chile: World leader in youthful sexual adventurousness? Here and here. New term to be mastered: "Poncea!" (Translation, apparently: "Make out with as many people as you can!") * Is there such a thing as a Spanish movie that doesn't feature a lot of nudity? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 16, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Monday, September 15, 2008

Quote for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- In a comment on a posting at The Art of the Possible, Kevin Carson writes: Both the liberal and conservative establishments have a vested interest in pretending that the great trusts emerged from “laissez-faire,” that the economy was largely a “free market” until the turn of the 20th century, and that only state action can prevent the natural tendency of a free market to give rise to domination by big business. The conservative establishment has an interest in fostering this myth because it justifies the present wealth and power of the giant corporations as the result of superior competitive virtue in our marvelous “free enterprise system.” The liberal establishment has in interest in fostering it, as well, because it implies that a regulatory/welfare state (run by them, of course) is the only thing protecting us from domination by big business. The central fact of American history since the late 19th century has been the mutual support and coalescence of big government with big business, rather than mutual hostility. And the central function of the publik skools is to churn out docile and obedient human resources with sufficient skills to do their jobs but lacking in the historical perspective or critical thinking ability to undermine their loyalty to the corporate state. I have no problems with any of this. Do you? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 15, 2008 | perma-link | (38) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Are scientists more rational than the rest of us? Or are they simply people -- as foolish, quirky, and squishy as any others -- whose field enforces an empiricism-oriented rationality? Nice passage from Razib's good posting: Many scientists believe that because science is such a superior method of extracting information about the world around us, and constructing predictive models which have been shown to have great utility, that that means that they as scientists can simply transfer their godlike powers to other domains with the greatest of ease. For a short while, many years ago, I dated the daughter of a scientist. And what a strange set of complexes, hangups, and weaknesses scientist-Daddy (who apparently really prided himself on being the possessor of rationality-superpowers) had endowed her with. And how hard it was for her to get used to the idea that her dad might be just a man. Hey, I've often thought that a study of artists' children should be written. What a weird and distinctive set of breeders-and-offspring they are. Perhaps a similar study should be done of scientists' kids. Bonus points: Andrew Sullivan approves, and gets in a nice mention of one of my heroes, the philosopher Michael Oakeshott. I liked Sullivan's semi-recent book. Read a terrific talk Sullivan gave about Michael Oakeshott here. Razib adds more, and responds to Sullivan. Anti-Citizen One takes issue. Anti-Citizen One flips for Nietzsche's "The Gay Science." I remember finding the book wonderfully high-spirited too. Razib (and commenters) reviews some facts about Switzerland here. Pretty maps! Please note that this Blowhard makes no claims whatsoever to exceptional rationality, nor would he want to. As for superpowers, though ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 15, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Aging North America
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Bloggers don't have an infinite store of information and thoughts to use for post grist. Much of what we write comes in the form of pointing out or reacting to stimuli from the world around us. All of which is to say that, since I'm in Canada this week, that's my main stimulus and I run a real risk of opening up another can of Canadian comments. But no "eh?" jokes here. No siree. That's because we're in Québec and I can't pick through all that French well enough to determine if an "eh" sound is an "eh" or actually an "é". Anyway. By chance, last year we were in southeastern Virginia where they were celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement. Here, they're celebrating the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Québec. Sometimes we forget how old Eurpean settlement in North America is. Well, we West Coasters can. French Canada lasted 150 years before the British took over. It was about 155 years for Massachusetts from Plymouth Rock to Bunker Hill. Tidewater Virginia was just over 170 years to the Declaration of Independence. That's about six generation, folks. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at September 14, 2008 | perma-link | (25) comments