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. Eroticism Linkage
  2. Coming Soon: "RoboGeisha"
  3. Books and Publishing Linkage
  4. Bubbles, McMansions
  5. Platonic Refrigerators
  6. Secession Talk, Cont.
  7. Fitness, Health, Eating Linkage
  8. Instructions for Drawing What Doesn't Exist
  9. Mad Alice
  10. Best Sellers: Why Read Them?

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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Eroticism Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * 47-year-old model Carol Alt poses for Playboy. * Caitlin Macrae dons a pair of remote-control panties. * Alexa tells the tale of one particular first time. * Model, editor, and onetime girlfriend of the cartoonist R. Crumb, Dian Hanson works these days as sex-book editor at the brilliant publisher Taschen. She's smart and interesting. Here's an interview with her. * Oops. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 4, 2009 | perma-link | (0) comments

Friday, July 3, 2009

Coming Soon: "RoboGeisha"
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Opening in the U.S. this fall, "RoboGeisha." Here's an NSFW trailer for the film: Yeah, baby! I'm genuinely eager to see "RoboGeisha" -- I think that Noburu Iguchi, the film's director, is a real talent. "The Machine Girl," his last picture, was by far the funnest newish movie that The Wife and I have watched in a long while. It's scrappy, giddy, hilarious, and hyper-outrageous -- a great new entry in the "Dead Alive" / "Re-Animator," low-budget splatter-satire, gross-out horror-comedy sweepstakes. Plus it features loads of that daffily mashed-up, 22nd-century quality that the Japanese sometimes bring to their films. Not for the first time do I find myself wondering why the rest of the world doesn't give up and leave moviemaking to the Asians. How can we compete? Here's a trailer for Iguchi's "The Machine Girl": You go, brilliant young Asians. As a consumer advocate, I'm duty-bound to report that, sadly, not all recent Japanese splatter satires are created equal. Despite wonderful titles and heaps of far-out ideas, for example, "Tokyo Gore Police" and "Meatball Machine" both put me to sleep. Thanks to the numerous visitors who have sent along links to the "RoboGeisha" trailer. By the way, what is it about me? Do I really have "fan of Japanese splatter satires" written all over my blogface? Hmmm .... RELATED: I wrote about some other wonderful Japanese movies. If you aren't already 'way ahead of me on this: Why not get to know the movies of the amazing Takashi Miike? I think he's a plausible contender for the title of "most talented filmmaker working right now." Start with "Ichii the Killer" and brace yourself for a seriously wild ride. PBS this ain't! DIMLY RELATED: Learn about the diffs between movie people and book people. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 3, 2009 | perma-link | (6) comments

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Books and Publishing Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Enjoy the latest offering from Charlton Griffin, frequent 2Blowhards visitor and producer of some of the classiest audiobooks available. * Big Hollywood's Matt Peterson continues his series about conservatives and literature. * Cullen Gallagher reads and enjoys "Pick-Up," by the pulp master Charles Willeford. * Whatever became of sexy-trashy blockbuster novels? * Gerard Jones takes stock of how things are changing for book authors. * Thanks to Bryan for turning up this excellent interview with the great, and very down-to-earth, Elmore Leonard. * Here's a downside to the Kindle that I hadn't thought of before. * Why doesn't the opinion-making class appreciate light verse more? * MBlowhard Rewind: I praised the sly and satirical work of the popular novelist Ira Levin. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 2, 2009 | perma-link | (3) comments

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bubbles, McMansions
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * What role did the ventromedial prefrontal cortex play in causing the current economic crisis? * Have Americans fallen out of love with McMansions? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 1, 2009 | perma-link | (30) comments

Platonic Refrigerators
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I spent the first year or two in college as an Industrial Design major and retain a casual interest in the subject. Besides a concern for ergonomics in product design, graphical interfaces for computer software as well as in problem avoidance during everyday activities, a continuing subject of interest is design evolution and the related concept of a Platonic-like ultimate general form dictated by a variety of constraints. I treated product evolution of passenger aircraft here and that for automobiles here. The present posting deals with the interesting case of a class of product that has varied comparatively little over time in terms of its general appearance -- the refrigerator. True, there have been important changes over the last century and more in terms of the means of refrigeration as well as the materials used in construction. Nevertheless, in essence, a refrigerator is simply a box with one, two or a few doors taking up most of one side -- pretty much what ice boxes were a hundred years ago. Information on the refrigerator's predecessor, the ice box, is here, and a history of the refrigerator is here. Jeffrey L. Meikle in his book about the early days of Industrial Design offers an amusing treatment of the refrigerator and its relationship to design salesmanship as practiced in the 1930s. On page 104 of the1979 edition, he notes that while Henry Dreyfuss' General Electric refrigerators remained little changed from 1934 to 1939, Raymond Loewy's Sears Coldspot refrigerators changed details from year to year during the late 1930s. He writes: A "case history" written later in Loewy's office rationalized the continued redesign of the Coldspot. Sears executives "might have been dubious about the possibilities of a new and better looking box" because Loewy had presumably designed "a 'perfect' refrigerator." But the designer himself did not see his design "as a masterpiece, but as a step in the evolution towards perfection." What Loewy failed to realize -- or was afraid to admit -- was that refrigerators already had essentially reached their ultimate general form and that he, Dreyfuss, and any other refrigerator designers were mostly playing around with incidental details. Such an admission would contradict a "perfection" sales pitch common in the early days of the profession when the concept of bringing in an outside designer was still controversial. I should note that the ideal of perfect or ultimate forms emerging on the basis of an item's function and component materials was part of the ideology of modernism during the early 20th century. Below are examples of refrigerator design. Gallery Ice box - ca. 1900 A block of ice -- typically 25 or 50 pounds -- would be placed in the upper compartment. Foods that needed to stay frozen or nearly so would be there too. The lower compartment would be for items such as milk or vegetables that needed only to be kept cool. G.E. Monitor Top - 1928 These were common in the 1920s. The... posted by Donald at July 1, 2009 | perma-link | (6) comments

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Secession Talk, Cont.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- This guy writes that he can think of little that's more un-American than discussing secession. Meanwhile, Patri Friedman and conspirators are celebrating July 4 with a series of "Secession Week" postings. They seem to think that there's little that's more American than serious consideration of secession. Secession, eh? Was it an issue that you saw coming from long ago? I certainly didn't. The gang at the Volokh conspiracy treat themselves to a fun yakfest about the topic. The most interesting person I've read on the topic is the Emory University prof and Hume specialist Donald Livingston. His take on American history generally is really startling -- I found it downright eye-opening. Here's a small collection of Livingston's writings. Here's a collection of talks that he's given. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 30, 2009 | perma-link | (62) comments

Fitness, Health, Eating Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Agnostic has been much struck by the low-carb and Paleo critique of conventional nutrition advice, and has started a new blog to pass along his thoughts and discoveries. Good to see him linking to Tom Naughton, the director of the documentary "Fat Head." Tom's a fantastic blogger as well as a very gifted filmmaker. * A fun and sophisticated new blog on the theme of eating well while eating cheaply. * Have the French lost their food knack? If so: What a cultural tragedy! * Was the invention of farming the biggest mistake in the history of humanity? * Mark Sisson gets a shock when his blood pressure is checked. I'm midway through Sisson's new book, and I recommend it enthusiastically. * The top food trucks in America. * What -- if much of anything -- is really being measured when you get your choresterol levels checked? * Have food manufacturers captured our neuro-reward systems? The very interesting commentsfest is here. * Grape Nuts breakfast cereal has been around for 111 years, but it sounds like it isn't going to be around for much longer. * Has the fried food at chain restaurants been striking you as weirdly taste-free recently? Tom Naughton says that there's one particular guy to blame: Michael Jacobson, of the do-goodin' Center for Science in the Public Interest. * The world's oldest man shares the secrets of his longevity. (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 30, 2009 | perma-link | (13) comments

Instructions for Drawing What Doesn't Exist
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- If you wanna draw or paint faeries -- what you read about in childrens' stories -- then here is a book for you. How about wizards, witches and warlocks? Check here. Or here if you need dragon-drawing help. On the other hand, if a commission for a portrayal of goblins, orcs and "other dark creatures" flies over the transom, then you might want to get a copy of this book. As nearly as I can tell (you might disagree), there are no such things as faeries, witches, warlocks, dragons, goblins and orcs. So painting them plein-air or posed in the studio might prove frustrating. Thank goodness those books exist and can come to the rescue. What I find interesting is that there is enough agreement about the appearance of non-existent creatures that such instruction books are possible. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at June 30, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

Mad Alice
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Lit-fict vet Alice Hoffman shows how to respond classily to a negative review: here, here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 30, 2009 | perma-link | (11) comments

Monday, June 29, 2009

Best Sellers: Why Read Them?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Confession time again. I can't remember the last time I bought for myself a non-fiction book on a best seller list. I know that I bought autobiographies of Lee Iacocca (the Ford and Chrysler honcho) and Chuck Yeager (the guy who broke the sound barrier), those books from 25 years or so ago. But after that.... As for fiction, I did buy every Harry Potter book. That's probably because I've always had a soft spot for science fiction where another world/civilization is made fascinating thanks to the imagination and skill of the writer. The Potter books aren't sci-fi, but they had the quality I just mentioned. In other words, I didn't buy them because they were ultra-hyper-mega best sellers: that factor was incidental. I've mentioned before that I read little fiction, this largely because I don't like getting hooked to the point my sleep suffers. So the Potter books aside, I can't even guess what the last best selling novel I read was. I did read Drury's "Advice and Consent," Michener's "Hawaii" (because I'd just visited there for the first time) and Heller's "Catch-22." Oh, and I did read "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" for a reason I no longer can begin to comprehend. These were read when the books reached paperback. I'm not counting classical fiction written many years before I got to it such as Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" or Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series. To summarize, as nearly as I can tell, I read my last non-Potter best selling novel before I turned 40. I do read a lot of non-fiction. But not best sellers. More precisely, I now never buy a book simply because it is on a best seller list. I might have read some books in recent years that might have shown up on one list or another, but that would have been happenstance. Why is that? It's because I buy books to get information in greater depth than can be provided in magazine articles, internet postings and outlines. Yet many non-fiction best sellers strike me as beefed-up versions of what I just mentioned or else deal with subjects I'm not deeply interested in. If I've already gotten the basic information in concise form elsewhere, it makes no sense to buy a book on the subject. If I'm not presently interested in a subject, taking time to read about it deprives me of the time I would spend learning about things I deem more important or interesting. We are far past the point where an individual can be conversant with everything, so I feel little guilt about ignoring Things I Should Learn About. This doesn't mean I'll never again buy a non-fiction best-seller, it's just that the odds against doing so are high. On reflection, what I've been discussing is really about life cycle stages and how they can affect one's behavior. Between my mid-teens and mid-thirties, I felt it was important to stay au courant. That might... posted by Donald at June 29, 2009 | perma-link | (9) comments

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Casey Baugh: A Really New Realist
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Yes, I'm aware that I've been tending to write about artists active 50-150 years ago and largely ignoring artists who are alive and painting or who departed fairly recently. As a corrective, I'll do some postings about painters whose work I see in magazines such as American Artist, American Art Collector and Art of the West. The downside is that I've seen little or none of their work in person and mostly rely on reproductions in those magazines or on the Web. That's because their paintings are mostly in the artists' studios, private collections or art galleries rather than in major museums. (Note to self: compile a list of artists and their main galleries and take it along on future trips to California, Arizona and New Mexico. Galleries here in the Seattle area mostly skew modernist.) The subject of the present post is Casey Baugh, a guy still in his twenties who has impressive technical skills. His Web site is here. An article about him containing useful background material is here. Below are examples of his work. All show women, but he sometimes paints men; dig through his site to find examples. Gallery Ambiance Interesting use of cool light on the subject's hair and body planes. I find the treatment of the oriental rug impressive: compare to the rug in Sargent's The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit. Blue Earring Kate Red Scarf This is a demonstration painting. A report on the demonstration is here. Most demonstration paintings I'm familiar with tend to have an unfinished look that's understandable, given the circumstances of their creation. Baugh brought the subject's face to a considerable degree of finish. This also shows that he doesn't painstakingly copy photos -- or doesn't need to, anyway. This guy's skill seems to be for real. Nonchalant As well as any, this illustrates Baugh's practice of creating smooth faces while leaving backgrounds and clothing treatment looser, more "painterly." Shades of Yellow Erubescent I think it's safe to conclude that Baugh can create knockout babes. But he's young enough that it's hard to tell how his work might evolve. For instance, he might simply become another Pino, who I wrote about here, an artist of high ability who tends to crank out similar works year after year to make a good living. As I've stated more than once, artists need to make livings just like the rest of us, so I don't get very bothered when I see similarity across works: one often has little choice but to paint what sells. If an artist is fortunate enough to attain a good income stream, I think it might be nice if he'd once in a while, on his off-hours, try something different. Many artists probably do just that, except those "private" paintings usually don't get seen in public. So we have no way of telling whether Pino and Baugh are beavering away on new styles, themes or whatever they might potentially be up to.... posted by Donald at June 28, 2009 | perma-link | (11) comments