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  1. Fact for the Day
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  3. Response to Chris
  4. So Long, Saturn
  5. Matt's Response to Me
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  7. Movie and Video Linkage
  8. Big Is - or Was - British

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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Those who are now over 40 have lived through a doubling -- or more -- of the world's human population. Source. Some previous yakfests about population sizes, breeding, not-breeding, etc: here, here, and here. Woohoo -- people get really touchy about these questions! Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 30, 2009 | perma-link | (22) comments

Sex and Eroticism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The world's most famous swimsuits. * If the two of you are a couple, do you have to share the same bed? * Here's a lengthy Taoist look at orgasm. * For some people, there can be no such thing as too many choices in body jewelry. * Chuck has a theory of happiness. * Highlights from this year's pole dancing championship. * Arnold discovers Rio. (Link thanks to visitor Hello) Best, Michael UPDATE: Everything you may ever have wanted to know about female ejaculation. UPDATE 2: Funny and clever t-shirt.... posted by Michael at May 30, 2009 | perma-link | (9) comments

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Response to Chris
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- My recent treatise about architecture and shadows elicited a few comments from Chris White. Among his points: The park vs. "public space" images [in the posting] make their case as much or more through the choice of camera angles, time of day, weather and temperature variables as by any intrinsic virtues or defects in the spaces themselves. A few responses. Why would I, in a short blogposting, make an effort to undermine my own point? Earth to whoever may be reading this: What we at 2Blowhards often try to offer isn't the "fair and balanced objective truth" but a counterbalance to the conventional wisdom. The conventional architecture-and-urbanism press loves experimental, fashionable, stylish "excitement." I try by contrast to point out the wonders of traditional architecture-and-urbanism. Besides, fair and objective has been done already. From the '60s through the '80s, the sociologist William H. Whyte (together with many research assistants) observed, photographed, filmed, and noted down how real people in real situations make use of public spaces. In 1988, he pulled his work and speculations together in a great book called "City: Rediscovering the Center." It isn't just an interesting and substantial work, it's a joy to read. Whyte was a civilized, sophisticated, and urbane guy with a subtle sense of humor and an amusing way with words. Whyte was a major cultural figure, as far as I'm concerned. Read up on him here. So let's get real. What does common experience tell us? On a sparkling day, walking through a traditional park, is it really hard to snap photos like this one -- or this one? And aren't we all familiar with deserted and off-putting empty spaces? This scene didn't take a lot of effort on my part to notice and snap: Nor did this one: One easy lesson to take from this: Modernism (and its stylistic descendants) can be reasonably conceived-of as "the defiance of common experience." Modernism: Endless experiments based in theory and speculation, very few of which work out. Tradition: Practices based in experience that almost always succeed. Another lesson: If public space is to serve any useful purpose it shouldn't be dealt with as "empty space." It needs to be crafted and created as a positive thing in its own right. But Chris' point continued to irk me. Maybe he was right. How much had I rigged the visuals in my blogposting? Thinking about his challenge while puttering around the SoHo Apple Store the other day, I found myself devising a way to achieve "objectivity" in a minimal-effort way. On my way home I'd be passing through three markedly different public spaces. The first would be stark and high-modernist -- the open space at the base of a couple of concrete apartment towers. The next would be modernist but flossier -- a space that's half a courtyard, half a park and that has been decorated with planters and trees. The third would be Washington Square, a traditional Greenwich Village park.... posted by Michael at May 28, 2009 | perma-link | (33) comments

So Long, Saturn
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Maybe the title of this piece is premature. General Government Motors hasn't officially pulled the plug on its Saturn brand, but might by the time you read this (I'm drafting this posting 15 May). As a car-mad kid I used to draw imaginary automobiles (still do, matter of fact). Pre-high school, I concocted brand names for some of these doodling projects. I recall that, for sports cars, I came up with the name "Siena" which I got by looking at a map of Italy -- Italian sports cars being hot stuff even in the days when Detroit ruled the automobile world. Another imaginary brand was "Saturn" which I selected because the planet of the same name was really cool looking: awesome, even. Many years later, along came Roger Smith who, as GM Chairman and CEO made it his mission to shake up the corporation. As the Wikipedia link above indicates, many of his initiatives worked out poorly, to say the least. One project was a new, innovative small car called the Saturn. The link lays out the history of the brand, so read it for the details; I'll toss in my own take here. My dim memory is that the Saturn was supposed to be something pretty special. Rather than being a GM division, it originally was a semi-separate company that had its own deal with the UAW union as well as a specially-built factory in Tennessee, far from the automobile-intensive Detroit area labor market. The idea was to start with a clean sheet of paper and meld the best of American and Japanese practices. The company had its own dealer network where prices were set by Saturn and there would be none of the horse-trading hassle unpopular with many prospective car buyers. This last point was actually a nice move from a public relations standpoint; I know of a few buyers who considered it key in their decision to buy a Saturn. On the other hand, trade-ins opened the door for horse-trading practices, so I wonder what the buyer experience was under that circumstance. The hype regarding the car itself was less that that for Ford's famously unsuccessful Edsel, but it was enough that I was curious as to whether GM could actually exceed Japanese cars by a noticeable margin. Saturn prototype, 1984, Roger Smith at the left. The first-series Saturn of the 1990s Neither the prototype nor the initial production version impressed me, though they were better than other GM small cars such as the Chevy Cavalier. I test-drove one once, back in the mid 90s, and was even less impressed. In those days, most small cars equipped with automatic transmissions were underpowered, the little motors having to rev away while trying to push transmission fluid to the point where the car would actually move decently. The Saturn was no exception, yet it needed to be exceptional. In recent years Saturn was melded back into GM. The current crop of cars and... posted by Michael at May 28, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

Matt's Response to Me
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Big Hollywood's Matt Patterson responds to what I said in his interview with me. He also writes a good introduction to the New Formalism. Nice passage: Conservative authors today want to “conserve” what has come in the past, but this in itself is actually quite a radical notion in today’s literary climate. Ain't things topsy-turvy? Don't skip the comments. BONUS RELATED LINK: Joseph Phillips does an amusing job of describing "the right-wing tango." BONUS, COMPLETELY UNRELATED, LINKS: Jeremy Richey shares some Peckinpah posters, as well as some screenshots from one of The Wife's favorite movies, George Axelrod's zany 1966 SoCal satire, "Lord Love a Duck." I wrote a bit about Axelrod -- who was a major talent and a major pop-culture figure back in the '50s and '60s, but who has been largely forgotten since -- back here. Buy a copy of "Lord Love a Duck." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 28, 2009 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Health, Food, Fitness Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Mark Sisson has some fun at the expense of fat-free food products. Good lord, what are the people who purchase this stuff thinking? Buy a copy of Mark's startling and excellent (and self-published) health-and-fitness book here. * Yum-o! * Double-yum! Incidentally, take a look at the picture the London Times is using to illustrate that story. Why don't American newspapers show a similar degree of playfulness and earthiness? * Stephan thinks that you might do well to avoid industrial liquid vegetable oils like corn oil, canola oil, and cottonseed oil. * Was it the invention of cooking that made us human? Razib points to a conversation about this possibility. * What makes people happy? (Link thanks to visitor Bryan) Best, Michael UPDATE: Is there any point to doing cardio at all?... posted by Michael at May 27, 2009 | perma-link | (8) comments

Monday, May 25, 2009

Movie and Video Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Cleveland: Hilarious. Sad. Hilarious. * Coming soon: a documentary about American film critics. * The top ten time-lapse nature videos. * A gorgeous short video starring crowds of jellyfish. * After failing to generate much enthusiasm at Cannes for his new film "Inglourious Basterds," Quentin Tarantino makes his case to Anne Thompson. * MBlowhard Rewind: I introduced visitors to the overlooked work of director Alberto Cavalcanti. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 25, 2009 | perma-link | (5) comments

Big Is - or Was - British
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- The huge, new Airbus 380 has been in service for a few months now. It has two full decks for passenger seating, unlike the Boeing 747 which has one main deck plus a smaller upper-deck area available for seating or other uses. I recall my first 747 flight: Christmas Eve, 1970, from Chicago to San Francisco on American Airlines. The plane struck me as huge (747s still do). Although the cabin floor is flat, there was for me the optical illusion that it curved upward ahead of me and behind. I was half-amazed when the plane actually flew. Although many people are shocked by large airplanes, large oil tankers, large container ships and large cruise liners, size does make economic sense provided that lots of passengers or other cargoes are lined up ready to be transported. Monster aircraft are nothing new. The German firm Dornier created the Do X in 1929. It was a flying boat powered by 12 (!) motors of 610 horsepower each. Three were built and some did operate in commercial service. Dornier Do X The Do X emerged during the awkward age of aircraft design where the goal was often simply to get something to fly and perform certain tasks. This is why the aircraft has the look of a Jules Verne era contraption. Refinements related to efficiency and task performance came later, and refinement is why I find the two planes I'm about to discuss to be of more interest. In other words, I'm more interested in things resulting from an effort to make them function well as opposed to efforts directed toward making them function at all. As it happened, it was post-World War 2 Britain where giant, essentially modern passenger transport planes were created. (Some "large," if not "giant," transports that appeared around 1940 were the Boeing 314, and the Latécoère 522 and 631 -- the latter approached the size of the subjects of this posting). During the war, in late 1942, Lord Brabazon (having been forced out of his position as Minister of Aircraft Production) set up a committee of government and airline officials with the task of planning post-war transport aircraft (information on the Brabizon Committee can be found here). One of the proposed airliner types was a transatlantic airliner actualized in the form of the Bristol Brabazon. Bristol Brabazon The Brabazon was powered by eight Bristol Centaurus (18 cylinders, sleeve-valved) motors of 2,190 horsepower each. The motors were paired into four nacelles, each with contra-rotating propellers. It was anticipated that later Brabazons would be powered by turbine engines. The project required construction of a new "assembly hall" (as Bristol termed it) because existing factory structures were too small to house the aircraft. Also too small was the runway at the Filton facility, so it was extended by around 50 per cent; casualties of the construction were a newly-built highway by-pass and the hamlet of Charlton. After significant delays, a Brabazon was built and flown... posted by Michael at May 25, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments