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. Sex Linkage
  2. Binary Stoplights
  3. Little Architecture History Lessons
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  6. Otis Shepard, Who Didn't Gum Things Up

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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sex Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * When in doubt, today's young woman wants to mow the lawn. * Take a tour of's facility. FWIW, and like it or not: Kink is generally thought to be making some of the most striking, stylish, and far-out current porn. Interesting that Kink also wants to be perceived as a good urban citizen. San Francisco, eh? Here's an interview with Peter Acworth, Kink's English-born, Columbia-educated CEO. * If feminists are going to make their own porn, why shouldn't they sponsor their own feminist porn awards? * Great gig. * So maybe not every woman is a morally-upright, polite, team-playing darling, and maybe there can be such a thing as too much estrogen. Who knew? * Ashley Dupre (of Eliot Spitzer fame) has been finding some calm by practicing yoga. * Enough, finally, with feminist "sex-positivity." Chicks, eh? Guys don't generally spend a lot of time worrying about whether sex is "good" or "bad," let alone "positive," let alone "politically correct." * All that said, it seems that more and more men are going sex-negative. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 11, 2009 | perma-link | (13) comments

Friday, April 10, 2009

Binary Stoplights
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- They were all (or nearly all) gone in Seattle by the time I started driving. But there were quite of few of them when I was a little kid being hauled around my my parents. In some respects, we were lucky to have survived. I'm speaking of something that I'll call the "binary stoplight", though in 1945 or whenever, it was simply a "stoplight." Early stoplights would show either red or green; it took years for the idea of amber caution lights to be implemented. So my Dad would be cruising down a street and Bam! the light would switch from red to green. The he would stop if he could or else continue through the intersection hoping that that figurative Bam! wouldn't be a real one. Drivers stopped at a red light would have to exercise caution before entering an intersection upon the light changing to green. So civilization can indeed progress at times. Here's a photo of one taken in New York City that I found on the Web. It might have been taken in the 1970s or early 80s, to judge by the cars. Binary stoplights are still found today, but mostly as freeway on-ramp control devices. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 10, 2009 | perma-link | (7) comments

Little Architecture History Lessons
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm often dismayed by the lack of familiarity many educated Americans have with their country's architectural history. Because they're familiar with the two Franks -- Gehry and Lloyd Wright -- they think that they've got it covered. Hey, America: Architecture-and-urbanism is as big, wild, and wonderful a field as American music. It's seething with geniuses and talents, as well as fab, sexy, and instructive stories about money, ego, and power. Go for it. Side benefit: Once you get the hang of the basics, what we architecture-and-urbanism buffs like to call "the built environment" becomes comprehensible and eloquent. Why, the entire world is an art exhibit! Paul Goldberger writes an excellent introduction to the Chicago Beaux Arts (think Paris-style) titan Daniel Burnham, who gave us New York's iconic Flatiron Building as well as Washington D.C.'s glorious Union Station. Here's a posting from me about Addison Mizner, a larger-than-life fantasist / designer / entrepreneur who popularized the Mediterranean Revival, one of America's most lasting and crowd-pleasing styles. Best, Michael UPDATE: So how is the recession affecting America's love affair with the exurbs? Interesting Fact for the Day: "While an average of 19 new malls per year were built in the United States during the 1990s, not a single new mall has been built in the last two years."... posted by Michael at April 10, 2009 | perma-link | (9) comments

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Architecture Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * John Massengale gives a mixed review to the Yankees' new stadium. A video tour can be watched here. * Steve Sailer is sensibly funny and disparaging about an expensive new L.A. high school. Many commenters make witty jokes too. The good show left me wondering about something I've wondered about before: Given how much mockery of conventional politics the web has set loose, why aren't we seeing more populist mockery of bad, pretentious architecture? My sad hunch: Most Americans barely register their physical surroundings, at least once outside their own homes. * MBlowhard Rewind: I mused about the roles of utility and evolution in the development of the arts. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 8, 2009 | perma-link | (8) comments

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Reinventing College
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Several times a year I get solicitations to donate to one alma mater or the other. And every time I get one I toss it in the waste basket. It's easier for the University of Washington's pitch because a certain percentage of the sales tax I have to pay gets pipelined there, so I consider that I'm doing my bit for The Cause whether I want to or not. The matter of Dear Old Penn is more ambiguous because it's a private university (though a lot of state and federal dollars flow into it). My problem is ideological. I read news items about what goes on at the universities and this is reinforced by the alumni magazines I receive. Most of what I see is left-wing, politically correct activities that I'm supposed to understand as being "academic" and worthy of my support. Since I am no longer a Lefty and never ever bought into political correctness, I figure that any donations I might make would help fuel the goals of my political enemies. So no sale. All of which brings to mind the question of how present-day youth who don't want to have a significant part of their college classroom time subverted by unwanted political indoctrination can manage to become educated and land jobs that don't intrinsically require a college or university degree. (I'm thinking law, medicine and other fields that are vocationally oriented as opposed to jobs than can be held by general-purpose, liberal-artsy type majors. Engineering is not much at issue because its core is technical rather than political -- though political courses might intrude now and then.) I recognize that there are private vocation-driven evening or part-time colleges that potentially offer a politics-free environment. I further recognize that many people, myself included, do a good deal of learning on their own following graduation. But jobs in bureaucracy-dominated organizations such as governments and perhaps some larger businesses specify credentials for their various job slots, and self-education and perhaps some evening colleges don't meet the stipulated standards. Then there is the matter of accreditation. Suppose someone established a Right-leaning college (in practice, just as most colleges today are, in practice, left-leaning). The left-leaning academia probably dominates the accreditation bodies and therein lies the possibility that a de facto Righty college would be denied accreditation and thereby be shunned by potential students having limited time and money resources for getting their educational tickets punched. Therefore, much as I would like to see a return to the largely a-political college environment I experienced many years ago, I see no easy way to circumvent the present situation. Students will have to run the risk of being brainwashed for the next few decades and I will have to hope that eventually the higher education system will correct itself -- though I'm not sure how. Thoughts on the perceived (by me, anyway) politics infestation of colleges and universities and possible cures are welcome in Comments. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 7, 2009 | perma-link | (46) comments

Monday, April 6, 2009

Otis Shepard, Who Didn't Gum Things Up
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- When I was in high school and college I'd sometimes go to the Seattle Public Library and thumb through copies of the Art Directors Club Annuals from the 1930s, a truly interesting era for illustration and graphic design. Most of the artists and layout designers were classically trained (at least compared to today's standards) and trying to cope with pressures such as the effect of the Great Depression on advertising, the advent of Modernism in painting and graphic design, as well as the usual work atmosphere of their trade. I remain fond of what they accomplished and find the award-winning material in the 1930s annuals generally more satisfying than most of today's print advertising winners in current annuals. One artist whose work I enjoyed was Otis Shepard (1893 or 94 - 1969). Shepard is best known for his posters for Wrigley's chewing gum; he served as a Wrigley art director and artist 1932-1963. Other than the information above, I could find little about him on the Internet aside from here. Apparently Shepard was from California and it isn't clear whether he was able to work from there or spent time at Wrigley's Chicago headquarters. Below are examples of Shepard's work. Gallery These are examples of billboards and other poster work for Wrigley chewing gum. The Wrigley family owned Santa Catalina Island (off the California coast south of Los Angeles), so Shepard got to do some promotion work for it when not doing chewing gum advertising. Oh, and the Wrigleys also owned the Chicago Cubs baseball team, so Shepard produced work for it as well, including this program cover and some other items shown on the link above. Shepard had a nice, clean style of airbrushing as well as a good feeling for simple, poster-style design. It's happy, not dark or edgy, and I think that's a nice thing. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 6, 2009 | perma-link | (3) comments