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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  1. Silly Sports
  2. Blut, Eisen and Survival
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  4. Does Obama Actually Like America?
  5. Zdeno on Fratire
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Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Silly Sports
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Even though some people become wrapped up into them to the point that the scene is almost indistinguishable from warfare, to a disinterested outsider, most (all?) sports can appear silly to some extent. Consider: Rolling a ball to knock over pieces of wood. Kicking an air-filled bladder up and down a field. Bouncing a ball across a floor and then trying to hit a target with it (the ball, not the floor -- though the latter prospect is intriguing). I could go on with such verbal twists, but you surely get the idea. This leads to the question of which sport seems silliest to outsiders. Golf was almost my first choice, but I got to thinking more deeply. The game seems to be an extension of the simple, happy act of swatting a small stone along a field using a stick. That I can related to, even though I don't golf. No, to me the silliest sports involve whacking something back and forth using a flat-surfaced object of some sort. Badminton, ping-pong, squash and tennis, to be precise. It's the intercession of the hitting device as an extension of the arm that pushes these sports into the "huh?" realm for me. Any other candidate sports? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 7, 2009 | perma-link | (15) comments

Friday, November 6, 2009

Blut, Eisen and Survival
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- The Great War brought forth a number of books dealing with the soldier's life, some fictional, others autobiographical. Probably the best known is All Quiet on the Western Front (In Westen Nichts Neues -- nothing new in the west). Most of the well-known ones had an anti-war tone. I bought an account better known in Europe than in America -- Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger (29 March, 1895 – 17 February, 1998) -- two and a half years ago, but didn't get far into it. Having read more about the Great War in recent months, I grabbed it for trip reading here in California and now I've nearly finished it. As you can see from Jünger's dates, he lived almost until his 103rd birthday. But it's a wonder he got past 11 November, 1918. Jünger was in the thick of things on the Western Front from early 1915 until the end with short time-outs for leave, NCO and officers training as well as hospital stays. He was a highly aggressive junior officer who went on dangerous raids largely for the hell of it. By the end of the war, he had been awarded the pour le Mérite, the highest German military order. The Wikipedia article linked above deals with Jünger's political and literary life and goes wrong, in my judgment, regarding Storm of Steel which it characterized stating "This book by which Jünger became suddenly famous has been seen as glorifying war." I do not see glorification of war in the book. Nor do I see it as anti-war. It strikes me as being brutally descriptive of both the élan of Jünger and some fellow soldiers and the literal blood and guts suffered by the unlucky. The notion of luck is key to understanding Jünger's narrative. He experienced a number of close calls, yet survived. Others caught the British sniper's bullet in the throat, were ripped apart by shrapnel or buried in a collapsed trench during artillery bombardment. Derring-do and courage are present and perhaps some might call that "glorification." But balancing those accounts are many passages dealing with the dead and dying. Jünger takes care to describe the case of newly married Lieutenant Zürn after a battle: "Now he was lying on a door, half-stripped, with the waxy colour that is a sure sign of imminent death, staring up at me with sightless eyes as I stepped out to squeeze his hand." Jünger was a realist. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 6, 2009 | perma-link | (14) comments

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ideas, Packaging and Comments
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- After Michael retired things became pretty dull here, if comments to posts were any measure of reader interest and involvement. Matter of fact, I was wondering if there were many readers left. True, my art and cars and design kinds of posts seldom attract lots of comments, and I was writing a number of those pieces for a while. I thought that I, with the welcome aid of guest-posters, would stir things up a bit to get a better fix on reader interest. So I posted some comment bait -- something even Michael would do occasionally. Michael's comment-bait often had to do with sex. I'm not at all comfortable writing sex stuff. But I can write about politics and know that that's another hot subject. I don't plan to turn this into a politics blog. There are more than enough of those around. But expect something political from time to time, mostly in response to current events. Michael liked to write about immigration a lot and his perspective on matters political had a libertarian tinge. While I agree with him on immigration, I doubt I'll write about it much. And while I agree with some aspects of libertarianism, my current state of political evolution is someplace in the cluster of Scoop Jackson Democrat (after all, my mom knew him and I met him on several occasions), Reagan Republican and [Gasp! Horrors!!] Neocon. But fear not: while that's where I come from, I don't plan to use 2Blowhards as a bully political-conversion pulpit. It's ideas that I want to toss out for discussion. My take is that 2Blowhards is, at its core, a blog about ideas. When I post something longer than a snippet, I usually try to toss in more than one idea even though the post has a manifest topic or otherwise dress up the piece in an attempt to make it more entertaining. Here's an example -- a recent post about third parties in United States presidential politics. I used Rush Limbaugh as a "hook" to introduce the topic and agreed with his conclusion that such parties are unsuccessful in winning the presidency and that it's better to move a major party in the direction you desire. I suppose, had I sloughed off my sloth, I could have turned up a liberal commentator who had made the exact same point. But I used Limbaugh because I was familiar with his stance on the matter and had heard that part of the radio program I linked to -- this made creating the post easy. However, some readers saw the word "Limbaugh" and focused on it rather than the matter of merits of third parties, the theme of the post. This is nothing new. Comment threads have lives of their own. I recall a few years back Michael really, really wanted comments on a certain issue, but the commenters ignored his issue and focused on something else. Michael even hopped in, asking for comments... posted by Donald at November 5, 2009 | perma-link | (10) comments

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Does Obama Actually Like America?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Given all the nasty things his for-20-years pastor, Rev. Wright, has said about this country, given that he has gone out of his way on numerous occasions to apologize for the history of the United States and given his effort to transform America into something it has never been (a European-style socialist state), I'm pretty sure President Obama is no fan of his own country. Of course, a number of folks agree with his position. One of them seems to be his wife. This is not to say one has to like everything about one's own country -- how many people are there who do that? But wanting a major transformation against the grain of the past is a different order of magnitude. In effect, this is creating a new, fundamentally different country; might as well change the name while he's at it. It's possible I'm mistaken and that Obama is a super-ultra-hyper-times-twenty Patriot of the First Rank. So feel free to have at me in Comments. Extra points for creative use of the 1930s slogan "Communism is 20th century Americanism." Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 4, 2009 | perma-link | (65) comments

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Zdeno on Fratire
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Zdeno is back, this time discussing a literary genre that's new to non-twentysomething me. * * * * * In case my previous posts haven't completely strained my credibility among the sane and sensible of the Blowhard readership, I thought I'd finish the job today by venturing into the darkest, foulest, most wretched corner of contemporary literature. The genre I refer to goes by the name Fratire , and it is exactly what it sounds like: Literature written by and for young men, celebrating contemporary masculinity in all its adolescent ingloriousness. The unrivaled king of the Fratirists is Tucker Max. No description could possibly do justice to Max's literary stylings, so I quote at length below: From: The Absinthe Donuts Story 10:20: We station ourselves in the kitchen. A fat girl walks in. It's game time. "Well, say goodbye to all the leftovers." 10:21: Apparently, this fatty seems to think she can hang. The Medina Division made better tactical decisions: Fatty "What did you say?" Tucker "Can you not hear me? Are your ears fat too?" Fatty [Look of astonishment, stares at my friends cracking up] "EXCUSE ME?" Tucker "I'm sorry. Really I am. [I open the fridge] Would you like cheesecake or chocolate cake? Probably both, I'm guessing." Fatty [Turns and leaves in utter astonishment] Tucker "Hey Sara Lee, I was only kidding! COME BACK HERE--MY FRIEND LIKES TO GO HOGGIN. MORE CUSHION FOR THE PUSHIN! IT'S LIKE RIDING A MOPED!!" Tucker has arrived. 10:23: Rich knows me from undergrad, and knows how to ride my hot streaks by provoking me, "come on man, you can do better. There are plenty of people around here to make fun of." Express elevator to hell, going down. I give him my voice recorder and a simple order, "Don't miss anything." 10:26: I see a girl wearing two colored tank tops over each other. This is too easy: Tucker "Hey 1985 Madonna, are you gonna get the person who did that?" Girl "Did what?" Tucker "Spilled 80's all over you." Girl [Confused look] Tucker "I know I'd be pissed if I looked like an extra from Desperately Seeking Susan." 10:29: Eddie points out a girl wearing the standard anti-globalization outfit. It is topped off with a "No Blood for Oil" button. Rich whispers in my ear, "You gotta get her. Come on man. Do it--for us...for your country." Eddie starts humming God Bless America. 10:29: I storm over. Rich says into the voice recorder, "Target acquired...we are weapons hot." 10:30: I introduce myself to her as Alger Hiss. She doesn't get the joke. Time to be blunt: Tucker "Do you hate the World Bank?" Girl "Uhh, umm, well, I mean, yeah, I feel that..." Tucker "You don't hate the World Bank." Girl "I don't?" Tucker "No. You're mad at your father. You just want daddy to hug you more." Girl "What?" Tucker "You were a sociology major weren't you?" Girl "NO!" Tucker "What was your major?"... posted by Donald at November 3, 2009 | perma-link | (44) comments

Sunday, November 1, 2009

California Notebook
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm in California and will be on the road for another eight or so days and post when possible. Below are short shots about what I've noticed so far. * Despite a nice dose of rain a couple of weeks ago, it's still very dry here. Interstate 5 passes by the start of the lake behind Shasta Dam. Every other time I've passed through the Lakehead area (and I've done it dozens of times over the last 40 years) there has been lake water. Sometimes it's been up to the brim. Mostly the level has been down to a greater or lesser extent. But this trip there was no lake at all there. Just a lot of red soil in sloping banks with a narrow cut at the bottom created by the Sacramento River. Closer to the dam there was a lake surface, so it's not totally dry -- by drier than I've ever seen it. I hope California gets a rainy winter because it needs it badly. * San Francisco's tourist zones are holding up pretty well. One sign of slackness was that we were able to ride cables cars without much delay. (Sometimes, the wait is prohibitively long unless one is at a terminus; at intermediate stops you can't get on unless someone gets off in a full-car situation.) The Post Street - Union Square area looked good and there were few empty storefronts. Nancy's impression was that the square didn't have visible deralects, though there were panhandlers on corners a few blocks away. One clever fellow down by Fisherman's Wharf crouched on a sidewalk disguised as a bush. A happy fellow and surrounding crowd, especially when he confused dogs seeking a rest room. * I suspect most tourists regard the Bay Area as highly urban. And it is -- mostly. Yet there are places only a few miles from heavily built up areas that are home to horse and beef cattle farms. I'm thinking of valleys and canyons along the hills separating Oakland, Hayward and other East Bay cities from cities such as San Ramon and Danville in the next valley to the east. For the record, the horsey stuff I saw (along with rural dog kennels) was along Crow's Canyon and the cattle were in the Orinda-Moraga area. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 1, 2009 | perma-link | (0) comments