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. The Life Cycle Stage and the Automobile
  2. Thoughts from the Battleship Missouri
  3. Political Linkage
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  5. G-Spots; Bailouts
  6. What's Really Important About a Car
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Life Cycle Stage and the Automobile
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Sorry folks, I'm writing about cars again. That's because I have them on my mind. And the reason is, I just bought a new one. Yes, as I wrote a few days ago, my wife bought herself a new car too. We agreed that we'll each do our own car-buying with personal funds, not as a joint purchase. Her beloved 2002 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer (with every whistle plus toots beyond measure) was getting too expensive to keep up. The economy being what it is, dealers -- especially those for domestic makes -- are especially anxious to get inventory off their lots. And there are tax incentives and so forth. So she got a good deal. Her car-shopping triggered my action based on thoughts that had been simmering for the past year (when my Chrysler 300 was paid off). I enjoyed the Chrysler in many ways, but found that its constricted visibility was adversely affecting my driving. Plus, the car had less than 4,000 miles left on its power train warranty and needed a set of new tires and a windshield replacement. It was time for it to go. (I wrote about the Chrysler 300 and automobile styling here.) All of which set me to musing about cars, generations and life-cycle stages, a subject I touched on here with respect to sports cars. Lacking research data, all I can do is describe my thoughts and motivations and let you use them as a yardstick for your own situation. First, generational effects. Based on no data whatsoever, it's my impression that 20, 30 and 40-somethings aren't nearly as deep into car fandom as was my generation and other males born post-Model T through the Baby Boom that ended in the mid 1960s. Later generations were distracted by computer games and other technology-based focuses of attention. (Though many did become automobile devotees.) Even in my generation there were those who regarded cars as tools or appliances, not sex objects, objects that might attract other kinds of sex objects, status symbols and all the other pop-psychology hypothesizing that's been floating around since the days of Henry Ford. People like that are the target market for Consumer Reports, which, in the mid-1950s, favored cars that I preferred not to be seen in. So we're all different with respect to attitudes about cars. My own situation has been one of frustration. Given a large discretionary income to play with, I probably would have traded one hot and sexy car for a newer, hotter, sexier one every year or two. No, I don't mean Ferraris or other supercars. My choices might have been the Austin-Healy sports car, the first-year Oldsmobile Toronado front-drive sedan, early Datsun 240Zs, the 1957 Corvette -- stuff like that. Alas, I never made the kind of money to follow that path. Instead, when I felt it was time to buy a new car, I got the sportiest one I could afford and what I bought usually... posted by Donald at April 18, 2009 | perma-link | (13) comments

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thoughts from the Battleship Missouri
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, I just got back from a vacation to Hawaii, where my wife and I took my young son over to see the Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor. A couple days later we went on the tour of the battleship Missouri, mostly because nearly half a century ago my dad took me to see various fighting ships parked around America. In the early 1960s, the battleships I toured seemed emblematic of America's righteous might, wreaking havoc on our evil foes. Not only were they impressive in themselves, but they symbolized a power that to all appearances could be counted on forever. Today, touring the battleship struck me almost as an exercise in ancient history, embalmed in amber; one's vision of this enormous vessel is distorted by a kind of astronomical red-shift effect, as if the whole experience of World War II is accelerating ever faster away from us like a distant galaxy. Still, as I walked around the ship, I couldn't help but ponder the giant shadow that World War II had cast not only over my boyhood, but even over my adulthood, though I rarely consciously noted it. It constantly floated in the middle distance, a religious crusade that justified not only the mysteries of the Cold War but somehow also sanctifying all the details, however dubious on their face, of American society. In fact, I think it's fair to say that not only for me, but for the entire nation, the whole second half of the 20th century existed in a sort of post-New-Deal, post-World War II haze, so pervasive that the full dimensions of it weren't entirely evident even during, say, the 1960s. (In fact, it's interesting to think how much of the intellectual underpinnings of the Sixties, even it's anti-Americanism, still rested on New Deal, World War II, and American Century intellectual foundations.) Of course all that just made it even more clear to me as I paced the deck where MacArthur took the Japanese surrender, how much that haze is now blowing away in a cold wind. I think I've mentioned several times in the past five years or so that it feels to me as if we've clearly left The American Century behind and are into something entirely new, although it appears that most of our population hasn't caught on, exactly. The rise of China and India, the de-industrialization of our economy, our massive trade deficits and dependence on foreign sources of capital, our equally massive levels of immigration, and the sense of many, many chickens coming home to roost has gradually signalled a great shift in eras for me. Sadly, the short term thinking of the past three decades, including the lack of truly fundamental technical innovations (face it, the Internet doesn't exactly match up to electrication or the Model T as a productivity enhancer), the long decline of our savings rate, the stall-out of income growth for most of the population, our financial reliance on stock and... posted by Friedrich at April 17, 2009 | perma-link | (17) comments

Political Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The wonders of globalization, cont. * Is there any reason at all for the U.S. to keep playing a role in NATO? Some fun facts: "America accounts for more than half of the world’s defense expenditures. Iran’s defense budget is less than one percent of ours. The defense budgets of Russia and China are no more than a tenth of ours." * The Congressional Budget Office's estimate of how much deficit spending Obama has pledged us to do over the next decade: $9.3 trillion. * The talk about secession is growing more public with every passing day. * Has Wilhelm Ropke's moment come? Forgive a little gloating: You've been reading about Ropke for years at 2Blowhards. Two excellent intros to Ropke and his thought: here and here. Matthew Redard's blog is heavily influenced by Ropke. * Quote for the day comes from Roger Scruton: I don't know whether anything that economists say is true. For almost all of them argue as though it were not human beings who are the subject of their discipline, but "profit maximizers," acting according to the principles of cost and benefit, and never troubling to make the distinction between real and unreal products, between right and wrong ways of behaving, and between responsible and irresponsible attitudes to future generations. * Read an interview with the brilliant and provocative Scruton. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 17, 2009 | perma-link | (9) comments

Health Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Two of my favorites, together again: Tom Naughton interviews Jimmy Moore -- part one, part two. We recently interviewed Tom, and I warmly recommend his movie "Fat Head," a funny and smart new documentary that's the best intro I'm aware of to the low-carb critique of conventional eating advice. Jimmy Moore is a force of nature whose site is full of information, surprises, and fun. Podcast fans will have a field day exploring Jimmy's archive of downloadable interviews. Coming soon on Jimmy's podcast show: Nina Planck, whose wonderful book "Real Food" I raved about back here. Visit Nina's website here. * Another fitness-and-eating tipster I'm a huge fan of is Mark Sisson, who has formulated what he calls the Primal Blueprint. Mark is brainy, cheery, knowledgeable, and helpful, as well as a hugely impressive specimen of middle-age manhood. What I like most about his point of view, though, is how quality-of-life-oriented it is. Primal livin' isn't about being a fanatic or adhering to rigid doctrines, let alone struggling for the sake of struggle. It's about enhancing your experience of life. Let's hear it for taking the time to enjoy what we're lucky enough to have. No surprise then that many of Mark's postings are discussions about food -- excellent recipes abound on his site. New today: How Primal fans can make tasty use of a crock pot. I'm eagerly looking forward to Mark's book, due out real soon. * For many decades now, saturated fat has played the role of devil figure in American health advice. But is there in fact there any evidence -- any evidence whatsoever -- that saturated fat contributes to heart disease? * MBlowhard Rewind: I did a little musing about exercise and aging. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 17, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

G-Spots; Bailouts
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * You know that long-running controversy over vaginal orgasms? The way some women say that they have 'em, some women report that they don't, and some extremist women claim that no such thing is even possible? (The nuttier feminists have long wanted to establish it as indisputable fact that the penis can play no role in a woman's pleasure.) Here's a study that may begin to explain a major reason why there's a controversy at all: Some women seem to have G-spots and others don't. Makes sense to me: During my catting-around years I ran across huuuuuge variations in women's sensitivity and responsiveness. Comments, stories, and opinions from female visitors to 2Blowhards are hereby officially encouraged. Dudes: Be respectful. Everyone: Take advantage of the fact that you're using a pseudonym. * This Newsweek article by Michael Hirsh explores the origins of Obama's bailout strategy. But it also provides an excellent glimpse at the way Wall Street and D.C. don't just overlap these days, they blend totally. Best, Michael UPDATE: Lifetime for Men. (Link thanks to JV.) UPDATE 2: Meet Japan's 75-year-old porn star. He went into the business when he was 59. UPDATE 3: The tools they use to measure sexual arousal.... posted by Michael at April 15, 2009 | perma-link | (36) comments

What's Really Important About a Car
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- My wife just bought a new car (a Ford Edge, if you're curious). Since she lets me drive it once in a while, I thumbed through the owner's manual to find out what was what. I discovered the following: The manual has 344 pages. The first nine are introductory material. This is followed by eight pages about the instrument panel. Pages 18 through 74 are devoted to "Entertainment Systems." Then it goes on to deal with climate controls, lights, driver controls, tire changing and the rest. That's 57 pages devoted to regular radios, Sirius radio, CD players, DVD players, MP3 tracking, headphones, remote controls and whatever other gizmos might be involved. And remember, this is covered before most information dealing with the operation of the car as such. Woe unto us. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 15, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- 90% of the cheeses produced in Switzerland are made from raw milk. Source. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 14, 2009 | perma-link | (11) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Are the photos in the new issue of Allure despicable porn? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 14, 2009 | perma-link | (50) comments

Romance Anniversary
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Harlequin (of Harlequin romance novels) turns 60 this year. * Bhetti, a smart and funny young woman who hangs out at Roissy's, has some words to say in favor of reading romance novels. * ABC celebrates the big Harlequin anniversary. Small MBlowhard rant: I do wish that many readers wouldn't be as quick to condemn and/or condescend to romance novels and romance writers as they are. In fact, it's quite amazing how prone many readers are to dismissing romance fiction, vampire fiction, and the like without ever having read any. How to explain this tendency of so many readers? My theory: It must have something to do with excessive exposure to English-lit classes. In any case: Romance fiction is dismissable because it's formulaic, you say? Response: Sonnets aren't formulaic? Rock and roll isn't formulaic? Incidentally, and FWIW, romance-reading isn't my thing by a long shot. But 1) I'm generally reluctant to condemn anything without having experienced it for myself (because I'm such a super-admirable person, of course), and 2) I'm always curious about genre books. So, many years back, I took the time to read a couple dozen romance novels. You know what I found? Surprise, surprise: Some romance novels are solid entertainments, crafted by generous and talented entertainers. I was left wondering: Why would anybody sneer at such creations, or at such creators? Let alone at the people who enjoy these creations? Related: Here's Harlequin's website. Wikipedia is very informative about both Harlequin and romances generally. One of the best of the romance novelists I read turns out to have been a man. Alias Clio is a fan of romance legend Georgette Heyer. Are you really gonna look down on the pleasures of Alias Clio? Other Popular-Fiction Links: I raved about James M. Cain's mean, brilliant, and juicy "Mildred Pierce." I praised some of the work of trash-novel diva Jackie Collins. I ranted about the class-and-snob basis of the "literary fiction" thang. Question for the day: Why are do so many people who are comfy with the idea of "popular music" and "popular movies" as "legitimate forms of entertainment that might well be art" turn their noses up at popular book-fiction? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 14, 2009 | perma-link | (57) comments

Monday, April 13, 2009

I'd Really Like to Observe ...
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Ever hanker for a fly-on--the-wall moment? Here are some of my nominations: An editorial board meeting of The New York Times. The jury for the final selection of the Pritzker Prize for architecture. The jury for the final selection of the Nobel Peace Prize. 2Blowhards frequent commenters Shouting Thomas and Chris White getting together for a beer/coffee/whatever. (Actually, they might hit it off pretty well in person: Ya never know.) I'll probably post some more later, but you can mention yours in Comments. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 13, 2009 | perma-link | (10) comments

Political Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Lovely. * Fred Reed thinks that it's about time the U.S.'s rulers learned a thing or two about Latin America. * Anne Thompson asks: Who would you cast as Monica Lewinsky? * Given that so many of the people who created our current financial mess went to the same bunch of business schools, Business Insider wants to know: Have our business schools disgraced themselves? And will they suffer for it? (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin). * One more consequence of the economic crisis: We're now blazing new legal paths. * Matt Mullenix proposes "neighborhood secession." * Are England's Tories going crunchy con? * Why are people talking so much recently about returning to a gold standard? * Fitness guru and brilliant economist Arthur De Vany lays out some of the reasons why turning health care into a universal entitlement can be a bad idea. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 13, 2009 | perma-link | (32) comments

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ads as Front Page "News"
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- According to an article linked by Hot Air, Los Angeles Times reporters are in a snit because the newspaper placed an advertisement on its front page. The page in question is shown on the link to HotAir, provided the link is still good. Hot Air's Ed Morrissey mentions that the paper approached the advertiser (the NBC television network) with the idea of putting a normal ad for a forthcoming show on page 1 and combining it with a news-like article about one of the characters. Given that entertainment is an important local industry that the Times favors in its news coverage, the piece might seem to be a real news item to some readers. On the other hand, the ad is set off by a bolder than normal border and the typeface used is also stronger than that used for editorial material. The faux article has a little colored NBC logo at the top, something real news stories lack. One missing item seems to be the word "Advertisement" that many publications use at the top of the framing to help clarify to readers that something that looks like editorial content really isn't. Morrissey points out that advertising that looks almost like news stories is a common practice, and notes some of the items I mentioned above. He isn't nearly as upset as the reporters, and neither am I. The Times really should have inserted "Advertisement" above the NBC logo to make the placement truly unambiguous. but otherwise I find nothing ethically wrong. After all, front page advertising is nothing new. I'm pretty sure that, years ago, my local paper would sometimes have a two-column, three-inch display ad at the lower-right corner. And I'm also pretty sure that the New York Times might have had tiny, classified-like two-line ads at the foot of the page. Or maybe it was the Seattle paper. I do recall seeing such things someplace and I also know that the practice died out on the papers I'm familiar with. Many years ago, newspapers had lots of advertising on their front pages. Below is part of the front page of the Boston Evening Transcript for 11 July 1851. The left-hand columns contain advertising. For Windows users, right-click and select "View Image" to see an enlarged version. As far as I'm concerned, newspapers can have the entire front page covered with ads if that's what their publishers want. It's a business decision, and editors and reporters must comply or seek work elsewhere. I tire of journalists' superiority complex. The Army trained me and a lot of other guys in the nuts and bolts of the trade in eight weeks; journalists are nothing special, believe me. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at April 12, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments