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. Accelerating Evolution
  2. Movie Linkage
  3. G.M. Fender Evolution: 1936-1950
  4. Questions
  5. Secession and the Fed
  6. End of an Era? Sign of the Times?
  7. Test Drive: Slow-Drying Acrylics
  8. Now They’re Really Scaring Me
  9. New Sony Gizmo
  10. Jimmy and Tom

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, February 14, 2009

Accelerating Evolution
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- To celebrate the publication of the fun, informative and provocative new book "The 10,000 Year Explosion," 2Blowhards recently spent a week chatting with one of the book's co-authors, Gregory Cochran. Access all five of those postings here. So it's fun to see that the mainstream -- in the form of Discover magazine -- has now begun to take enthusiastic note of the book (and the people and the work behind it) too. Bonus link: John Tierney is hoping that someone will bring a Neanderthal to life. Bonus Link #2: Some reflecting about evolution and economics leads Gary Marcus to wonder about some of the different meanings of the word "fitness." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 14, 2009 | perma-link | (3) comments

Friday, February 13, 2009

Movie Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The actress Caren Kaye -- a soulful beauty remembered fondly by many for her role in the surprisingly-pretty-good softcore '80s teenflick "My Tutor" -- shows up in the Comments on this YouTube tribute to her. "You really made an impact on my generation," writes one admirer. * Arbogast wonders why '70s B-movie honey Angel Tompkins never became a bigger star. After watching her last night in the 1974 "The Teacher" (terrible movie, but Angel shines), I do too. Wow! Plus she had a fizzy spirit, and could act a little too. * English film critic Philip French writes a nice appreciation of Catherine Deneuve. Deneueve tells Laura Barton that she'll be pleased if she's mainly remembered for "Belle de Jour." * Mike Jada sits through a 25 hour Horrorthon in Philly. * Has Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" been insufficiently appreciated? * MBlowhard Rewind: I wrote an Introduction to Enjoying Black and White Movies. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 13, 2009 | perma-link | (8) comments

G.M. Fender Evolution: 1936-1950
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Once upon a time -- the 1930s and 40s -- automobile styling followed a clear evolutionary path. I wrote an article on styling evolution in general here, asserting that the process essentially ended around 1950. The present post deals with one aspect of that evolution: fender design as practiced by General Motors. From the later 1920s until sometime around 1970, GM called the styling shots for the industry in America. In part this was because the General attained and then maintained a market share of 50 percent or thereabouts. When half the cars one sees on the streets had their shapes emerge from one styling operation, that has to have an impact on the buying public. The other factor was GM styling supremo Harley Earl, creator (along with Alfred Sloan) of the practice of a styling studio whose chief reported directly to top management rather than to someone such as an engineering vice president. Earl reigned at GM for three decades, losing his design touch only a few years before his 1958 retirement. I speculate he lost that touch because automobile styling progress had become random, as opposed to the evolutionary process it had been during most of his career. To set the stage, below are photos illustrating fenders from GM cars before and at the completion of the process of their integration into the body of the automobile. 1936 Oldsmobile 1950 Oldsmobile 98 Styling of the 1936 Oldsmobile was influenced by the idea of streamlining. Although the car was objectively better streamlined than its 1930 predecessor, its streamlining was more stylistic than aerodynamic. Note that curves and roundness abound -- even including the side-window cut-outs. Fenders are separate and based on the classic teardrop concept of streamlining. Top-line GM cars for the 1950 model year had integral fenders. Note that the top fender line falls a few inches below the crest of the hood and the bottom of the window cut-outs. Earl felt that his studio's experimental designs of that time with integral fenders reaching the hood and windows appeared tall and slab-sided. Dropping the fender line made his cars look lithe rather than ponderous. Having established the bookends, let's see how Earl dealt with the evolution between these points. Gallery 1938Cadillac 60 Special Stylist Bill Mitchell, with Harley Earl's approval, began the process by squaring up the aft of the fenders. 1941 Cadillac This evolved into comparatively squared-off fender shapes. At the time, the term "suitcase fender" was used because the shape resembled that of luggage. In my opinion, the 1941 GM line, especially Cadillacs, represented the peak of Earl's styling career. 1942 Pontiac For 1942 and the early post-WW2 years, GM cars' fenders extended onto the front door. This appeared on the 1941Cadillac 60 Special before being extended to most of the rest of the line the following model year. 1947 Buick Roadmaster Earl did special favors for Buick president Harlow Curtis. One of them might have been the 1942 extension... posted by Donald at February 13, 2009 | perma-link | (1) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Is the U.S. government using the financial crisis to make a power grab? * Is what the U.S. government is up to even remotely Constitutional? * Was the British government right to have prevented Geert Wilders from entering the country? * What is the Neanderthal genome going to teach us? * Is kinky sex on the rise? (So to speak, of course.) * Is this DVD set the best deal on Amazon, at least for those with a fondness for '70s trash? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 13, 2009 | perma-link | (10) comments

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Secession and the Fed
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Secession rumblings are getting louder. * So are near-secession rumblings. * Time to abolish the Fed? (FWIW, and in case it isn't obvious ... My own take on all this largely boils down to "How interesting that we live at a time when secession and whether or not to abolish the Fed are being openly discussed." Happy to admit to a well-defined "small is beautiful" personal taste-set. But what strikes me as far more interesting than my boring opinion is the simple fact that topics like these are coming up these days.) Best, Michael UPDATE: In further "funny (and expensive) world we're living in" news ...... posted by Michael at February 12, 2009 | perma-link | (13) comments

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

End of an Era? Sign of the Times?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Muzak files for bankruptcy. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 11, 2009 | perma-link | (12) comments

Test Drive: Slow-Drying Acrylics
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I whimpered and whined about my frustrations when trying to paint using acrylics here. My gripe was that acrylic paints dried too fast, at least for slow-working me. In Comments, co-blogger Friedrich von Blowhard mentioned (among other things): I've painted extensively with acrylics, far more than with oils. For me, they work best when you work very quickly, mostly achieving gradations by painting wet into wet or using drybrush effects. It's a good medium for sketching, particularly outdoors. Some practice will get you going in that direction. The problem with acrylics is mostly their lack of, for want of a better term, luminism. That is to say, to really see an finished acrylic painting it needs to be very well lit. In a dim room, acrylics lose all color intensity and can get quite murky. Oils seem to require much less intense illumination to give up their visual effects, especially bright color. More information can be found in this Wikipedia entry. Help might be on the way for frustrated painters such as me. The folks at Golden have introduced a line of slow-drying acrylic paints. They call the line "Open" (heaven knows why), and information on it can be found here. I presently paint using water-soluble oils. That's because I don't have to deal with messy, smelly solvents. The main disadvantage of this type of oil paint is that drying is slow, sometimes on the order of weeks. The result is that I sometimes have to set a painting aside before, say, doing details; I'm afraid I'll smear the existing paint. The slow-drying feature is also a disadvantage when traveling. Again, there is a risk of smearing. Slow-drying acrylics might be useful in circumstances where I'd like the painting to dry overnight yet still be able to "work" it for more than the 20 or so minutes conventional acrylics allow. Golden claims that their Open line allows working for a couple of hours or even more, which seems like a reasonable time. So I took a gamble and bought nine tubes of the stuff -- a palette range sufficient for experimentation. I should mention that I took up painting because I wondered how good at it I might become if I worked at the craft. Long-time readers might recall that I've been complaining about my poor college art training as far back as my guest blogging days. Most artists and art teachers insist that the only way to reach one's potential is to paint, paint and paint some more. Alas, I haven't done well by that criterion. Over the last four years I've attempted perhaps two dozen paintings. That's because (1) I have a life to lead, (2) much of my creative time is spent blogging, and (3) oil paint dries too slowly for a project to hold focus. (Yes, I could paint alla prima in oils, but I'm not that good yet; maybe later.) For what it's worth, below is a painting I... posted by Donald at February 11, 2009 | perma-link | (5) comments

Now They’re Really Scaring Me
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, Given Mr. Geithner’s track record to date in devising financial system solutions that are remarkably favorable to Wall Street, I was prepared to dislike his bank rescue plan. I was not prepared to find that he has no plan at all. A look at Mr. Geithner’s biography suggests that he has been seen as a star pupil of a variety of very powerful mentors. Well, the star pupil just got a “D-“ on his first big exam. Did anybody like this plan? The stock market certainly didn’t. And how about the blogosphere? Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism sums of a series of reactions, here. The Financial Times surveys another set of reactions, here. Reading these, I'm not feeling the love anywhere for Mr. Geithner and his mad leadership skills. For my money, two commentators get most to the heart of the matter. Martin Wolf, the Financial Times columnist, points out that Mr. Geithner is struggling to solve a problem while putting too many constraints on possible solutions: [The Obama Administration] seems [to have] set itself the wrong question. It has not asked what needs to be done to be sure of a solution. It has asked itself, instead, what is the best it can do given three arbitrary, self-imposed constraints: no nationalization [of Wall Street banks]; no losses for bondholders [of these same banks]; and no more money from Congress. Yet why does a new administration, confronting a huge crisis, not try to change the terms of debate? This timidity is depressing. You can read Mr. Wolf’s entire column here. I think James Hamilton of Econbrowser in his post, The Treasury's Financial Stability Plan, gives us some insight into why Geithner is being so timid: As I've argued before, there basically are five parties who might be asked to absorb the losses on existing assets, namely, stockholders, creditors, managers, employees, and the taxpayers. My favored concept is, we use player 5 [the taxpayers] to get as much leverage as possible out of the first 4. It appears that the Treasury's concept is instead a continuation of Plan A [the Paulsonian TARP], namely, hope that if we hold on tight and keep the ship from sinking long enough, everything will turn out OK. That is to say, at some point the Obama Administration, if they are serious about resolving this problem, will have to decide whose ox is going to get gored: either Wall Street and its investors, creditors and lavish campaign contributors or the taxpaying public. In other words, do you hurt the guys who finance your political campaigns, or do you hurt the voting public? Golly, that’s a tough one for any politician. Both the Bush Republicans and the Obama Democrats seem to have walked up to that one, and been unable to pull either lever. Much better to go on pretending that, as Mr. Hamilton remarks, “everything will turn out OK.” I think one reason the public hasn't freaked out more over... posted by Friedrich at February 11, 2009 | perma-link | (29) comments

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Sony Gizmo
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I've bought a few of these myself. (NSFW language alert.) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 10, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

Monday, February 9, 2009

Jimmy and Tom
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The invaluable Jimmy Moore podcast-interviews Tom Naughton, director of the fun and startling new documentary "Fat Head." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 9, 2009 | perma-link | (0) comments

Secession in Seattle
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- One war the French won had to do with art history. French Impressionism triumphed and most contemporary European art fell into relative obscurity, an injustice Your Faithful Blogger has been attempting to rectify for nearly four years. One of the casualties of the French Kulturschlacht was the reputation of Munich as a leading center of art and art training. These days only cognoscenti seem to be aware that, in the mid-to-late 1800s, young artists flocked there almost as readily as they did to Paris. Perhaps the best known American painter who trained in Munich was William Merritt Chase. Near the end of the 19th century Germanic art centers became secession-happy. Probably the best-known is the Vienna Secession, this due in part to the latter day fame of one of its instigators, Gustav Klimt. There also was a Berlin Secession. But the original secession occurred in Munich more than five years before Vienna and Berlin officially got into the act. (Yes, there were a number of artistic rebellions in the 19th century. But use of the term "secession" seems to be largely a Germanic phenomenon.) Exhibits of Munich art from the secession era are rare. However, one was held last fall at Munich's Villa Stuck -- an appropriate setting because a major secession sparkplug was Franz von Stuck himself. I have visited the Villa Stuck and recommend it to any art fan visiting the city. A modified version of that exhibit is showing in the United States until 12 April, 2009. Also appropriately, it is housed in Seattle's Frye Art Museum whose "founding collection" is largely comprised of Munich-originated paintings from around the turn of the 20th century (along with a couple of Bouguereaus and other art of the period). Below is an example from the Frye. "Head of a Woman" - Hugo, Freiherr von Habermann (1849-1929) The Seattle version lacks some of the paintings in the Villa Stuck show, but includes items from the Frye collection. Here, the exhibit is titled "The Munich Secession and America". I enjoyed the exhibit greatly and learned about some interesting painters I had been ignorant of; I'll write about some of them in the coming weeks. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at February 9, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

Steve on Greg and Henry
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A morning treat for you (I'm on west coast time): Steve Sailer writes a rowdy, smart, and links-rich review of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending's brilliant and entertaining "The 10,000 Year Explosion." I did a week-long series of q&a's with Greg about the book. Access 'em all here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 9, 2009 | perma-link | (0) comments

Sex Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Cougar Liberation: older galz on the prowl are coming out of the closet. * Jenny Jones files a report from the AVN Expo. * Best use of a wiki yet. * Can a child be charged with creating kiddie porn? The new technology certainly makes a lot of crazy things possible. * Sebastian Flyte praises "the neg." * Porn legend Ron Jeremy talks to Time magazine about his life in the business. * Randall Parker notices some changes in mating preferences. Razib comments. * How do you "ground" a daughter who is misbehaving in the virtual world? * Alexa writes that she got her first Brazilian at 15, and live-Tweets a professional appointment. * The biggest sexology discoveries of the last 130 years. * Rich men give women more orgasms. * Chuck Ross winces at the spectacle of middle-aged guys at gyms, and thinks that strip clubs are overrated. Good sentence: "Paying $100 for 4 beers and a case of blue balls is not my idea of a good time." * Porn star Belladonna tours the Lelo sex-toy booth. You don't need to be told that the linkage above is NSFW, do you? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 9, 2009 | perma-link | (15) comments

Molly C.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Artist and performer Molly Crabapple is looking a little like Natalie Portman (only stacked) on the cover of Constellation magazine. I'm proud to say that Molly got her start as a writer here at 2Blowhards. Check out her Confessions of a Naked Model: here, here, here, here. Here's Molly's website. Check out Molly's baby, the burlesque-inspired downtown phenomenon called Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 9, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Banking Rescue - Secrets, Lies and Campaign Contributions
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, The biggest problem the U.S. has in politically fixing the problems of the banking system is that the taxpaying citizen has been carefully denied any real insight into the actual financial situation of the major banks. This makes it impossible to objectively discuss such questions as “what are bank assets worth today and under a variety of scenarios going forward?” This in turn makes it impossible to consider “how big would a bad bank have to be?” and “how much recapitalization would current institutions really require?” and “would it be cheaper to let the old banks go under and start new ones?” The political insiders have a total monopoly on such knowledge and they are quite carefully hoarding it. Perhaps the really disturbing thought here is that, given how much time they seem to spend confabbing with senior Wall Street bankers, it’s genuinely possible that what the Geithner-Bernanke team think they know comes entirely from what the eager bailoutees tell them. After all, remember that the US government appears to have felt that Citibank was well capitalized after the first round of TARP money and prior to its first emergency injection of additional capital until the bank management called them up and explained otherwise. Is it any wonder that anyone with a brain and a modicum of experience in the real world is, um, just a tad suspicious of getting seriously ripped off under the cover of this informational iron curtain? One particularly well informed observer, Roger Ehrenberg (former trader, former investment banker and currently a venture capitalist) calls a spade a spade in his posting YOU, the U.S. Taxpayer, Can't Handle the Truth at his blog Information Arbitrage: Consider this comment from Rep. Brad Miller, a Democrat from North Carolina and a member of the House Financial Services Committee: "If we had regulators go in an examine the books like we did at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac a great number of our systemically important financial institutions could be insolvent." And this is exactly what Mr. Miller and Treasury Secretary Geithner want to avoid; the transparency necessary to figure out exactly where the industry stands, in order that a proper prescriptive can be put in place to begin real healing, not some illusory band-aid that will only set us up for greater suffering down the road. For a member of the House Financial Services Committee to make a comment like this only highlights the disconnect between the politicians and the real problem: dealing with the systemic insolvency that threatens our country. Mr. Miller would have you believe that putting our collective heads in the sand is a better approach. He is just so wrong. He knows the problem is there, but is unwilling to face into the truth. He thinks we can't handle it. Reality is, we can handle the truth: it's he and his scared-out-of-their-minds Congresspeople that can't handle the truth. We need some different people making the big decisions. They appear... posted by Friedrich at February 8, 2009 | perma-link | (12) comments

Ramesh on Bollywood 2
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Back here, Ramesh reviewed 2002 in Bollywood. Today, he shares more observations, links and clips about this super-popular movie form. *** Ramesh on Bollywood Part II : Bollywood the Show As a Preview to the Oscars, where a certain "Slumdog" seems to be shaking up the wigs, I thought I’d dive headlong into the stage, trumpet in hand. This is an R. D. Burman classic from "Apna Desh." Bollywood is influenced from musicals, whether they be the films of Busby Berkely -- -- or from shows in London’s West End -- -- or Broadway. Some comparable Indian productions would be and: The show tune production has been one of the Indian film Industry’s continuing motifs. In reality a Broadway chorus line -- -- is very different than the rows of dancers in Indian films: The former draws from the French revue and New Orleans shows, not to mention the British West End, while the latter draws from Indian folk dances as well as Broadway. The following is a second generation of Bollywood show tunes. Many of them are post 1990 and reflect a high degree of polish and a sensitivity to the Broadway and musical tradition they draw inspiration from: A. R. Rahman (who is currently nominated for three Oscars) did this in Mani Ratnam’s "Iruvar" as a period piece about Indian films in the 1960’s. I thought the other song in the film was more sophisticated if somewhat messily picturized: Close on its heels was Anurag Basu’s "Murder," a Bollywood take on the Richard Gere / Diane Lane film "Unfaithful." It featured this song: It was topped only by a yesteryears actress Rekha doing a very Shanghai show tune: By no means are production numbers exclusively the “let's outdo the west in stairs and choruses” alone. Bollywood has evolved its own logic to doing show tunes. This is from the Shahrukh Khan starrer "Dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge": Or this lush production of Sharmila Tagore in ostrich feathers. (MBlowhard note: the video is too wide to be embedded in this blog's column, so you'll have to click here to watch it. Recommended!) We can't conclude a short presentation without Helen, the queen of the Mumbai cabaret, doing a femme fatale -- Bollywood taught me how well cabaret went with Noir: In her iconic Carvan song: And in what must be the most popular song in the whole world: Shout out to A.R. Rahman! My Chennai homie should win two Oscars this year!!!! WooHoooo!!!!! Ramesh out. *** Many thanks once again to Ramesh. Visit Ramesh's blog here. Fellow Bollywood connoisseur David Chute offers a generous and informed guide to Bollywood for the rankest beginner (that'd include me) here. Print it, save it, and consult it the next time you decide to top off your Netflix queue. Visit this posting of mine for more links to Chute-ian Bollywood tips. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 8, 2009 | perma-link | (18) comments