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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Our Last 50 Referrers

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blogging Note
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm in Sun Valley, Idaho this evening and won't be back to Seattle until late Sunday. On Monday I hope to post some thoughts regarding the future direction of 2Blowhards now that Michael, the indispensable heart and soul of this place, will no longer be blogging regularly. Clearly, I cannot carry the content-production burden alone if for no other reason than my range of interests is too narrow; I have little to say about movies, music and literature, for example. Before I get around to doing the post mentioned above (which will be a solicitation for suggestions along with some of my own ideas), if any of you have immediate thoughts, either leave a comment here or else email me via the address link near my name at the panel to the left. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at September 18, 2009 | perma-link | (5) comments

Thursday, September 17, 2009

End of the Line
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Everyone -- A fast note to let visitors know what I've already informed Donald and Friedrich about: I'm retiring from blogging at 2Blowhards. It's been a great adventure, as well as (in web terms anyway) a pretty long one -- Friedrich and I first put our feet in the blogging waters back in, gadzooks, 2002. But over the last year or so my energy for pulling together fresh blogpostings has waned, and I've finally concluded that the time has come to cede the stage. Although I'll probably be making occasional Friedrich-like guest appearances, Donald will be the main force driving the blog forward. He assures me that he has loads of topics in him that he's looking forward to sharing thoughts and information about, and I'll certainly be reading his wonderful work with avidity and pleasure. Many thanks to my fellow Blowhards, but special thanks as well to the many people who have visited the site, left comments, sent me emails, etc. When Friedrich and I were setting up 2Blowhards, I thought that our blogging would be a matter of telling the world what we thought. Instead, running 2Blowhards turned out to be far more social and participatory than that. I wound up not as some guy behind a microphone giving a lecture; instead, I became more like the proprietor of a cafe where many cool and interesting people stopped by to swap ideas and impressions, make jokes, squabble, and generally hang out. And you know what? That was a far more pleasing and rewarding activity than anything I could have dreamed up on my own. I hope never to lose track of the many nifty people I've met here. I'm puttering whimsically away with a personal website, and I love using Facebook to pass along goofy links. If you'd like to stay in touch, I would too. Send me an email at michaelblowhard at gmail, and let's swap real names and email addresses, and/or arrange to Friend each other on FB. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 17, 2009 | perma-link | (71) comments

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Geriatric Road Warriors
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm still on the road. This evening, it's Cody, Wyoming where tomorrow we'll check out the big Western museum named in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody, founder of this town. Yesterday at Mt. Rushmore the guide on our short walk to the base of the mountain made it clear that "buffalo" are not buffalo; the North American variety are bison. If true, then it surely must be Bison Bill Cody, Bison, New York and its Bison Bills football team. And the old bison nickel coin, ..., ad infinitum. One thing I've been noticing during the trip is how many retirees seem to be on the road. This is related to the fact that families with school-age children wound up their summer travel by early this month, and savvy retirees wait until after that before hitting the road. At any rate, in the Black Hills - Yellowstone region there are scads of travelers, if the numbers of cars in motel parking lots are any indication. Here in Cody, several motels had their No Vacancy signs lit by the time we were driving back to our digs after dinner. No doubt bookkeepers for the motels, filling stations, restaurants and tourist attractions see signs that the country is in a recession despite my casual observations above. Nevertheless, many (most?) retirees have predictable, steady incomes and might be feeling more free to travel than workers in iffy job situations. I should also note that, despite what news media and even history books say, even in depressions the majority of the working age population is employed: trips get taken, clothing is purchased. Even big-ticket items such as cars and houses eventually find buyers. True, sales levels might have plunged, but life does not stop and the economy staggers ahead regardless. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at September 16, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Illustration Art in the Middle of Nowhere
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm drafting this in Rapid City, South Dakota. Yesterday we checked out the Badlands and, of course, visited world-famous Wall Drug in the town of Wall which is located near the main western entrance to Badlands National Park. Wall Drug is basically a tourist attraction these days, but originated as a tiny drug store in a small town in the early years of the Great Depression. After a few years of struggle, the druggist and his wife came up the the idea of posting road signs offering free ice water for parched travelers. Business improved immediately. After World War 2, their son aggressively expanded the facility to include food service and sales of all sorts of apparel, trinkets of all kinds and food. Today a visitor still gets his free water and can buy a cup of coffee for five cents! Wall Drug is now a block long and thronged with travelers and stuffed with things to buy. I think it's kinda neat, in its oddball way. Something I didn't notice that last time I was there (in the mid-1970s) was a collection of Western (cowboy and Indian) paintings. It's spread through the various dining areas and includes works by famous illustrators along with paintings by genre specialists and a number of items that seem rather amateurish at first glance. There might be more to the latter than meets the eye -- biographical info about the artist or perhaps some historical significance in the painting's creation. For illustration fans, I noticed original illustration artwork by the following artists, among others: N.C. Wyeth, Harvey Dunn (a South Dakota native son), James Avati, George Rozen (pulp covers) and Harold von Schmidt. Ah, the serendipity of travel! Later, Donald... posted by Donald at September 15, 2009 | perma-link | (3) comments

Monday, September 14, 2009

American Masculinity Redeemed
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, On more than one occasion, watching the public do, er, nothing as the financial masters of the universe demonstrate over and over again who really calls the shots in this country, the thought has crawled across my reluctant mind that maybe we've got the financial services industry and the political class we deserve. An attitude of amoral greed, get-yours-while-the-getting-is-good and the-devil-take-the-hindmost seems to characterize the investing public (who maintain a deafening political silence while frantically piling back into the stock market so as not to miss the rally) no less than it describes the professional card dealers on Wall Street carefully palming a fifth and sixth ace or the professional politicos with their gerrymandered safe seats in Washington, happily selling votes for campaign contributions and future employment. Apparently no one in America minds a rigged game as long as it’s rigged in their favor. The real question, I suppose, is that why – given my grey hairs and almost six decades of experience in this country’s daily life – any of this should surprise me. The best I can do by way of explanation is that while I never thought Americans were exceptionally moral, I did think they had, at a minimum, more self-esteem, more vanity, than this. Doesn’t anybody even aspire to playing the role of John Wayne in this Western? Well, apparently, just when I thought the entire country was going to slink off into the shadows and let the gang wearing the black hats rape the schoolmarm and plunder the Farmer's & Mechanic's Bank at will, a righteous badass has stepped forth. (Stark but stirring theme music plays in the background). Today I read of his manly exploits in the NY Times: Giving voice to the anger and frustration of many ordinary Americans, Judge Jed S. Rakoff issued a scathing ruling on one of the watershed moments of the financial crisis: the star-crossed takeover of Merrill Lynch by the now-struggling Bank of America. Judge Rakoff voided a $33 million settlement that Bank of America had reached with the Securities and Exchange Commission over whether the bank had adequately disclosed the bonuses that were paid by Merrill before the merger, which was completed in January at regulators’ behest as Merrill foundered. He accused the S.E.C. of failing in its role as Wall Street’s top cop by going too easy on one of the biggest banks it regulates. And he accused executives of the Bank of America of failing to take responsibility for actions that blindsided its shareholders, and the taxpayers who bailed out the bank at the height of the crisis. The sharply worded ruling, which invoked justice and morality, seemed to speak not only to the controversial deal, but also to the anger across the nation over the excesses that led to the financial crisis, and the lax regulation in Washington that permitted those excesses to flourish. You can read the full text of Judge Rakoff's decision here. Damn, this guy... posted by Friedrich at September 14, 2009 | perma-link | (5) comments