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. "Great Jobs" That I Wouldn't Do
  2. Linkage
  3. Erotica Linkage
  4. Seattle Bags Bag-Tax
  5. Jean Harlow Was Nice-Looking, Actually
  6. More Econ Linkage
  7. Cars Should be X Times Taller Than Tires
  8. Econ Linkage

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Great Jobs" That I Wouldn't Do
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I saw it embroidered on baby togs. And I've noticed that there's a beverage by that name. It's Rock Star. Got me to thinking. Thinking that just about the last so-called Great Job I'd want to have would be that of rock star. This assumes that I was young enough -- Mick Jagger's age, perhaps -- and had any musical abilities -- which I don't. Another Great Job I'd be happy to avoid would be White House Press Secretary. Yet another would be editor of Time magazine. Well, that's given the publication's current status of lacking any rational reason for continued existence. Forty years ago, and if offered a lot of independence, it really might have been a Great Job for little old me. Fine and good. But, Mr. Negative Wise Guy (so you are thinking), just what fancy jobs would you take? I wouldn't mind being a research director in a field I knew something about. Being a college professor would be okay too. What I really would like to be is a studio head in the styling department of a major automobile company. And you? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 22, 2009 | perma-link | (8) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Ilkka's back! Brainy, droll, and observant, Ilkka was always one of my favorite bloggers. I'm very happy he's blogging again. * Randall Parker lays out some objections to the Cash For Clunkers program. * The excellent libertarian writer Karen De Coster (here's her blog; she also posts at Lew Rockwell) does workouts that you might characterize as Primal, or maybe Paleo, or maybe Functional. * Richard Nikoley has a reason why you might want to avoid the sugar. * Should the director of the struggling LA County Museum of Art really be paid $1 million a year? * In what ways do politicians resemble psychopaths? * An interview with designer Rob Janoff, who -- back in 1977 -- designed Apple's logo. Talk about having an influence on our shared visual culture. * Here's a talk with the brilliant (and controversial) screenwriting guru Robert McKee. * MBlowhard Rewind: I wrote about the art of narrative fiction (and praised Robert McKee) back here. Best, Michael UPDATE: The ballerina-author Toni Bentley writes a smart and funny review of a new book about sex for pay. Nice passage: Why is sex supposed to be free? It never is ... While good girls require dinner, trips, “commitment” or even an engagement ring for sex, here is a book by those who simply get the cash upfront. Even better: This collection is a wonderful reminder that good writing is not about knowing words, grammar or Faulkner, but having that rare ability to tell the truth, an ability that education and sophistication often serve to conceal. Take that, fine-writing connoisseurs. I raved about Toni's writing back here.... posted by Michael at August 22, 2009 | perma-link | (9) comments

Friday, August 21, 2009

Erotica Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Remind anybody else of their college years? * "My father always told me to do something I love," Danielle writes, explaining why she became an escort. * Roissy takes a jaunt around the internet. As always chez Roissy, the comments aren't to be skipped. * Ferdinand Bardamu takes a fun and smart swing at some of the same questions. * Also from the Roissysphere ... Hope offers some sensible advice to the gals on how to love men. * Alexa recalls getting pierced. * Alexa also turned up this informative history of the courtesan. * It's a new celebrity sex-tape! No, it's just three friends having fun! In the nude. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 21, 2009 | perma-link | (21) comments

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Seattle Bags Bag-Tax
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Seattle "played against character" in yesterday's vote on a referendum regarding a proposed 20 cents per bag tax on paper and plastic bags of the sort your groceries are placed in. Seattle is a very liberal place. Its city council system is set up so that candidates are voted on by the entire city, not solely by residents of individual council districts. So if the electorate is pretty liberal, its city council has been distilled to be even more so. (Note to commenters: there's a fair chance righties would set up a similar mechanism were they in power, politicians being what they are.) Earlier this year the council stopped worrying about parks, police, sanitation and other trivia and decided to Save The Planet. So they voted on the bag tax mentioned above. (If they were serious about saving trees by reducing reliance on paper products, they also might have applied a massive tax on the paper used to print the Seattle Times. Oh well, maybe they planned to get to that matter next year.) Citizens were not happy, so a petition was quickly circulated and received more than enough valid signatures to place the council's ordnance on the August 18th ballot as a referendum. As of late last evening, with half the ballots counted, Seattle voters were turning down the bag tax 58 percent to 42. No doubt bag tax supporters will whine about "outside" money being spent to defeat their pet issue. But heavy spenders don't always buy elections; voters are not totally unthinking. Besides, the pro-tax arguments in the official voters' pamphlet and elsewhere stressed all the idealistic issues one would expect a well-educated, liberal electorate to embrace. I doubt that Seattle is on its way to becoming a cesspool of reaction. Besides, many grocery stores sell reusable grocery bags and I see quite a few shoppers using them. But all this is voluntary, not coercive. What a concept. Even in Seattle. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 19, 2009 | perma-link | (39) comments

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jean Harlow Was Nice-Looking, Actually
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Jean Harlow was the first Blonde Bombshell movie star, dominating the Thirties scene until her death in 1937, shortly after her 26th birthday. Her only true successor in the Bombshell department was Marilyn Monroe. That's the legend, anyhow. My problem was that I couldn't quite buy it. Yes, Harlow had a nice shape, but her facial features seemed a little too soft. And then there was the 1930s fashion of plucked eyebrows replaced by a thin, penciled line. Not to mention the watered-down holdover of the 1920s' bee-sting lipstick application that narrowed the mouth while exaggerating the thickness of the lips near the mouth's midpoint. Yesterday I stumbled across the "real" Jean Harlow while reading up on the movie "Hell's Angels". It was released 15 November 1930, before the plucked eyebrow fad started. Let's make a comparison. Here are some photos of Harlow later in her career George Hurrell's classic bearskin rug photo A "glam" pose with penciled eyebrows Frontal pose with penciled eyebrows Here are photos from 1929 or the very early 30s Autographed photo Publicity photo "Hell's Angels" still - two-negative Technicolor From our 2009 perspective, Harlow looks more "natural" and, to me, far more attractive in the early photos than in the later ones. Fashion being what it is, there's a risk that I'm blinkered by current standards of beauty. Even so, I'm pleased to know what Jean Harlow really looked like before 1930s glamorization took hold. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 18, 2009 | perma-link | (15) comments

More Econ Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Nicolas Gelinas offers an enlightening history of the "too big to fail" doctrine. * Dermot Quinn thinks that we could use a little help from Wilhelm Ropke (FWIW, my own favorite economist). * Readers Digest is filing for bankruptcy. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 18, 2009 | perma-link | (1) comments

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cars Should be X Times Taller Than Tires
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Even though I'm a frustrated, never-was automobile stylist, I do keep my eyes open. Or flatter myself thinking so. So I notice stuff. I also scribble car designs: been doing that since before I was in high school. Fairly early on, when blocking out the proportions of a dream car sedan or coupe I was designing, I hit on the proportion of the height of the car measured from the ground should be about twice the diameter of the car's tire. (Sports cars designs could ignore this ratio.) I've been using this rule of thumb ever since. Lately, I've been paying attention to photos of actual cars from various eras and checking that ratio. In general, the most attractive cars, other details aside, tend to have tire diameters that are half the height of the car -- plus or minus a small margin. American sedans for many years have tended to be a little taller relative to tire diameter than they "should be." During the late 1950s this might have been due to the tendency of stylists to ignore or de-emphasize wheels and tires, focusing instead on designs inspired by aircraft or even Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon space ships. Today's SUVs and Crossovers also tend to be a bit small in the tire relative to their height. To me, proportionally large wheels and tires suggest power and are appropriate for sports cars and performance sedans. Little tires I associate with small cars that are puny in the power department. Below are some examples to help me make my case. I'll start with some cars from the 1930s and then hop to recent cars with one significant detour. Gallery Bucciali TAV 12 - 1932 Bucciali was an expensive, low-production French car that, in its final guise, featured outrageous styling that I dearly love. The car is much shorter than twice the diameter of the tires, stressing power over theoretical beauty. Cord Beverly sedan - 1937 Cords for 1936-37 were heartstoppingly attractive -- for me, anyway. Like the Bucciali shown above, they demand an emotional reaction. Unlike the brutal Bucciali, Cords are sensuous beings tempered only by their "coffin nose" hood and moderne grille treatment. The Beverly pictured here is the least attractive Cord due to its bulging trunk, a feature added to counter complaints about lack of storage space in its Westchester sedans. I chose the Beverly photo because it allows one to check the height-diameter ratio -- which only slightly exceeds 2. Willys - late 1930s Willys retreated to small, inexpensive cars to ride out the Depression. The tire diameter is noticeably less than half the height of the car. Morris Mini - 1964 When the Mini was introduced, its tiny wheels and tires shocked me to the point where its other virtues (mostly in terms of its engineering design) escaped me. It seemed more like a toy than a serious car. If I were a rich car-collector, would I have an early... posted by Donald at August 17, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Econ Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Guy Sorman introduces Rama Cont, who argues that traditional economics fails to grasp the complexity and dynamic nature of financial markets. Interesting passage: While the mainstream view [of recent troubles] explains the crisis by a lack of regulation, Cont believes that misguided regulations, often applied by not-too-smart regulators, were also a major factor ... The regulation seemed clverly designed, Cont says, but proved useless in a real-life situation. * Robert Samuelson offers a reader's guide to the recession. * Whole Foods CEO John Mackey offers an alternative to Obamacare. * Obamacare and illegal immigrantion is turning into a minor issue. One angle I haven't seen much discussed where this topic is concerned is a favorite of mine. Let's say that, under the new system, illegal immigrants wind up covered. Won't we in effect be saying to all residents of Mexico, "Hey, if you can make it over the border, not only will we not chase you down and deport you, we'll give you a public education and free health insurance. Come one, come all!" * Meet Madoff's mistress. * Nassim ("Black Swan") Taleb and Nouriel ("Dr. Doom") Roubini, interviewed on CNBC: Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 16, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments