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  1. DVD Journal: "B. Monkey"
  2. Taubes, Contra-Taubes, More
  3. The Strangelovian New Class on the Job, Blocking All The Exits
  4. The "Diversity Recession"?
  5. Flippin' Pages, Clickin' Links
  6. More Debbie
  7. Seating Strategies

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Friday, December 26, 2008

DVD Journal: "B. Monkey"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A small-scale London-set gangster romance about a sexy young burglar (Asia Argento) who wants to go straight, and the low-key teacher (Jared Harris, Richard's son) she fastens on. Beautifully designed and lushly shot, it's an enjoyable, if somewhat lightweight, film in the movie-dream mode of Godard's "Breathless" and "Band of Outsiders," What gives "B. Monkey" a lot of tang and makes it memorable is Asia Argento. 22 at the time the film was made, she's like nothing you've ever seen: reactive and passionate, a Wild Child who knows only how to be true to herself and do things her own way. If she recalls anyone it's such other sui generis performers as Belmondo and Brando. Props to director Michael Radford for creating such a gorgeous cinema-reverie showcase for her. Movies would be a far less interesting medium than they are if it weren't for attractive and distinctive performer-personalities, and the talented people who figure out effective ways to show them off. Semi-related: Buy a copy of "B. Monkey." Back here I wrote about Asia's loony and fascinating first film as a director, "Scarlet Diva." Back here I confessed that I only semi-enjoyed Argento in Breillat's "The Last Mistress." Back here, I reviewed a bunch of sexy movies, including Michael Radford's "Dancing at the Blue Iguana." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 26, 2008 | perma-link | (11) comments

Taubes, Contra-Taubes, More
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Here's an hour-long video of a presentation that Gary ("Good Calories, Bad Calories") Taubes has been doing around the country. It conveys a good chunk of what he has to say in his book. * Thanks to visitor Bill for pointing out this Michael Fumento anti-Taubes article. Taubes responds here. Fumento responds to Taubes' response. * Jenny shoots down what sounds like a particularly stupid recent study about diabetes and diet. * Stephan thinks that vegetable oils have played a big role in increasing obesity levels. More and more -- it's a great set of postings, and the comments on them are first-rate too. Get to know the abbreviation PUFA. * Dr. William Davis has a hunch that a grassroots rebellion against statin drugs may be taking shape, and wonders why hospital dieticians are so often so fat. * 10 things your gym probably won't tell you. * Jimmy Moore notices that Krispy Kreme, Wonder Bread, and Hostess Twinkies are all struggling financially, and interviews the brilliant economist and eating/exercise guru Arthur De Vany. * Being a vegan hasn't made Bijou Phillips a happy camper. "I'm sick and I've been sick four times since I've been vegan," she says, "and I hadn't been sick for five years before that." * Tracy takes a look at the zero-carb diet. Funny to learn that it's also known as the FUMP -- as in "f-u Michael Pollan" -- diet. * The recently-deceased World's Oldest Person loved bacon and eggs. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 26, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

The Strangelovian New Class on the Job, Blocking All The Exits
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism writes a damning critique of a current NY Times article on the intimate connection between U.S. trade imbalances of the past decade and our current economic woes. While her entire piece is well worth reading, this is the kernel: The article buys, hook, line and sinker, then- Fed-governor Ben Bernanke's depiction of so-called global imbalances (the US borrowing from abroad to fund overconsumption; Japan, China, Taiwan, and the Gulf States running significant, persistent trade surpluses and oversaving). Bernanke chose to position the problem as a "savings glut" which had the convenient effect of placing responsibility for the problem overseas, particularly on the Chinese, who kept the renminbi cheap via a hard peg to the dollar. …As far as I am concerned, this was rationalization of a clearly unstable and unsustainable pattern. But rather than try to find a way out, or at least keep it from becoming more pronounced, Bernanke recommended doing nothing. And it was NOT a market phenomenon, but the result (on the surface, at least) of China pegging the RMB at an artificially low level. Did we explore the possibility of WTO sanctions for the currency manipulation as an illegal trade subsidy? Apparently the US was acutely aware of this as a possibility, and took great care not to give private parties any grounds for using the RMB as the basis for a WTO action. …. So we knew we had the nuclear option in our hands, and there was no will to use it. One has to wonder if there were any threats made in private. My gut says no, given the history here…. And the New York Times buys…into the "gee, we really had no choice" party line… She also goes on at length to quote the dissenting economist Thomas Palley who pointed out (in real time, prior to the collapse) that the “Great Moderation” on which Bernanke & company spent so much time congratulating themselves (1) was unsustainable, (2) had been taken our of the hide of the US manufacturing sector and (3) had resulted in stagnant wages for the bulk of American workers. I, obviously, totally agree with Ms. Smith on the vast bulk of the substance of her piece. However, I would quibble with only one small point: she basically writes about this situation as a series of individual goofs or oversights made by the individuals involved: American economist-managers like Bernanke, our trade negotiators and the New York Times reporter of the piece, Mark Lander. I think there is a painfully clear connection here. Golly, what links Ben Bernanke, our trade negotiators and New York Times reporters? Well, let’s see. The author of the story, Mark Landler, according to the NY Times website: …began his career at The Times in 1987 as a copy boy and member of the Writing Program. He is a 1987 graduate of Georgetown University, and was a Reuter Fellow at Oxford in 1997. Mr. Bernanke’s background?... posted by Friedrich at December 26, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The "Diversity Recession"?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- When Steve Sailer argued that one of the causes of our current economic meltdown has been the federal government's promotion of minority homeownership -- which, in practice, often meant backing a lot of large loans to people without any means of paying them back -- he took a lot of predictable "you're blaming the victims!", do-goodin', "anti-racist," leftie heat. (As far as I could tell, Steve was criticizing the policy, not dumping on the ethnicities of the loan recipients.) Funny and gratifying then to see that The New York Times is now acknowledging, if a bit shyly, that Steve was making a valid point. No recognition extended to Steve, needless to say. Steve indulges in a wee bit of completely justifed gloating. What will the do-goodin', Times-lovin' lefties who dumped on Steve in this case work up their next frenzy of righteous outrage over? Any bets? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 23, 2008 | perma-link | (68) comments

Flippin' Pages, Clickin' Links
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Between episodes of clearing sidewalks and driveways of the ten or more inches of accumulated snow here in Seattle (of mild climate fame) I've been chipping away at a remaindered copy of this book about art patron/collector/dealer Peggy Guggenheim. She was not (until late in life when she agreed to turn over the collection) connected with the Guggenheim museums populating New York, Bilbao and other places; those were originally funded by Samuel Guggenheim, a rich member of the clan. Peggy was a "poor" Guggenheim. In other words she was rich, but not seriously so. The biography goes into a lot of detail about her private life along with her dealings with the arts. As a result, it is stuffed with names of people she encountered, married, lived with, supported, etc., etc. There are two glossy photo sections, but in no way do the assembled pictures illustrate most of the names mentioned in the text. So I found myself repeatedly rising from my easy chair and going over to my desktop computer to Google on various names in order to: (1) find a photograph to see what they looked like; (2) look for biographical information to supplement what was in the book; and (3) in the case of artists I'm not familiar with, see what their paintings look like. Score one for the Internet age! According to some, the ideal is to read a text solidly embedded with links to the sorts of items I just mentioned along with other information. This is not a new concept. An example that's been around for years is Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu -- it was old news when I heard him speak at a computer language convention in 1991 and it still hasn't really gotten off the ground, so far as I can tell. Another possibility would be a device similar to Amazon's Kindle, but with a huge internal version of something like Wikipedia or perhaps a combination of that feature with Internet linkage. For me, this is not ideal because I really do prefer reading books than Kindles. So for now, my dashing back and forth from chair to computer works well enough, and sure beats the good old days when there was little I could do to immediately satisfy my curiosity regarding items I'd stumble over. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at December 23, 2008 | perma-link | (0) comments

Monday, December 22, 2008

More Debbie
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- In final excerpts from an interview, horror-movie queen (and genuinely fab actress) Debbie Rochon tells what she thinks a real independent movie is, and talks about the perils of being a scream queen. I wrote an appreciation of Debbie Rochon back here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 22, 2008 | perma-link | (0) comments

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Seating Strategies
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- When I was in elementary school, the teacher assigned us seats. Our desks looked like these: One year -- might have been Third Grade -- the teacher had the desks side-by side in three rows rather than by themselves in four or five rows. The rub was, I had to sit next to a girl I didn't like for a good chunk of the school year. After elementary school, we usually were able to sit where we pleased. My preference is to sit about halfway or two-thirds of the way back from the front row. My wife likes to sit near the front when we go to church, which is a little out of my comfort zone. When I taught college classes or quiz sections, it was usually the gals who hogged the front row, distractingly crossing their legs -- something known to most male teachers. Hmm. I wonder what the seating pattern is for female teachers? I never paid much attention to that at the time, but my guess is that female students were still more likely to sit towards the front of the classroom. I'm not sure why I preferred to sit farther back. Perhaps it was a function of my personality, me being more of an observer than a participant, all else being equal. Or maybe it was because I liked to doodle cars and airplanes on the margins of my notebooks and didn't want the teacher to notice. What are your thoughts on this important psycho-social matter? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at December 21, 2008 | perma-link | (18) comments