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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Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

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  1. Music for the Day: Dobie Gray
  2. Bagatelle
  3. What Caused the '60s?
  4. American Manhood, R.I.P.
  5. Artist Post Link List (Donald) - 1
  6. Cochran and Harpending's New One
  7. Razib, Cosmos, Meat
  8. Not Learning from Las Vegas
  9. Meta-Magazine? Meta-Blogging?
  10. Ivy in High Places

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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Music for the Day: Dobie Gray
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Dobie Gray shows loads of ease, soul, and style in this live version of his 1973 hit "Drift Away": Here's the Dobie Gray website. Take a look at how many artists have made covers of this soft-rock classic! Mentor Williams wrote the song. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 6, 2008 | perma-link | (1) comments

Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm getting tired of Barak Obama. His picture is, like, just so everywhere! Bring on the next new thing. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at December 6, 2008 | perma-link | (29) comments

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What Caused the '60s?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A slightly dolled-up version of a comment I dropped on a Roissy blogposting. I was responding to Rick, another commenter, who had made what struck me as a naive reference to the supposed misery of Greatest Generation marriages: I’m not sure where Rick gets his ideas about the misery and unhappiness of ’50s marriages. I was around (if very young) in the ’50s and quite sentient in the ’60s, and my guess would be that most of the marriages of the WWII generation were happier and more solid than most of today’s marriages are. They were adult collaborations more than quests for self-fulfillment. The ’60s were a very interesting phenomenon, but the usual way they’re portrayed strikes me as whacky. There were loads of reasons the ’60s happened, and the supposed repressiveness of ’50s style marriage seems to me like a rather small one. Remember that Playboy, James Bond, and Marilyn Monroe were all ’50s phenomena — the '50s are where “swinging” started, not among '60s hippies. A much, much bigger reason for the ’60s was that Boomers were 1) hugely numerous, 2) prosperous in ways that had never before been witnessed, and 3) spoiled. Boomer kids were the first generation of genuinely self-centered, spoiled brats. They were also the first bunch of teens who grew up thinking of themselves as a specific generation of teens, and who were catered to as a market segment. The ’50s economy, in other words, made them feel like the center of the universe. A lot of the ’60s was simply about teens saying “I demand that things suit me, and speak to me in my way.” It was quite a surprise to a lot of adults that '60s teens actually got away with it. In previous decades, adolescent tantrums either weren’t taken seriously or were squashed instantly. Drugs also played a huge part in the ’60s. A big reason movies from the ’30s and ’40s feel different from movies of the ’60s and ’70s (and beyond) is because of a very basic change. Prior to 1960, the altered-consciousness of choice was booze — “good times” meant something like “getting drunk.” Often social, convivial, humorous. After 1960, “good times” more and more meant “getting wiped out, man, just like taking acid.” Movies became much more overwhelming, solipsistic, and hallucinatory. You can see it still in today’s big Hollywood epics. They’re wipe-you-out, mow-you-down, kill-you-with-effects-and-Dolby extravaganzas. That’s the legacy of the ’60s, and of the way the model of “good times” moved from booze to drugs. Watch a "Batman" movie, and it's like taking an acid trip. As for all those supposedly miserable marriages that broke up in the ’60s and ’70s … Well, an elderly shrink I know tells me that one of the most common things he ran across in the ’60s and ’70s was lives that had been shattered because marriages that didn’t need to break up had in fact broken up. Some people kinda gave up... posted by Michael at December 4, 2008 | perma-link | (53) comments

American Manhood, R.I.P.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- These days we can't even breed our own movie heroes. “Hollywood is great at producing male actors, but sucks at producing men,” says graphic novelist/director Frank Miller. “I found them all too much like boys.” Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 4, 2008 | perma-link | (67) comments

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Artist Post Link List (Donald) - 1
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few months ago, Mary Scriver emailed me with the request that I compile a list of posts I wrote featuring artists. I finally got around to it. This is a link-index of my posts about artists as of early December, 2008. Please let me know of any errors or omissions. Anglada-Camarasa, Hermen Bama, James Bastien-Lepage, Jules Beaux, Cecilia Bischoff, Franz Boldini, Giovanni Casas, Ramon Curtis, David (England) Dewing, Thomas Wilmer Edelfelt, Albert Foujita Fuchs, Bernie Gajoum, Kal Gallén, Axel Goldbeck, Walter Dean Grün, Jules-Alexandre Herter, Albert Henry, George & Hornel. E.A. Hohlwein, Ludwig de Laszlo, Philip Alexius Levitan, Isaak Leyendecker, J.C. Macchiaioli (Italian group) Malczewski, Jacek Mathews, Arthur Pino Schjerfbeck, Helene Serov, Valentin Situ, Mian Sloan, John Sloan, John (update) Thayer, Abbot Handerson Thompson, Tom Tiepolo, Giavanni Battista Vettriano, Jack Vrubel, Mikhail This list will be updated from time to time. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at December 3, 2008 | perma-link | (10) comments

Cochran and Harpending's New One
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- John Derbyshire loves Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending's new book about how the advent of civilization didn't slam the brakes on human evolution, it has instead speeded evolution up. I'm looking forward to the book myself, as one of the most bedrock of bedrock beliefs back in the day was that human evolution screeched to a halt 50,000 years ago. Fun to witness the Blank Slate mind-frame finally busting up, isn't it? 40 years of near-totalitarian denial and top-down mind-control -- man, that was one long and weird stretch. You can pre-order Cochran and Harpending's book here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 3, 2008 | perma-link | (29) comments

Razib, Cosmos, Meat
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * GNXP's Razib has kicked off another provocative new blog. Its name -- Secular Right -- pretty much explains its theme: righties who have no religious feelings. The blog's high-powered participants include Heather Mac Donald, John Derbyshire, and Walter Olson. * Well, that's finally settled. * Thanks to Will S. for pointing out this fun Table Matters piece about the pleasures of eating meat. Scott Gold argues that meat-eaters are mucho sexier than vegans. Don't skip the linked-to video clip. * MBlowhard Rewind: I compared the magazines of 1970 to our current crop. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 3, 2008 | perma-link | (26) comments

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Not Learning from Las Vegas
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- This post is about architecture and Las Vegas. It's long (thanx to lotsa pix), so if neither topic is your cuppa, you have my permission to skip it. The title of this post is a takeoff from the well-known book Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. I never read it, but it's my understanding that they contended that the Vegas architecture of the time (circa 1970) was people-oriented whereas conventional Modernist architecture wasn't so much so. After my previous visit to Las Vegas I wrote this post about the huge project called CityCenter on the Strip that is being developed by our dear friends at MGM Mirage. I just returned from Vegas, and the present post can be taken as a "progress" report. The photos are mine -- uncropped, not Photoshopped: rock-hard reality, if I say so myself. For general information on CityCenter, click here. Their "vision statement" is here and information about the stellar (starchitect) team that was assembled to do the designing is here. Recent financing news of CityCenter was in this Las Vegas Review-Journal (8 October 2008) article. Key paragraph: In a statement, the company said it had secured a $1.8 billion senior bank credit facility, which matures in April 2013. The facility is expected to be increased to $3 billion as additional commitments are received. MGM Mirage Chief Financial Officer Dan D'Arrigo said CityCenter, which has a budget of $9.2 billion, has received additional signed commitment letters totaling more than $500 million. As you can see, the cost of the project is both huge and not yet fully funded. CityCenter and some large condominium projects are paying the price of the intrinsically risky mix of long lead-times and business cycles; coming on-line during a downturn means a diminished revenue stream. Gallery We start with some views of the Strip as we love/tolerate/hate it now. Some of the honky-tonk of the 1970 period the Venturis wrote about remains. Changes since then include the construction of huge casinos-cum-hotels-cum-shopping malls designed around various themes ranging from Venice to King Arthur. Yup, we're on the Vegas Strip all right. Seems to be a Harley kind of place, that Strip. For kids, there's the M&M store. And the Coca-Cola store. The Fashion Show mall is on the Strip. Inside, it's conventional, but the part facing the Strip isn't. (The foreground is part of the Wynn complex.) More style clutter. That familiar-looking campanile is part of the Venetian. Another themed complex is the Paris with its half-scale Eiffel Tower. This view of the Strip was taken from the grounds of the Mirage. Let's turn to CityCenter as it was Thanksgiving week. Note especially how large the building are as well as their architectural characteristics. This is a hotel-condo structure as seen from the Bellagio, to the north of CityCenter. It will shade the Bellagio's swimming pool area part of the day; perhaps not a bad thing in Las Vegas' summer. The... posted by Donald at December 2, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Monday, December 1, 2008

Meta-Magazine? Meta-Blogging?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- When I spotted this magazine, my head started to spin. Thrilled to be blogging about a magazine about blogging, Michael... posted by Michael at December 1, 2008 | perma-link | (11) comments

Ivy in High Places
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Joseph Epstein, University of Chicago graduate, former member of the Northwestern University faculty and for many years editor of American Scholar, holds forth in the Weekly Standard on Ivy League (and ilk) schools and the kind of students that breeze through them. His hook is a David Brooks column on the backgrounds of those in high offices in Washington. He isn't all that fond of 800-SAT kids who maintain straight A's by working the system -- psyching out what profs expect and delivering. That is, if he's a Marxist, spit that back or dish out Freudianism on the blue book if that's where the instructor is coming from. Epstein's concluding paragraphs: Harry S. Truman and Ronald Reagan were two of the greatest presidents of the twentieth century. Truman didn't go to college at all, and Reagan, one strains to remember, went to Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois. Each was his own man, each, in his different way, without the least trace of conformity or hostage to received opinion or conventional wisdom. Schooling, even what passes for the best schooling, would, one feels, have made either man less himself and thereby probably worse. The presence and continued flourishing of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and the rest do perform a genuine service. They allow America to believe it has a meritocracy, even though there is no genuine known merit about it. Perhaps one has to have taught at or otherwise had a closer look at these institutions to realize how thin they are. I myself feel their thinness so keenly that, on more than one occasion, I have, by way of informing one friend or acquaintance about another, said, "He went to Princeton and then to the Harvard Law School, but, really, he is much better than that." Here in Blowhardland we happen to be Ivy covered at the undergraduate level (Michael and Friedrich) or via graduate school (me). We hope we survived the experience without too much damage and have made strong efforts ever since to become human again. Feel free to let us know when we fail our individual deprogramming efforts. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at December 1, 2008 | perma-link | (55) comments

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * At the suggestion of the super-smart yet ever-down-to-earth Moira Breen, I recently bought and read Eamonn Fingleton's "In Praise of Hard Industries." In part the book is a rant against reckless globalism and neoliberalism. But Fingleton moves beyond scares and negatives. He asserts that there's a lot to be said in favor of savings, investment, creating tangible objects, worrying about debts and deficits, and being wary about the reach of financiers. Squaresville stuff so far as the sophisticates are concerned, I suppose, yet convincing enough for caveman me. Fingleton's main point is that -- despite the arguments made by service-economy cheerleaders -- there's nothing inevitable, let alone desirable, about the kind of manufacturing hollowing-out that has been inflicted on the U.S. by its ruling classes in recent decades. Making and selling desirable and useful things isn't just for ambitious Third Worlders, Fingleton argues. There's a lot of profitable manufacturing that an advanced country can do successfully. He cites dozens of examples of high-investment, high-skills, high-profits, thing-making industries in Japan, Germany, Switzerland and other countries in support of this point. * Here's Eamonn Fingleton's website. Here's an interview with him. Here he has posted an excerpt from "In Praise of Hard Industries." It's a chapter entitled "Finance: A Cuckoo in the Economy's Nest," and it's about the way so much of our economy has been taken over by the finance class: Many of the financial sector's fastest-growing activities turn out to be utterly unproductive and even pos­itively destructive from the point of view of the general public good. As we will now see, much of what the financial sector has been doing in recent years has been feathering its own nest at the expense of the great investing public. * What Eamonn Fingleton is describing above is now apparently known as "financialization." It's an ugly word but -- since it has already become an accepted one -- I suppose we may as well get used to it. That's an informative Wikipedia article, by the way. * Investment-business legend John C. Bogle has recently been making points similar to Eamonn Fingleton's. The finance industry is necessary, says Bogle in many interviews. (Part One, Part Two.) But financiers have stopped helping their clients make money, and have turned instead to the business of using their clients' savings to enrich themselves no matter what the social consequences. It seems hard these days to argue with that assessment. Here's John Bogle's website. * Was it only a a month ago that Obama was promising "Change"? Leftie Robert Kuttner isn't seeing much of it. Kuttner -- who puts much of the blame for our current financial mess squarely on the shoulders of the Clinton administration, and more specifically on Robert Rubin -- is unhappy that so many familiar faces are showing up among Obama's appointments. Nice passage: What kind of magic does this man [Robert] Rubin have? He was one of the key Democratic architects of the extreme financial... posted by Michael at November 30, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Apple Jam
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Have you been in an Apple Store recently? You know, the place where one can buy iMacs, iPods, iPhones, iThises, iThats and iEtceteras. To me, there's something curiously off-putting about an Apple Store. I take that back; I know exactly what it is that's a little off-putting so far as I'm concerned. It's that one can hardly get ten feet into the store before being accosted by a helpful sales rep. Nothing intrinsically wrong with that, mind you -- especially if you walked in wanting to buy something and not knowing quite where to find it. But I normally stop by an Apple Store to browse, checking out prices of new computer lines, that sort of thing. In those cases, I'd just as soon not have to go to the trouble of explaining why I'm there. Altogether, Apple Stores skew in the same direction as Turkish markets where a slight glance at something will bring the salesman running up to you, article in hand, with a "Sir" or "M'dame" on his lips. Of course there's the other extreme. My experience for years has been that JC Penney stores are chronically understaffed. Sometimes one has to wander almost halfway across the store to even find a clerk to ring something up, let alone explain a product. My advice to Steve Jobs is to de-staff his stores by, oh, 30 percent and then cut prices on products by ten percent or so. Sounds like a winning solution to me. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 30, 2008 | perma-link | (3) comments