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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College administrator and arts buff

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Architectural historian and arts buff

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Entrepreneur and arts buff
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Media flunky and arts buff

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  1. The New New York
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  5. Once a Bum, ...
  6. Food and Eating Linkage
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  8. The San Francisco Chronicle Celebrates
  9. A Shockingly Correct Reply

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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The New New York
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * How bad is Madoff for the Jews? * Toby Young thinks that Tina Brown ought to consider taking the subway. * Some people are still trying to keep the party rolling. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 24, 2009 | perma-link | (11) comments

Movie Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * David Chute is surprised to find himself lovin' the most recent "X-Files" movie. * Steve Sailer does a great job of nailing and evoking Baz Luhrman's talent. * Film director Danny Boyle tells Anne Thompson that he likes limits. * Dennis Cozzalio writes a definitive history of the drive-in. Dennis maintains a wonderful and very personal movieblog here. * Ramesh compares "Gran Torino" to "Diary of a Country Priest" and makes it sound plausible. * An excellent interview with nature-doc legend David Attenborough. Attenborough deserves far more appreciation as a filmmaker than he has received, IMHO. I've found many of his shows really thrilling. * MBlowhard Rewind: I rhapsodized about Spy Mom Carla Gugino. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 24, 2009 | perma-link | (13) comments

Friday, January 23, 2009

More Jim
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Jim Kalb has some ideas about how the American Right should remake itself. Buy a copy of Jim's brain-opening new book here. We interviewed Jim back here. Jim blogs here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 23, 2009 | perma-link | (10) comments

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Podcast Recs 2
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Having been on a podcast-listening bender over the last few months, I'm recommending the ones I've especially enjoyed. Back here I linked to a talk by the behavioral economist Dan Ariely. Today my tip is ... * Lance Weiler talks to Joe Swanberg. (Go here. Now, in the "This Conference is Being Recorded" box in the webpage's upper-right, scroll down and look for "Joe Swanberg: DIY filmmaking." If you see a better way of getting at this podcast please let me know.) This conversation is a great introduction to how new-media creators -- webseries makers, for instance -- think and talk, as well as an informative stroll through their concerns and interests. A quick explanation: We’re all familiar with old-media conversation topics. Let’s take movies as an example. The usual conversation might include riffs about: How hard was it to find financing? What battles did you have with your producers and stars? How screwed-over did you get by distributors? We've all read articles and/or have attended panel discussions that have focused on these questions. In the world of new-media creation, nearly all these concerns have been left behind. Why? Well, the new digital tools enable people to make movies for almost nothing. Really-truly they do: The Wife and I are friendly with a guy who makes feature-length movies -- on weekends, with friends -- for less than a thousand dollars each. The webseries that The Wife and I co-created ourselves with a young director friend was, by new-media standards, incredibly ambitious. We like to describe it as a cross between “Barbarella” and “The Matrix.” Yet its total cost was a mere $12,000. If you’re working without producers and stars, then you aren’t subject to producer/star battles. And, because internet connections and downloads are getting faster every year, moviemakers can now put their work on public display without relying on any distributors at all. Hence: no reason to agonize about financing, producers, stars, or distributors. So far as new-media filmmaking goes, in other words, those familiar old article and panel-discussion moviechat topics are now kaput. But it isn’t as though life in the new-media world, however free and loose, is entirely smooth sailing. The old-media obstacles and hurdles may not be issues for people working independently, using Macs, and shooting on digi-videocams. But life under the new conditions presents its own challenges. New media filmmakers love to get together and compare notes -- they just aren’t comparing notes about what filmmakers used to compare notes about. A few examples of typical new-media filmmaker conversation topics: How might we get paid for our creations? (No one has an answer for this one yet, alas. In fact, it seems as though the freer the new tools make independent filmmakers, the less likely independent filmmakers are to get paid.) How to handle the challenges of making collaborative work when no one involved is receiving a salary? (Example: It’s hard to yell at someone for screwing up if that... posted by Michael at January 22, 2009 | perma-link | (3) comments

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Once a Bum, ...
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I see 'em in Waikiki and I'm seeing a few of 'em this week in South Lake Tahoe. Well, I think that's who I'm seeing. And who might that be? In the first instance, aged surfing bums and the latter, aged ski bums. In both cases, guys over 60 with lean bodies, unkempt hair and a lot of sun damage to visible skin. I admit that I have only a vague idea as to what makes such people tick. When one is young and athletic, spending a few years having fun while earning a little money on the side as an instructor can be an okay thing. Yet surely those youngsters see the same sorts of oldsters I do and I find it hard to believe that they can't wonder if a burned-out bumship might not be in their own future. Actually, most young surf and ski bums probably do come to such a realization and go on to life cycle-appropriate pursuits. But what about the few who do not? What could they have been thinking while they slowly aged from golden youth into middle age and beyond? Can any of you offer examples or explanations? I'm curious. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at January 21, 2009 | perma-link | (26) comments

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Food and Eating Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Stephan thinks you'd do well to pass up the margarine and help yourself to some good-quality butter instead. * Richard Nikoley has found that eating more fat can cure food cravings. * After years of packing on unwanted weight, Diana Hshieh gives up "healthy" low-fat eating, goes Paleo, and loses 15 pounds. Diana describes her new eating habits here. * Mark Sisson has some thoughts about how many carbs you might want to be eating a day. * Charles Washington does well on precisely zero carbs. * Bill Kauffman celebrates North Carolina barbecue. * Women may be less able than men are to suppress hunger pangs. Best, Michael UPDATE: Jonny Bowden says that eating low-carb is guaranteed to bring your triglycerides down. Worked for me, and in fairly dramatic fashion.... posted by Michael at January 20, 2009 | perma-link | (29) comments

Monday, January 19, 2009

Podcast Recs 1
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Since I've spent some of the last month filling my iPod with podcasts and taking it with me on daily walks, I thought I'd pass along the highlights of my recent adventures in listening. First up: * Dan Ariely on behavioral economics. (To download the podcast, go here and do a Search on Ariely.) One of the hardest things to get used to where economics is concerned is the preference so many in the field have for constructing mathematical models. Shouldn't they be out in the world (or at least in the lab) investigating what people are like and how they tend to behave instead? Behavioral economics has brought a little realism back into the field. What built-in quirks do people tend to have? In what ways are they not "utility maximizers"? In this podcast, the behavioral economist Dan Ariely offers a lot of examples of ways in which people differ from pure-rationality automatons. The fun of the talk comes partly from the little shocks of recognition that Ariely's research delivers. Hey, life is what seems to be being discussed and described, not some geek's theory. But it also comes from Ariely's presentation style. In his scholarly way, Ariely is a real performer, with a hyperbolic-yet-droll, innocent-yet-canny tone that put me in mind of the Russian writer Sergei Dovlatov, an underknown literary writer of the 1980s. Buy a copy of Ariely's book here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 19, 2009 | perma-link | (0) comments

The San Francisco Chronicle Celebrates
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- The place we're staying in while Nancy skis drops off a newspaper at our door every morning. The last two days we got the San Francisco Chronicle. For some reason, the print edition is making a big deal of the paper's anniversary. For instance, yesterday's paper had the sports section printed on green colored paper as a commemoration; that's how sports was printed for ages and ages until maybe sometime in the 1990s. And what significant anniversary is the venerable paper celebrating? The 144th. Hmm. That's not a silver anniversary. Nor a golden or diamond one either. And the year isn't evenly divisible by a 10 or even a five. Such a puzzlement, as the King of Siam might put it. Oh. Maybe I get it. They're celebrating this year because they aren't sure they'll be around for the 145th. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at January 19, 2009 | perma-link | (8) comments

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Shockingly Correct Reply
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Vanity Fair magazine hasn't been a very George W. Bush-friendly journalistic zone. Even though he'll no longer be president in a few days, Graydon Carter and company keep piling on poor W while getting misty-eyed over John F. Kennedy who (1) was aggressive regarding national defense and (2) a tax-cutter (remind you of anyone?). The February 2009 issue delivers one last groin-kick in the form of an article ("Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House" by Cullen Murphy and Todd S. Purdom, starting page 88) comprised of carefully selected quotes from people who interacted with the President in one way or another. On page 96, under the heading "August 6, 2001" the article states (original was in italics): While vacationing at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush is given a Presidential Daily Briefing memorandum whose headline warns that the al-Qaeda terrorist leader, Osama bin Laden, is "determined to strike in U.S." After being briefed on the document by a C.I.A. analyst, Bush responds, "All right, you've covered your ass now." I strongly suspect that Vanity Fair intended readers to gasp, thinking "Why, that idiot Bush was given warning of the 9/11 attack and did nothing!!" Your reaction might differ from mine, but I thought that I would say almost exactly the same thing Bush did, assuming the memorandum was no more specific than Vanity Fair indicates. Why? Because a vague warning with no actionable information is next to worthless. What would you think if I said "There's big trouble brewing; you'd better watch out" and nothing more. It's the same situation Bush faced. Unfortunately, most readers probably never get beyond the initial shock of learning of a disaster that "could have been prevented." I suppose that's why leading public relations professionals, "documentary" film makers, major media journalists and other opinion-manipulators are paid so well. No doubt Obama will be treated much more kindly if/when America is hit with a terrorist strike on his watch. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at January 18, 2009 | perma-link | (27) comments