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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  1. Blogging Note
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  7. Terry Southern
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  10. Dressing Up is Hard to Do

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Blogging Note
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- We're off to Maui for a week starting tomorrow (the 21st), so posting might be light or even non-existent if my cell phone Internet connection doesn't function where we'll be staying. This family trip was set up last September before the stock market cratered, but we're doing it anyway. I've only been to the Honolulu area, so Maui will be totally new for me. Nancy probably will be spending most of the time with her granddaughters. But we'll have two rental cars (there are eight of us), so I ought to be able to find time to explore the place, something I enjoy doing. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at March 20, 2009 | perma-link | (5) comments

Teleprompter Tells All
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- The economy isn't doing well, but it isn't hard to find humor -- and I don't mean just the gallows variety. No doubt many of you have heard about this Web site already, but I'll pass it along, just in case. It's called Barack Obama's Teleprompter's Blog. It chronicles the daily activities and musings of our beloved President's constant and essential companion. "TOTUS," by the way, is an acronym for Telepromper Of The United States, a riff on POTUS, President Of The United States. So far as I know, the real writer hasn't been identified, but it might be someone like Jim Treacher or Rob Long. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at March 20, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

Thursday, March 19, 2009

In a Bad Economy, Women's Skirt Lengths ...
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- They (don't ask me who) used to say that bad economic times and the length of women's skirts correlated. As the market dropped towards the floor, so did the hems of skirts and dresses. I suspect this notion was launched by the experience of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Sweet Young Things and wannabes during the Roaring Twenties wore knee-length skirts. By 1935 hems dropped to a few inches above the ankle: call it the lower calf area. And in the early 1940s hems were back to the lower edge of the knee. So far, so good for the theory. But the high skirts of the 20s were a complete break from centuries where women's dresses and skirts ended somewhere between the ankle and the floor. Not much room for correlation with this Golden Age or that Panic. Flip to post-World War 2. Wartime skirt lengths came crashing down with Dior's New Look launched in 1947. For the next dozen years or so, skirt hems hovered near mid-calf. During which time we went through at least two economic downturns of note (1949 and 1958) plus Eisenhower's prosperity years. As the 1958 recession eased, hems did rise in accord with the recovery. Around 1960 came A-line dresses where hems were just below the knee. As 1960s prosperity continued, hems went up. And up and up until the turn of the decade when there were miniskirts, micro-minis and and all sorts of eye-candy. I'm not sure whether this had anything to do with the economy or if it was launched by the invention of pantyhose in the late 60s. By the 1980s, fashion lock-step had been largely broken and, ever since, women wear a greater variety of styles at any given time. This makes it difficult to link skirt lengths and stock prices. Since correlating hems and business cycles seems to be something not worth pursuing, why don't we focus on the more interesting (to men) subject of skirt lengths. At 2Blowhards, Michael mused about skirts and other garment-related matters here. My subject (now that I disposed of the economics thing) is what is the ideal skirt length. Let's assume the Female Object (yes, feminists, we are indeed objectifying here: deal with it) is an average-attractive woman in her late 20s and has average-to-better legs. My vote is for a hemline at the bottom of the kneecap. When seated, a woman so dressed will show off her knees and perhaps a bit more. When standing or walking, the focus will be on the curves of the calf as the thickness of the lower leg increases and then decreases. The longer skirts of the 30s and 50s allowed display of only the lower part of the lower leg. From all angles, all that could be seen was taper, and from the rear, many women had a bird-like appearance -- the lower legs forming a sort of V. On the other hand, short skirts are unfair to... posted by Donald at March 19, 2009 | perma-link | (36) comments

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

America 2050
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Here's a weird one: an organization that, unlike many on the PC/multiculti side, is completely upfront about where PC, multiculturalism, and current immigration policies are steering us in a demographic sense. From their "Goal" page: By 2050, one out of five Americans will be foreign born. Latino communities will triple in size and the percentage of Asian communities will increase significantly. There will be no clear racial or ethnic majority. Only 47% of Americans will be classified as white. The American population will drastically shift. New faces, new foods, new languages, and different skin colors will influence our everyday experiences. What appears ‘foreign’ will challenge how Americans see the world and how Americans identify themselves. Not that my opinion really matters ... But, me, I look at that first paragraph and think, "Holy crap, that's a recipe for a lot of wrenching and possibly disastrous changes." I wonder why this is happening to us, and who has been forcing it on us. And, in response, I tend to think in terms of "What can be done to minimize and maybe even reverse the damage?" America 2050, though, thinks these changes are just great. All that's needed for us to successfully adjust, apparently, is a lot of "candid conversations around race, immigration, and identity." So what is America 2050 doing to encourage these "candid conversations"? Take a look at this posting on American 2050's blog. As far as I can tell, America 2050's basic strategy isn't to sponsor candid, searching, open discussions at all. Instead, it's to demonize and discredit anyone who disagrees with them about how groovy all these changes are gonna prove to be. Question For the Day: Does America 2050 really want candid conversations, or is it dedicated instead to rigging important public discussions in ways that suit them? Don't ask me why, but I suspect that what we have here is an example of "Hey, let's play a game! My rules. My field. My ball. And I get to be umpire too." Ah, those who love being on the side of the angels, eh? It can be dangerous to the health to get in their way. Now, excuse me while I go discard everything that the Village Voice has ever published -- and while I throw mud on everyone who has ever written for that publication -- because it has had dogmatic socialists, freaky feminists, and outright revolutionaries on its staff. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 18, 2009 | perma-link | (121) comments

Political / Econ Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Has the Israel Lobby finally overplayed its hand? * Nathan explains why it can be helpful to think of conservatism and capitalism as two very different forces. * What are some of the advantages of gold? * Maybe more credit isn't what the economy needs. Maybe what the economy needs is more savings. * Does Keynesian economics deserve to be called a science? * Will today's financial travails make economists more modest about their powers? * Sheldon Richman argues that government should be doing much, much less than it has been doing to solve the financial crisis. * Better to rip the band-aid off the banking system in one go, or do it bit by bit? * Or maybe it's time for a mercy killing. * MBlowhard Rewind: I wrote about how much I've learned from wrestling with rightieness. Main point: I'm amazed by how little most urban lefties know about conservatism. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 18, 2009 | perma-link | (7) comments

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More on Game
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I was pleased with a comment I made on a recent posting about Game, so in the hopes of keeping the conversation rolling I'm promoting it to a posting of its own: No one wants to take up the line of thinking / observing that sN and I propose? Namely, avoiding the quarrel over the content of Game (which mainly strikes me as a hiphop version of traditional "be a man / treat her like a woman" courtship rules), and speculating instead about what it represents in a more general cultural sense? Anyone? Why should such a thing, in this kind of form, come about? What does it signify that it has? FWIW, quarreling with the content of Game, while fun, strikes me as something akin to being around in 1965 and quarreling with the content of the hippie vision. A lot of the hippies' arguments and points were pretty silly, after all. But the main thing at the time was that there were suddenly a lot of hippies around, no? And trying to figure out what that was all about. As for beating up on the youngdudez ... Always tempting, of course. They probably even need it. But at the same time ... It ain't their fault that they were born when they were. Hyper-feminized upbringings ... Glittery and exhibitionistic (but also hyperbossy and aggressive) girls ... Plentiful electronic temptations ... Waking up out of this, getting a bit of a bead on it, and discovering that it's OK to be a guy in the trad sense seems to be part of what Game represents. That may look funny to us oldguyz -- but isn't that simply because "feeling entitled to being a guy" was never an issue for us? After all, we grew up pre-'70s feminism, and especially pre-'90s establishment PC. If today's youngdudez need to act out, break a few windows, and write some manifestos, it strikes me as fine and understandable -- even a heartening spectacle. They're learning for the very first time what it is to really be a guy. Beats never connecting with what it is to be a guy, no? To take it a step further: What if what Game represents is the beginnings of a mass, populist revolt against PC? If so, then that's really something major, given what PC is and how long it's been around. It's a little like the birth of Solidarity over in Poland -- the opening-up of a major chasm between the PC-lovin' elites and the mass of real people who just want to get on with decently satisfying lives. Funny that the flag that's being waved belongs to an underground school of How to Pick Up Girls, but life can be funny. And why should it surprise us that the main thing that's on the minds of youngdudez is sex? Besides, for youngdudez sex can be a door that opens onto much else. It can be The Door that leads... posted by Michael at March 17, 2009 | perma-link | (153) comments

Monday, March 16, 2009

Terry Southern
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Terry Southern photographed by Stanley Kubrick Christy Rogers writes an appreciation of the brilliant American satirist Terry Southern, best known for "Dr. Strangelove" (co-written with Stanley Kubrick) and "Candy" (which Southern co-wrote with Mason Hoffenberg). In a posting I wrote about co-creating a trash novel with The Wife, I passed along a lot of my own reflections about Terry Southern. Southern, who died in 1995, is one of my art-heroes. This conjunction of Terry Southern, satire, and co-creating may just be a fluke -- but, on the other hand, when The Wife and I co-wrote and co-produced a ribald audiobook last year, Terry Southern was definitely an influence and an inspiration. Total coincidence? Christy Rogers link found thanks to ALD. Buy yourself an Arts and Letters Daily t-shirt here. Here's the Terry Southern website. I found the 1963 photo above here, where M. Bromberg has posted a very on-target and evocative appreciation of Southern's writing. If you're curious about our audiobook -- a funny and raunchy Hollywood satire, full of wildass storylines and far-out performances by gifted actors -- shoot me an email at michaelblowhard at gmail. I'll send you a link to the website that we made for the audiobook, where you can learn a bit about it, enjoy a small audio sampler, and maybe hit a "Buy Now" button. The Wife and I will probably never create anything so ambitious again. My Question for the Day is a variant on many of my rants about the entrenched academic / bookchat / lit-fict thing: Why aren't more of Terry Southern's books taught in contempo lit classes? Why isn't more made of his writing by critics? And why aren't potentially turned-on kids introduced to his work as a regular part of a literary education? My hunch: It's because Southern's books were hilarious, often dirty, showbizzy, accessible, and entertaining. Funny, rowdy, easy-to-read, and recent ... Something about that combo rubs many readin'-and-writin' authorities the wrong way. Too bad. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 16, 2009 | perma-link | (3) comments

Pulp: Original and Recycled
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- The 1920s and, especially, the 30s were the heyday of pulp magazines, the term "pulp" referring to the rough, cheap grade of paper they were printed on. Michael is the lit major of the Blowhards crew, and I'll defer to him regarding the written content of the pulps. Instead, I'll deal with their cover art which has been undergoing something of a revival in recent years. My personal experience with pulps was nil, other than seeing them on news stands when I was a kid in the late 1940s. By the time I was old enough to get away with buying my own magazines (other than comic books) and bringing them into the home of my (probably) watchful parents, pulps were well on the way out. My favorite genre at the time was science-fiction, and sci-fi magazines by then (early-mid 1950s) had mostly graduated from pulp to digest format. The thing to remember about pulps is that they were cheap. The pulp paper was cheap. The writers weren't paid well compared to fees for contributors to "slick" magazines (so-called because they were printed on a better grade of slick-feeling paper) such as Saturday Evening Post and Collier's. Cover artists weren't paid very well either, though the covers were printed in color on semi-slick stock. Since almost everything about them was cheap, the pulps, like movies, did well providing inexpensive entertainment during the Depression years. They provided employment for several classes of illustrators: (1) those on the professional skids, (2) artists content to be full-time pulp artists, and (3) young artists needing both income and experience on their way up the ladder to glory in the slicks. Examples of the latter include Tom Lovell, Norman Saunders and Everett Raymond Kinstler -- the latter eventually becoming a well-known portrait artist. As far as I'm concerned, cover art for pulps was often pretty bad (though some better examples are shown below). In many cases, this was because the artist was a journeyman hack, incapable of doing top-notch work. Other artists did hack work because they were new at the game and using the experience to improve their skills, as I noted above. Perhaps the main reason why pulp cover art wasn't especially refined was because pulp editors and art directors (if there were any -- often the editor dealt with art as well as with words) didn't want refinement. What they wanted was eyeballs, and the way to attract the attention of people scanning magazine shelves of news stands was dramatic scenes and bright colors. As a matter of fact, cover artists were often ordered to include areas of bright red because it was thought to be a good attention-getter. Another important factor had to do with the low pay; artists couldn't afford to spend much time on refinement if they expected to make any kind of living painting pulp covers. That was then. Today in place of pulps we have paperback book covers and covers of... posted by Donald at March 16, 2009 | perma-link | (5) comments

Food, Eating, Health Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Did the discovery of cooking enable us to grow bigger brains? * Rich Green explains some of the reasons why the quarrels over raw milk are about more than just raw milk. They're of political interest too. * Dr. Mary Dan Eades lists her favorite cookbooks. * Men and women have their own, different ways of going about losing weight. * Scott Sonnon thinks that exercisers ought to be wary of regimes and instructors who are too hard-driving. My own exercise philosophy (small joke) doesn't consist of much more than "First, don't hurt yourself." * Orange juice is seeming a little less appealing these days ... Bonus link: Is Gobekli, in Eastern Turkey, the most important archaeological site in the world? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 16, 2009 | perma-link | (3) comments

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dressing Up is Hard to Do
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- It is for me, anyway. My wife, on the other hand, loves dressing up -- especially in "fun" clothes. And it doesn't bother her in the least to change clothes two or even three times a day. Not me. I'll change clothes perhaps once a day if company comes or we are going out to someplace fancy. Even then, I'll try to minimize the amount of changing. For instance, in the morning I'll put on the shirt that will be necessary later. And I'll wear black socks instead of the usual white crew socks of my crew socks 'n' jeans ensemble. Doubtless this demonstrates that I'm a creature of sloth and inertia. But, Honest!! I wasn't always this way. Back in the 1970s I used to wear jacket-and-necktie based outfits to work. Though that's because it was expected of us in those pre-casual days. And if I had a big date (or any date) on Saturday evening, I'd make a real effort to look spiffy. I suppose I should chalk that up to goal-motivation. Alas, even this proves that, left to my own devices, I'm a lazy, jeans-and-sweater-wearing slob requiring outside motivation to dress appropriately. Could it be [grasps at straw] that my behavior is, at root, simply one more case of boorish male-ness, so it isn't really my fault? I need to come up with some kind of good excuse to offer Nancy because I'm facing an evening at the opera in May. Later, Donald (By the way, the title of this posting is a take-off on the title of an early-60s Neil Sedaka song. You have my permission to sing it to the melody.)... posted by Donald at March 15, 2009 | perma-link | (13) comments

Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, Who you gonna believe? The prez: Obama Says Investors Can Be Fully Confident in U.S. Or your own lyin’ eyes: Cost to buy protection against U.S. government default surges Cheers, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at March 15, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

What Faith Are You?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A fun quiz from BeliefNet. I came up 100% Mahayana Buddhist and 90% Hindu. I don't have much in common with 7th Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses; I'd have thought I have more kinship with Eastern Orthodoxy than I seem to have. Hmm, have I linked to this quiz before? Anyway: Curious to hear how others score. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 15, 2009 | perma-link | (53) comments