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. "Change," My Foot
  2. Announcing the 2011 Obama Sedan
  3. Sex Linkage
  4. Women (and Men) Today
  5. Cities Where Cars Are More Trouble Than Worth
  6. Maui, Plain and Fancy
  7. Tom Naughton and "Fat Head": A Revisit
  8. General Motors and Me
  9. Japanese Tourism Follow-Up

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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"Change," My Foot
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Nice to see that a few people in the press (and even of the left-ish persuasion) are starting to catch on. Doug Henwood, of the Left Business Observer, has taken to mocking Obama as "Pres. Yeswecan." Best, Michael UDPATE: Decoding Barack.... posted by Michael at April 4, 2009 | perma-link | (46) comments

Announcing the 2011 Obama Sedan
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Here's something to consider. Just for fun, of course. It can't possibly happen here in America, right? WASHINGTON, D.C. Sept. 14, 2010 -- Press Secretary Chris Matthews announced this morning that the new 2011 Obama brand sedan from Government Motors ("GM") will go on sale September 18th. The car, called "Chevy Volt" during its development phase, is powered by electricity and therefore eliminates combustion pollution. In his press conference, Matthews characterized assertions that the electricity to charge the cars' batteries often comes from coal or oil fired power plants as "an irrelevant distraction from President Obama's efforts to create a clean, green America." The car is nearly silent, eliminating noise pollution. Matthews quoted Vice President Joe Biden as saying "pedestrians in crosswalks will hardly know it's coming." The car features an "astonishing 40-mile cruising range" that can be augmented by other technology. The entry-level version is priced at $35,450 and comes only in the fashionable hue Hospital Wall Green, a nod to its environmental friendliness. Deluxe models ($47,250) can be purchased in one or another of the Obama Campaign Poster colors suite: Obama Pale Blue, Obama Pale Red-Orange and Obama Pale White. Matthews stressed that great efforts were undertaken to make the 2011 Obama affordable to all. One example he cited was use of chrome letter Os from leftover stockpiles of the former Oldsmobile brand for Obama brand-name trim. Matthews concluded his remarks by voicing the expectation of first-year sales of 2.5 million or more vehicles under the assumption that the Pelosi-Reid tax of $25,000 on all competing cars, SUVs, vans and trucks passes Congress and is signed into law by the President. On a more serious vein, the Volt does seem to have limited range and its likely price indeed might be around $35K. Would you buy one? I wouldn't. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 4, 2009 | perma-link | (87) comments

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sex Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Newspaper headline of the day. * Alexa was feeling mischievous ... (NSFW for language) * Ouch. * The evolutionary biology view of sexual attraction. * Michael Gonzales recalls (with fondness and gratitude) Jeffrey Jones' early-'70s National Lampoon erotic comic strip "Idyl." Enjoy some of Jones' non-erotic work here. Jeff Jones -- now that's an artist who can draw. * Vintage vibrators. * Help Roissy decide who's Beta of the Month. * Is pole dancing going to be the next new Olympic sport? * Cute (and super-entrepreneurial) porn star Sarah Blake offers a tour of her dungeon. * Getting rid of tattoos sounds like it's even more painful than getting them in the first place. * Well, maybe they're learning from their mistakes. (NSFW for language) * Whassup with the new young men who have no interest in sex? * Scientifically proven: the sexiest mouth in the world belongs to Monica Bellucci. * The economic downturn hits the porn business. * How sex began. * Those curious about "Game" can get a look at Mystery in action here. * Forget the central bankers and financiers. Here's another field that an Ivy education can prepare you for. Related. (FWIW, I genuinely enjoyed reading that book.) * MBlowhard Rewind: I wrote about the completely ludicrous yet very sexy French film "Exterminating Angels." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 3, 2009 | perma-link | (34) comments

Women (and Men) Today
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Are today's women liberated, confused -- or just out shopping? (And why are British women journalists so much more likely to write freewheeling and irreverent pieces about the "women" question than American women journalists are?) Bonus link: How did six-pack abs become such a big focus of erotic attention? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 3, 2009 | perma-link | (42) comments

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cities Where Cars Are More Trouble Than Worth
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I love cars and have driven them in many of America's largest cities. But even I have my limits to this practice. There are some places where I try to avoid driving if possible. If I lived there and didn't need to leave town often, I wouldn't even own a car; I'd rent when necessary. Car-unfriendliness comes in two main flavors. One is the street layout; some cities are very hard to navigate. The other is parking; street parking is restricted or impossible to find and parking lots and garages are rare or expensive. In some cases a city will strongly offer both features -- central Boston, for instance. Back in the early 1960s I used to drive into New York when I had a weekend pass from Ft. Meade, Maryland or Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. I usually stayed across the river in Hoboken at the Theta Xi house at Stevens Tech and then rolled into the city to see a girlfriend who lived in Queens not far from Laguardia. I found street parking in the neighborhood, given some effort. On Sundays I usually could find parking in the east 60s or 70s in Manhattan if I got there early enough, say by 10 a.m. That was 45 years ago, and I'm not sure such stunts still work. (Manhattan driving tips from that era: (1) focus on the cars in front of you and ignore those behind; (2) never make eye contact with pedestrians.) Washington, D.C. was a much smaller metro area in 1962-63 when I was stationed nearby, and weekend street parking was still possible. Sunday mornings it was fairly easy to park in the Mall if I was in a museum-going mood. But the street pattern -- all those diagonals such as New York Avenue that L'Enfant sketched out -- made getting around town a long, frustrating chore. As you might guess, Boston, New York and Washington (their central parts anyway) are my three least-favorite driving venues. Philadelphia and Baltimore, on the other hand, weren't nearly so troublesome. Well, Philadelphia was a hassle if you wanted to traverse it southwest-northeast rather than simply get into or out of center city. That was because of the street-highway pattern. Nevertheless, I had a car when I attended Dear Old Penn. I'll also confess that I usually drove it only on weekends, leaving it parked on Pine Street otherwise. A borderline case is San Francisco. I drive in it when I visit California, but find the parking situation annoying. I find Chicago fairly easy to get around even though the going can be slow. The cost of parking in the center is pretty high, however. Cars are necessary in Los Angeles, Detroit, San Jose and Houston, but driving there isn't always pleasant. Looking over what I wrote above, I conclude that there are few American cities where driving isn't worth the trouble. There usually is trouble of some sort, though not the show-stopper variety. European cities... posted by Donald at April 2, 2009 | perma-link | (11) comments

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Maui, Plain and Fancy
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I dragged in from Maui over the weekend and had a few days to recover. So now it's time for pictures! Maybe I should mention that Hawaii isn't all the glitz and spectacular natural scenes you're likely to have seen in advertising, magazine features and travelogues on TV. It was hardly glitzy at all back in the days when tourists were few because getting to the islands took a four and a half day cruise (each way) on a Matson Lines steamer or (1946-59, roughly) a nearly ten hour flight on a prop-driven Stratocruiser. These figures are for San Francisco-Honolulu; add more if one started from farther east. I first visited Hawaii in 1963 courtesy of the generous taxpayers of the day who, indirectly, saw fit to send me there by troop ship as part of a longer cruise to the Far East. We got to go ashore at Pearl Harbor and some of us opted for a short bus tour followed by a few hours of free time in the city and beaches. Along our route up to the Pali overlook of Kaneohe I saw lots of modest housing that was sketchily constructed by mainland standards. I knew that the building style was influenced by the mild climate, but it wasn't at all like the middle class neighborhoods I was familiar with growing up in Seattle. When in Maui last week I made a point to drive through the windward-side adjoining cities of Kahului (basically a working town where the airport and harbor are) and Wailuku (the scruffier county seat). While the jet age transformed the state over the last 50 years, it isn't difficult to find many remnants of Hawaii's agricultural, isolated past. With that in mind, below are a few of the snapshots I took. No Photoshop work of any kind on the following pix; what I shot is what you get. Gallery Apparently lounge chairs aren't forever. These were sighted on our way from our digs to the nearby Star Market. Down the road is an old neighborhood that hasn't yet been converted to hotels, condos or apartments. Modest houses in Hawaii can look similar to this. Others are single-story, but are raised off the ground a few feet; between the floor and ground is a breezeway that often is screened by crisscrossed lathwork. More beachside Maui scenery -- a vintage VW Beetle and across the road a Bad Ass Coffee Company outlet. They claim the name has to do with the donkeys that used to haul Kona coffee beans to market. Also old is Front Street in the former whaling town of Lahaina, for a few years the capital of the kingdom. Most of the commerce on this street consists of souvenir shops, restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and the like. Touristy, yet with its unique charm. A few blocks south is this view across the Lahaina Roads to the island of Lanai. The U.S. Pacific Fleet would anchor here... posted by Donald at April 1, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tom Naughton and "Fat Head": A Revisit
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some months back I managed to get hold of a DVD workprint of what sounded like an intriguing new documentary: Tom Naughton's "Fat Head." Although the film was still being edited and polished, I found it fun and fascinating -- and for a number of reasons. For one, it's a very effective takedown of Morgan Spurlock's popular anti-McDonald's movie, "Super Size Me." For another, it's an amazingly fast and effective intro to the low-carb / Paleo / Primal critique of establishment diet-and-eating advice. For a third, the film is an example of a newish and fascinating development in the history of filmmaking: the homemade, completely personal, yet fullscale movie. (Realistically speaking, it's only in the last few years that digital videocams, computers, hard drives, and audiovisual programs have evolved to the point where non-professional people working in their kitchens can create ambitious, inventive, and / or expressive work. For more about how these factors have affected this longtime moviebuff's view of movies and video, read this recent posting.) Curious and enthusiastic, I got hold of the film's creator, Tom Naughton, and did an interview with him. Here's Part One; here's Part Two. Tom is smart, funny, and down-to-earth; he's also an unusual new figure on the filmmaking scene. He gave us a very generous interview, so I urge you to click on the links above and give the q&a a read. Now finished -- and polished to a high shine -- "Fat Head" is available for purchase at Amazon and for rental at Netflix. I recently watched the film again, liked it even better, and got back in touch with Tom Naughton to bring myself up-to-date with his adventures in filmmaking. *** A Revisit with Tom Naughton 2Blowhards: You're a real film director now. How has becoming a film director affected your life? Tom Naughton: I don't think having a credit as a director has changed my life much. Well, I did grow a beard. And I wear a safari jacket. And after reviewing the video footage I shot at Christmas, I shouted "This isn't right!" and made everyone go through Christmas morning again so I could use more creative angles. It was tough re-wrapping all the presents. Plus I fired my daughter from the role of "daughter" and hired another girl whose head is larger in proportion to her body. But other than that, no, life is pretty much the same. 2B: Great to see the movie available to the public. How did you arrange distribution, and get from "a guy with a movie" to "a guy whose movie is on Amazon and Netflix"? TN: I was turned down by all the film festivals I entered. That may sound discouraging, but I wasn't discouraged. It's kind of what I expected. The film-festival crowd, like the Hollywood crowd, is almost uniformly left-wing. Many of them talk about their commitment to "diversity" in their guidelines, but in Hollywood-speak that means "We want films made by... posted by Michael at March 31, 2009 | perma-link | (34) comments

Monday, March 30, 2009

General Motors and Me
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- It seems that Our Revered President has forced General Motors Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner to resign (and collect a lot of money on his way out the turnstile). The Great Administrator also outlined what the government (us, in theory) expects of GM and Chrysler over the next few months. While the ultimate fate of GM is for the future to reveal, this is as good a time as any for me to reflect on the corporation. After all, I did work for GM and over the years my family owned a lot of GM cars. Readers under age 50 are too young to have experienced the environment where General Motors truly dominated the nation's (and the world's) automobile market. True, GM still had a large U.S. market share through the 1960s and into the 70s, but the wheels were getting wobbly in preparation for their falling off by the early 80s. So let's go back 60 years to 1949. The Japanese car industry hardly existed. European manufacturers had never attained large production volumes in the inter-war period and had yet to reach breakout status (that would happen in the 50s). Around half the U.S automobile market belonged to General Motors and competing companies watched GM's engineering, product packaging and styling carefully, taking care to be different, but not much different from the General. In 1950 I knew that my father planned to buy a 1951 Pontiac when they were revealed (we showed up at the dealer that weekend), so I spent the summer and fall speculating how the 51s might differ from the 1950 models I was seeing on the streets and thinking about the best two-tone paint scheme for our future car. (I was hot for a two-tone green paint job, but my parents opted for dark gray and cream-gray -- a better choice, in retrospect.) GM had a very strong management team -- veterans of the post-Billy Durant restructuring and the voyage through the Great Depression. These included Alfred Sloan, Harlow "Red" Curtice and Harley Earl. Later executives were not so talented or, maybe, lucky. Perhaps the most disastrous was Roger Smith, who ran the corporation from 1981 to 1990. He came in as a supposed breath of fresh air, which probably was needed. Smith's problem was that his version of fresh air was toxic, as the link indicates. My direct association with GM began in the Smith era. In the fall of 1982 I was invited to a job interview at the Warren, Michigan Tech Center. I didn't get full-time employment and instead became a consultant / data supplier which at least had the perk of my getting discounts when buying new GM cars. (And I avoided getting a GM pension -- something that might become iffy in the near future.) What I supplied GM were forecasts of households by type, age of head and various income ranges. At first these were for the United States; later on I furnished... posted by Donald at March 30, 2009 | perma-link | (12) comments

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Japanese Tourism Follow-Up
Donald PIttenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few days ago I posted about, among other things, Japanese tourists and how they seem to be found in a comparatively small number of places. This was in reference to a lack of them in Maui and scads of them in Oahu. In describing that contrast, I mentioned that "I always see two, three or more Japan Airlines 747s at the Honolulu airport". Now that I'm home from the islands and in the process of adjusting to a change of three time zones (and not really ready to resume normal blogging), I thought I'd pass along support for that statement. Behold: I took this photo late morning yesterday (29 March) documenting four such aircraft. One or two departed before we left at 1:20. And just for the heck of it, consider this. That's a Korean Air Lines ("Korean Air") 747. I'm not up to speed on Korean tourist habits, but guess that the Honolulu area is their main focus too. I'll assume that the fact that the JAL and KAL gates are widely separated is simple happenstance even though Koreans don't consider the Japanese to be pals. The previous shot was taken outside and this one was from inside the gate area (you can see some reflections on the window and the outdoor scene isn't quite in focus). Besides the plane, it offers a glimpse of the setting of the airport. That's Diamond Head on the horizon towards the right. And yes, in the foreground there are two people snoozing head-by-head on a ledge under the window. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at March 29, 2009 | perma-link | (3) comments