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  1. Stuck on Evil
  2. Visual Linkage
  3. Is Porn the New Rock 'n' Roll?
  4. Hawks on "The 10,000 Year Explosion"
  5. Wars Don't Matter, Some Say
  6. Short Links
  7. Short State Street Stroll
  8. Pat Condell on the Geert Wilders Affair
  9. Is MAYA Extinct?
  10. Linkage

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stuck on Evil
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- That "Stuck" in the title is actually pronounced something like "ztook" or "shtook" (these might work if you're an English speaker). It's the last name of noted Munich artist Franz von Stuck (1863-1928) who acquired the "von" in 1905. I recently posted about a Munich Secession show now playing in Seattle. Therein, I threatened to post articles about some of the artists whose paintings I viewed, and now I'm about to make good on it. As you can see, first up is Franz von Stuck, one of the key players in the Secession. Links with information about him are here and here. The Wikipedia link notes that Stuck, besides rattling Establishment cages, was a commercial artist, portrait painter and art teacher. Among those studying under him were better-known (than Stuck, these days) artists Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Josef Albers. The painting that launched Stuck into fame and a fairly good fortune in Munich was the painting shown below: Sin - 1893 It's murky looking (a trait of many Munich paintings of that day), though the temptress (Eve?) is easy to spot. You might have to pay a bit more attention to make out the serpent. Needless to say, in 1893 Catholic Munich, the painting caused a sensation. But not so much of a sensation that Stuck was sent packing; as I noted, it was a career-maker. It seems that he painted about a dozen versions of it over the years, or so says the exhibit catalog. One is in the Villa Stuck and another is in Seattle's Frye Art Museum collection, where it seems to be almost always on view. Gallery Franz Stuck and His Wife in His Studio - 1902 Guardian of Paradise - 1889 Lucifer - 1889-90 Pallas Athena - 1898 This was painted the same year as Gustav Klimt's painting of the same title. Tulla Durieux as Circe - c.1913 Along with Edgar Degas, Alphonse Mucha and some other painters of his era, Stuck made use of photography when painting. The painting of Duriex is a very close copy of a reference photo to be found on page 40 of the catalog for a 2006 exhibit in Trent, Italy. (Title: Franz von Stuck: Lucifero moderno; text entirely in Italian.) Spring Love - 1917 In the last decade of his career, Stuck was painting in a mural style -- outlines and flatter modeling. There are two example in the Frye that I'm aware of, and neither is mural size, however. Villa Stuck exterior Villa Stuck interior More images of Stuck's work can be found here. The Frye has several of his paintings, but I'm not sure if any other American museum has even that many. The best place for the "Stuck experience" is the Villa Stuck itself. I was there three years ago and found it worth the mile or so walk from the vicinity of Munich's subway system. I'm not sure that Stuck was a great painter; but I do... posted by Donald at February 21, 2009 | perma-link | (7) comments

Visual Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Flickr fanatic Jovike is one inspired, and unconventional, Flickr poster. Don't miss his collection of photographs of book jackets. * Scenes from the Morgue does a great job of sharing old movie ads and trash-culture trinkets. * Lava lamps for a new generation. * This isn't your wholesome neighborhood Soap Box Derby. * A history of the photobooth. (Link thanks to visitor Julie.) * MBlowhard Rewind: I wrote an introduction to a Canadian artist whose work I love, David Milne. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 21, 2009 | perma-link | (0) comments

Friday, February 20, 2009

Is Porn the New Rock 'n' Roll?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Gallery owner, artist, activist, porn performer and porn producer Madison Young answers 20 questions. Reading the q&a with Madison reminded me of a notion that I've been playing with recently. It's this: Perhaps porn is the new rock 'n' roll. I have a cold today so I'm not going to try to build my usual devastatingly-convincing case. (Small joke.) Still, some comparisons are striking. If you object to my notion because you feel that porn by definition isn't an art form ... Well, it certainly took a while for rock to be recognized by mainstream society as one. Definitions sometimes change. If you cavil because you think porn is too base or animalistic ... Well, rock was experienced by mainstream society for quite a while as little but a shapeless eruption of primitive energy. Then our view of what art can offer changed. Here's my basic reasoning. Porn has been around forever. What has changed in fairly-recent years is that 1) it has become omnipresent, 2) younger generations take its easy availability for granted, 3) a not-insignificant number of artily-inclined and talented kids (Dave Naz, Natascha Merritt, Eon McKoi, Blaise Christie, Joanna Angel) have chosen to embrace porn as their favored form of self-expression, 4) digital technology has provided tools to make porn on your own terms, as well as a way to distribute your creations. In other words, perhaps the only reason that porn hasn't been acknowledged as a significant new art development is because we aren't yet in the habit of seeing it as such. Were there loads of people in 1954 who realized that rock was a big, culture-transforming deal? So, my hunch: Perhaps 50 years from now, people looking back on our time -- in the unlikely event that anyone should take a break from mobile Facebooking -- will decide that Madison Young, the folks behind IShotMyself and BeautifulAgony, and Peter Acworth (the entrepreneur and mind behind were the culture-shifting art stars of 2009. Unlikely, perhaps. But can you guarantee me that this won't happen? And a quick reminder: jazz wasn't initially seen as one of America's most glorious contributions to world culture. For decades movies were considered to be a low-rent novelty. Almost no one following movies in the '60s and '70s forsaw that the exploitation movies of the era would have the continuing influence and impact that they've proven to have. Given all this: Which of today's artists and performers would you deem likely to be remembered in 2059? A quick attempt to head off one potential dismissive response at the pass: I'm not venturing my "porn may be the rock 'n' roll of our era" notion because I like porn, or because I feel it's a good thing, or a bad thing, or because I have a political or cultural agenda. I'm not agitating on behalf of porn. My only purpose in this posting is to take note of a little of what surrounds us, culturally... posted by Michael at February 20, 2009 | perma-link | (89) comments

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hawks on "The 10,000 Year Explosion"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Anthropologist John Hawks reads and reacts to Cochran and Harpending's "The 10,000 Year Explosion." Verdict: "I've read most of the recent popular books about human evolution or genetics. To me, this one stands above the others." Read the 2Blowhards interview with Gregory Cochran here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 19, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wars Don't Matter, Some Say
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- As is often the case for me and many others, what one should have said doesn't pop into one's mind until too late. For instance, a few weeks ago I was chatting with a gent who had been a Marine in World War 2 and fought on Iwo Jima. After mentioning that, he vaguely wondered whether the result was worth what he had experienced. What I now think I should have done would have been to ask him what difference it would have made if the United States had lost that war. But I simply let his remark pass. The USA usually wins its wars. So the aftermath strikes most citizens as something pretty much like the pre-war situation. The net result being not much change, it becomes easy to shrug off the episode as unnecessary. I suppose something similar can be the case for attitudes about wars fought centuries ago: What was all the fuss about? This is not to claim that all wars are both important and necessary. But some are. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at February 18, 2009 | perma-link | (32) comments

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Short Links
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Weird. * Naps. * More. * Taleb. * Ron. * Law. (Link thanks to Bryan.) * Big. (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin.) * Graphic. * AltPorn. (NSFW) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 17, 2009 | perma-link | (6) comments

Short State Street Stroll
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- There's a song about Chicago ("that toddlin' town") that has the line: "State Street, that great street." State Street lost out to Michigan Avenue half a century or more ago and doesn't strike me as being worth singing about. Then there's an unsung (literally, as best I know) State Street that beats the Chicago version all to pieces. It's Santa Barbara's main commercial drag anchored on one end by the shore and Stearns Wharf and on the other more or less by the 101 freeway. The most interesting part for tourists is the segment extending from the shore for a mile or so, ending a few blocks west of the art museum. Since SB is sort of a college town (UCSB is actually in a neighboring burg), one finds the usual West Coast assortment of college kids, street people and the stores, restaurants and bars they find appealing. One also finds on or near State Street tonier places such as art galleries, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. What I like about the area is the Spanish-style streetscape, the result of decisions made in the wake of the 1925 earthquake that heavily damaged the city. (General information on Santa Barbara that briefly mentions the quake and aftermath can be found here.) Below are some snapshots I took 31 January. Most were taken near the art museum. It was a bright day, so the exposure meter had trouble coping with the strong light/shade contrasts; hope you don't mind. Here is an intersection view I'll use as my establishment shot. Half a block west. A bit farther west is the art museum. Around the corner from the museum is the public library. A sidewalk view. A view of the shady side of the street. Several passages can be found along State. Closer look at that passage. The window-cleaner at the left is a statue, by the way -- at first glance, most folks think he's real. Not shown is the fabulous county courthouse, a blog-post subject in its own right. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at February 17, 2009 | perma-link | (12) comments

Pat Condell on the Geert Wilders Affair
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The British government preventing Geert Wilders from entering the country? Pat Condell has a few words about that decision: Let me put off debate about the subject matter of Condell's video for just a second in order to ask: Is that man a great ranter or what? Articulate, funny, impassioned yet under sly control ... What a virtuoso. OK, now back to the substance of it ... Possibly related? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 17, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

Monday, February 16, 2009

Is MAYA Extinct?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- No, no. That "MAYA" in the title doesn't refer to the former Indian empire in Mexico/Central America. It stands for the phrase "most advanced, yet acceptable" -- a credo of famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy. And it has almost everything to do with Modernism. The early growth of the industrial design profession in America coincided with (1) the Great Depression of the 1930s and (2) the triumph of Modernism with reference to this country's cultural elite. About 1930, new skyscraper designs were sloughing off Art Deco ornamental motifs. In fact, ornamentation of all sorts was rapidly being abandoned as the theories of European architect-intellectuals such as Corbusier entranced even the best of American architects. For example, Raymond Hood quickly moved from Radio City style to International Style for his McGraw-Hill Building. The construction industry was hit hard by the Depression. Ditto manufacturers. But changing the appearance of most products is less costly than erecting a skyscraper. So while architects suffered, the new, self-proclaimed breed of industrial designers did well during the 30s because manufacturers were desperate to increase the appeal of their product lines and would spend money to make, at the minimum, cosmetic changes if not complete redesigns. Consumer products in the late 1920s tended to be superficially ornamented, in many respects design holdovers from Victorian days. Industrial designers could easily strip off that ornament and, if things worked out well, re-engineer products for greater production efficiency. The stated goal was "functionality" in both engineering and appearance. With respect to appearance, the notion was advanced that there was some sort of Platonic Ideal form for each kind of product and that the industrial designer would strive to actualize it. This ideal form was, of course, Modernist; shapes were simple and ornament absent. Actually, a tiny bit of ornamentation might be permitted provided that it too was highly simplified and "in character" with the design as a whole -- hence fluting and speed stripes found in "streamlined" Thirties' industrially designed products. Bumps on this road to rational perfection were caused by customer resistance to Modernist designs. However, as best I can tell, such resistance wasn't strong, though it did vary by type of product. For example, many housewives preferred traditional shapes and decorative patterns for dining china to Modernist alternatives while thinking nothing of buying a streamlined-looking toaster. In some cases, Loewy had an ideal in mind but understood that potential customers (and perhaps his client) weren't ready to buy the ideal version. So he instead proposed designs that would take the product's appearance part of the way to the ideal and this would condition shoppers for further changes in the direction Loewy wanted to lead them. I recently posted about the evolution of automobile fender lines at General Motors during the late 30s and 1940s. This was what Loewy meant by MAYA evolution. But the MAYA concept began to lose relevance. That's because the "most advanced" part of the saying actually implied "most... posted by Donald at February 16, 2009 | perma-link | (0) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Roissy volunteers a shrewd analysis of a scene in "Hud," inspiring an even-livelier-than-usual commentsfest. * Rick Poynor and Adrian Shaughnessy compare notes about falling in love with movies in the 1970s. * Roger Scruton supplies a lot of perspective in this review of a social history of Western music. * GFS3 cringes at the memory of nine male-nudity movie scenes. * Thanks to Mexican drug wars, Phoenix has become the kidnapping-for-ransom capital of the U.S. * Randall Parker is wary of a recently-floated idea for a Fairness Doctrine for talk radio. * Is financial chaos in Eastern Europe about the take the rest of the world down? * MBlowhard Rewind: Convenient, safe and attractive parking can help revive a downtown. Santa Barbara has shown how. * And, just because I happened to be thinking, "Sheesh, imagine 20th century popular culture without 'the Bo Diddley beat'": Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 16, 2009 | perma-link | (19) comments

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What Would Andrew Jackson Do?
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, Simon Johnson was formerly the chief economist at the IMF. As a consequence, he’s had experience with governments all over the world, including many that are basically run by small groups of wealthy oligarchs. Having turned blogger, Mr. Johnson recently wrote a posting, High Noon: Geithner v. The American Oligarchs, in which he points out that the way the U.S. government is responding to the banking crisis is looking awfully Third-World-ish. Mr. Johnson was interviewed by Bill Moyers on PBS. You can read the transcript or listen to the interview here. Below are some portions of the interview that highlight for me exactly how critical the current situation will be in determining what kind of country we want to have going forward: BILL MOYERS: Oligarchy is an un-American term, as you know. It means a government by a small number of people. We don't like to think of ourselves that way. …Are you saying that the banking industry trumps the president, the Congress and the American government when it comes to this issue so crucial to the survival of American democracy? SIMON JOHNSON: I don't know. I hope they don't trump it. But the signs that I see this week, the body language, the words, the op-eds, the testimony, the way they're treated by certain Congressional committees, it makes me feel very worried. […] BILL MOYERS: Geithner has hired as his chief-of-staff, the lobbyist from Goldman Sachs. The new deputy secretary of state was, until last year, a CEO of Citigroup. Another CFO from Citigroup is now assistant to the president, and deputy national security advisor for International Economic Affairs. And one of his deputies also came from Citigroup. One new member of the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board comes from UBS, which is being investigated for helping rich clients evade taxes. SIMON JOHNSON: …I don't think you have enough time on your show to go through the full list of people and all the positions they've taken.… I think these [Wall Street] people think that they've won. They think it's over…They think that we're going to pay out ten or 20 percent of GDP to basically make them whole. It's astonishing. BILL MOYERS: Why wouldn't they believe that? I mean, when I watched the eight CEOs testify before Congress at the House Financial Services Committee earlier this week, I had just finished reading a report that almost every member of that Committee had received contributions from those banks last year. I mean in a way that's like paying the cop on the beat not to arrest you, right? SIMON JOHNSON: I called up one of my friends on Capitol Hill after that testimony, and that session. I said, "What happened? This was your moment. Why did they pull their punches like that?" And my friend said, "They, the Committee members, know the bankers too well." BILL MOYERS: Last year, the securities and investment industry made $146 million in campaign contributions. Commercial banks, another... posted by Friedrich at February 15, 2009 | perma-link | (33) comments