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  5. How Does One Paint a Martian Princess?
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ottawa Isn't Rome
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Rome -- Imperial and Renaissance -- seems to have been on the minds of architects and planners of Washington, D.C. and many state capitals in the United States. Domes, columns, pilasters and other Classical details abound. Ottawa, Canada's capital, took a different architectural route. Perhaps it was a slackening interest in classically-inspired styles such as Greek Revival and growing interest in Romanesque and Gothic styles (probably thanks to London's rebuilt Parliament). At any rate, Parliament Hill is utterly different from Washington's Mall. The above link offers a useful historical overview, so I'll sketch only some points needed to set the scene for my photos below. Ottawa was designated Canada's capital in 1859, some eight years before the British North America Act of 1867 created what essentially is modern Canada (as opposed to colonial Canada). Among the factors for Ottawa's selection was that it was comparatively safe from attacks by the United States. That's because Ottawa is situated at the point where the Rideau Canal reaches the Ottawa River. The canal was completed in 1832 to preserve Canadian logistical connections in the event of yet another U.S. invasion. (Water-borne communications -- key, before railroads -- between Toronto and Montréal had been along the St. Lawrence River, a stretch of which borders on the United States.) The canal is about 125 miles long, 12 of which had to be dug and the rest being existing waterways. Once completed, boats and barges from Toronto could exit Lake Ontario at Kingston, take the canal to Ottawa and then head downstream on the Ottawa River, reaching the St. Lawrence just upstream from Montréal, totally avoiding the U.S. border. Topographically, Ottawa has Parliament Hill which forms a bluff overlooking the Ottawa River. Across the river is Gatineau, Québec which is part of the capital area. The east end of Parliament Hill drops off to the Rideau Canal near where it joins the river. On the other side of the canal is the Rideau area which offers the points from where I took some of the photos. Gallery Sighting down Wellington Street. Don't see any marble or columns. A comparatively recent addition to the Parliament Hill complex is the Supreme Court building. The white façade is out of character, but the roof isn't. Here is the centerpiece of the hill -- the Parliament Building. And this is a view of its backside taken from the Rideau area. The building in the foreground with the tapered roof is the library, which escaped the fire that destroyed the previous parliament structure. Same viewpoint, less zoom. The light colored building on the left is the Hotel Laurier, one of Canada's great railroad hotels. It was built by the Grand Trunk Railway which was later merged into the Canadian National. The light structure at water level is the first lock of the Rideau Canal. The Laurier as seen, seriously wide-angled, from across Rideau Street. The Rideau Canal as seen from the bridge to the left... posted by Donald at October 11, 2008 | perma-link | (16) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * What's your karma? * The secessionism issue is showing some legs: Matthew Cropp and John Schwenkler. * Where do you have to go to get some quiet these days? * One day he just started drawing on the walls ... * The complete guide to bikini waxing yields my favorite new term of the day: "Wahroongan waxing," described "as an Australian technique, whereby the hair is removed in a way to reveal a dollar sign. 'Give some bling to your thing'." * Speaking of Australian ... Model Elle Macpherson became famous for her beach-chick physique and her everyday-girl demeanor. But time has passed, and it sounds like she's friendly no longer. What happens to some people? Hmm, I wonder if Elle wears a Wahroongan ... * Stephen Rose collects a lot of provocative videos about buildings and cities. * Traditionalist philosopher Roger Scruton considers the art of modernist giant Mark Rothko. * Mandatory public education: A well-intentioned dream that has since gone awry? Or an attempt to dumb-down and regiment the masses right from the outset? * An NSFW labor of love. Small MBlowhard hunch here: Much of the culturestuff that many men really love is NSFW. * Ed Gorman flips for Chabrol's "Story of Women" and Jean Harlow in "Libeled Lady." * Why marriage remains popular. What would the Roissy crowd -- many of whom seem convinced that they'll never be able to get married -- make of this article? * MBlowhard Rewind: I confessed that I read philosophy at least as much for the sake of literary pleasure as for the ideas. Best, Michael UPDATE: Can you be both a punk rocker and a paleoconservative?... posted by Michael at October 11, 2008 | perma-link | (10) comments

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Race and More
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I notice that a bunch of you have been having a good time yakking about race, race-baiting, and such. Here's some more high-quality fodder for you: free-thinking black intellectual Gerald Early gets frank and personal about the racism industry (link thanks to ALD); and the adventurous, funny, shrewd, and supersmart black guy T. (of The Rawness) muses about blacks and IQ, here, here, and here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 9, 2008 | perma-link | (52) comments

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My House: 2 Residents, 6 Registered Voters
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few days ago I answered the doorbell for a neighbor lady who said she was checking the voter registration list for the neighborhood. I probably should have asked who she was doing this for, but didn't; instead I simply provided information. Listed at our address were me, my wife and four others. Only my wife and I actually live here. One of the other names belonged to a former renter. That's understandable; it isn't ideal, but it's true that some names remain long after the person moved to another precinct. Another name was that of Nancy's daughter-in-law who lives in California. Another was Nancy's former husband (they divorced around 25 years ago) who lives in Oregon. Yet another was my former wife who lives 70 miles away. None of the last three ever lived at my address. From time to time we get junk mail addressed to former renters and spouses. This makes me wonder if a commercial mailing list was used to fatten up the voter registration roles. (Or maybe a commercial list was extracted from a fattened registration list. I don't know how this list stuff is done.) Seattle is solidly Democratic. In the race for governor four years ago, every time the Republican candidate pulled ahead, a few thousand votes for his opposition (the current governess) appeared as if by magic from someplace or other in Seattle. Now I'm about as far as one can get from being a conspiracy theorist, but those continual injections of votes from Seattle in late stages of the vote count gave me pause. It will be interesting to find out if those four extra "residents" at our place will be voting early and often in our precinct come November 4th. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at October 8, 2008 | perma-link | (23) comments

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How Does One Paint a Martian Princess?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs created many more characters than the Ape Man and Jane. Over the years, I've probably read more of the John Carter of Mars series than Tarzan books. Burroughs invented the supposed local name for the planet, "Barsoom," and some sources refer to the series by that name. In brief, John Carter gets wafted off to Mars while in a sort of dream-state while lying helpless in a cave in the desert southwest. Being pretty heroic to begin with, he is able to exploit his Earth-based strength in the weaker Martian gravity to perform seriously heroic feats while the entranced reader hurriedly flips the pages. Most or all of the Mars books are in the public domain. For instance, you can click here for the on-line Project Gutenberg release of A Princess of Mars, the first in the series. In that book, Carter encounters the beautiful Dejah Thoris, princess of one of Mars' kingdoms, who he eventually marries. Okay. Assume that a new edition of the book is on the way. Cover art is needed. Lots of strange, dangerous Martian creatures. A sword-wielding hero. A gorgeous princess. A different planet. What should the cover artist do? As it happened, most or all of the above elements have been included by just about every cover artist hired for the Mars series. Some examples are below. Gallery By Frank Schoonover - 1917 Schoonover, a top-notch illustrator, was trained by Howard Pyle in the early years of the last century. The scene looks vaguely Greco-Persian aside from what appear to be pistols on Carter's belt. Although he did advertising illustration and book covers such as the one shown, Schoonover's specialty was North Woods type scenes, this based on travels he made north of the Great Lakes around the time he left Pyle's school. Barsoom is far from the world of trappers and the RCMP -- and it shows, in this early cover. By Robert Abbett - c. 1970 I suppose this was intended to be dramatic. But c'mon -- the princess seems bored or distracted rather than terrified or even concerned about the outcome of John Carter's fight. A recent Penguin edition A recent Townsend Press edition In both cases, I wasn't able to find artist information. The Penguin cover seems more skillfully done. Like the Abbett illustration, we have a struggle going on, but Dejah Thoris clearly is not really part of that scene, even factoring in her shackles. The Townsend illustration doesn't show that she is the most beautiful creature on Mars; she hardly seems worth fighting for. Oh well, enough farm team stuff. On to the goodies. Frank Frazetta - c.1970 Frazetta practically owns the fantasy art franchise even though he has been retired for several years. Dejah Thoris and John Carter come off appropriately iconic. And if Carter's duel is already over ... well, who really cares; I'm too busy checking out Dejah. I bought this circa 1963 book... posted by Donald at October 7, 2008 | perma-link | (19) comments

Habitat 67 Today
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- On our recent trip to Canada we allotted two full days for Montreal. Since Nancy had never been there, I largely let her determine what we would visit. Had we spent another day or two in town, a site I might have gotten around to seeing would have been Moshe Safdie's Habitat '67, built in conjunction with Expo 67, Montreal's world's fair of 1967. Or maybe not: it would depend on if I could be free to wander around it above ground level. As it was, the closest I got to it was the edge of the old town Montreal where I snapped the following picture. About all it proves is that Habitat still exists. For more on Habitat '67, the Wikipedia entry is here. A web page with lots of photos, some links and other information is here. Habitat '67 was the subject of a lot of attention when it was built. I know it intrigued me because my take was that it featured orthodox modernism in the form of rectangular modules that were combined in what appeared to be an organic manner. Lazy me, I haven't followed up on the fate of Habitat nor have I paid much attention to Safdie's later career (I will write a post on his Ottawa National Gallery soon, however). No doubt Habitat inspired other architects to try out some of Safdie's concepts. Even so, I haven't noticed many (or any) Habitats were I live or travel. Can any readers bring me and the rest of us up to speed? How is the original Habitat doing? Since it's not a publicly subsidized and operated project, presumably residents chose to move there and would be predisposed to like it -- but do they, once the novelty has worn off? And how well does the place function? For instance, is it easy for residents to haul groceries or new pieces of furniture up to their apartments? Why havn't we seen lot of Habitat-like structures? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at October 7, 2008 | perma-link | (11) comments

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Financial Mess
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Ramesh ventures a general theory of the financial mess: Part One, Part Two. * Charlton volunteers some links: here, here, here, here. * When in doubt, appoint someone from Goldman, Sachs. * Peter Brimelow thinks that we may need a new Pujo Committee. * Wirkman Netizen thinks that the time has come to prepare for the worst. (Link thanks to Dave Lull.) Wirkman offers a pithy summary of our quandary: Democrat: Pretends to be for the “little guy” and against dem nasty corporations, but at first panic will give billions and billions to subsidize rich men’s failures. Republican: Pretends to be for the “free market,” but always ready to buckle under to demands for subsidy from crony capitalists. Average American: Knows nothing about economics, history, or politics, but still thinks our country is great, even after allowing sellout upon sellout. * Western Confucian lists some postings in which he discusses the great, underknown Austrian economist Wilhelm Ropke. Nice to know there are a few other Ropke fans out there. * Tom Wolfe has a fun theory: The whole thing, starting with the subprime, is the fault of the computer. I was just talking to a banker the other day, and not that long ago, 20 years ago, an investment banking house, let’s say, Lehman Brothers, when it got a package of mortgages, they would go through every mortgage, every single one, and they’d throw out the ones that just seemed absurd, they just wouldn’t accept them. Things used to arrive on paper. Today things arrive on a screen, and a screen is back lit, and one of the biggest pains in the neck is trying to read something dully written and complicated on a computer screen. It will drive you nuts—I mean, try it sometime. Now they say, ‘Oh, to hell with it,’ and they just accept the whole package. And if it hadn’t been for that, they’d be going over each loan. What’s happened is the backward march of technology. (Link thanks to JV.) * Mencius offers an offbeat-yet-Austrian take on the mess. * Was Alexander Hamilton the grandfather of today's crony capitalism? * Perhaps the time has come to take the S word seriously, or at least semi-seriously. Why not attend the Third North American Secessionist Convention? It's happening November 14-16 in Manchester, NH. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 6, 2008 | perma-link | (30) comments

Stores With Art Books
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Now that I'm retired, my book-buying budget has taken a serious hit. Good thing I scarfed a bunch of art books while I was still working. That combination of having built up a pretty good library and having to watch my pennies doesn't mean I don't keep browsing. It means that I'm better at resisting a diminishing amount of temptation. Nowadays my problem is that the really nice, interesting art books are often pretty expensive -- in the $65-$100+ range when I start to get the cold shakes around $55. Leaving aside the Internet, finding decent art books in stores can be chancy. I've probably mentioned several times that even big-box stores such as Barnes & Noble vary considerably in their wares. An ordinary B&N might only have one or two shelf sections devoted to a combination of art crit, art history, painter biographies, how-to books and perhaps some photography titles. But B&Ns near college campuses or upscale neighborhoods can have much larger art sections. Perhaps the largest arts-related bookstore I've encountered is Hennessy & Ingalls in Santa Monica. Aside from there, museum stores at major art museums usually offer good selections. You can get a discount if you are a museum member, and they can have sales from time to time. On my recent trip to the Northeast and Canada I managed to duck into some museum stores. Here's what I found. Boston's Museum of Fine Arts had a very nice store, meaning that the selection was plentiful. I walked out with a not very costly book about British Impressionism. On the other hand, the Museé National des Beaux-Arts du Québec shop was small and had few books of any kind. The Museé des Beaux-Arts de Montréal was much better. Plenty of books. And a large share of them in French -- a nice thing if you want to learn more about not-so-famous-but-good French artists. I shagged two books about Maurice Denis. Also good was the shop at Ottawa's National Gallery of Canada. I bought small books about Tom Thompson and Clarence Gagnon. We also visited the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario which sports two small Rembrandts and some Group of Seven works. But the shop was small and there were few books. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at October 6, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ad Copy
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- My favorite recent piece of high-flown ad copy comes from Swedish vibrator-maker Lelo: LELO is a designer label operating in the premium segment of the erotic market space. Through a special blend of fashion, femininity, engineering and sleek Scandinavian design, LELO provides Pleasure Objects for women and their partners. By challenging the overall concept of conventional "sex toys," our vision is to create aesthetically pleasing, orgasm-inducing, high-quality alternatives to the norm and thus inspire a more female-friendly erotic market space. Pretty deluxe! And deserving of a special Oscar for using the term "market space" twice in one paragraph. Do you suppose the team responsible for creating this jeweled ad copy had a lot of chortles about whether or not to use the terms "high end" and "low end"? Just curious: Ladies, has the vibrator market space really been in need of serious classing-up? Ritzier materials, sleeker design, fancier packaging, higher prices -- all those attributes that some women seem to crave? FWIW, I hear that Lelo (or rather LELO) makes very nice vibrators. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 5, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Doofus Guys in the Media
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few more entries in the "American guys as presented by the American media" sweepstakes. Lifetime TV thinks it's OK -- maybe even fun -- to show a typical American husband as a fat, pleading schlub, an overgrown child gone to seed: Our hero in the above picture is resigned to playing second fiddle to wifey's TV pleasures. Get in line, big boy. Software maker Circus Ponies contrasts together-girl with overwhelmed-guy: Nice of Circus Ponies to get in a swipe at age and experience too. Putting on a sincere face just for a moment ... I'm genuinely surprised that American men don't insist on a little respect, from the media as well as from women. But, hey, maybe men who can't command respect don't deserve to be treated as anything better than walking jokes. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 5, 2008 | perma-link | (27) comments

They Say "Racist!!" Your Reply Is ...
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Many colleges and universities have had speech codes for years. Perhaps they were well-intended remedies to a perceived problem (though I'm not sure that there ever was much of a problem). But the result clearly is a restriction on free speech. If current polling holds, we are likely to be living in the paradise of an Obama Administration starting next January. From what I read, friends of the Obama campaign seem thin-skinned to criticism. Often enough, their reaction to such criticism is to suggest that it was racially motivated no matter its content. One of many takes on this is from Rich Lowry. Let's set aside the clearly chilling prospect of government-supported speech tribunals and deal with everyday political speech under an Administration likely to be populated by some people willing to shut others up by accusing them of racism. Such influence might well rub off on sympathizers. Consider this imaginary conversation (many others are possible, so don't fixate on the political issue I use): JOE: "I think President Obama was wrong to send massive military aid to the Palestinians." MIKE: "Y'know Joe, I think what you just said is racist. Both the President and the Palestinians are 'of color' and should be off-limits to that kind of smear." At this point, Joe might simply change the subject or do something equally submissive. Or he could choose to fight back. For example, he might push back hard, saying: "That wasn't racism: I was talking policy! Just what do you expect me to do in return? Fall on the floor quivering and then crawl over and kiss the toe of your shoe?" So what do you think Joe's reply should be? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at October 5, 2008 | perma-link | (135) comments