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  1. Jazz Goes Geriatric
  2. Budd Schulberg R.I.P.
  3. Crime Fiction Linkage
  4. Panoramic Windshields
  5. Anybody Complaining?
  6. Frank Wootton: Getting It Almost Right
  7. My Beemer's Bewildering Cockpit
  8. Political Linkage

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jazz Goes Geriatric
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Today's Wall Street Journal includes the article "Can Jazz Be Saved" by Terry Teachout suggesting that jazz is going the way of classical music, if its audience is any indication. He cites results from the National Endowment for the Arts’ most recent Survey of ­Public Participation in the Arts done with the cooperation of the Census Bureau After citing a few statistics, Teachout offers the following: These numbers indicate that the audience for jazz in America is both aging and shrinking at an alarming rate. What I find no less revealing, though, is that the median age of the jazz audience is now comparable to the ages for attendees of live performances of classical music (49 in 2008 vs. 40 in 1982), opera (48 in 2008 vs. 43 in 1982), nonmusical plays (47 in 2008 vs. 39 in 1982) and ballet (46 in 2008 vs. 37 in 1982). In 1982, by contrast, jazz fans were much younger than their high-culture counterparts. What does this tell us? I suspect it means, among other things, that the average American now sees jazz as a form of high art. Nor should this come as a surprise to anyone, since most of the jazz musicians that I know feel pretty much the same way. They regard themselves as artists, not entertainers, masters of a musical language that is comparable in seriousness to classical music—and just as off-putting to pop-loving listeners who have no more use for Wynton Marsalis than they do for Felix Mendelssohn. ... Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to undo the transformation of jazz into a sophisticated art music. But there’s no sense in pretending that it didn’t happen, or that contemporary jazz is capable of appealing to the same kind of mass audience that thrilled to the big bands of the swing era. And it is precisely because jazz is now widely viewed as a high-culture art form that its makers must start to grapple with the same problems of presentation, marketing and audience development as do symphony orchestras, drama companies and art museums—a task that will be made all the more daunting by the fact that jazz is made for the most part by individuals, not established institutions with deep pockets. I've liked at least some classical music since about the time I started high school. I became interested in jazz about the same time, though this interest mostly had to do with swing bands of the late 1930s and very early 1940s. I thought Dixieland was too crude, liked some Bebop, but never could get interested in jazz created after the early 50s. For all I know, there is a lot of great music out there, but I can't bestir myself to find it. A problem I have with jazz is that it is extemporaneous. (It can't be anything else. Swing band music was based on written arrangements with slots available for on-the-fly solo riffs. So I don't consider it "real"... posted by Donald at August 8, 2009 | perma-link | (29) comments

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Budd Schulberg R.I.P.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A quick posting to note the passing of filmworld legend Budd Schulberg. Schulberg was probably best-known for writing the classic Hollywood novel "What Makes Sammy Run?" and the screenplay for "On the Waterfront." He was 95 years old. Carrie Rickey's short obit of Schulberg is very informative. Back here, I shared a few thoughts about "Sammy," which as far as I'm concerned is a great (and underappreciated) novel. It's also -- hallelujah -- a fast, smart, dirty-minded, and suspenseful read. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 6, 2009 | perma-link | (3) comments

Crime Fiction Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Newsweek's book critic Malcolm Jones reviews some of the strengths of noir fiction, and offers some recommendations in the genre. * A nice passage from Irish novelist John Banville, who writes both literary novels and (as Benjamin Black) crime fiction: I deplore the apartheid that has been imposed on fiction writing, so that in shops the "crime books" are segregated from the "proper" novels. Of course, there are bad crime novels, many of which seem to have been written with the blunt end of a burnt stick, but the same is true of so-called literary fiction. The distinction between good writing and bad is the only one worth making. * In an interview with Tom Piccirilli, Ed Gorman recalls his ornery early days. (I raved about one of Ed's western novels here. Here's Ed's own blog.) * Enjoy some fun visual interpretations of Donald Westlake's great creation, the brutal crook Parker. The LA Times' Geoff Boucher enjoys a new graphic-novel adaptation of one of the Parker novels, and links to a trailer for John Boorman's amazing 1967 Westlake / Parker adaptation, "Point Blank." UPDATE: Whisky Prajer offers a well-illustrated rave about that graphic-novel Parker. * MBlowhard Rewind: I praised the work of the brilliant Gold Medal crime novelist Charles Williams. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 6, 2009 | perma-link | (5) comments

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Panoramic Windshields
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- For reasons of safety and allowing a car's driver and front seat passengers to better enjoy scenery, automobile makers keep fiddling with the design of cars' windshields. One solution tried between the early 1930s and early 1960s was the panoramic windshield. There are practical considerations that have always tempered blue-sky windshield design-sketch features on stylists' drawing boards on their way to the production line and dealers' showrooms. For one thing, a car's passenger compartment roof has to be strongly enough supported not to collapse in most roll-over situations; substantial posts are required. Yet there must be adequate openings for windows and doors. And those doors should be shaped and positioned to allow for convenient ingress and egress for passengers. Then there is glassmaking technology. Producing curved glass is much more difficult than making flat glass. There is manufacturing breakage; too much breakage drives up the cost of the windshield and, by extension, the price of the car. Moreover, the curvatures should not create optical distortions for the driver and passengers, insofar as possible. Panoramic or "wraparound" windshields, as they were usually called, became an American styling fad for much of the 1950s. But practical difficulties eventually led to their abandonment. I mentioned production problems above. I also noted distortion. My father shopped for a new car during the 1956 model year, so we test-drove a variety of cars in the mid-price range. He discovered that fully-wrapped windshields created distortions (along the axis of greatest curvature) that he felt were intolerable, though they didn't bother me much at the time. As a result, he opted for a DeSoto which had a less radical curving than that on General Motors cars. I'll deal with one more problem in some of the captions for the pictures below. Gallery Hupmobile Aerodynamic - 1934 This Hupmobile was styled by Raymond Loewy, the famous industrial designer, early in his career. Creating curved safety glass for automobiles was extremely difficult in 1934; the only American production car with a curved windshield that year was the most expensive model in Chrysler's Airflow lineup. As can be seen, Loewy had to resort to a three-pane design to widen the windshield opening and slightly curve it at the sides. Panhard Panoramique - 1935 The car shown above is a 1935 model, but Panhard introduced its Panoramique windshield feature in the 1934 model year. Panhard's solution was to use double roof posts nesting a small, tightly curved window that served to transition a passenger's view from the windshield to the side windows. Panhard Dynamic (late 1930s) interior view Here is an interior view of a late-1930s Panhard Dynamic sedan -- a later body design that incorporated the panoramic feature. My guess is that those corner windows created noticeable distortion. I've never sat in a Panoramique or Dynamic, so I don't really know. However, the photo hints that there is indeed distortion. Buick XP-300 dream car - 1951 In 1951, General Motors introduced two experimental "cars... posted by Donald at August 5, 2009 | perma-link | (0) comments

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Anybody Complaining?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm on the road, so this will be brief. Driving up along the Columbia River where it forms the Washington-Oregon border, I've been noticing a number of power generation windmill farms. They definitely interfere with the scenic views of nature. Perhaps the worst visual polluting farms that I've come across are those near Altamont Pass east of the Bay Area and along Interstate 10 approaching the Palm Springs area from the west. Even though I think they're aesthetically awful, I can't recall much complaining about them in the mainstream press. Political (or ecological) correctness is suspected. Am I missing something? Do people actually complain about wind farms and see their complaints get a wide airing? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 4, 2009 | perma-link | (41) comments

Monday, August 3, 2009

Frank Wootton: Getting It Almost Right
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- This obituary in The Independent contains a line asserting that Frank Wootton (1911-98) "has been called 'probably the finest aviation artist of all time' for his depiction of the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain and beyond." I'm not sure I concur with that claim even though I've enjoyed Wootton's work since I was high school age or even a bit younger. I have fond memories of leafing through his books "How to Draw 'Planes" and "How to Draw Cars" at the public library. His instructions were pretty skimpy, but the meat of these publications was in the reproductions of his drawings, as we shall see below. I even stumbled on a display of his paintings at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. many years ago. That was long before I renewed my interest in art, so I didn't get as much out of seeing them as I would today. Wootton clearly received solid training in painting, especially having to do with the effects of light, shade and color. What he sometimes lacked was draftsmanship. This is particularly true for his aviation paintings: some aircraft are not correctly proportioned. The Battle of Britain For example, in the painting above, the fighters on the left don't quite look right. My guess is that the wingspan is too great. So some of the time he got things wrong, and other times got them right. I'm supposing that he freehanded planes, striving for effects rather than correct proportions and perspective. Wootton was essentially a commercial illustrator who created artwork for advertising while having a parallel career painting commissioned scenes for the Royal Air Force and organizations with a strong interest in British aviation. He painted landscapes and animals for his own enjoyment. I'm presenting his work here because he was a decent and very popular artist in genres I like. Below are some examples. Gallery Captions are descriptive and not the actual ones. Typhoons at Falaise Gap This is an imaginary scene of retreating German army units being attacked by British fighter-bombers in the aftermath of the Allied invasion of northern France in 1944. Wootton does a nice job of depicting German tanks and other equipment. Douglas Bader bailing out Bader is famous because, even though he lost parts of both legs in a pre-war flying accident, he returned to active duty in World War 2, claiming 22 combat victories. Unfortunately, he was eventually shot down, as the painting shows. But (fortunately) he survived and (unfortunately) spent the rest of the war save a few weeks at the end as a prisoner. Car at train station This drawing is from Wootton's book "How to Draw Cars." It's basically a sketch, an impression of masses defined by light and shade. Very nice. Car poster --> Bentleys Here's an illustration of Bentleys at an old car meet. Because it's necessarily more finished, I find it less satisfying than the train station sketch above. Even though... posted by Donald at August 3, 2009 | perma-link | (5) comments

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My Beemer's Bewildering Cockpit
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some views of the options that my rental Beemer's steering wheel and stalks present: What an excess of bewildering-icon riches, eh? I suspect that somewhere in that thicket of clickers is a button that will take care of paying my electricity bill, and another that will set my DVR to record "American Idol." But which is which? Hey: Of the pictured absurdly-illegible icons, which is your favorite? I'm still trying to choose between (top pic) the "P" that appears to be shouting and (bottom pic) the sorta-clock that seems to be stuck at 11:30. Needless to say: After three weeks of using the car, I'm still iffy where basic turn-signaling and windshield-wiping go. My fault? Or BMW's? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 2, 2009 | perma-link | (8) comments

Political Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Jewcy's David Kelsey thinks that Jews ought to oppose hate crime laws. He writes a good blogposting about Jews and mass immigration here. * Steve Sailer wonders what we're up to in Puerto Rico. Re the Skip Gates case, Steve coins a good term I look forward to using: "Affirmative Actionocracy." * The Republicans suck. Oh, and the Democrats suck too. * Matt Taibbi traces some of the ways that Goldman Sachs has screwed you and me. James Kunstler thinks that the time has come for Obama to fire the Goldman Sachs alumni that he has on staff. * Chris Dillow thinks that economists will never be able to predict the future -- and that that's OK. * Time to end the mortgage-interest deduction? Learn more here. * Randall Parker asks some good questions about Europe and its immigration policies. * MBlowhard Rewind: I shared a few thoughts about inequality and the rich, and pointed out that one easy way to mitigate inequality would be to get strict about immigration. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 2, 2009 | perma-link | (6) comments