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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Monday, November 23, 2009

Anonymous Internet Rewards
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Zdeno is back with some musing regarding the Internet's Anonymous Side. * * * * * If there’s one thing the internet has taught us, it’s that people have a primal, unselfish desire to improve the world. Obviously this unselfish desire has its roots in some sort of ruthlessly fitness-maximizing ultimate cause – but the phenotype is clear. Hundreds, thousands, and someday millions of people are investing their time and money in making the world a better place, without any hope or desire for reward or recognition in the physical world. Most of my favourite bloggers, for example, are anonymous. Virtually no one charges for content on the internet, and only a minority are so bold as to set out a tip jar. Commenters are even less rewarded, since at least anonymous bloggers achieve some degree of fame and social status among their e-peers. And yet so many blog posts are followed with comments that show at least as much thought and writing quality as the original article. Many of them aren’t even signed by the author. I would estimate that I spend a good two hours per day reading, writing and commenting on internet content, with absolutely no tangible, material benefit to my life at all. Many, perhaps most, of the people reading this can make a similar claim. Today’s question: What motivates us? Why do we spend so many of the precious hours in our finite lives entertaining and educating others who we will likely never meet? * * * * * Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 23, 2009 | perma-link | (23) 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

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Blowhards: How Do We Find Them?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- When Michael got what I like to call his "anodized aluminum parachute" in the spring of 2008, he considered handing 2Blowhards over to me. Happily for all of us (me, especially), he continued blogging until last week's announcement that he would drop full-time posting. Michael's current intention is to remain the proprietor (i.e., pay the bills) for perhaps another year or two and maybe make further use of some of the articles he posted here. As for me, I know full well that 2Blowhards is truly Michael's blog and that it will be impossible to maintain the exact atmosphere he created and maintained over the last seven-plus years. What I will attempt is to continue 2Blowhards' reputation as a site with interesting, generally well-written observations on the artistic and cultural scenes along with occasional detours into history, politics and world affairs. You might have noticed that I tend to write essays instead of link-posts. I tend to write slowly and have other life-commitments besides blogging, which means that my production level is around three or four posts per week. I also travel, which interferes with blogging. When I'm out of the country, I don't pack a computer, so no blogging gets done at all. This is not a good bloggy thing, because content flow is king -- people will stop looking at a blog if new articles don't appear on an almost-daily pace. So more Blowhards must be recruited in order that posting levels are up to one or two per day on average. Another personal "problem" is that my areas of interest and knowledge do not come near to filling the spectrum of the arts part of 2Blowhards. I tend to write about visual arts (painting and illustration mostly), industrial design and architecture (though Michael tended to take the lead there). Michael mostly dealt with his areas of competence: literature, film, music and popular culture. Those are areas that new Blowhards need to fill, though there are no subject constraints; I sometimes write about things in Michael's areas and he would write about painters on occasion. There is no advertising on 2Blowhards, so potential Blowhards need to understand that blogging here is an unpaid hobby activity that could easily occupy an hour or more a day. At one point Michael brought in a professional writer "Vanessa Blowhard" who soon realized that she needed to (literally) make every word that she wrote pay for itself and couldn't adjust to writing for free. That experience makes me cautious about recruiting professionals unless they already have an employer providing a steady income. On the other hand, it's okay if a new Blowhard has his own blog -- I don't, but Michael maintains one under his real name. But the deal is, a Blowhard must agree to provide at least three postings here per week, on average. So if that's compatible with hosting another blog, that's fine by me. Speaking of that three (or maybe four) weekly-posting... posted by Donald at September 21, 2009 | perma-link | (13) comments

Friday, August 28, 2009

Blogging Note
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Aside from unusually heavy political news this month, the calendar still insists that it's August, which apparently has something to do with dogs, days and such. [Yawns] So, what to write about? Well, since it has been almost four years since I signed on as Second (in terms of posting frequency) or Third (in terms of active seniority) Banana hereabouts, I thought I'd mention a few things about 2Blowhards that might be of interest to newer (and perhaps to some long-time) readers. Over in the panel to the left is a segment with one-sentence descriptions of this blog's writers along with our email addresses. My name happens to be listed first because the names are in alphabetical order. This artifact leads some folks to think that 2Blowhards is my blog, so I occasionally get emails proposing advertising, link-sharing and other fabulous deals. I also get emails regarding everyday blog-related stuff. But [bad alphabet! ... naughty, naughty!] it's Michael who's the 2Blowhards proprietor and (unfortunately for him) should be the target for any pestering or (lucky him) be deserving of any kudos you want to pass along. As most of you know, Friedrich was the other member of the original 2Blowhards pair. He was a college pal of Michael and their email correspondence about the arts and such was the genesis of this blog. Business and family responsibilities were such that Friedrich had to cut back blogging activities, though he still contributes thoughtful, well-received postings. Fenster and Francis posted for a while after Friedrich changed his focus, but are inactive contributors (until they decide to post something). I don't know how how other "group blogs" -- those with more than one writer -- are organized. However, I suspect that their organization is pretty loose, as it is here. When I joined, Michael's main expectation was that I should contribute at least two posts per week -- one being longer, the other could be short. A little later he mentioned that, if one of us posted something that had taken a good deal of effort to create such as interviews, then the other bloggers would, as a courtesy, hold off a day or so from burying that posting with new postings. Since Michael lives in New York City, Friedrich lives in the Los Angeles area and I live in Seattle, we don't get together in person much. Actually, Michael and I have only met once, that being near Santa Barbara, a favorite 2Blowhards haunt. We've talked on the phone , but mostly when I was getting on board. We email once in a while to give the other a heads-up. For example, if Michael has an interview series in the works, he'll let me know. And I'll inform him if I'm going to be traveling and unable to blog at my usual pace of three or four postings a week. Otherwise, we work independently, monitoring future content using the "Entries" feature of the blogging software. Due... posted by Donald at August 28, 2009 | perma-link | (5) comments

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Praised / Damned
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- That ambitious audiobook The Wife and I have written and produced? We were thrilled to receive news the other day that the script for one of the episodes in it has been chosen by Maxim Jakubowski to be included in his next "Best Erotica" anthology. That's quite an honor -- Jakubowski is a supersmart and sophisticated guy, as well as a great figure in the genre-writing world. We couldn't be more pleased that he was tickled by our work. In its usual way, though, reality is ensuring that our egos don't balloon up too hugely. Word also just arrived that a reviewer at a prominent audiobook-reviewing outlet didn't enjoy our work, not one little bit. S/he found the characters horrifying, the acting uneven, and the sex scenes "unarousing." Panned -- ouch! Oh, well: Can't please -- let alone turn on -- all of the people all of the time. Two other wound-licking reactions: 1) The reviewer gives no indication of recognizing that our audiobook is intended to be funny. It's a satire! Jakubowski certainly understood that. How could the reviewer have missed it? 2) Still, it's very cool that some mainstream outlets are starting to take note of the kind of thing our production represents: independently created and produced, and more than a little wild and experimental. If you'd like to give our audiobook a listen, or even if you're just curious to explore the nifty website we've created for it, drop me an email at michaelblowhard at that gmail place. I'll send you a link pronto. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 17, 2009 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tyler, Steve, Razib
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Tyler Cowen ventures some thoughts about Steve Sailer. Though the Steve-o-sphere is largely up in arms about the posting, I think that Tyler deserves a lot of credit for admitting that he has read Steve. How many mainstream people have the guts to do that? GNXP's David Kane responds. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 3, 2009 | perma-link | (19) comments

Random Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * T. aka Ricky Raw has some appreciative things to say about Vice magazine, and some not-so-admiring things to say about the new binge-drinking young gals. * Bhetti shares some thoughts about binge drinking in the U.K. * Alias Clio thinks that the helplessness of the victims helps explain the Catholic abuse scandals. The comments-thread on Clio's posting is an informative gem. * John Hill gives the thumb's up to a new book that occasional Blowhard Francis Morrone has co-written. * Martin Regnan offers some tips about how to be an asshole. My favorite: "Take every opportunity to say inappropriate things for little reason." * Medical doctor MD thinks that "Scrubs" is the most accurate portrayal of the medical profession on TV. * Alex Birch sees some virtues in a radical ecologist's book. * After decades of being demonized, lard -- rendered pig fat -- is now not only considered healthy, it's downright chic. * MBlowhard Rewind: I dissed "Angels in America." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 3, 2009 | perma-link | (18) comments

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Teaching Company Sale
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The sale that the Teaching Company is currently running is a particularly attractive one. Of the many bargains that beckon, I'd especially love to try out The Physics of History, How the Earth Works, Biology, A History of Mathematics, Chaos, and Understanding Genetics. The new course that I've already pulled the trigger on, though, is The Conservative Tradition. Great topic, of course. Though conservatism has a vast and impressive pedigree, the only version of it that too many people encounter is what they see on Fox News. Hey, world: Edmund Burke and Michael Oakeshott aren't just enormously impressive and enlightening writers and thinkers, they might even disapprove of Glenn Beck. The course is being delivered by a great lecturer too -- Patrick Allitt, one of my fave Teaching Company profs. I've been through two of Allitt's series and I loved them both; read about 'em here and here. Fabulously smart, articulate, knowledgeable and articulate, Allitt also has a delightful manner: amused, admiring, gentle, and enthusiastic. A stuffy pedant he ain't. Sigh: Sophisticated yet accessible ... It's one of my very favorite combos. (I wrote back here about how much I've gotten out of wrestling with the history of rightie thought. Back here you can find links to all three parts of an interview I did with the brilliant traditionalist conservative Jim Kalb. Buy Jim's mind-opening book here. BTW and FWIW: Although I'm certainly interested, respectful, and sympathetic, I'm by no means a conservative. I co-write X-rated fiction, I live downtown, I move among gays, artists, and performers, and I spend most of my "thinking about politics" time wishing the world's Primarily Political People would go away and die, or at least shut up.) Among the on-sale courses are a few that I've listened to and can recommend: Buddhism by Malcolm David Eckel. A first-class survey by a winning and enthusiastic prof. (I say this, by the way, as someone who has been through dozens of intros-to-Buddhism.) Eckel has clearly gotten a lot out of Buddhism himself, and he delivers his material in an inspired way, mixing up straightforward history, explanations of the content of Buddhism, Buddhist legends and lore, and a little bit of storytelling of his own. It's an approach that might well go awry, but Eckel keeps matters moving forward, and the approach pays off, shedding mucho worthwhile extra light on the topic. He has a burly-yet-boyish energy that I enjoyed spending time with too. Religions of the Axial Age by Mark Muesse. Back in this posting I was hard on Muesse's Hinduism lecture series. (Short version: I found it informative but dry.) I had no such quibbles with this course, though, which is a real beauty. Was I unfair in my judgment of "Hinduism"? Or is Muesse one of those profs who shines when he gets a chance to do big-picture, compare-and-contrast presentations? In any case, I found "Religions of the Axial Age" not just supremely informative but enchanting. (The Axial... posted by Michael at May 19, 2009 | perma-link | (11) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Romance-novel fan FeministX thinks that guys eager to do well with gals might learn a thing or two from her favorite genre. As a straight guy who has had his eyes opened by reading a number of romance novels (hey, I mainly read out of curiosity -- why don't you?), I second her hunch. FeministX is a real find, by the way. Cranky yet sweet, super-bright, and cheerfully iconoclastic -- as well as, FWIW, a lesbian American of South Asian descent who's a regular reader of Steve Sailer -- she might very well be one of a kind. In any case, she's definitely going straight onto my blog-list. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 19, 2009 | perma-link | (24) comments

Onion Video
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Hmmm, The Onion's crew has maintained an awfully high level of humor for an awfully long time ... Do you suppose that history will one day recognize The Onion as one of the most remarkable culture-creations of our time? And if not, why? My own hunch: Comedy and pleasure-giving seldom get the respect or recognition they deserve. See my recent posting about the '50s and '60s humorist Patrick Dennis for more along these lines. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 19, 2009 | perma-link | (23) comments

Monday, May 18, 2009

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Big Hollywood's Matt Patterson interviews a certain M. Blowhard. (Matt's general intro is here.) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 18, 2009 | perma-link | (9) comments

Friday, May 15, 2009

Blogging Note
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- We're off to France for three weeks starting Monday 18 May on a trip conceived before the market crashed; I cashed in frequent flier miles early to get decent flights, so we're kinda locked in. I don't pack a computer on overseas trips due to weight, hassle and uncertainty about Internet connections. Normally, this would mean I won't be posting until after my return the evening of 8 June. Okay, okay, if you'll stop your cheering for a moment I'd like to add that you will be able to read some new posts by me during those three weeks. That's because I've drafted half a dozen of the critters and placed them where Michael can dribble them out at his discretion and convenience. One downside is that I'm probably not going to respond to comments requiring my attention. I don't plan to visit an Internet cafe while in France, but just might do so anyway to check email and 2Blowhards. If I do read comments, I'm not sure about replying because French keyboards differ from the American variety and not all Internet cafes there have computers with American keyboards. One thing I will do is keep some pieces of scratch paper in my shirt pocket so that I can note interesting things for future articles. Plus, I'll be carrying my trusty digital camera in the hope I can find enough grist for a photo essay or two. We'll be spending a week in Paris and then will rent a car ard visit places including Rouen, Mont-Saint-Michel, Amboise, Sarlat (in the Dordogne), Aix-en-Provence, Nice, Lyon and points between. If all that won't provide blog-fodder, I should seriously consider turning in my blogging license. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at May 15, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Travel Screens
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The number of screens one is exposed to these days, eh? They're everywhere. My least favorite place to be overwhelmed by them is in gyms: Please, can I just exercise? As abundant as they are in day-to-day life, they show up in downright blizzard numbers when one travels. They're in your face as you cab to the airport: They're by your side as you move through the airport: Hordes of them await you at the gate: And on board the plane itself, they often outnumber the passengers. Like cars and minimalls, TV/computer screens have become part of the natural environment. Any day now, real life will be morphing into an online adventure game. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 28, 2009 | perma-link | (25) comments

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Are We Cranky? Is it the Economy or ...
Dear Blowhards -- "I used to enjoy this blog, but I find the dialogue has been getting crankier and crankier. " Thus began a comment to a recent posting of Michael's, but it might as easily have been attached to a posting by Friedrich or me. There might be something to the claim, and if there is, I'm wondering what the reason might be. One possibility, as the headline hints, is the nasty economic downturn of the last six or more months. Perhaps many or most of us are on edge due to concerns about money, job security and other issues that accompany recessions and depressions. Another factor might be the nature of the subjects of postings. We continue to write about arts, life and oddball stuff. But not all of this makes for comment-fest fodder. Michael has told me that The Wife believes that many of the essays we post are pretty complete in themselves. That is, they are read, understood and appreciated -- but there is little reason for readers to comment. What stirs up comment swarms seems to be postings about politics or lifestyle-related subjects such as sex or personality. Religion would probably be another hot topic, but that is seldom covered here. Basically, these are the sorts of subjects that polite hostesses of yore wished to avoid at dinner parties -- because they can easily provoke anger if there is disagreement. Usually disagreements hereabouts remain on a high plane. But sometimes commenters resort to name-calling; perhaps a therapeutic act, but nothing to advance an argument intellectually. A few months ago on comments to some of my postings I saw name-calling in the first sentence and got so fed up that I began deleting such comments, not caring who "started it." On the other hand, I almost always allow comments attacking me to be posted because it gives other readers an insight regarding the personality of the commenter. So what, then, is going on? Is it stressful times we're living in? A Blowhards self-inflicted problem? Something else? Or is there no problem at all. Comments welcome. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at March 10, 2009 | perma-link | (40) comments

Monday, February 9, 2009

Molly C.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Artist and performer Molly Crabapple is looking a little like Natalie Portman (only stacked) on the cover of Constellation magazine. I'm proud to say that Molly got her start as a writer here at 2Blowhards. Check out her Confessions of a Naked Model: here, here, here, here. Here's Molly's website. Check out Molly's baby, the burlesque-inspired downtown phenomenon called Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 9, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Podcast Recs 2
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Having been on a podcast-listening bender over the last few months, I'm recommending the ones I've especially enjoyed. Back here I linked to a talk by the behavioral economist Dan Ariely. Today my tip is ... * Lance Weiler talks to Joe Swanberg. (Go here. Now, in the "This Conference is Being Recorded" box in the webpage's upper-right, scroll down and look for "Joe Swanberg: DIY filmmaking." If you see a better way of getting at this podcast please let me know.) This conversation is a great introduction to how new-media creators -- webseries makers, for instance -- think and talk, as well as an informative stroll through their concerns and interests. A quick explanation: We’re all familiar with old-media conversation topics. Let’s take movies as an example. The usual conversation might include riffs about: How hard was it to find financing? What battles did you have with your producers and stars? How screwed-over did you get by distributors? We've all read articles and/or have attended panel discussions that have focused on these questions. In the world of new-media creation, nearly all these concerns have been left behind. Why? Well, the new digital tools enable people to make movies for almost nothing. Really-truly they do: The Wife and I are friendly with a guy who makes feature-length movies -- on weekends, with friends -- for less than a thousand dollars each. The webseries that The Wife and I co-created ourselves with a young director friend was, by new-media standards, incredibly ambitious. We like to describe it as a cross between “Barbarella” and “The Matrix.” Yet its total cost was a mere $12,000. If you’re working without producers and stars, then you aren’t subject to producer/star battles. And, because internet connections and downloads are getting faster every year, moviemakers can now put their work on public display without relying on any distributors at all. Hence: no reason to agonize about financing, producers, stars, or distributors. So far as new-media filmmaking goes, in other words, those familiar old article and panel-discussion moviechat topics are now kaput. But it isn’t`as though life in the new-media world, however free and loose, is entirely smooth sailing. The old-media obstacles and hurdles may not be issues for people working independently, using Macs, and shooting on digi-videocams. But life under the new conditions presents its own challenges. New media filmmakers love to get together and compare notes -- they just aren’t comparing notes about what filmmakers used to compare notes about. A few examples of typical new-media filmmaker conversation topics: How might we get paid for our creations? (No one has an answer for this one yet, alas. In fact, it seems as though the freer the new tools make independent filmmakers, the less likely independent filmmakers are to get paid.) How to handle the challenges of making collaborative work when no one involved is receiving a salary? (Example: It’s hard to yell at someone for screwing up if that person... posted by Michael at January 22, 2009 | perma-link | (3) comments

Monday, January 19, 2009

Podcast Recs 1
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Since I've spent some of the last month filling my iPod with podcasts and taking it with me on daily walks, I thought I'd pass along the highlights of my recent adventures in listening. First up: * Dan Ariely on behavioral economics. (To download the podcast, go here and do a Search on Ariely.) One of the hardest things to get used to where economics is concerned is the preference so many in the field have for constructing mathematical models. Shouldn't they be out in the world (or at least in the lab) investigating what people are like and how they tend to behave instead? Behavioral economics has brought a little realism back into the field. What built-in quirks do people tend to have? In what ways are they not "utility maximizers"? In this podcast, the behavioral economist Dan Ariely offers a lot of examples of ways in which people differ from pure-rationality automatons. The fun of the talk comes partly from the little shocks of recognition that Ariely's research delivers. Hey, life is what seems to be being discussed and described, not some geek's theory. But it also comes from Ariely's presentation style. In his scholarly way, Ariely is a real performer, with a hyperbolic-yet-droll, innocent-yet-canny tone that put me in mind of the Russian writer Sergei Dovlatov, an underknown literary writer of the 1980s. Buy a copy of Ariely's book here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 19, 2009 | perma-link | (0) comments

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Flippin' Pages, Clickin' Links
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Between episodes of clearing sidewalks and driveways of the ten or more inches of accumulated snow here in Seattle (of mild climate fame) I've been chipping away at a remaindered copy of this book about art patron/collector/dealer Peggy Guggenheim. She was not (until late in life when she agreed to turn over the collection) connected with the Guggenheim museums populating New York, Bilbao and other places; those were originally funded by Samuel Guggenheim, a rich member of the clan. Peggy was a "poor" Guggenheim. In other words she was rich, but not seriously so. The biography goes into a lot of detail about her private life along with her dealings with the arts. As a result, it is stuffed with names of people she encountered, married, lived with, supported, etc., etc. There are two glossy photo sections, but in no way do the assembled pictures illustrate most of the names mentioned in the text. So I found myself repeatedly rising from my easy chair and going over to my desktop computer to Google on various names in order to: (1) find a photograph to see what they looked like; (2) look for biographical information to supplement what was in the book; and (3) in the case of artists I'm not familiar with, see what their paintings look like. Score one for the Internet age! According to some, the ideal is to read a text solidly embedded with links to the sorts of items I just mentioned along with other information. This is not a new concept. An example that's been around for years is Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu -- it was old news when I heard him speak at a computer language convention in 1991 and it still hasn't really gotten off the ground, so far as I can tell. Another possibility would be a device similar to Amazon's Kindle, but with a huge internal version of something like Wikipedia or perhaps a combination of that feature with Internet linkage. For me, this is not ideal because I really do prefer reading books than Kindles. So for now, my dashing back and forth from chair to computer works well enough, and sure beats the good old days when there was little I could do to immediately satisfy my curiosity regarding items I'd stumble over. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at December 23, 2008 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Jim Kalb's Book Is Almost Available
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Traditionalist conservative Jim Kalb's new book "The Tyranny of Liberalism" goes on sale soon. Read an interview with Jim about the book here. I've long been a fan of Jim's. His thinking strikes me as deep, his writing as helpful and clear, and his manner as both calm and patient. He makes a great and humane case for traditionalism both in what he says and how he says it. This ain't Fox News conservatism, to put it mildly. Jim's blog is here. Long ago, I interviewed Jim at some length. You can get to all three parts of the interview from this posting. I urge you to give the q&a a read: provocations and surprises (of a gentle but trenchant sort) are guaranteed. Don't skip the very interesting commentsthreads that follow the postings. Jim writes eloquently in praise of nostalgia here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 1, 2008 | perma-link | (17) comments

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fact for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards Remarkable numbers of people are actively blogging these days, of course. But even more have tried blogging and given it up. The total number of abandoned blogs now exceeds 200 million. Source. The Wife shares a hunch: that most of the people abandoning blogging are women. "I think men's brains are wired for op-ed pieces," she says. "I think blogging has probably saved a lot of marriages by giving men an outlet for all those op-ed pieces. It has certainly helped our marriage." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 16, 2008 | perma-link | (8) comments

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Rawness
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The Rawness is one smart, fresh, and funny writer. Read here about how to have fun tormenting hipster "music Nazis," and here about some of the books that turned The Rawness into the raw kind of conservative that he is. This posting about ghetto black males struck me as really brilliant. Great passage: Even though they are doing their best to be supernigga, they still do things in a feminine way because feminine influences are most of what they know. Most of their role models and involved family members are women, and the few men in their lives were likely raised by only women too. And it shows in how they handle conflict: grudges are held forever, they never know how to let anything slide, they think primarily with emotion and are prone to outbursts, drama and confrontation and most importantly, they don’t know how to choose their battles. True male behavior isn’t being a drama queen, being highly prone to emotional outbursts and holding onto grudges; true male behavior is picking your battles, knowing when to fight and when to let things slide, analyzing things calmly and logically and having discipline over your moods and emotions and exercising emotional restraint. These are things that a true alpha male influence teaches you, and such influences have almost disappeared completely from the hood. That "these guys are modeling female behaviors" bit is an angle that I'd never given a single thought to before. Some of The Rawness' other postings about black issues can be gotten to here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 8, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bloggers I Like to Read
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Believe it or not -- well, okay, you already probably believe it because I don't do much link-posting -- I don't read a lot of blogs. I have just over 20 sites bookmarked and should add a few more, but not many. As it is, this list normally takes me an hour to peruse each morning and I might spend another hour each day checking back for updates. And I'll click on interesting links. Most of this online effort is to gather news and opinions, but some of the sites I visit eagerly because of the quality of the writing (quality as I see it, benighted non-English major me). That is, I enjoy these bloggers' writing and look forward to reading more whenever I sit down at my computer. I'll mention some of my favorite blog-writers below. But first I need to mention that I'm excluding bloggers I know personally and those who comment here (many fine writers amongst them) -- to keep things as dispassionate as I can manage. One blogger I enjoy reading is Jonah Goldberg at the Corner on National Review's site. Jonah's writing influenced my blogging style in terms of using a casual, conversational style where appropriate and tossing in odd, funny bits. His early postings reflected his age (late 20s at the time), the casualness and humor dominating. Ten years, a book and many syndicated columns under his belt later, there is much less kid-stuff. Even so, I almost never skip a Jonah posting. So he's mostly a print-medium guy, but he does have a blog. That's Terry Teachout who is theater critic for The Wall Street Journal and writes for Commentary and other publications. His theater and music criticism strikes me as being fair and reasonable; perhaps that's because theater and music are definitely not my fields. And what he has to say about literary topics (about which I'm a dab better informed) also makes sense. Where I part company is painting. He seems to like soft, casually-painted landscapes and still-lifes whereas I go more for dramatic works featuring people. Teachout says he tries to write as he would speak, and his style is indeed conversational including the occasional colloquial or slangy phrase in his criticism pieces. The post 9/11 world brought forth a commentator on things military who blogged under the pen-name "Wretchard." Now he writes under his real name, Richard Fernandez. Fernandez is a Filipino living in Sydney, Australia. I don't know whether English is his first language, but he writes as if it were. His style tends to the "Just the facts, Ma'am" genre -- a spare, analytical stream of sentences and paragraphs with opinion and conjecture clearly labeled where necessary. I found this especially useful when military operations were discussed, because facts can be slippery during and immediately following operations and Fernandez seemed to know what he was talking about at the tactical level. The last blogger I'll mention today is Dean Barnett who... posted by Donald at August 5, 2008 | perma-link | (20) comments

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Un-PC Reading 2.5
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Back here I linked to a bravely un-PC column by Kevin Myers asking why the West bothers trying to save Africa. Hibernia Girl points out that Myers has written a followup column, and another, both of them as un-PC as the original column. * Don't miss Hibernia Girl's shrewd musings about why some societies require their women to cover their hair. * Back here I wrote about how much I value the work of the journalist Steve Sailer, who is so un-PC that he barely registers on the MSM's radar screen. I'm pleased to notice that Steve got a substantial mention in a recent CNN article about Barack Obama. As I wrote on Steve's blog, "I've long suspected that many in the MSM read Steve Sailer. Here's hoping that more of them will start to come out of the closet." * Back here I linked to some un-PC essays about current relations between the sexes by F. Roger Devlin. The smart and funny Roissy has picked up on Devlin and has written a provocative blog posting about the essays. Don't miss the commentsthread on Roissy's posting -- or for that matter the commentsthread on this brief warmup posting: It's Thursday vs. Clio. Perhaps F. Roger Devlin's ideas are on their way to becoming full-fledged memes. Here's Devlin's latest. Thanks once again to 2Blowhards commenter "anon," who introduced us to Devlin's writing. * More on dating, singlehood, pairing-up, women, and men. (Link thanks to Cheryl Miller.) * The Rawness attempts to explain why some women have a hard time getting hitched, part one. The Rawness is always a rockin' read. * How will Obama win over the elderly Jews? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 24, 2008 | perma-link | (19) comments

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ST News
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Shouting Thomas makes it through a terrible stretch and discovers that life on the other side can be good. It's fun reading his observations about Philippine folk basketball and sticking it out in the music biz too. Buy a copy of ST's rollicking new party CD -- slyly entitled "Innocence" -- here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 23, 2008 | perma-link | (5) comments

Monday, July 21, 2008

Audio Musings 1
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- For a number of weeks now The Wife and I have been spending our days in an audio studio, recording, then editing, and now mixing an audiobook that we've co-written. If you're interested: It's a raunchy satire of the movie world, done in a radio-series- like fashion: 50 roles, 30 actors, 17 stories ... Our very own foul-mouthed, tons-of-story-lines, late-night HBO series, in a way, if minus the imagery. We'll be a little less ambitious next time out, that's for sure. Once we wrap up mixing chores, we'll be offering our masterwork online and charging for downloads. The audio-production process is fascinating -- a matter of hours upon hours of painstaking tedium interrupted by occasional bursts of giddy hilarity and satisfying creativity. Audio production is also its own distinctive little world, I've discovered. The techies, engineers, and producers are often fun, sparky, driven people. They're also far more down-to-earth and rough-and-ready than the writin' crowd, thank god. There's a distinctive character type that seems to thrive in the field: part geek, part rock 'n' roller. Many in fact have come to the field after spending years in bands; many continue to play in bands and / or make recordings on weekends. About 15 people work at the place where we're laboring over our epic and silly project. Two quick observations about them, and -- in honor of election year -- two quick questions. Observation #1: 12 of the 15 people working at this studio are males. Of the three females, two are office assistants. In other words, all but one of the audio engineers are male. Question #1: Do we have here a sign that the audio engineering field is biased against women? Observation #2: An amazing number of these guys show up at work wearing low-slung tight jeans and black death-metal t-shirts. Question #2: Is this proof that the field is biased against people who aren't metal fans? Time to call in the EEOC? Semi-related: I wrote back here and here about some of the differences between book-world people and movie-world people. A superb producer of audiobooks, frequent 2Blowhards commenter Charlton Griffin offers his latest production here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 21, 2008 | perma-link | (17) comments

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- You've visited the Art and Popular Culture wiki, I trust? Dedicated to seeking "connections, bridges and intersections between high culture, pulp and avant-garde," it's brilliant: full of oddball observations and provocative swatches of knowledge. Surprising, flattering, and fun to see that the webseries my wife and I helped make now has its own entry in the wiki, where it's compared to the work of Roger Corman and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Art and Popular Culture is the brain-and-lovechild of the excellent Jan Geerinck, who blogs here, and who evidently sees connections everywhere. Read more about Jan and Jahsonic here. Since I'm in a bragging mood, I'll also mention that our webseries recently received its first review -- from a very sharp horror site called Infernal Dreams, where it was covered alongside "Sorority Sluts" and "Redneck Zombies." That's the right neighborhood for us! Eight stars out of ten, and let me quote a few passages from the review: "An enjoyable series which speaks to the Sci-Fi fan, the technology fan, and the 'sex' fan ... The sharp-witted humor really drives the series forward and gives it that special 'signature.' What the creators have done with the series is that they have made sex fun again." I can now report that it feels really, really good when a critic gets what you've tried to do. Shoot me a note at michaelblowhard@gmail.etc and I'll send you a link to the webseries' website. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 19, 2008 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An Actor's Life
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- And say those lines with real feeling, goddammit! The multitalented Kate VanDevender has websites here, here, and here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 16, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Where Do the Good Ideas Come From?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Steve Sailer reads a new book and notices some good ideas in it. He also notices similarities that the authors' ideas have to ideas that he published years ago. I've often suspected that many journalists read Steve Sailer on the sly -- "on the sly" because of course no respectable person would ever read the likes of Steve Sailer, right? I don't always agree with Steve, but I'm never not glad that he's out there. Is there a ballsier American journalist working today? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 15, 2008 | perma-link | (80) comments

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cutest New iPhone Application
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 10, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fake Names
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Hibernia Girl offers some welcome perspective on the use of pseudonyms, and its connections with free speech. Fun fact: In the course of his career Voltaire used 178 different pseudonyms. Hey world, there's a lot of worth that simply wouldn't get said if people weren't able to hide behind fake names. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 20, 2008 | perma-link | (21) comments

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Question for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Tyler Cowen asks, Is Roissy evil? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 4, 2008 | perma-link | (44) comments

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Wii Tennis
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- When I bought a Wii a month ago, I did so with some apprehension. I'd bought video-game systems before, and as purchases they'd never worked out well. I'm curious about culture and digital media, so I'm eager to explore and experience this new world of interactive "gaming." What's the addiction? What's the excitement? What are the terms? But since I never did get hooked on playing with the systems, I felt I'd wasted money. Would the Wii purchase leave me feeling silly too? After all, as far as I could tell I simply disliked playing computer games. Quick answer: Although we haven't explored any games beyond the sports games that the Wii comes with, I love the Wii. Even The Wife loves the Wii. We especially love the brilliantly designed and programmed Wii Tennis. Spin, strategy, lobs, drop shots ... Opponents with secrets, favorites, weaknesses, and strategies ... The computer players have personality too. During one whiz-bang game -- I, ahem, play Wii Tennis at a pretty darned high level -- my Wii opponents (Wii Tennis is doubles tennis) made an uncharacteristic, silly goof. I started in surprise, then muttered, "Well, they're only human." "No they aren't," The Wife reminded me. The Wife and I sometimes start the day with 30 minutes of Wii tennis. The Wife will play for a while with me watching (and, as husbands will, offering a lot of coaching). Then I'll play for a while with The Wife watching. We're so Wii Tennis-crazy that we have to monitor the amount of time we devote to the game. Play Wii Tennis -- which in effect is a lot more like ping-pong than it is like tennis -- for too long and your shoulder, arm and wrist will ache for days. My time with Wii Tennis has left me thinking: Hey, perhaps I don't dislike computer-game systems per se. Perhaps what I dislike is sitting in front of a screen with a controller in my hand, twiddling knobs with my thumbs. Because the fact is that much of what I love about Wii Tennis is the chance it gives me to get physical, if in a modest way. No thumb-twiddling; lots of arm-waving and wrist-flicking. Bring on the computer games. Feh on the thumb-twiddling. A funny twist in my Wii Tennis adventures is how it has affected my love of watching real tennis on TV. Though I don't generally watch sports on TV, I'm pretty darned happy watching pro tennis on TV for hours. The French Open is currently on, for instance, and I couldn't be much happier than I am when I'm sacked out in front of the TV watching the pros battle it out on clay. But but but ... This year I have this new option. Instead of watching pros play tennis, I can play Wii Tennis myself. Or -- something that's often even more fun -- I can watch The Wife play Wii Tennis and bug her... posted by Michael at June 3, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Friday, May 30, 2008

Your Life Online
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Kids: Where putting it all out there on Bebo and Facebook goes, maybe it would be wise to use a little caution. But when have teens ever understood the meaning of the word "caution"? Hey, a Larger Thought: The new digital tools certainly make a lot possible and open up many fresh avenues. But maybe they also promote -- or encourage, or facilitate -- the irresponsible expression of immature impulsiveness. Why think before you act when blurting-it-out has become so easy and so fun? Is the remaking of the world via digital media that's going on being done entirely for the benefit of teens? And how will people who have become addicted to the convenience and thrills of instant-expressive-gratification ever mature? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 30, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

The Camera Was On
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I assume that you've already seen the infamous Sue Simmons outburst. But why not enjoy it again? I certainly have, and will again too. Her performance of the f-word -- such conviction! -- is a classic that gets me laughing every time. '70s and '80s anchorgal Jessica Savitch shows how meltdowns were done back in the day. The on-camera fun continues here. (Links thanks to Charlton Griffin.) Bulletin to TV anchors and reporters: Hencefoward, your every misstep will be immortalized on YouTube. But I suppose they're aware of that already. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 30, 2008 | perma-link | (0) comments

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Digital Divides
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- There's been a lot of earnest, worried public agonizing about the "digital divide" -- rich people are wired, poor people aren't. It seems to me not worth worrying about overmuch, at least so far as the U.S. goes. Anyone who can afford a decent TV and cable subscription can also afford an iMac and a cable-Internet hookup. Those people for whom such a package is out of reach have much more important things to worry about than Web 2.0. The digital divide in the U.S. that fascinates me more is another one completely. It's the one between people -- mostly young -- who expect to be surrounded by snapping cameras and switched-on videocams, and those (mostly older) for whom having a digicam or a videocam pointed at them is an event. Kids go to parties expecting that tons of photos of the event will be available for viewing online the following day. If cameras aren't whirring and files aren't being uploaded, then the event itself simply hasn't occurred. (Remember that line in the 1991 Madonna documentary "Truth or Dare" when Warren Beatty marvels at the way Madonna has no life except when she's being photographed? By the way, what ever became of Alex Keshishian, the film's wunderkind director? He was celebrated by many in the business and the press as a new Orson Welles. But IMDB indicates that he has made only two films in the last 15 years.) Of course, these kids have had vidcams trained on them their whole lives. Dad was probably zooming in on the blessed and bloody birth-event itself. Most older folks by contrast seem to resent the presence of cameras, and to dread the possibility that pix and vids of them will wind up in public. I recently whipped out a digicam at a party I attended with friends around my own age. In terms of the response I got and the behavior my digicamming elicited, it was like returning to the 1950s. People posed; they put on their camera faces. And then they let it go -- they wanted the camming moment to be over. When they learned that I was taking video too they were perplexed. Since there's no obvious beginning or end to video shooting, how to "put on" good camera behavior? And -- although we were all lookin' pretty good, if I say so m'self -- each and every one of my buds asked for reassurance that the pix and clips I'd taken wouldn't wind up online. Kids: Of course you're gonna put it all out there. That's not just fun, it's mandatory. Old-timers: The proper ultimate destination for a snapshot is a shoebox. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 29, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Patty's Website
Michael Blowhards writes: Dear Blowhards -- Star YouTube webcam dancer Patty Mayo now has her own website. (On the tab in my browser it reads "Patty Mayo -- Official Fan Site.") A cute bit from Patty's self-description: Ima small girl barely standin at 5 ft but i love it, im fun sized. Im single and crushin. Just give me a guy who likes me for me..and i'll stop wit this myspace bullshit and just be with him Here's some footage of Patty in action: I don't know about you, but I'm guessing that the level of teenaged booty-shaking virtuosity in the U.S. has skyrocketed since the birth of YouTube. Talk about having a stage. Talk about competitive pressures. Talk about feedback. I ran across Patty thanks to Agnostic, who writes that he can smell the difference between "older" (30ish) women and younger ones; and who -- speaking of "game" -- has come up with some "Facebook game." Best, Michael UPDATE: In the Comments, DOBA recalls a simpler time, or at least a time when he didn't feel quite so horrified by popular culture. It was the era of Cheryl Tiegs:... posted by Michael at May 15, 2008 | perma-link | (47) comments

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Lemmonex takes her tax refund and invests it wisely. A nice bit from Lemmonex's self-description: "I have become increasingly ambivalent regarding politics; it is all a lie and they are all the same. Really. DC has embittered me further. Save yourself some trouble, pick one or two issues that are really important to you and just vote along those lines." As far as I'm concerned, with that passage Lemmonex has shown herself to be a more profound and useful political thinker than anyone at The New Republic or National Review. How lovely that she's also a cheekily sweet and amusing blogger with her own earthy, frank, and insolent-yet-vulnerable tone. Knock on her door and you'll find a full-fledged person at home. I ran into Lemmonex over at Roissy's. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 11, 2008 | perma-link | (18) comments

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Video Comments
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Dept. of Technology Marches On: Video commenting is now possible on some blogs. (Do a search on "Arrington" to get started, then scroll down further for more.) Video could add a lot to discussion theads, IMHO. Imagine Chris White vs. Shouting Thomas ... Roissy could speak from behind a mask ... Colleen could share some expressive improv ... Dearieme might upload tersely amusing 5 second clips ... Ian could prepare a raw and fermented lunch ... Hey, perhaps some of the ladies might see fit to make their statements by showing off their bellydancing skills. Bellydancing demos are always appreciated in these parts. As commenter Bwana says, "Text is so 2006." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 24, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Monday, April 14, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It's happy blogaversary to some showstoppingly good bloggers: supersharp and ever-flirty Alias Clio; that poetic muser-in-the-city Bixblog; and Roissy, whom no one will ever be able to accuse of having come out of the gate on timid feet. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 14, 2008 | perma-link | (6) comments

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Two New Group Blogs
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * From the right: a new group blog by contributors to The American Conservative, edited by Daniel McCarthy. * From whatever side of the spectrum it is that libertarians inhabit: a new group blog from the Independent Institute. Best, Michael UPDATE: Thanks to TGGP, who points out another rewarding new group blog, The Art of the Possible, where the excellent Kevin Carson posts frequently.... posted by Michael at April 3, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A quick break from the usual to call visitors' attention to the fact that I've done a little maintenance on our blogroll -- the long list of recommended blogs that's in the left-hand column. Broke 'em up into categories that I hope are easy to use ... Prioritized the categories by order of importance (notice where I put Politics) ... Weeded out some blogs that have shut down ... Listed 'em alphabetically ... Speaking of which, I did my alphabetical listing by first name, since that seems to be the new Accepted Thing. Weird, isn't it, that we now inhabit a world where most alphabetical lists of names are organized by first name? Please let me know if you spot any goofs. And please take a moment to click on one or two blogs that you've never tried before. There's a lot of good-quality blogsurfing to be enjoyed out there.... posted by Michael at April 1, 2008 | perma-link | (7) comments

Friday, March 21, 2008

Irina in New York
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- As a writer / blogger / online-personality, Irina is a sweetie: woebegone yet hopeful; worldly yet childish; both Old World and New World. She's a clown, but a sexy and touching one. The fun of reading her has less to do with what she says than with accompanying her puppy brain and her womanly feelings as they zigzag loopily around each other, eyeing each other in fondness and exasperation. Here Irina ranks some American traits; here she inspires Agnostic to have another go at that age-old question, "Ass man? Or boob man?" American girls: Read Irina and learn about this mysterious thing called "charm." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 21, 2008 | perma-link | (13) comments

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Roissy Sums It Up
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Never one to favor moderation or self-restraint, Roissy finally lays it all on the line. My main worry: Does he now have anything left to say? Roissy points out some videoclips -- here, here, and here -- that those who are curious about this whole "game" thing won't want to miss. That "Cajun" dude is good! I've got the hots for the female announcer myself. Best, Michael UPDATE: In celebration of Serge Gainsbourg -- an uber-player of a previous generation -- here's a video for his immortal "Je t'aime ... moi non plus." It was recorded in 1969 -- and I do mean "69": The Telegraph reports that at 61 Jane Birkin -- Gainsbourg's muse -- still has the magic. Nice line: "The less Birkin tried to do with her voice, the better she sounded." Did you know that Jane Birkin is the mother of pixie-sexpot actresses Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon?... posted by Michael at March 4, 2008 | perma-link | (31) comments

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Teleology of Facebook
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm glad to learn that not everyone loves Facebook. I signed up for an account myself, spent a couple of hours exploring the site, and still don't understand what the point of Facebook is. I just don't get it. Can anyone enlighten me? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 29, 2008 | perma-link | (9) comments

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some of the most undersung contemporary culture-heroes -- IMHO, of course -- are YouTube music-video uploaders. Just think of it: At no previous time in all history have we had anything like this kind of easy access to such a wealth of fabulous music performances. And we owe it to the voluntary efforts of a lot of amateurs, motivated by love, generosity and enthusiasm. It's enough to make a person believe in anarchist theory. (Incidentally, that's a first-class essay.) A few of the uploaders I rely on most heavily: rockabilly buff Gatorrock786; country-music lover Genewatsonfan2; Rolling Stones champion Ghostryder4067; StAlphege, surely in the top tier of the world's Emmylou Harris admirers; and the classical-music connoisseurs Judicaelp and Tbromley. Here's some footage of the legendary Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli playing Chopin: And a clip of the brilliant Maurizio Pollini performing Debussy: Pollini's Chopin is a modern legend in its own right, and there's a lot of it on YouTube. Here's one good example. A couple of recent discoveries have also been making me very, very happy. Oldtimer (456 vids uploaded so far -- imagine the time and effort!) Ultracoolsixties has an eclectic collection of '60s pop music clips that must be peerless -- it includes performances by Marianne Faithful, The Byrds, Francoise Hardy, and a longtime fave of mine, the high-octane, midwestern R&B group Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels: And doesn't that take you back to the glory days of AM radio! When I'm the mood for workingman's rock, I'll take Mitch Ryder and the boys over Bruce Springsteen any day -- in my value-set, raucous party spirit always prevails over mythos and bloat. Here's Mitch Ryder's website Why not spring for this best-of collection? Newcomer Musicfirstlove has been sharing a priceless collection of alt-country clips, including many I hadn't even known existed of someone I never tire of going back to, the angelically-gifted Texas depressive Townes Van Zandt: Well-synch'd-up-with-its-sound or not, that's some precious footage. I wrote -- OK, I raved -- about Townes Van Zandt back here. Here's the Townes Van Zandt website, run by his widow Jeanene. Jeanene sent 2Blowhards a very moving letter that we were honored to reprint here. Buy a copy of "Be Here to Love Me," Margaret Brown's evocative and poetic documentary about Townes, here. Do you have some favorite YouTube uploaders that you can pass along to the rest of us? It seems to me that the urge to share our pleasures is a lot of what makes the Web the glorious place it is. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 17, 2008 | perma-link | (8) comments

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Few Discoveries
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Dark Party Review. Here's a cultureblog that's a rowdy joy -- an exuberant and enthusiastic publication full of mischief, zest, and brains. Who says that sophistication and showbiz, refinement and lust, can't boogaloo together? Read about Edith Wharton's "A Journey," then joyride your way through a collection of bad music videos from the 1980s. GFS3's "How to Be an Office Drone" made me laugh out loud. One funny passage: Skills to attending long meetings are the abilities to: fart quietly, disguise growling stomachs with coughing, pounce on food first to avoid soggy sandwiches, and to leave the meeting with absolutely no work. * The Philosopher's Zone. I've found Alan Saunders' radio show / podcast about philosophical topics very enjoyable. It's high-end yet accessible -- first-class intellectual entertainment. Saunders -- trained in philosophy himself but also a gifted, calm, and helpful interviewer -- brings on learned guests (mostly Australian) to discuss such topics as love, social justice, science, and the mind. I confess that I've never been entirely convinced that there's a point to Western philosophy; as fascinating and impressive as it can be, I often find myself wondering if it isn't just a weird and useless activity that a certain kind of person enjoys doing. But the mental- housecleaning aspect of it does have some appeal for me, especially when it's conducted in plain English. That's what Saunders specializes in doing. I wrote back here about how much I admire a good interviewer, and back here about Stephen Toulmin, one of the handful of Western philosophers whose work I really do love. * Stuff White People Like. A commenter at Steve Sailer's blog linked to this droll, deadpan, near-Onion-quality blog about things that the upscale paler-of-hue tend to go for. Do you enjoy expensive sandwiches? And Sunday breakfasts? How about dogs? And old stuff? And Apple products? Do you have a tendency to make unnecessary apologies? Were you an arts major? I'm guilty on all of those counts myself. Always fun to discover that you're a stereotype -- at least it is if you're a White Person. White People actually like stereotypes. (Hey, that's something that I just came up with.) Typical passage: It is a poorly guarded secret that, deep down, white people believe if given money and education all poor people would be EXACTLY like them. In fact, the only reason that poor people make the choices they do is because they have not been given the means to make the right choices and care about the right things. And a hilarious line in a posting about White People's love of natural medicine: "It’s weird that there are some white people who won’t take aspirin, but will take Ecstasy, Cocaine, Xanax and Vicodin." This posting about Film Festivals is a hoot too. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 15, 2008 | perma-link | (15) comments

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Newspapers, R.I.P.?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * The New York Times reports on the shakey state of the newspaper business. Nifty/scarey passage: “I’m an optimist, but it is very hard to be positive about what’s going on,” said Brian P. Tierney, publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News. “The next few years are transitional, and I think some papers aren’t going to make it.” * Marc Andreessen inaugurates a New York Times Deathwatch. Funny bit: "Sometimes it's darkest right before it goes pitch black." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 7, 2008 | perma-link | (4) comments

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Urgently Entertaining
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Even though I was in Hawaii recently, I still ain't no surfer. Unfortunately, that includes web-surfing. Despite that handicap, the sites that I do regularly visit are kind enough to offer tempting links. Fortunately, Power Line -- the blog that brought down Dan Rather -- introduced me to a brand new blog by one of their part-time contributors, William Katz. It's called Urgent Agenda. Who is Bill Katz? Since he's a far better writer than I am, I'll just pass along his self-description: William Katz has, during an extensive career, been an intern for a U.S. senator; an officer in the Central Intelligence Agency; an assistant to Herman Kahn, the nuclear-war theorist; an editor at The New York Times Magazine; a comedy writer for Bob Newhart; an interviewer for The Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson; and the author of ten novels published in many languages. A number of his books have been sold to Hollywood, about which nothing more need be said. What do politics, the CIA, journalism, comedy writing, fiction, and Hollywood have to do with each other? Think about it. In addition to running Urgent Agenda, William Katz actively blogs at Power Line. He's a graduate of the University of Chicago and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. He is married, with two daughters, neither of whom agree with him. To give you some of Urgent Agenda's flavor, here's a segment from a recent posting. Students at Choate Rosemary Hall, attended by JFK, among others, are deeply upset at the choice of Karl Rove to be their commencement speaker. Oh, the dears. We go through this ritual every year. Get a commencement speaker anywhere to the right of Trotsky and some students rush to the mental health clinic. Question: Does anyone ever remember a commencement speech? Sometimes, we have trouble remembering the name of the speaker. But, if the students are serious, maybe they can have an alternative graduation and invite, say, Hugo Chavez. The school, however, should impose a condition: If Chavez comes, he should be permitted to confiscate all the students' stock portfolios. There are ways to shut students up. Commencement speakers: hmm. Of my four commencements (counting high school), the only speaker whose name I recall is Milton Schapp, who was governor of Pennsylvania at the time. He spoke to us at Dear Old Penn. All I remember of his oration was that it was stupefyingly long and dull. In 2007 their speaker was former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III. Better than Schapp, probably, and a better choice than many colleges and universities manage. But with the usual Dear Old Penn envy of the most famous Ivy schools, I see that we were trumped yet again by Harvard, which had Bill Gates on the podium. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at January 27, 2008 | perma-link | (5) comments

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Richard S. Wheeler Blogs
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm very glad to learn that the Western novelist Richard S. Wheeler has begun blogging. Go read, learn, enjoy -- and bookmark. Some great stuff is heaping up already. Richard finally finds an XM station that suits him; he shares some shrewd and rueful thoughts about the fate of copyright; and he expresses skepticism about the idea that fiction-writing is a craft that can be taught. As a novelist, Richard brings together many wonderful qualities: dignity and gravity; wit and experience; invention, sympathy, and imagination. Although he has only recently begun blogging, it's clear that he's bringing those same characteristics to bear on his online writing. It should go without saying that this combo is unusual and refreshing, especially in the buzzing and shallow electronic space that we all spend too much time surfing around in these days. It's a treat and a privilege to have easy access to such human, rounded, and warm-blooded writing. And did I mention brainy? If you haven't done so already, be sure to check out some essays that Richard wrote for 2Blowhards. He shared some wisdom about writing and publishing; and he filed a report from a convention of the Western Writers of America. I raved about Richard's marvelous novel "Flint's Gift" here. Richard recently published a memoir, which you can buy here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 17, 2008 | perma-link | (2) comments

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lester's Dad
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Lester Hunt shows how to write a beautiful, clear-eyed tribute to someone who sounds like an irascible and challenging man. Lester doesn't shy away from the larger thoughts that accompany such moments either. Lovely passage: If only there were some way to just download all that experience and pass it on to others through a cable! So much of it just goes to waste. Lots of sympathy to Lester. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 14, 2007 | perma-link | (3) comments

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Couple of Blogging Tools
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * If you're thinking of taking up blogging, I'd urge you to give a try. It's a service much like Google's Blogger. The main difference between them is that is far more solid and deep; it makes Blogger seem like a toy for kids. can take whatever -- well, a lot of what -- you want to throw at it and offer it up to the public attractively. If I were starting 2Blowhards today, I'd avoid Blogger, and I wouldn't go to the expense and trouble of having a blog custom-made either. I'd do it on A quick explanation for those feeling confused about the "WordPress" thing. There's a difference between WordPress and WordPress (without the ".com") is an open source blogging platform that requires major geek skills to manage. It's apparently powerful and wonderful. Geeks rave about it anyway. But for the mortals among us, it's a bear. You have to download a copy of WordPress, you have to install it on a server, you have to configure it. The term "CSS" has to make some sense to you. And you can't do any of this without first having lined up hosting, purchased and "pointed" a URL, and without knowing how to FTP. To this pathetic English major at least, the whole thing looks like an endless series of annoyances, frustrations, and headaches. By contrast, -- note the ".com" -- is a self-contained, hosted blogging service that is based on the WordPress platform. In other words: no worries about downloading / uploading / configuring/whatever. With, no geek heroics are required. All you have to do is go to and sign up. Once you've done that, you get many of the benefits of WordPress -- everyone's current favorite blogging platform -- with none of the headaches. You're blogging within minutes. Between you and me: A small but fun thing that becomes clear as you mess with is that it doesn't limit you to blogging. You can in fact use to create surprisingly elaborate multipage websites. It may take a little fiddling and a bit of trial and error -- but if I can do it (and I can), you can too. Did I mention that the service is free up to a point, and very cheap even after that point? Are you reading, Spike Gomes? * Though I've mentioned the microblogging service Tumblr before, I'll mention it again as an EZ alternative to Does conventional blogging tempt but seem like an awful lot of work? (And it can be a lot of work.) Do you want to take part in the give-and-take of online life but rarely find the time or energy to formulate actual, like, sentences and paragraphs? (And turning your thoughts, feelings, and observations into sentences and paragraphs does indeed take some effort.) Then running a blog might demand a little more of you than you have to give.... posted by Michael at December 10, 2007 | perma-link | (10) comments

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Shouting Thomas Moment
Michael Blowhard write: Dear Blowhards -- * Loyal Democrat Yahmdallah finds much to agree with in Shouting Thomas' comments at 2Blowhards, and confesses that righties often seem to make better neighbors than liberals do. Sigh: Why can't more Loyal Dems be as honest as Yahmdallah is about how infuriatingly messy and incoherent life often is? * Shouting Thomas himself praises Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and says that Filipinas are anything but submissive. * A form that I've come to love thanks to the Web is the mini-memoir: quick snapshots -- verbal and visual -- from people's lives. ST puts a welcome spin on the form in a photo-illustrated series documenting Woodstock's Tinker Street: here, here, here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 2, 2007 | perma-link | (9) comments

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Some New WebStops
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Hey, some high-quality bloggers you may already know but who I've just begun catching up with: * Jeff Sypeck. Jeff is the author of an excellent recent book about Charlemagne. Evocative, informative, and beautifully-scaled, it's first-class intellectual entertainment. As a blogger, Jeff loses none of what makes him a remarkable nonfiction book author: he's friendly, perceptive, and humorous; he puts on no airs; yet he's completely unapologetic about the pleasures and benefits of brains and knowledge. That's a nice, and all-too-rare, combo. Check out Jeff's very sharp thoughts about John Gardner's "Beowulf"-inspired novel "Grendel" -- "one of the most reactionary novels an English major will ever read." And on viewing the film "Beowulf," Jeff reverts to his 12 year old self to review it. Talk about an appropriate response! * Joe Valdez. Joe runs an ambitious-yet-relaxed blog about movies where he maintains a very high level of moviechat. Generous and sympathetic, he has an interesting conception of how moviechat should be conducted. He recounts the story; he nails the genre; he researches how the film came to be; he shares his own reactions; and he passes along the reactions of other fans and viewers. I'm pleased to see that he's no hero-worshipper of directors, but is instead alert to the many people (writers, producers, performers, etc) who contribute to movies. But my favorite aspect of Joe's multifaceted approach to the movie-thang is this: He doesn't let himself be tied down by studio release dates and instead follows his own muse, exploring new movies, movie history, and DVDs as the mood strikes him. That's movie-watching as a real movie-lover does it. For an especially good example of how rewarding Joe's approach can be, check out his beautiful posting about the 1978 Dustin Hoffman / Ulu Grosbard / Edward Bunker crime drama "Straight Time." Joe's site includes a very cool movie poster gallery. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 29, 2007 | perma-link | (2) comments

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Flickr Huh?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Do you "get" the wonderfulness of Flickr? Me, I've discovered that I lack the Flickr gene entirely. I didn't think this would prove to be the case. A few years back, I was as excited as everyone else was about Flickr. The world had never seen such a cool web-thing. Overnight it seemed that everyone embraced Flickr. Flickr was showing us a whole new way to interact with photos, even with the web itself. The mind boggled, the heart raced. I paid for a Pro account, I uploaded a lot of pix ... And I've barely used the service since. Wondering why, I come up with one thing only: I haven't discovered a single reason why I would use Flickr. I find its "Photostream" method of organizing photos confusing. I don't understand the difference between "Sets" and "Collections" -- and, hell, I don't want to understand it. Photos as Flickr displays them are rather small, and the service has been pokey-ish on all the computers I've tried it on. I tired very quickly of watching little pink and blue balls circle around each other above the word "Loading" ... What first appealed to me about Flickr was the idea of storing photos online. No more chance of losing them due to a home-hard-drive crash; easy to access them from no matter where. In practice, I've found that a combo of iPhoto on the home Mac and a weekly backup to an external hard drive suits me far better. I've also found that, when I'm away from home, one of the last things I feel a desire to do is to play with my photo collection. So much for my initial hopes and plans for the service. As far as using Flickr as a way to show off occasional handfuls of photos to friends and family goes, I've found Flickr to be a bust there too. My first preference is to email photos to family and buds. My second is to use Google's free Picassa Web Albums, which seems to me easier and faster to use than Flickr does; it also displays photos to better advantage than Flickr does. IMHO, of course. My own disappointment notwithstanding, Flickr and the impact of Flickr roar on, of course. Yahoo! bought Flickr for a rumored $15-$17 mill -- and Flickr at Yahoo! has been such a popular attraction that Yahoo! has junked their own old-timey photo service. Meanwhile, Flickr seems to be generally deferred-to as a pioneer of Web 2.0, if not Web 3.0. What is it that enchants so many about Flickr? Many people are evidently getting something out of Flickr that it doesn't even occur to me to look to Flickr for. What could that be? I have two hunches. One has to do with the idea of a website not as "a brochure with links" or as "a book with links" but as "a place to visit and play with." People don't just use Flickr... posted by Michael at October 23, 2007 | perma-link | (24) comments

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Missed Opportunities
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- For an arty guy with no technical gifts or interests, I smacked into the computer world at a relatively early stage. I don't mean "the computer world" in the absolute sense, by the way. When I was in high school back in 1970, for instance, computers were certainly around. But at that point they weren't of much interest (let alone of much use) to anyone other than extreme geeks. In 1970, the idea of computers seemed futuristic in appealing ways. But the reality of computers was much less attractive. In the case of the high school I attended, for instance: Computing meant one small, airless room with a keyboard and punchcards, and a connection to what was mysteriously referred to as "the Dartmouth computer." I poked my head into that computer room one time and one time only. Not pleasant: bad lighting, and full of geek b.o. and giggly social ineptitude. And why on earth would anyone think it was a big deal to be playing playing tic-tac-toe "with Dartmouth"? Since what I wanted from life was girls, movies, art, physical activity, and sunshine, computers in 1970 seemed like the opposite of everything I valued. They seemed like the antithesis of what I then thought of as "aesthetics." No, for the sake of this posting anyway, what I mean by "computers" is computers in a somewhat later sense: computers at the time videogames and personal computers were starting to make a more-than-a-novelty kind of impact -- the early-to-mid '80s, roughly. By then, computers and aesthetic matters didn't seem to occupy quite such opposite poles. Pong had long since given way to more complex games. Hard drives were beginning to seem like a plausible part of everyday reality. And when the original Macs came along -- in early 1984 -- the machines started to speak directly to the arty set. Right about then was when I woke up to the cultural implications of computing. I found myself on BBS's, for instance, caught up in debates about the impact of word processing. For those who haven't encountered the philosophy-of- word-processing field: The advent of word processing hit a handful of culture-types very hard. Nearly all writers were delighted by the way the new tools enabled them to get their writing down so easily, of course. But a small band of culture-fiends also found themselves looking at the phenomenon from a longer point of view, and musing, "Hmm, you know, this word-processing thing might really change the whole 'writing' game at a very deep level ..." It was a tiny world, this musing-over-the-aesthetic / cultural-implications-of-computers world. But for some reason I really zero'd in on it. For instance, I didn't just read Jay David Bolter and Michael Heim -- the philosophers of what word processing might mean in the big sense. I met and chatted with them. In 1987, Apple's HyperCard gave non-techies a chance to mess with databases and programming. By the late 1980s, software created... posted by Michael at October 18, 2007 | perma-link | (10) comments

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Commenting Explanation
I know some visitors are puzzled and/or frustrated when they try to leave comments on this blog, so a quick word of apology for that, as well as a quick explanation about how commenting works around here. We moderate comments -- in other words, we hand-review and hand-approve all submitted comments. We do this only because we've found that if we don't, the blog quickly gets overwhelmed by spam-comments. And what a misery that can be. As in hours and hours of weeding out loathesome crap. Depending on how regularly we proprietors are checking in with the blog, this can mean that it might take your comment anywhere from a few minutes to half a day to appear. And given the way we all enjoy the rapidfire, instant-gratification back-and-forth of blogging, this is unfortunate and a little bewildering. Like I say, sorry for that. I wish there were something I could do to make the process less awkward. Unhappily, spam-comments won't just go away. Unhappily as well, we have yet to figure out how to build a "captcha" function into commenting -- that's that scheme whereby you're asked to type in some random numbers-and-letters before posting. We also have yet to figure out how to build an explanation of what's going on into the commenting function. Wouldn't it be nice if a box saying something like "Comments are moderated by the blog-proprietors. This means that your comment may not appear for a while. Please be patient" popped up during the commenting process? But, well, my computer skills don't extend much beyond knowing how to link to other blogs. To be a little less flip ... This blog has been around for so long, and the software it's based on (Movable Type) has been upgraded so many times -- it's full of so much left-over back-end crud -- that even our beloved webguy (the man who set us up as bloggers many years ago) couldn't manhandle a "captcha" function into the process when we had him give it a try. Is this what those who know about such things call a "legacy" challenge? In any case, apologies for any inconveniences, and please keep those comments coming. They will show up eventually.... posted by Michael at October 7, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments

Friday, September 28, 2007

Jan's New Site
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- In a recent posting about website-making software I made quick mention of a wonderful culture-intellectual website known as Jahsonic. Word now comes that Jan, the inspired brain behind the site, is building a wiki version of Jahsonic. Go here and lose yourself in supersmart yet accessible pieces on irresistable topics like sex, film, art, and Camille Paglia. A reference book with a point of view -- as Rachael Ray might say, What's not great about that? Jan has already posted over 12,000 articles (many derived from Wikipedia) and is still at work. I'd love to see more people with powerful brains, info, and thinking to share build online wikis of what they have to say. (Friedrich von Blowhard, are you listening?) I think that my own version of an ideal website would be a cross between a blog and a wiki ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 28, 2007 | perma-link | (2) comments

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Website-Making Tools for Non-Geeks
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It becomes easier every year to put yourself up on the web, doesn't it? Where not so long ago the non-gearhead who hoped to join the online party had to hire a pro or rely on bad tools that resulted in trashy-looking websites, today's webcreature-wannabe has a number of appealing options to choose among. It seems fair to me to say that today's website-making-tools-for-the-masses are so good that someone who really wants to have a website no longer has a valid reason not to. A few years ago I recommended the outfit Squarespace, a service that enables you to create a complete and attractive website for yourself entirely online. But, since I'm the type who likes doing research, trying out software, and playing with organizational tools, I've continued poking around the field, and I've run into some other cool and valuable tools. Why not pass them along too? A preliminary note: It seems useful to divide website-making tools into those that operate entirely online and those that are individual-computer-based. In the first group, both the website you make and the website-builder you use to make it are online. All that's needed to accomplish what you'll want to accomplish is a browser and a fast internet connection. Advantages: no programs to buy and manage; you can tinker with your website from any web-connected computer; there's no need to endure the headaches involved in acquiring a domain name and lining up a webhost. Disadvantage: Online tools tend to be less quick and responsive than do ones that live on your hard drive. Tools that belong to the second group are ones that you buy and then install on your own computer. Once you've done that, you use the program to assemble and / or tweak your pages (photo galleries, blogs, freeform pages, whatever). Then you upload your creation to a webhost, where it's made public. Advantage: Some of these programs are terrific, as well as easy and and even fun to use. Disadvantages: You have to attend to all that offputting webspace-making crap (domain names, webhosts, etc). Why can't anyone make those procedures less annoying than they are? Plus you can only mess with your website from the one computer that has the program (and your files) installed on it. Life is indeed all about weighing trade-offs ... To the first group might belong such familiar products as WordPress, Typepad, and Blogger. All three services have their advantages and their partisans. But they also limit you to creating a blog, or at most a blog-with-trimmings. (Some people have recently been using WordPress to create websites that aren't strictly blogs, but no matter what direction you bend it in, WordPress is a tool that wants to make you a blog.) Some tools that I can recommend (or in one case semi-recommend): The online tool that I mainly want to focus on is once again Squarespace, which is even better today than it was when I recommended it... posted by Michael at September 20, 2007 | perma-link | (6) comments

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Font of Blog-Post Inspiration
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I have no idea why Michael Blowhard is such a productive blogger. A Force of Nature, or something along those lines, I suspect. Me? I'm doing well if I can crank out posts at 20 percent of Michael's pace. At least I know why I post what I do and in what quantity. I've been at it nearly two years now, so the picture is pretty clear. Michael's initial marching orders were for me to write one longer and one shorter piece per week, with the unspoken hope that I do a little better than that to help reduce the pressure of being a one-man show, which he largely was at that time. I had the feeling that I could be productive for a while, though there were doubts. For instance, I figured that I could dredge up a dozen or so interesting articles simply by dipping into my memory. Yet I knew that it would be foolish to post all the supposed good stuff in one short spasm: showman Eddie Cantor's first television "special" was a knockout, but it chewed up a good deal of his best material from his previous decades in show biz, and his later appearances weren't nearly as great. So I've been careful to spread my "best" material, posting from that storehouse perhaps once every two or three months while posting at the rate of around four items per week. Where do I get the rest of my material? Michael has an interesting mix of long articles, shorter pieces and also posts several "link blogs" per week. I'm not much of a linker, tending to write essays. I try to avoid writing about the same subject in adjoining posts. That is, if I write about a painter I'll mix in two or three or more posts about other subjects before getting back to painters again. I've been doing a lot of reading about art history these last two years because I quickly realized that I was rapidly using up the material I'd received years ago in college courses. Once I finish a book or article I try to use the information as grist for a post as soon as I can, while it's still fresh. Otherwise -- and you readers who are bloggers yourselves will recognize this -- I try my best to be alert for things I encounter that might make for an interesting essay. I always carry a few small notepad sheets in my shirt pocket for note-taking. I also have a digital camera on my belt just in case I spy something that would make a good illustration for a post. There's one more thing I do. Three or four times a week I drive over to the local Top Pot doughnut shop (see photo below) for a cup of coffee and a Double Trouble doughnut. The Wedgwood Top Pot. Yes, tropical trees can grow in Seattle. The building is a converted gas station where the... posted by Donald at September 5, 2007 | perma-link | (4) comments

Monday, August 27, 2007

Some New Pleasures
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I've been enjoying exploring the websites of some recent visitors to 2Blowhards: Matt Thorn, a cultural anthropologist living in Japan with an interest in manga (Matt certainly deserves an award for "best job title" -- he's an "Associate Professor in the School of Manga Production at Kyoto Seika University"); Rod McKie, an accomplished and very funny cartoonist who has had work in Punch, Playboy, and the Nation Lampoon; and Jonathan Schnapp, a student with a gifted eye and a lively mind who's studying art at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Jonathan's blog led me to something I should have known about before, given my interest (however amateurish) in neuroaesthetics, namely Jon Bardin's fascinating The Third Culture, a blog devoted to neuroscience and the arts. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 27, 2007 | perma-link | (2) comments

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Back: Searchie, Peter, Rick
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some of my favorite bloggers have made returns from hiatuses (hiati?) and slowdowns. In each case I'm a little late in reporting the fact -- mea culpa. But don't let my ineptness deter you from some serious blogging pleasure. * After a few months away, some of it spent in her beloved Eastern Europe, Searchie blogs again. Searchie is part punkette, part intellectual, and part Left Bank dreamer. She's unafraid of both pain and beauty, and she's always a delight. Don't miss a couple of beautiful Euro-doorways that captivated her during her recent travels; photos are shown in this posting. For my money, that's some seriously great architecture. * Back in the day, Peter Briffa was one of the bloggers who opened my eyes to the kinds of opportunities blogging was making possible. Funny, smart, offhand, both blunt and crisp, he surprises initially because of his unapologetically reactionary point of view. "Reactionary" as a positive virtue -- you don't run across that very often in the mainstream press, that's for sure. Some of Peter's postings are cryptic and merry demolitions of British media and political figures I know nothing about. (Tony Blair? Gordon Brown? Who dat?) But many are mischievous blasts of crusty and provocative good sense that even a cluelessly provincial American can enjoy. A major plus: Peter never stops giving amusing and vigorous demonstrations of the art of writing short. * On a visit to the Southeast, Rick Darby -- who recently returned to blogging after a heart scare -- ventures on and off the Interstates, and marvels at all the shapeless new sprawl straggling this way and that. Great Rick quote: The United States has added a hundred million to its population since 1970 (most of it through immigration). Rural sprawl is one result. Yet for some reason I have never been able to understand, the country remains addicted to booming population. USA Today recently carried a front page piece on the fastest growing cities, and their local officials beamed with pride. New York City's reigning idiot, Mayor Bloomberg, could hardly contain his glee at predictions that the city will add another million people in a few years. Politicans and businessmen see in population growth only more tax revenue and more customers, respectively; the rest of us see more congestion, less open space, and more herd behavior. That's a seriously good topic Rick touches on: Who are the people who promote endless and fast population growth -- raw-number growth that isn't wanted by most of us? (A striking number from that poll: "Only one in ten agreed the population should reach 400 million or more, a number some have estimated the country will reach by 2050 if current rates of immigration and fertility hold." In other words -- and I'm going to blast this loud and clear -- current U.S. policies are promoting results that 9 out of 10 Americans don't want.) Why are these powerful people forcing sharp and unwanted... posted by Michael at July 15, 2007 | perma-link | (2) comments

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

2B Is 5
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A quick pause to raise a glass: It was five years ago today that this blog was born. Here's my first posting; here's FvB's. We certainly had a case of Stanley Kubrick on the brain! Note the complete absence of comments on both postings -- we blogged for months with almost no visitors at all. We weren't by any means the first of the cultureblogs. My impression is that Alexandra may deserve the title of First Cultureblogger. But we certainly came along early enough that the idea of a "cultureblog" was completely fresh in most people's minds. In fact, in mid-2002 the existence of something called "the blogosphere" was still a hard-to-get-used-to novelty. Blogs first came into existence in 1999, as far as I can tell. But as the chart in this David Sifry posting shows, even by mid-2003, a full year after 2Blowhards opened for business, there were still fewer than a half-million blogs in the world. The total these days: more than 35 million. I'd like to say that FvB and I started this blog with great ambitions, and with a fully-formed agenda in mind. I don't think that was the case, though. Instead, we looked at this newfangled blogging thang and thought, "Hey, that looks like an easy way to make publicly available something that we're already doing -- namely yakking with each other about what's on our minds." Blogging seemed like it might be cheap and easy -- why not give it a try? Maybe a few other people would stumble by and feel provoked, and/or want to join in. "Lazy is good," we thought. Since we were already doing our culture-yakking via email -- in other words, we were already doing a lot of writing about culture -- it should be a simple matter to copy and paste the more-interesting parts of those emails into postings and call the results a blog. Using an epistolary (ie., letters-to-each-other) format made sense for a couple of reasons. Group blogs weren't common at the time -- readers weren't yet used to visiting one blog where they'd read multiple writers. So the "Dear Blowhards" convention that we still use today seemed not only like a way of minimizing the editing we'd need to do to our emails, but also like a sensible way of keeping our voices straight. OK, I lied: We did have some big ambitions. It can be hard to remember, but only five years ago the public conversation about culture was a very narrow thing. Who got into print -- and, far more important, which thoughts, topics, and observations got into print -- were rigidly controlled: bottlenecks to the left of you, gatekeepers to the right. FvB and I wanted to do what we could to knock these barriers down, and to help the culture-conversation open up and flow, baby, flow. We also had a lot that we plain needed to get off our chests. We'd both grown interested in... posted by Michael at July 10, 2007 | perma-link | (48) comments

Sunday, July 8, 2007

At Right Reason
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Max Goss has arranged for some tantalizing midsummer guest postings at Right Reason. Click on over and enjoy. * The excellent Philip Bess has just completed an ambitious 4-part series in which he makes a very personal case for the New Urbanism: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four. Philip uses a lot of well-chosen visuals to illustrate his points. He recently contributed a guest posting about G.K.Chesterton to 2Blowhards, which you can read here. * Rod Dreher delivers the text of a speech he made a while back on the subject of Crunchy Conservatism. Part One is here; Part Two is soon to come. Whether or not you approve of the CC phenomenon, there's no denying that it's something that's in the air. Max Goss reviews Rod's book on the topic here. Eye-opening, thought-provoking cultural thinking from the minds of conservatives ... Prior to the web, who'd have known that such a thing was even possible? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 8, 2007 | perma-link | (7) comments

Support Steve
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I don't know of any journalist who is doing more than Steve Sailer to get some urgently-in-need-of-recognition-and-discussion topics and stories into play. Given that this is anything but a surefire pathway to success in the journalism game, Steve's activities are bringing him far more notoriety and fans than remuneration. So if you value Steve's contributions and want to see them go on, why not join me in taking part in Steve's current fundraising drive. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 8, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments

Friday, June 1, 2007

Critics Vs. Bloggers
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Critics sure can be pompous, can't they? I was recently enjoying (or rather "enjoying") a couple of pieces by or about critics linked to by ALD. In this one, Time magazine's Richard Schickel writes that webyak isn't real criticism, mocks an enthusiastic blogger / book-reviewer for having worked as a "quality-control manager for a car parts maker," and compares blogging to "yammering," "cocktail-party chat," and "finger-painting." This other piece quotes the Washington Post's Michael Dirda -- an excellent reviewer, by the way -- claiming that the traditional "book review section ... remains the forum where new titles are taken seriously as works of art and argument, and not merely as opportunities for shallow grandstanding and overblown ranting." Well, I do declare. Hmmm, let's see: I really-really enjoy my life as a web-ified arts-gabber. I enjoy it in fact so much more than I ever did my pre-web artsgab life that I rarely bother reading professional reviewers at all these days. Which I guess means that I'm a bigger fan of finger-painting and shallow grandstanding than I am of "real criticism." So be it. I do understand that people will panic and say stupid things when paradigms shift and livelihoods are threatened. And I do sympathize with people who are caught in these predicaments, really I do. On the other hand ... While most of us have been sideswiped by history a few times, few of us have had the opportunity to fill up newspaper and magazine space with our outrage, exasperation, and self-regard. It all reminds me of the days when I hung out with critics and reviewers. Many of them were bright, lively, and interesting people. But more than a few were amazingly full of themselves. While reviewing always struck me as a groovy way to handle the moneymaking part of life for those who could manage it, it struck some of my friends as a religious vocation -- a calling. I remember one reviewer speaking about criticism as a form of "bearing witness." No surprise that these high-minded types also seemed convinced that the public -- or, if not the public then their editors and bosses -- owed it to them, or maybe to humanity at large, to support "real criticism." (Just to get this out of the way and be -- yawn -- fair: I can enjoy reading good reviews and essays; I admire people who can do criticism well; I've learned from some reviewers and critics; and I'm happy to agree that criticism is a branch of literature, if a minor one. FWIW, I once wrote a blogposting about why I never made a serious attempt to become a reviewer.) In any case, it seems to me that Schickel and Dirda are missing two key points. One is that the new state of affairs isn't best thought of as a contest between great thinking and mindless babble. It's better thought-of as a new participatory openness. The germane comparison isn't between... posted by Michael at June 1, 2007 | perma-link | (23) comments

Monday, April 16, 2007

Moleskine Videos
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Showing off what you've done in your Moleskine sketchbook seems to have become a YouTube genre of its own. This guy has some serious drawing chops. I love this guy's illustration-style images. I wish I could draw like this guy, or paint like this gal. MattiasA is quite a talent. Here's his blog; it's a sketchbook in its own right, and it's full of whimsy and sophistication. His visit to a fondue restaurant gave me a good case of the giggles. Buy your own Moleskine notebooks here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 16, 2007 | perma-link | (0) comments

Friday, April 13, 2007

Alexandra and Jim Blog Again
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm thrilled to see that two blogging pioneers are blogging again. At Out of Lascaux, Alexandra made smart and freewheeling observations about art, and gave wonderful short art-history lessons. As one of the very first -- if not the very first -- culturebloggers, she paved the way for the rest of us, wrote with a lot of personality, and was always one of my favorite blog-addictions. I see that she has now taken up an interest in quilting. What fun: I'll be learning a little something about a great artform I know less than zilch about. Right Reason's Max Goss points out that Jim Ryan is blogging once again too. I started reading Jim's Philosoblog at about the same time that I discovered Out of Lascaux. Both weren't just delights but inspirations -- they helped me realize that real people could use blogs to be direct about what they had to say. Don't laugh: Only four or five years ago, blogging still seemed like an outlandish and dicey new development. Alexandra and Jim deserve lots of credit for, along with their other virtues, audacity and guts. Anyway, Jim combines brains and common sense in a way that I find hard to resist. He's a former philosophy professor who is also, and miraculously, a down-to-earth and intellectually generous guy. Michael Blowhard sez "Go visit! You'll get to know some lovely and insightful minds." Slightly off-topic, Michael Blowhard also sez "Go read this fab piece by Roger Scruton!" It's a response to the Richard Dawkinses of the world, and an attempt to make the case for religion. I think it's pretty brilliant. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 13, 2007 | perma-link | (5) comments

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Ladies, is your man giving too much of his attention to websurfing and not enough to you? Then this organization may suit your needs. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 30, 2007 | perma-link | (0) comments

Friday, January 19, 2007

Tracked to My Lair
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I suppose this is old news to some of you. And should have been to me as well; alas, I pay only passing attention to most news items related to Internet-related technology. But it came as a surprise when I was scrolling the Instapundit site and noticed something oddly familiar in the advertising & links column at the right of the page. It was an advertisement showing five or so thumbnail covers of books by and about artist James McNeill Whistler. So?... Well, the last time I accessed Amazon's site was a few days ago to find a link to put in my recent post about a Whistler book that I'd just finished reading. This is no coincidence, thinks I, so I clicked on a privacy statement link and up popped an explanation from Amazon telling me that, yes, their computer got into my cookie jar but, no, it was all harmless. I just went back to Instapundit and the same PajamasMedia panel is showing other ads (with no special relationship to my surfing practices), so it's some sort of ad-rotation that sometimes comes up snake-eyes in my personal-space zone. Aha!! I found it again; click here if you're curious about the disclaimer. True, I'm a big Instapundit fan. Moreover, I been an Amazon customer for years. And there's nothing intrinsically wrong with informing me about stuff I might be interested in buying -- Lord knows I get a lot of invited e-mails dealing with that. Capitalist tool that I am, I'm nevertheless not happy about my friends making this kind of use of my MacBook's hard drive. (Yes, I know cookie checking is necessary for operation of the Internet.) I am over-reacting? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at January 19, 2007 | perma-link | (3) comments

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Falling, Falling ...
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Have you ever wondered what it would be like to jump off an orbiting spaceship and plummet to Earth? This mesmerizing, eerie, and beautiful video supplies something as close to an answer as I suspect any of us will ever get. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 28, 2006 | perma-link | (6) comments

Thursday, December 14, 2006

iPod Youngsters
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- One-third of American teens now own an iPod. A great quote from Jim Taylor, of the group that directed the study: "Teen life has become a theatrical, self-directed media production." I'll say. All that handwaving and face-pulling and teeth-bleaching and crotch-grooming ... My own way of putting it is that "kids today behave like the videojockeys of their own MTV show," or else "kids today aspire to be Photshopped media images of themselves." Speaking of which, check out Katie, who has some tips for the boys. She's as mannered, "on," and full of attention-grabbing tics as Rachael Ray. Any hunches about Katie? Is she just a sassy youngster perpetrating some YouTube mischief? Is she a fabrication of some newfangled cyber-sort, something along the lines of LonelyGirl15? Or have we already transcended that stage and arrived at the point where real-life young women have become their own cyber-fabrications? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 14, 2006 | perma-link | (4) comments

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Conundrums of the Web Age
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- On her blog, Jackie Danicki writes that she was assaulted while in the London Tube. At the top of the posting, she includes a photo she managed to shoot of her assailant. Was she right to publish this photograph? Some of her commenters think she wasn't. Mindy McAdams is more alarmed by Danicki posting the photo than by the fact that Danicki was assaulted. Samizdata's Perry de Havilland, on the other hand, cheers Danicki's action. My own hunches / feelings run along these lines: "I can certainly see the potential for vigilante-justice-style abuse. But, really, screw the worrywarts. If someone attacked me or someone I care about and I managed to snap a photo of him, I'd certainly put it on the web too. What's really worrying is the state of crime and policing in London." Also, of course: "What a funny new era we live in." What are your own hunches and feelings about the Jackie Danicki affair? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 28, 2006 | perma-link | (17) comments

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Meeting Reid
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Pre-flu, the Wife and I had a fine time doing a little over-lunch F-to-F with the very smart, interesting, and affable Reid Farmer -- archaelogy dude, project manager, Santa Barbara resident, and regular blogger at Steve Bodio's Querencia. (Have I raved about Querencia lately? I should have.) Reid also passed along some very amusing links that I can't keep myself from sharing. * You've heard of the "Twinkie defence"? Now someone's trying a "My GPS system told me to turn" defence. * Sometimes the LA area smells of something even more noxious than car exhaust. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 11, 2006 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Chris Isaak
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Chris Isaak's music sometimes doesn't do much for me. But occasionally his easy-swinging, comic/soulful, super-smooth, po-mo-Elvis, dreamboat-crooner act snaps into enjoyable focus. Herewith my faves. "Let Me Down Easy." Nice cyber-eye-candy -- and dig those cute go-go girls!: "Somebody's Crying": And, of course, the immortal "Laetitia Did a Bad, Bad Thing." The visuals count for, ahem, more than usual in the case of this particular performance: Good lord, could there be a bigger Laetitia Casta fan than YouTube denizen "Terriblegallo"? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 26, 2006 | perma-link | (5) comments

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Are YouTube's Wild West Days Coming to an End?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The pruning has begun. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 21, 2006 | perma-link | (0) comments

Monday, October 9, 2006

YouTube Notes
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Another new Oscar category that's needed in this age of mix-it-yourself media: Best YouTube Uploader. My nominee is "balansoes" from Spain. For one thing, he's heroic: 318 videos uploaded so far, many of them 5-9 minutes long. For another: Man oh man, does this guy have taste, as well as the collection of material to back it up. Vids I've enjoyed so far: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Dawn Upshaw, Bryn Terfel, Cecilia Bartoli, Marilyn Horne, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, John Eliot Gardiner, the countertenor David Daniels ... Vids I plan to get around to soon: Some hard-to-find documentaries, including an interview with Jorge Luis Borges and another with Vladimir Nabokov ... A series entitled "The Art of Conducting" featuring get-togethers with and long performance samples from the likes of Bruno Walter, Leonard Bernstein, and Arturo Toscanini ... Any nominees from other YouTube junkies for the Best Uploader Award? * Did you notice that YouTube has just been bought by Google for $1.65 billion? * What will the consequences of the deal be? One widespread suspicion is that the lawyers will soon be swarming, with the effect that YouTube will no longer be the wide-open, copyright-defying playground that it has been. Or, as LAist bluntly asks, "Google Buys YouTube, Will YouTube Start to Suck?" Which might mean that the vids so lovingly uploaded by "balansoes" and others may not be around for us to enjoy forever. Oh dear, oh dear ... Oh phew: This good piece of software for Macs does a nice job of downloading YouTube vids onto your very own hard drive. Why live at the mercy of Google? Personal use only, of course ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 9, 2006 | perma-link | (4) comments

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Apologies for nonexistent blogging over the last few days. I've been sick, and every time I've sat down to pull a blogposting together I've been able to take the mini-project only about halfway to completion. Hard to believe, I suppose, but I generally try to give my blogpostings a little pizzaz, shape, and focus. Links, general thoughts, Big Questions, etc ... I love doing it, but it does take some effort. Over the last few days, though, what with the illness (I'll be fine soon, thanks), the will to pull together a typical "Michael Blowhard blogposting," whatever that is, simply hasn't been there. But I woke up this morning feeling a little less droopy, and thinking, "Why get hung up on such matters as will, focus, and concentration? Stuff rattles around the noggin whether I'm sick or not, god knows. Why not share some of it in a less gussied-up way? That could be interesting and fun too!" So, for the next few days, here goes: half-assed, un-dolled-up, illness-addled half-musings. Please take 'em in the spirit in which they're offered ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 7, 2006 | perma-link | (2) comments

Monday, July 10, 2006

Googling on Oneself
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- C'mon. Admit it. Once upon a time -- let's say it was at the office on a Friday afternoon when it was 20 minutes before quitting time and you were totally bored out of your skull -- you hopped on the Internet, called up Google and proceeded to Google yourself. Andy Warhol's famous remark about everyone getting their "15 minutes of fame" predates the Internet, so perhaps he was thinking of being above the fold on page A1 of The New York Times. Or maybe anywhere in People magazine (hope they spelled the person's name correctly -- that's what counts). That was then. Now our/your/their fame can be quantified (something that brings a sprig of joy to my data-loving heart). All you have to do after Googling yourself is look at the upper-right part of the report Google sends back for an approximate number of citations the system found for your query. Okay, not all hits refer to you. But you can skim through a couple of screens to get an idea as to what share of them were truly yours. Back before I was (ahem) raised to Blowhard-dom, I boasted 50-ish citations total from various permutations of my name. These were mostly from references to web-based government publications, some articles I wrote in reference to computer languages, and a few references to a book I wrote ages ago. As I started writing this I Googled on "Donald Pittenger" and got 739 hits. Most of the ones from the first few pages were indeed references to me, mostly having to do with blog posts. A check on a later page turned up a larger proportion of Donald Pittengers who aren't (or weren't) me. "Don Pittenger" turned up 104 hits, but not many had to do with me. On the other hand, "Donald B. Pittenger" yielded a princely 14 hits, nearly all mine, mine, mine. Excited by results of my quest, I Googled the other main Blowhards. Michael got an astonishing 52,600 hits. Then I tried his real name and turned up more than 800: the guy really gets around. Friedrich yielded 12,800. I suppose I should be jealous, but he's smarter than I am and writes (mostly) about weighty topics instead of the silly stuff I often churn out. So of course the Internet gives him greater fame. (Friedrich's real name is a fairly common one so it got almost 100,000 hits, none on the first page or two seemed to have to do with him.) Conclusions? Apparently the new path to world conquest, fame-wise, involves having a blog presence (though I suppose hiring a good public relations consultant still wouldn't do you any harm). But even (Internet-) innocent bystanders can get swept up by Google's tentacles. My wife and children got a few hits even though they don't blog (though my son has a Web site). What do you think about Web fame? Eat it up? Recoil in horror? Castigate it publicly yet... posted by Donald at July 10, 2006 | perma-link | (19) comments

Friday, June 9, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * I recently learned via Peter L. Winkler that the well-known showbiz personal manager Jay Bernstein has died. Bernstein, often to be seen on the E! Channel reminiscing about his glory days, literally started in the mailroom at William Morris, then later helped make the careers of Suzanne Sommers and Farrah Fawcett. Peter interviewed Bernstein once and liked him. * Did you know that Americans dispose of 472 billion pounds of trash every year? That's only 2 percent of the country's total waste stream -- industrial refuse accounts for the rest. Let's see ... 50 times 472 billion ... (Sound of awesome computer-brain crunching great big numbers ...) That's a whole lot of trash. Can this really be true? * James Kunstler wonders what a contemporarary Progressivism might look like. * So now we need to worry about milk? * Quiet Bubble confesses that he generally prefers novellas to novels. I'm with him on that. * I have no idea what a good Bollywood musical sequence would look like -- popular Indian movies are a weak spot in my film education. But I was amused by this one, especially when the chorus joins in and everyone sings and dances in unison. MGM meets Shiva and Ganesha! * Take your friends out for a cruise on this old/modern beauty. Cost? A mere 300 grand a week. * Swinging through on a visit, Colleen sees the Midwest for what it is. I found Colleen's #9 especially, even urgently, true: "When visiting land-locked states and given a choice between the fish or the beef, pick the beef. Seriously." * Ginny finds evidence of Hard and Soft America at the junior college where she teaches. * Steve is growing a little weary of the Wall Street Journal. * Anyone intrigued or annoyed by my recent musings about movie reviewing should enjoy exploring Andy Horbal's recent bouquet of movielinks. * Medieavalist Jeff pays a visit to Whole Foods and finds a little bit of Olde Iceland on a shelf. * How did I miss this when it first came out -- a Roger Scruton appreciation of Jane Jacobs. Fun to see that Scruton includes some praise for James Kunstler too. Scruton and Kunstler (and of course Jacobs) rank very high in my pantheon of writers about architecture and urbanism. I wrote my own love letter to Jacobs here. Scruton recently wrote a posting (and a followup) about the ethics of meat-eating for Right Reason. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 9, 2006 | perma-link | (14) comments

Monday, June 5, 2006

2Blowhards Scores Again
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards: Michael is either busy or modest, so let me note that 2Blowhards got linked by Arts & Letters Daily yesterday. The link was to Michael's post on movie reviewing. Look for it in the right-hand "Essays and Opinion" column. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at June 5, 2006 | perma-link | (2) comments

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Thanks to Sluggo
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I was sorry to see that, after three years of inspired blogging, Mike Hill is giving it up. He has a life that needs attending-to and a novel that wants to be written. Besides, three years of blogging is a long and terrific run. Although Mike has always been one of the blogosphere's most engaging storytellers, he also deserves a lot of credit for wit, earthiness, and generosity -- he tosses off perceptions and wisecracks at an amazing rate while never ceasing to be relaxed and friendly in his manner. I'll miss Mike's blogging a lot, but I'm looking forward to his novel, and I'm hoping he won't fall out of touch completely. Here's a wonderful and characteristic passage from a recent Mike posting: I'm on a week's vacation and it looks like I'll miss my goal, as usual, of putting aside two complete days with nothing to do. It's the single most difficult thing in the world for the Goddess to understand ... She'll say 'What are you going to do today?' I'll say 'absolutely nothing' and she'll look at me for a moment and ask 'What are you going to do today?' Will not penetrate. Her head would explode fifteen minutes into my ideal day. This afternoon we're taking off for a long weekend in Lake George. I'm thinking Adirondack chair on the lawn, beer in my hand, watching the Hudson roll past. She's thinking -- I don't even want to think about what she's thinking, it'll wear me out. That tells me more about men, women, and marriage than entire Updike novels have. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 31, 2006 | perma-link | (4) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards * The Communicatrix has some sensible -- and, as always, saltily-phrased -- advice for gals sans boyfriends. * Fred Reed nails much of what it's like to be a guy. I imagine guys all over the country asking their gals to read Fred's short essay: "Sorry, honey, but that's just the way it is." * The Patriarch got me giggling by self-identifying as "a commuter," then made me laugh out loud with this brief posting. * Game Theory is certainily clever -- but does anyone actually use it? * Susie Bright asks a Playboy editor how he went about compiling a list of the sexiest novels ever written. * In which we learn that surprises are not good for the health. * Crunchy Con, meet Radical Reactionary. Rod Dreher likes Bill Kauffman's new book, "Look Homeward, America." And here's a blog that should make the Crunchy-haters happy. Rod Dreher is blogging here. * Evo-bio-freak alert: Here's a collection of interviews with some of the field's biggees -- Trivers, Dawkins, Hrdy ... And here's a long Salon interview with E.O. Wilson. * Photoshop and real life sometimes merge in NSFW ways. * Mistress Matisse wants you to be a good boy. * Somehow it doesn't come as a complete surprise to learn that Marie Osmond's daughters have been acting out a little too freely on their MySpace pages. * Did your foxy 8th grade teacher ever send you videos like this one? Mine neither, darn it. How I wish I were still getting over that kind of trauma! * This is certainly one of the most elaborate pranks I've ever run across. * Dean Baker wonders why nurses are being picked on. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 31, 2006 | perma-link | (6) comments

Monday, May 1, 2006

Visit These
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Ilkka at Sixteen Volts has a wonderfully droll (and fearless) way of asking difficult questions. Dirk Thruster admires machines, skewers politics, and assaults pretentions with a lot of shrewd brainpower and rowdy good humor. Are there 2Blowhards visitors who haven't discovered Peter's Iron Rails and Iron Weights? Ostensibly a diary of Peter's commutes and workouts, it's also a vehicle for his (often funny and always dry) observations and musings. There's much Beckettian entertainment to be had from following Peter's adventures in the train and at the gym. Citron, a former clergyman, has a generous, dignified, and impish eye that he runs over politics, people, and retirement life in Arizona. I especially loved his recent posting about how modern entertainment has become so loud. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 1, 2006 | perma-link | (5) comments

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Morning Coffee With Blogroll
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Umm. [Stretch.] AhhUhh. [Yawn.] Torpor. Entropy. Sloth, even. It's setting in. Eyelids closing ... slowly. Must ... resist ... temptation ... to ... sleep. And I gotta ... come up with ... a subject for ... a blog post. [Slurrrp!] Coffee helped. What to do? What to do? I know. I'll do the assignment editors hand out when everyone is totally out of inspiration -- write a list-column!! Like the case of Automobile Magazine -- a publication whose subscription I'm increasingly willing to let lapse -- which just put out its 20th anniversary issue with 20-this and 20-that articles. Simple to research: just sit around the conference table and pitch ideas. What's the easiest list-thingy I can come up with? Hmm. Why not the blogs I visit most weekdays? My Daily Blogroll Terry Teachout gets a peek because he's always interesting even when he's writing about stuff I don't care much about. The Seattle Times is one of my windows on local events. I don't buy the paper so I scroll down the opening screen to catch the headlines and link to anything of interest. I usually check out the obituary link too. The Drudge Report is my next stop. I'll scan the top several headline layers and then move on to the following habitual links: Jewish World Review has handy links to syndicated columnists. I'll read any columns that appeal. Weekly Standard gets a quick inspection for articles and reviews of interest. The (London) Telegraph is my next stop, where I usually check the obits to see who's featured. They have really interesting obituaries, by the way. I used to link to Mark Steyn's columns, but he and the Telegraph (as well as the Speccie) have parted ways. Then on to to see what they're featuring up on top. I almost never scroll down because life is too short. Finally I see what's on the National Review Online home page and will link to selected pieces. The American Spectator is next, but I'm likely to read only a couple articles a week there. Instapundit is my next major launch-pad. After checking his items (and doing some linking) I'll use his blogroll for further delving: The Corner from NRO (above) is my first stop. I have no idea why I link to it from Instapundit instead of the NRO homepage. On to Hugh Hewitt. I'll read one or two of his posts and go to his blogroll: The Belmont Club is my favorite military/strategy blog. Wretchard (Richard Fernandez) has a writing style that intrigues me. He's a guy worth BSing with over some beers. Too bad he lives in Australia. Captain's Quarters by Ed Morrissey is prolific and solidly done. The guy has amazing general knowledge of matters political. Powerline Blog, nexus for the Dan Rather blogswarm, is another must-read. The three bloggers are each lawyers who attended Dartmouth as undergrads, and I try not to hold that against them. Tim Blair is... posted by Donald at March 21, 2006 | perma-link | (26) comments

Monday, March 13, 2006

Technical Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Our webhost will be moving our blog over to a new server today, so please forgive some on-and-off technical issues. We should be running smoothly again by this time tomorrow. And, once we're comfortably ensconced on the new hard drive, we should have less downtime generally. Thanks for your patience.... posted by Michael at March 13, 2006 | perma-link | (2) comments

Monday, March 6, 2006

Support Steve
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I don't know of any writer working today who does a better job of opening up dicey but pressing topics in humane and informed ways than Steve Sailer. Year after year, Steve has been bravely playing the role of the guy who's the first to bring up and examine loaded subjects -- subjects that I have a strong hunch we'll be hearing much more about in coming years. It's a heroic performance he has been putting on. (Steve's latest column is a topnotch example of his hefty and daring work.) Needless to say, it's also an approach to a writing career that is probably pretty thankless in financial terms. Meanwhile, the cautious corporate journalists who take up the subjects Steve initially raised are doing very well for themselves indeed, thank you very much. Which makes it all the more important that those who value Steve's work show their appreciation. Steve is running one of his occasional fund-raising drives right now. If you enjoy and learn from Steve's writing, and especially if you're grateful that he's out there taking the big risks, please visit his website, click on the PayPal button, and send him a donation. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 6, 2006 | perma-link | (3) comments

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Blogging, Money, Power
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- It has always seemed to me that a big part of the fun of blogging and blog-surfing is the chance it gives us to leave behind the clamor of the dollars-careers-and-advertisements-driven media. That's the main reason I haven't run ads on this blog. Lord knows I'm often a fan of the commercial media, but non-commercial interactions have their place too. After all, I don't sell ad rights to the walls of my apartment either. Some people apparently don't see blogging this way. Here's -- wouldn't you know it? -- New York magazine reading the blogosphere in its own terms -- in terms, that is, of dough, careers, and ads ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 15, 2006 | perma-link | (2) comments

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- There's an even-better-than-usual array of rich-and-quirky postings up from the gang at Querencia. Reid Farmer brings news of a whale attack and a gang of mushroom thieves, Steve Bodio defends the sport of sighthound coursing, and Matt Mullenix recalls the world of New Orleans music. Querencia gets my vote in the category of Best (and Broadest) Range of Interests ... Happily reading, er, blog-surfing, Michael... posted by Michael at February 11, 2006 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Strange Hybrid
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Only in Scandinavia: Curling goes heavy metal. Rock on, noble Vikings! Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 8, 2006 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Rick Darby recommends the stylings of some exotic chanteuses. * Next week, Amazon debuts a 30 minute original weekly webcast, "Amazon Fishbowl with Bill Maher." On the books front, Rod Lott delivers the news that Signet will be publishing a podcast version of Joseph Nassise's thriller "Heretic: The Templar Chronicles." The content-distribution business is becoming very interesting, if not downright scary. * Did you know that the Indonesian military recently starved to death at least 170,000 East Timorese? It came as news to me. (Link thanks to John Ray.) * Corbusier muses about that architecture-world phenomenon, Philip Johnson. * Trixie has some advice that ought to be handed out to all guys when they become adolescents. Wantonabandon has some advice that ought to be handed out to all guys when they enter kindergarten. * Nancy Rommelmann recalls what it was like to work as a gofer -- er, as a co-writer -- for filmmaker Floyd Mutrux. (Via Anne Thompson.) * "Do you want the United States to become like Kuwait?" asks Randall Parker. * Larry Ayers takes a walk through Hannibal, Missouri, noticing a bit of this and a bit of that. Larry is my kind of architecture-and-urbanism buff. * Comic quiz for the day: "Are you a Democrat, Republican or a Southern Republican?" Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 19, 2006 | perma-link | (6) comments

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Lexington Green expands on some remarks he made in response to FvB's posting about the American Revolution and its causes. Good lord, but I learn a lot from surfing the blogosphere ... * Colleen's of the (strongly-worded) opinion that computers ought to serve humans, and that it's about time that Microsoft caught on. * This excellent NYTimes article by Charles Isherwood is an eye-opening look at the rough living-and-money conditions endured by most actors. (Thanks to FvB for the link.) Nice passage: She'd been working in television for a couple of decades, and is today making less per job than she earned in the beginning; guest spots that would once have provided a week's work were being squeezed into two days. No more "breaking top" - paying over strict scale - for actors with extensive experience. But if actors feel increasingly marginalized economically, it was their neglect as artists that rankled perhaps even more at the conference. (As Ruben Santiago-Hudson somewhat ruefully observed: "You can explore the depths of your soul. That is your pay." Which is doubtless true, but it won't buy you much at Whole Foods.) * Tyler Cowen asks if longer and bigger in the arts might not sometimes also be better. * I thought Steve Sailer's Vdare piece about Puerto Rican nationalism was a fascinating piece of cultural history. * It's Roger Kimball vs. Michael Fried. * "Most of my friends are liberals," writes Arnold Kling. "This series is the conversation I wish that I could have with them." * On a visit to Turkey, Steve Bodio samples a local delicacy: a dish of spices, onion, bulgur, and uncooked, minced raw mutton. * Shouting Thomas's beloved Myrna recalled her days as a stripper fondly even after she'd found respectability as a cube-dweller. * Should the survivors of a California mudslide be allowed to sue the county they live in? Reid Farmer wonders. * Affirmative action for whom? Right Reason's Steve Burton does the bean-counting and concludes that "white Christian males are almost as underrepresented at America's top schools today, compared to their representation in the overall population, as African Americans and Hispanics are." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 18, 2006 | perma-link | (7) comments

The Return of J. Cassian
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- One of my very favorite bloggers, J. Cassian is also one of the blogosphere's most on-and-off bloggers in a scheduling sense. For three months or so, he'll write a ton of postings. Then he might plead a busy life and treat himself to a five month break. Doesn't he know that life must always -- always -- take a second place to blogging? Given the irregularity of J. Cassian's blogging habits, it can be hard to know when he's doing his thing and when he isn't. Darn it: What about my convenience? The good news, though, is that he's currently in one of his blogging phases, and that his blogging is as full of velocity, dry humor, deep (but not-explicitly-stated or dwelled-upon) convictions, and idiosyncratic knowledge as ever. Why not treat yourself to a visit? Don't miss his ironic celebration of Slavoj Zizek. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 18, 2006 | perma-link | (3) comments

The Other Michael B.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Design Observer's Michael Bierut has been setting his DSL lines afire in recent days. Here's a moving tribute to the late book-jacket designer Fred Marcellino (think "Birdy" and "Bonfire of the Vanities"). Marcellino sounds like everything you might want an artist to be: deep, cultured, imaginative, technically adroit ... How funny/sad that the gallery-art world had no place for such a creature. And here Michael B. savors the sheer, wonderful boringness of the design of The New Yorker. Given what a presence The New Yorker has been in America's cultural life, how is it possible that more artsies aren't familiar with Rea Irvin, the designer who established that magazine's look? Besides, how many fine artists have created anything that has had such an enduring impact on the visual/intellectual texture of our shared lives? A great quote from Michael B.: To a field that today seems to prize innovation above all else, The New Yorker makes a case for slow design: the patient, cautious, deliberate evolution of a nearly unchanging editoral format over decades. Michael links to the site of a Slow Design organization. Hey, maybe something really is in the air: I blogged about the Slow Thang generally here. Michael also supplies links to some other fascinating material. Here's Philip Nobel's first encounter with a museum designed by the starchitect Zaha Hadid ("Her tiny gray rooms with guillotine angles made no sense, brought nothing new to the art, even seemed to damn it"). And here's an article providing yet another reason to hate architects' bizarre, always-and-everywhere love of glass: over a hundred million (and perhaps as many as a billion) birds a year die in America from slamming into windows and glass buildings. Interesting fact: "In Chicago, researchers have collected more than 26,000 dead birds over the past two decades from the footings of the McCormick Place Convention Center." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 18, 2006 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Dormitory Boys
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Have y'all caught up with the oeuvre of The Dormitory Boys? In the very competitive webcam-karaoke field, they seem to be the guys to beat. (UPDATE: make that "webcam/lip-synching field." Thanks to Robert for the correction.) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 12, 2006 | perma-link | (4) comments

Podcast Finds
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Have you dipped a toe yet in the podcast waters? I'm a podcast-listening babe and newbie myself -- hey, I guess we all are. And, being incapable of handling too much in the way of technical complications, I've decided to limit my podcast adventures strictly to That Which Is Easily Located at the iTunes Store. Even so, I've turned up some finds. Violet Blue is a funny, sweet, and resourceful alt-erotica entrepreneur: writer, editor, web presence, and now podcaster. She's rowdy and good-natured; she seems to like arousal and naughtiness for their own lovely sake; and in the episodes of her podcast that I've listened to, she has never once gone political. Radio Economics is run by James Reese, a professor at the University of South Carolina Upstate. A Radio Economics show consists of Reese phoning and chatting with one prominent economist for 20 or 30 minutes. So far I've enjoyed chats with Paul Krugman (who is much more even-handed and affable than you'd guess from his notorious NYTimes op-ed column), Tim ("Undercover Economist") Harford, and George Mason U. department chief Donald Boudreaux. Interesting talks all, with plenty of oddball digressions. Boudreaux, who co-does the excellent econblog Cafe Hayek, talks about the importance of reaching the public in intelligible terms, and he rightly heaps praise on the work of one of my own favorite blogging teams, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution. JivaDiva is the charming and likable Alanna, a Colorado yoga teacher in the Jivamukti tradition. Alanna gives five-minute talks that are helpful and EZ intros to yoga philosophy. In a one-off show that isn't part of a series, Tom Wolfe interviews the brain scientist Michael Gazzaniga, the author of "The Ethical Brain," about how new discoveries in neuroscience are likely to affect thinking about ethics. Wolfe is likably, if surprisingly, scatterbrained and excitable, while Gazzanga is amused, patient, and substantial. Though I don't know of any way to link directly to these podcasts, finding and downloading them is simple enough. Open up iTunes; go to the iTunes store; click on "podcasts." Then type a word or two -- "Radio Economics" or "JivaDiva," for instance -- into the search box. Podcasts on iTunes are almost all free. If you click on them they'll download into the iTunes collection you have on your own computer. Sooner than you know it, you'll be strolling around enjoying podcasts on your iPod. What I'm lovin' about podcasts is what I love about the blog-o-sphere: the garage-band enthusiasm and energy, and the real-people, do-it-yourself atmosphere. (Podcasts are to radio what blogs are to newspapers and magazines.) The shows I've liked best have often been anything but slick and professional. They're loose, they're idiosyncratic, and they're often very rough around the edges. But the sound of real human beings comes through much more clearly than it does on most professional radio. Eager to hear from others about their podcast finds too. God knows there's a lot of... posted by Michael at January 12, 2006 | perma-link | (9) comments

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Prairie Mary
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I've been enjoying the words and thoughts of Mary Scriver, who started visiting and leaving comments at 2Blowhards a few weeks back. To my shame, though, I only started catching up with Mary's own blogging last night. Dumbo that I can be, I'd assumed that her name in our Comments only linked to an email address. In fact, she's a serious (and seriously entertaining) writer and blogger. Mary introduces herself here. She introduces the prairie in "Prairie Mary" here. Mary has spent considerable time with the Blackfeet tribe; she makes them sound like a fascinating people. Great quote: In a tribe, family loyalty is an absolute rule -- it trumps any legal requirement, it cannot be put down without resigning membership, and it saves many a scalawag. It works great if the people involved are in a fairly stable environment and are pretty much the same kind of people. Rule of law becomes necessary as soon as the people involved are from different places, different customs, and have no genetic or affectional families present, which is the case with many reservation residents now. Here's another music-to-my-ears passage, from a posting about a regional writer whose work she likes named Jack Holterman: Some people sneer at local and regional writers or writing. What they really mean is that the writing is not dominated by New York. It's out there in the provinces. In other words, of no matter to such aristocrats as we in the center of the world. But I relish the idiosyncratic and often authoritative -- to say nothing of relevant -- writing of locals. Mary clearly lives a full life, and as a writer she's able to get a lot of it down very evocatively on the page and screen. How I love the combo of the ornery, the rhapsodic, and the expansive that she conveys in her words. It takes me right out West. I'm eager to know what Mary thinks of the work of Edward Abbey and Terry Tempest Williams. I'm also glad to learn that Mary keeps two other blogs as well -- this one about writing (and about teaching writing), and this one about her late husband, the Western sculptor Robert Scriver. Mary, how about putting together a meta-posting, where you link to a nice sampling of your own favorite postings? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 4, 2006 | perma-link | (6) comments

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Rachel's best-of-TinkertyTonk is one whipsmart and funny collection. (Rachel also links to a Stephen Pollard posting about a book by Anthony Browne ... Well, the money-fact is that a spike in HIV cases in Britain has been caused not by unsafe sex, as the PC establishment would like to believe, but by immigration from Africa. Here's a good Anthony Browne piece asking why England should admit many immigrants at all.) * GNXP's highlights-of-the-year should get your thought-processes racing. * I've seen a grand total of none of the movies on Steve Sailer's best-of '05 list. * Chelsea Girl's very racy best-of collection will definitely make your mouse-hand break a sweat. * Colleen records "100 Things I learned in 2005" (a 2-parter, here and here), and establishes herself as the master of the-list-as-performance art. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 3, 2006 | perma-link | (3) comments

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Crackberry, Etc.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Researchers in England have found that letting yourself be buffeted about by email, Blackberries, phone messages, etc., can destroy your concentration and lower your IQ even more than smoking pot does. Excerpt: Respondents' minds were all over the place as they faced new questions and challenges every time an email dropped into their inbox. Productivity at work was damaged and the effect on staff who could not resist trying to juggle new messages with existing work was the equivalent, over a day, to the loss of a night's sleep ... The average IQ loss was measured at 10 points, more than double the four point mean fall found in studies of cannabis users. Meanwhile, the New York Times' Sarah Kershaw reports that a new psychological dysfunction has been identified: Internet Addiction Disorder. Excerpt: Dr. Cash and other professionals say that people who abuse the Internet are typically struggling with other problems, like depression and anxiety. But, they say, the Internet's omnipresent offer of escape from reality, affordability, accessibility and opportunity for anonymity can also lure otherwise healthy people into an addiction. Now, where was I? Oh, right: off to my Blogaholics Anonymous meeting. Tonight's Thursday, right? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 1, 2005 | perma-link | (8) comments

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Blog Indentity-Change
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Many names of blogs strike me as pretty strange, but we can save that as a topic for a future posting. The subject for today is the matter of changing the name of a blog and (maybe) changing its Internet address (URL). What inspired this was a post a few days ago on Donald Sensing's blog "One Hand Clapping" in which he announced that he wants to change both the blog name and the URL and invited comments (worth reading). Just in case he goes through with his scheme and the link goes bad, allow me to tell you something about Sensing and summarize the post. Donald Sensing is a retired Army Artillery Lt. Colonel who now is an ordained Methodist minister living near Nashville. His oldest son enlisted in the Marines following high school and is stationed in Iraq. The blog deals with matters military, political and philosophical for the most part; once a week Sensing usually posts the text of his Sunday sermon. The peg used in the posting is the 1980s automobile brand name-change from Datsun to Nissan. Nissan was the name of the company and the cars it sold in Japan and elsewhere, but its cars were marketed in the U.S. under the Datsun label; management thought it best to tidy the matter up by dropping the Datsun name. Sensing notes that only recently have sales returned to pre-name-change levels, implying that the effects were horrific. Some commenters suggested that there was more at play than re-branding -- product mix, styling, engineering features and so forth have been known to affect car sales. My opinion is that the new name probably did affect sales for the first two or three years or so, but not much longer than that. Datsun was a well-established name associated with iconic products such as the 240Z sports car, and it was hard to stop thinking it. Furthermore, I found "Nissan" harder to roll off my tongue than "Datsun"; actually, I still find "Nissan" hard to spit out and tend to refer to their cars by model names, such as Altima or Murano. After using the Datsun/Nissan example as a downside for name-changes, he goes on to say This story matters to me not because I hold stock on Nissan (I dont) but because I have been considering changing the name of my blog. I named it One Hand Clapping ... but I am not sure its a good name for what I want to do in the future. I have already reserved another domain name that does three things neither the OHC moniker nor the present domain name,, do. One, it more accurately describes what kind of web site it is than either my present domain name or site name. Second, it makes the domain name and the site name the same name. Third, it is friendly to team blogging, which I think is the wave of the future of blogging. Joe Katzman,... posted by Donald at November 8, 2005 | perma-link | (9) comments

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: A brief pause in the usual flow of things to point out a few housekeeping upgrades. Email contacts for all Blowhards are now up to date. The buttons are at the top of the blog's left-hand column. Contact a Blowhard by clicking on his name -- it's as easy as that. A brand-new feature is also to be found in the left-hand column. Scroll down a bit. Just below "Recent Entries" you'll see a list of "Recent Comments." When a visitor leaves a comment on a posting, a link to it automatically pops up at the top of this list. Magic! Well, even if it isn't magic, it's still a convenient way to keep up-to-date with our many blog conversations. Which ones are ongoing? Without this feature, I might have missed some wonderfully evocative and informative comments by Tatyana, Peter, Dwight, and Deb on Donald's posting about growing up deprived. Many thanks to Paul S. for suggesting that we supply this feature. Using the archives has become a little easier too. Take a look at the top of the blog, just under the 2Blowhards masthead. That horizontal strip -- the gray bar that includes "Blog," "Best-of," "Interviews," and "Links"? It's a navigation bar. "Best-of" is a drop-down menu that enables you to riffle through postings that we've chosen as our most provocative and entertaining. (Have no fear: Donald's list will grow longer as he continues to post.) "Interviews" will take you to a page where we link to q&a's that we've done with interesting and substantial people. Check 'em out: Some high-class, unusual, and highly-useful information and thinking is to be found there. The "Blog" button will always return you to the main blog page. "Links"? Well, I'm still working on that one. (Email me if you have suggestions.) I urge you in any case to make use of the interviews and the best-ofs. There's good writin' to be enjoyed in them-thar hills. Because of spam-comment-management challenges, I've had to introduce a small change that might be a little annoying. From now on, comments can only be left on postings that are less than a week old. Postings older than that will be closed to comments. Apologies -- I hope that doesn't seem rude. But attending to the spam-comments that were accumulating on older postings had become too much of a trial. All this wizardry has been accomplished by our terrific blog-guy Daniel, of Westgate Necromantic. If you want some web-things done for you, I urge you to get in touch with Daniel. He has done much to make 2Blowhards the attractive and easy-to-use web-place that it is. He's an excellent designer, his rates are very reasonable, his webwork is supersolid, and he's a joy to work with. He can be reached at westgate-at-westgatenecromantic-dot-com. Daniel and his wife Leilah live in New Orleans, by the way, and their email since the flood has made horrifying -- if also gallant and funny -- reading. Thanks for your attention.... posted by Michael at November 3, 2005 | perma-link | (9) comments

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

George Hunka's New Play
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The Wife and I just caught a performance of George Hunka's theater evening "In Private/In Public," and were both pretty knocked out by it. I should preface my handful of comments about the evening with a caveat. As far as the pleasures of the theater go, I'm temperamentally far more attuned to the low than the high. Burlesque, revues, vaudeville, parody and satire, campy exhibitionism, song and dance, storytelling, sex, jokes -- it's the whole scrappy, shameless, puttin'-on-a-show thing that brings out my good will. George Hunka is no vaudevillian. He's a genuine, and genuinely, serious theater artist. He works with real themes; he has ideas he wants to express; he has substantial things to say. George is interested in theater as a high-art form, and he works in the line of Ibsen, Beckett, and Pinter. Of the relatively-familiar art that I've seen in recent years, George's work reminds me most of the more sophisticated Woody Allen movies, and of Patrick Marber's "Closer" (the play that became the Julia Roberts/Natalie Portman/Mike Nichols movie). George of course has his own distinct tone and attack. So, given my low nature, I may not be the best judge of this kind of work, and I probably don't have much of interest to say about it. On the other hand, I've done a fair amount of theatergoing, and I've seen a lot of the kind of decentered, abstract, and stark thing that George does. Just by virtue of a fair amount of experience I think I'm capable of saying, Nice job! And, Snappy evening! On its surface, "In Private/In Public" is a marriage-problems-among-the-intellectuals number, done in a cryptic and occasionally sinister style. I don't mean to be flip: This is the theatrical language of modernism, one that has evolved to express a certain set of states of mind. Thematically, George's play concerns the place of art, sex, and ideas in the modern world; the violence we do to ourselves and to each other; and how these energies and proclivities find expression in both our private and our public lives. The Upper West Side characters flirt, tease, and torment each other even as the city's terrorism alerts swing from red to orange and then back again. As the geometry of what may or may not be unfolding reveals itself, the characters frame and then reframe their understanding of what they're living through. But what can ever be truly grasped? George handles his materials and his devices -- the abruptnesses, the precise imbalances, the misterioso tonal shifts -- with a lot of expertise. "In Private/In Public" is a very polished and skillful writing performance, eminently worthy of the kind of critical attention that people like Pinter and Marber get. The play's production, at Greenwich Village's ManhattanTheatreSource, was its own small, supercontrolled, and polished gem. Directed by Isaac Butler and featuring a very talented cast -- Darian Dauchan, Abe Goldfarb, Daryl Lathon, Sasha Taublieb, and Jennifer Gordon Thomas -- it was... posted by Michael at October 26, 2005 | perma-link | (2) comments

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Facts for the Day
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Lest we be too, too impressed by the speed at which the Internet is changing life as we know it, some fun facts about early television: Number of TV sets sold in America in 1946: 10,000 Number of TV sets sold in America in 1949: 2 million Percentage of American households owning a TV in 1956: 73 TV advertising revenues in 1949: 12 million dollars TV advertising revenues in 1952: 300 million dollars Now that's one fast media-life transformation. (Source: a History International documentary about RCA honcho David Sarnoff. Has anyone else been enjoying History International as much as I have, by the way? What a resource. History International's programming is very different than the usual History Channel fare, and includes lots of low-key, informative British shows. I'm currently enjoying an excellent Melvyn Bragg series on the history of the English language, for example. Here's the book version of Bragg's work.) In semi-related news, USA Today reports that ads are eating up more broadcasting time on network shows than ever. A typical one-hour prime-time show today consists of only 42 minutes of actual show, down from 48 minutes in the 1980s. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 13, 2005 | perma-link | (6) comments

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Tatyana Blogs
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Y'all check in regularly with the very sharp and funny Rachel, of course -- that goes without saying. Now there's a fresh reason to surf over to her blog Tinkertytonk: While Rachel takes a break, Tatyana is pinch-blogging. As visitors and commenters here at 2Blowhards know well, Tatyana has got brains, enthusiasm, passion, and opinions to spare. While I've been babying my cold, Tatyana has been her usual dynamic self, taking mucho advantage of OpenHouse NYC. She also has good eyes, a fascinating background, and a pretty awe-inspiring set of life-experiences to draw on. So it's great to have this opportunity to check in with her. While you're at it, treat yourself to a read (or a re-read) of a Guest Posting Tatyana did for us last year about the Russian bard scene in the United States. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 9, 2005 | perma-link | (2) comments

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Rick Darby's Blog
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Rick Darby has been a welcome visitor at 2Blowhards for a long time. So I'm very happy to see that he has begun doing his own blogging too. On his new blog, Rick is as smart, as genial, and as searching as ever. Here he reconsiders his former stance on drug legalization; here he bounces off of Donald's recent posting about museum-visiting to muse about museum-going more generally; and here he manages to give a little lesson in the history of rhetoric even while vividly describing a recent debate between Christopher Hitchens and George Galloway. As down-to-earth as he can be, Rick is also exceedingly open-minded. Fans of psychical research and the paranormal will find a kindred spirit -- and a serious, even scholarly one -- at Rick's blog. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 5, 2005 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Donate to Steve
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- There are lots of reasons why the mainstream media have the attitudes and stances they do. Some have to do with class, and some with political biases. But many of them have to do with the same forces and phenomena that nearly everyone runs into at no matter what place-of-work: ego and ambition, of course, but also inertia, laziness, going-along-to-get-along, feathering-the-nest, sucking-up-to-bosses, hoping-not-to-get-laid-off ... A consequence is that the professional news media often ignore (or soft-pedal, or misreport) dicey but pressing topics. Why volunteer to juggle a hot potato when it might mean alienating your peers, the people in whose world you want to succeed, or at least survive? Why antagonize the people who hand out prizes and promotions? Why play dangerous games with your career? Which does leave the rest of us in the lurch, alas: Where is the news about uncomfortable but important topics going to come from, if not from the people whose job it is to dig it out? It's going to come, if at all, from courageous independents like Steve Sailer. In recent years, Steve -- who writes for a number of outfits but is employed by none of them -- has done an amazing job of wading into turbulent waters. He writes informatively (and fearlessly) about genetics, race, sexuality, and disease. He has been courageous in calling attention to the insanity of our Mexican-border situation. He blew the whistle on the myth that the states that voted for Kerry were more intelligent than the states that voted for Bush, and he speculated -- correctly -- that Kerry himself is no more intelligent than Bush is. Yet Steve is no slave to either party; he's one of the most biting critics around of George W. Bush, whose policies he has brilliantly labeled "invade the world/invite the world." Not to mention his movie reviews, which represent some of the most original current writing I know of about the movies. I just noticed that Steve is running a fund-raising drive. It ain't easy going your own way, let alone speaking the truth as directly as you can. It also isn't an approach that makes it easy to pay the bills. Steve also makes a lot of his work available for free on the web. What a boon for the rest of us, and what a public service -- but, again, not the kind of thing that puts food on the table. The digital world is great in many respects, but it has made it far less easy than it once was for freelance writers to get paid for their work. Yet the rest of us depend on the work of people willing to take chances. If you value Steve's work anything like as much as I do, you'll join me in making a donation. Since I get more more intellectual meat to chew on from Steve's blog alone than I do from The Nation and The National Review combined, I couldn't... posted by Michael at August 17, 2005 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Sometimes I marvel at how resourceful the media can be. A number of litbloggers, for instance, have been picked up by newspapers and magazines to work as reviewers -- good show! But there are other times when what amazes me instead is how clueless the media can be. Case in point: If I were a TV or movie person, I'd be spending big parts of my day scanning the web for fresh dramatic and comedy material. Why does no one seem to be doing this? God knows the blogosphere is full of promising stories and storytellers. Yahmdallah's dating adventures could be the basis for the next "Dream On," for example. Nate Davis and Graham Lester tell real-life tales that should be primo meat for indie filmmakers. And why haven't producers who want to exploit the endless appetite for chicklit-style romantic comedy been in contact with La Coquette? Some other bloggers whose stories are just as ripe for the picking: Neil Kramer, whose postings are often hilarious and touching performance pieces about the joys and woes of marriage and singledom (Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, can you hear me?); Searchblog, whose struggles with depression have a moving boho beauty; the Communicatrix, whose scrappy and out-there romantic and career stories are impossible not to relate to, and which she tells in the perfect voice; and Mike Hill, who (in between rants about New Jersey politics) shares cringe-making and perfectly-delicious memories of his years as an actor. What performer wouldn't kill for a part in a movie or sitcom based on these adventures? And what audience wouldn't be amused (and hooked) by watching these stories be enacted? Juicy and fresh material, all of it, and already well-told by excellent storytellers. Hollywood, would you puh-leeze get on the ball? Your material of late has been been striking a lot of us as awfully stale. Incidentally, should any mega-deals result from this posting, I'm more than open to the possiblity of a generous finder's fee ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 21, 2005 | perma-link | (11) comments

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I just noticed (a few days late) that 2Blowhards has turned three years old. Three years of blogging -- hard to believe! I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of words of writing that represents. It's hard to tell -- wonderfully hard to tell -- because blogging tends to consist not of finite essays but of ongoing conversations. When Friedrich von Blowhard and I came up with the idea of running a cultureblog, we were dipping anxious toes in a blogosphere that was very sparsely populated where cultural commentary goes. The political bloggers were off and running, but it hadn't yet occured to many people that blogging can just as easily serve as a convenient outlet for sounding off about movies, music, books, and art. If memory serves -- and it often doesn't these days, so apologies if I goof here -- the only cultureblogs in existence at the time Friedrich and I started Blowharding belonged to A.C. Douglas and Lynn Sislo. I'm glad to see that A.C. and Lynn are still showing the stuff. They both deserve a lot of credit not just for being classy thinkers and writers but for being pioneers. These days blogging seems almost old-media, and cultureblogging has become a standard part of the blogging panorama. A huge range of people take part, from established pros like Terry Teachout (how does he do it? I mean, and make a living?) to Everyguyblogger, who writes a short posting about how he reacted to the latest "Batman" episode. Thank god for this expansion of the culture-commentary universe. The world of yakking-about-culture seems -- to me, anyway -- a much saner one than it did when the culture-conversation was run entirely by people with professional positions at institutions, publications, and networks. I think I can speak for Friedrich and me both when I say that the pre-blogging conversation about culture and the arts often seemed downright demented. Much that's basic about the experience of culture and the arts was going not just undiscussed but completely unrecognized. The official commentators often seemed to be off in their own la-la world, carrying on discussions with each other in some cloud cuckooland where only their own thoughts and impressions counted. Before we began blogging, Friedrich and I were in the habit of swapping innumerable emails about art, sex, and the movies. (We still do this, by the way.) These emails were continuations of conversations we had as movie/art/lit-struck undergrads three decades ago. Three years ago, we looked at what was on our minds; we looked at what was in the papers and the magazines; and we wondered: How could it be that so much of what we observed, perceived, and thought found zero reflection in the public conversation about the arts? Perhaps mistakenly, we didn't feel that the answer to this question was, "Because you're complete weirdos, that's why." We suspected that, if we took some of our email yaks public, we might play a... posted by Michael at July 20, 2005 | perma-link | (15) comments

Friday, July 15, 2005

Prize-Winning Pattie
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Cowtown Pattie -- I'm tickled to say that she drops by these parts on occasion -- isn't just the six-gun-toting, raucous drinking buddy her moniker suggests. (Although let's hear it for raucous drinking buddies.) That cowgirl has got a lot of sides to her. She's thoughtful, curious, free-thinking, and much else too. Pattie also writes some of the loveliest mini-memoirs that I've run across in the blogosphere. Here's one recent example. I often find reading Pattie's blog to be as sweet and touching an experience as listening to the songs of Iris Dement -- which is saying a lot. I'm pleased to see that Kevin Holtsberry and the crew at Collected Miscellany dig Pattie's words too. They've just awarded their prize for short-short-story writing to Cowtown Pattie. Congrats to all. (Thanks to Dave Lull for pointing this good news out to me.) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 15, 2005 | perma-link | (3) comments

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Comments Are Screwy
A few people have written in to let me know that they haven't been able to post comments on the blog recently. Thanks to all for the info. My goof, of course, though I'm not sure what the goof was. I'll do what I can as soon as I can to get the comments working again. -- Michael Blowhard UPDATE: Comments seem to be functioning again. Thanks for your patience, and allow me a moment of intense self-admiration. Yeehah! It ain't often I solve a computer problem ...... posted by Michael at July 7, 2005 | perma-link | (0) comments

Friday, May 13, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I was very sorry to read over at Alan Sullivan's blog Seablogger that Alan is facing some grave health challenges. Alan has always been not just one of the best writers on the blogging scene, but an inspiringly calm and mature presence. He's one of those all-too-rare creatures who makes "being adult" seem like an attractive state of being rather than a drudgery-filled obligation. How sad to be reminded in this way that physical vulnerability of scary sorts often comes as part of the "being an adult" package. Why not drop by Seablogger wish Alan the best? Me, I'm looking forward to reading many, many more Seablogger postings. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 13, 2005 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A few weeks ago, with the usual apprehension, I forked over 48 bucks for a year's subscription to Yahoo!'s Yahoo! Plus service. Yahoo! Plus is like a free Yahoo! account, only on steroids. It supplies extra email-storage space, tons of photo-storage space, minimal ads, and some other goodies and frills. I'm pretty happy with my subscription: what Yahoo! Plus creates for you is a snug little room of your own on the web. Unlike AOL, Yahoo! Plus is part of the Web. It doesn't hide the larger world from you. But unlike a barebones browser, Yahoo! Plus gives you a homebase, as well as many ways and places to stash parts of your brain. Has Yahoo! shaken its post-Google grogginess and regained its edge? I'm impressed: the whole package works well, at least on my Windows 2000 work computer. My couple of cries for help were answered promptly and helpfully. As far as webmail goes, I find that I use my Yahoo! Mail account far more than I do my Gmail account. (Quick question? What's the big whoop about Gmail anyway? The way Gmail brings past messages up as groups and conversations is a nice innovation. But I'm not k.o.'d by Gmail otherwise. Is anyone else?) I'm in serious love with Yahoo!'s Notebook feature. (You don't need Yahoo! Plus to get Notebook; it comes as part of a free Yahoo! account too.) Notebook is nothing but a place to stash notes. But it's a well-done stasher, with better-than-adequate searching and categorizing abilities. Being a serious 3x5 notecard addict, I have a tendency -- OK, a drive -- to collect piles and piles of notes to myself. Stacks of scribbled-on cards -- little bits of my mind -- collect anyplace I settle into for longer than five minutes. Now that I can transfer these scribbles into Notebook, my stacks have shrunk considerably. Some have disappeared entirely, making The Wife very happy. Another benefit: my scribbles are now available to me anywhere I can get to a be-Webbed computer. I no longer go nuts looking for a misplaced 3x5 card. What's got me really hooked on Yahoo! Plus, though, is a feature I hadn't been looking forward to at all: Launchcast. Launchcast takes a moment to explain. It's a music service that enables you to rank and grade songs, artists, and genres. Based on the tastes and preferences you indicate, Launchcast creates an online radio station for you. You go on ranking and grading, and Launchcast goes on tailoring your listening. It's like a personal radio station, only one with no announcer and no ads. Launchcast is all music, all the time -- one song after another, broadcast in perfectly fine stereo. Unlike Netflix's absurd ratings-and-suggestions function -- in a year of subscribing, I don't think I've found a single one of Netflix's suggestions useful -- Launchcast's is a genuine mind-reader, even if it does seem convinced that I like Diana Krall much more than I... posted by Michael at May 11, 2005 | perma-link | (11) comments

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Getting to Know Each Other
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Lots of terrific comments, thoughts, and observations have piled up on postings here recently. Since part of what's enjoyable for me about these blog-conversations is the chance to go beyond the immediate topic and explore other people's websites, I decided to list-and-link to a bunch of them. (Our bloglist in the left-hand column is always available, but I worry that people may not take as much advantage of it as they might.) So here's a list of sites run by recent visitors. I hope visitors will pick out a few that are unfamiliar and give them a try. You're likely to run into some you'll enjoy. * Tinkerty Tonk * Alan Kellogg * Fred Himebaugh * Waterfall * DarkoV * John Emerson * Scott Chaffin * Paul Worthington * Ted Mills * Joseph Clarke * GayLikeAFox * Peter * Mac Kane * David Sucher * Cowtown Pattie * ChaiTeaLatte * IJSbrand * Ralph * Rob Asumendi * Tosy and Cosh * ChicagoBoyz * James Russell (I'm sorry to see that James has abandoned blogdom. He was always a lively, smart and provocative presence. But I'm glad that he's listed a selection of his best postings; it's easy and rewarding to check out.) * SYAffolee * Shouting Thomas * Neha Bawa * Mike Hill * Garth * Yahmdallah * Bixblog * Scott Dagostino * Robert Garlitz Did I miss anyone? Blogdom is bliss. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 5, 2005 | perma-link | (18) comments

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Vault
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- This week's award for Entrepreneurial Blogging goes to John Holbo. A regular at Crooked Timber and at John & Belle Have a Blog, John's a heckuva a writer with his own winning and distinctive tone -- a mixture of philosophical rigor and Californian whimsy. He has another key blogging gift too: he knows how to keep a discussion loose yet focused. And now John has kicked off a new group cultureblog. It's called The Valve: A Literary Organ, and it's already lookin' lively and good: freewheeling and open-minded, and eager to notice, say, and think the kinds of things that pro arts writers should but seldom do. So far, I've especially enjoyed Sean McCann's posting about the TV show "Deadwood", and a posting in which John dares to ask, Just how good is "The Great Gatsby" anyway? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 14, 2005 | perma-link | (20) comments

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Internet Fame
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- As the world becomes ever more Web-ified, is the nature of fame changing? That's one of the many fun questions raised by Alan Feuer and Jason George in this piece. Their subject is Gary Brolsma, a 19-year-old from New Jersey who posted to the Web a videoclip of himself singing (badly) and dancing (awkwardly) to a Romanian pop song. In a short time, the clip became a Web sensation. Rather sweetly, Brolsma -- who most of the time is an outgoing prankster -- has found that he can't handle his newfound notoriety. He's now hiding from the press. Are there lessons to be drawn from the episode? It seems likely to me that kids growing up with the Web are going be wrestling with at least one stark choice: does it 1) make more sense to maintain total control over your photographs and videotapes? Or is it 2) more economical (and entertaining) to say "What the hell," put it all out there, and enjoy whatever consequences ensue? And why do I suspect that we'll be seeing a lot of people opting for Choice Number Two? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 26, 2005 | perma-link | (4) comments

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- God knows that my musings about the Web don't deserve to be listened to. But there's one thing about life online that has really taken me by surprise. I wonder if it's hit others the same way. It's that websites that are static seem dead. When I first started paying attention to the Web, I assumed that, despite their links and their accessibility, websites would generally be like books -- locked-down things, if more transparent and sparkly than paper-based mediathings are. And how great to have all these book-like entities out there to explore, eh? On I surfed, scarfing up information. But as I surfed, I started to notice that I was going back to some sites again and again, while many other sites I'd visit once and then never return to. Why was this so? The reason, it finally occurred to me, was simple: something was ongoing at some of the websites, while at the ones I'd seldom revisit nothing was happening. No reason a website shouldn't be a more-or-less static reference source, of course. And thank heavens for the zillions of good ones out there. But thank heavens as well for the websites that are what I now think of as "Event Websites." A website seems alive when something's going on there. The brilliant thing about blogs is that the technology makes maintaining an Event Website easy to do. A blog isn't just a bunch of stuff that's been deposited on the Web. It's ongoing commentary; it's performance art; it's a place where people drop by and hang out. While traditional writing tends to put the writer in the position of someone lecturing an audience, as a blogger I often feel more like a cafe owner or party host. I'm not talking at people; instead, I'm sponsoring a conversation. (A much more agreeable position to be in, as far as I'm concerned.) A blog is the most existential of all forms of weblife: if a blog isn't updated and monkeyed-around with, no one visits -- which, in blog terms, means death. Another benefit of blog technology is that a blog is so simple to operate that it can be run by people whose primary preoccupation isn't technology. Pre-blog Event Websites were so dependent on techno-expertise that a problem arose: the only people who could maintain Event Websites either 1) had the money to pay a team of webmasters, or 2) had the expertise to maintain a site themselves. Which in practice meant that Event Websites were nearly all either commercial sites or sites devoted to the topic of computer technology. Now, thanks to blogging software, even non-rich non-techies like the Blowhards can sustain a lively web presence. (With only the occasional panicky call to our webhost's Help Desk, or to Daniel, our wonderful blog-guy.) But blogs, however liberating, are also rather odd things. As websites, they're lively but they're also very limited. A blog offers one scrolling page, the means for visitors... posted by Michael at January 29, 2005 | perma-link | (12) comments

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Back in Business
Michael Blowhard writes: As far as I can tell, the blog is now behaving as it ought to. Many thanks for patience, etc. Let the party begin anew. Many thanks as well to our excellent blog-hosts, GlobalNet. I've heard numerous horror stories about Evil Webhosts, so I count 2Blowhards as very lucky to have landed at GlobalNet. Reasonable rates; rare downtime; and quick, courteous, and effective responses to whatever problems do arise. Plus, they're based in Traverse City, Michigan, and how can you not love that? PS: Those fascinated by the Larry Summers girls/boys/science brouhaha will find a terrific collection of links and comments here.... posted by Michael at January 22, 2005 | perma-link | (4) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Apologies if the blog is behaving strangely. I began hearing word about a problem early this morning, but at the time the blog was displaying normally on my computer. Now it has started to look weird on my computer too. It even seems that some comments aren't showing up as they ought to. Good lord, it's nerve-wracking when the digital infrastructre starts to misbehave. I'll do what I can -- this is also known as "calling the Help desk" -- to fix the problem as soon as I can. Thanks for your usual patience and humor.... posted by Michael at January 22, 2005 | perma-link | (0) comments

Friday, January 21, 2005

Some Finds
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some terrific finds. First, three blogs that I'm new to, and that I'm having a lot of fun catching up with: * Luke Lea, who has been a brainy and unfailingly civilized commenter at a number of different blogs, has recently started his own blog, BornAgainDemocrats. Luke's got a heap of ideas that, IMHO, would do the Dems a lot of good to pay attention to. He also proposes an agenda that even I can feel some enthusiasm about. Luke's views are liberal in ways I find very appealing, and conservative in a just-as-attractive sense. It took dimwitted me a couple of seconds to realize that Luke has put up a multipaged website. Here's the blog; here's the homepage. Here's Luke in typically good form on a question I'm sure many who have encountered libertarianism in its more-dogmatic forms online have puzzled over: "Is Libertarianism the Socialism of the 21st Century?" Luke has a well-seasoned appreciation for life's complexities and contradictions, as well as the persistence and clear-headedness it takes to think through questions anyway. * Moira Breen, who has stopped by 2Blowhards a few times, has started co-blogging with David Fleck here, and it's hard to imagine a feistier or brighter couple. Both Moira and David are down-to-earth yet quirky too. Hey: smart, approachable people with many sides to their personalities -- you won't often run across that combo in the mainstream media. This wry Moira posting made me chuckle; she confesses that she once read a history of heavyweight boxing just because she needed something to read. Now there's a real book addict. David considers the pros and cons of Wikipedia here -- essential survival reading for anyone who does research on the Web. * I feel like a dolt when I run across a firstclass blog that's been a going thing for a while already. Why didn't I know about it earlier? Although too-much-to-keep-track-of-ness seems to be a basic fact of life in a be-Webbed world, my own emotional wiring seems to be a holdover from the pre-Web universe. Anyway: Dave Munger has been blogging since April of last year, but I've just started to read him. Like Luke, Dave displays an enviable combo of personal openness, respect for established ways, and wordly realism. I've especially enjoyed wrestling with Dave's recent musings about books and ebooks. (Here, here and here.) My own, rather offbeat, take on the ebooks/books question can be read here. Short version: since we're already doing a lot of e-reading and e-writing, why get stressed about what's a book and what's not? Isn't the reading and the writing more important than the book-iness? Dave makes a lot of less-kooky points. And here are some helpful web resources: * Thanks to visitor Barry Wood, who sent along links to a couple of BBC pages. Here's a series of conversations led by Melvyn Bragg that covers the basics of Philosophy 101. And here's one-stop shopping for many of the BBC's... posted by Michael at January 21, 2005 | perma-link | (22) comments

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Should History be Written in Hypertext?
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards: Have you ever noticed the sheer difficulty of writing history? I dont mean this in the ordinary sense of literary effort, but rather in the sense of how difficult it is to physically and mentally organize the subject matter. Let me give a small illustration of what I mean. Im currently working my way through a very interesting book, Judith Herrans The Formation of Christendom (Princeton University Press, 1987). However, rather than being written chronologically, each chapter of this book focuses, essay-like, on a particular aspect of Late Antiquity (roughly, the period from Constantine to Charlemagne). This allows for a good deal of concentration and single-subject analysis that would be tough to deliver in a strict chronological treatment (e.g., on the development of monasticism around the Mediterranean). But it leaves me wondering about the interrelationships between one essay topic to another. For example, I came across several isolated observations that concerned roughly the same period of time. On page 45 we find: By the time of Augustus (27 B.C. A.D. 141), Rome had incorporated the Hellenistic states of Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, and Pharaonic Egypt. As a result of these additions, the empire may have had a population of around 50 million, a figure that appears to have remained stable until the disastrous decline of the third century. [Emphasis added] On page 46: Under Diocletian (284-305), laws to fix prices, ensure the continuity of craft guilds, and guarantee the succession of sons to their fathers senatorial duties attempted to stabilize the economy on traditional lines. P. 46 [Emphasis added] On page 60: From a decision to abandon human company and withdraw from the world (called anachoresis in Greek, from which anchorite derives), the pursuit of ascetic ideals followed naturally. Disciples of the deity Serapis had developed this practice through the custom of becoming a recluse (katachos) dedicated to the god, and adherents of other pagan cults and of Judaism adopted similar techniques. But among Christians this sort of withdrawal became very widespread in the late third century. [Emphasis added] On page 65: It was within monastic circles that celibacy was first elevated to a commanding position, from which it came to dominate the Christian world. St. Ammoun (ca. 295-352) is known as one of the first Desert Fathers to have lived with his wife for 18 years in total abstinence. This occurred as the result of an arranged marriage from which Ammoun could not escape. Instead, he persuaded his bride that they should lead an ascetic existence as brother and sister, avoiding all contact. Ammoun, however, later felt the need to withdraw from the world completely and left his sister to settle in the Nitrian desert. There other young men fleeing from exactly the same tradition of arranged marriagesjoined him in ascetic pursuits.[Emphasis added] I dont know about you, but I began to wondergee, do you suppose these developments are interrelated? Lets seedecline in population, military and economic weakness, imposition of greater state... posted by Friedrich at January 18, 2005 | perma-link | (8) comments

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Some blogsurfers may have run across the brilliant and prolific commenter who signed himself as "Zizka." Zizka never showed up at 2Blowhards, darn it. But he was a frequent and welcome presence at GNXP and a few other blogs. Zizka turns out to be John Emerson, from Portland, Oregon. And John, who no longer uses the Zizka moniker, turns out to run his own provocative and idea-rich website, Idiocentrism. At the moment, he seems to be in the process of converting some of it into a blog-like thing, always a welcome development. But Idiocentrism is full of essays, reviews, reflections, and ventings. It's a very rewarding site that I feel I'm just beginning to know. Ancient-world demographics, Freud, hemoglobin, W.C. Fields -- no one can accuse John of not fearlessly going his own intellectual way. John's a -- deep breath here -- radical leftie. Well, I wonder if that's really fair. If he is, he's a radical-leftie of a sort I've always found simpatico: more-or-less anarchistic; wide-ranging; self-powered; quirky to the max; and as averse the the top-down, overbureaucratized, self-adoring, mainstream-rationalist-"liberal" thang as I am. I put in a number of years as a fringe person myself, and regret the time not a bit. Gestalt therapists, porno comicbook writers, extremist eco-freaks, self-publishing punk-rock leftovers -- for a long time, that was my scene. I even published some writing in anarchist rags; despite the lack of pay and the low readership numbers, I had far better experiences publishing in 'zines than I ever did publishing in the popular press. Was it because my views corresponded more closely to the fringe's than they did to the mainstream's? Or was it because I found many of the fringe people to be more decent on a personal level than the high-powered people were? Although the fringe-world certainly abounds in loonies and crazies, it also houses many well-rumpled, wry-spirited, entertainingly-whacky, beyond-open-minded, and humane souls. And, y'know, it seems to me that Kropotkin, Bakunin, and Colin Ward (my favorite writer-thinkers from my anarchist years) blend harmoniously with the likes of Denis Dutton, Jane Jacobs, Christopher Alexander, and Stephen Toulmin, a few of my current fave brainiacs. I see many connections. But that's material for another posting. I notice that John is, if anything, even more of a Toulmin (and Montaigne) freak than I am. I notice a few other things as well: that John's got the kind of wide-ranging, searching, and open mind that I love learning from and comparing notes with; and that he has made his online site his life's work. Idiocentrism is a serious publishing venture and experiment, in much the same way that the traditionalist conservative Jim Kalb's site Turnabout is. These are sites that are as rich and as deep as a good book. Given that both guys continue to add to their sites, and given that they blog and respond to comments, their sites strike me as more alive in many ways than even... posted by Michael at January 12, 2005 | perma-link | (15) comments

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Holiday Giving
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I notice that a few of my favorite blogger/webpresences have put out the tin cup. Marginal Revolution, Steve Sailer, and Asymmetrical Information are all amazingly generous, brainy, and provocative. The info they supply and the thoughts they disgorge are big parts of why my brain buzzes more happily these days than it has in years. Years? Decades. I'm heading over to click on the Amazon Tip Jar at each place. Why not join me? Hey, why shouldn't the big nonprofits be throwing a little money at bloggers? Talk about doing good work opening up the public mind. Hmm ... On the other hand, it's kinda great that we look after ourselves (and each other), isn't it? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 16, 2004 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Denis Dutton wonders what Darwin can teach us about about literature and storytelling. * Ken Goldstein tells what listening to Lite-FM can do to a person. * Does encouraging creative types make a city vibrant? Joel Kotkin thinks city governments would be better off letting creative types take care of themselves and attending instead to the basics: delivering trustworthy services, reasonable tax rates, etc. * James Panero offers a preview of the architecture of New York's soon-to-reopen Musuem of Modern Art. * Terry Teachout wonders whether Johnny Mercer's song lyrics, brilliant as they are, should be thought of as poetry. * Searchblog touchingly recalls what dance meant to her as a kid, and muses about what dance means to her now. * Convergence alert: a new British reality-TV program shows couples having sex so that an expert can offer tips on their performance. * Yet another magazine I was born to edit. (NSFW.) * I get more information and provocation from reading that dynamo Steve Sailer than I do from most of the magazines I subscribe to. Here's Steve on voters' IQs; here he takes stock of "The Bell Curve." * Many men seem to be more comfortable opening up to Google than to their girlfriends. * Is terrorism caused by poverty? A Harvard researcher says the answer is no. (Link thanks to John Ray.) * If I were mayor of NYC, I'd make sure that bright-eyed, Chelsea-bound new arrivals be handed Nate Lippens's advice to young gay guys. * Oliver Burkeman visits Pixar, which he says has become "the most successful studio in the history of cinema." * Tyler Cowen lays out his ideas about what a sensible tax code might look like. Tyler's recent WSJ debates with John Irons can be accessed from this posting here. Alex Tabarrok notices that the stock portfolios of U.S. Senators outperform the market by 12%. Should heads roll? * Yet another celebrity suffers a wispy-clothing malfunction. (NSFW.) * Mike Hill explains the why the Civil War -- and U.S. Grant especially -- fascinate him. * You know those diaper-like g-strings that guys in Japanese movies occasionally wear? Here's how to put one on. * GDP may be up, but are we better off in any significant way now than we were in 1959? Jim Kalb isn't sure that we are. * I learned from this article that Mozart may have had Tourette Syndrome, and that Touretters are famous for their love of fart jokes. * Can body-modification be taken too far? It seems these digital days as if many people want to Photoshop themselves. (NSFW.) * More info about how Frenchwomen manage to eat rich yet stay slim. (Link thanks to ALD.) * Judging from the amount of racy amateur video now on the Internet, I'm guessing that this may be the world's most-repeated lie. * I found this q&a with the porn star Savanna charming. For the sake of scholarly research, I plan to... posted by Michael at November 17, 2004 | perma-link | (7) comments

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

We Post, You Decide
Fenster Moop writes: Dear Blowhards, I think blogs are just about the neatest thing, but I don't get all utopian about it. I show my social science background when I admit I think of such things in system terms. You can't consider the part without considering the engine it fits into; you can't consider the figure without the ground. In turn, the question is not whether blogs are good and mainstream media bad. Rather, the question is: how have blogs changed the system, the pattern of interactions, the nature of reciprocity? And is the whole schmear on balance better or worse, or just more complicated? In my mind, Rathergate showed how blogs could function well within a news system of which they were just a part. Sometimes they opposed MSM, sometimes the baton was passed back and forth. Generally speaking, though, blogs were deemed the heroes, as they were with the Lott affair. But yesterday showed it cuts both ways. The mainstream media had enough self-restraint not to dump unvarnished exit poll data onto the public. And bully for them for that. No such restraint from the blogs, however. It's all grist for the mill. As one blogger said "I didn't have any real compunction about putting it (polling data) up there. I didn't struggle with the decision, because I knew it was going to become a global news item within about 30 seconds. Our approach is: We post, you decide." There's a certain exhilaration to being able to do whatever one damn pleases. Workable institutions sometimes require more than a rush. Best, Fenster... posted by Fenster at November 3, 2004 | perma-link | (4) comments

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Michael Blowhard writes Dear Blowhards -- I'm getting used to the term "Desi," which -- if I understand it right -- is a term for anyone of South Asian descent. Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis -- they're all Desis. Corrections appreciated if I've got this wrong, of course, as long as everyone understands that I'm just a passe old man who's doing his valiant best to keep up with a bewildering new world. There's another handy term I like a lot too: Desiblog, which means a blog written by a Desi. There are a ton of them out there, many of them aburst with personality, brains, and humor. Some of the people behind my regular blogstops are Desis -- GNXP's Razib and Godless, for instance, as well as the charming and insightful Neha Bawa. And my litblogger of choice, the droll and sophisticated Kitabhkana, is another Desiblogger. Recently I've been enjoying a few Desiblogs that are new to me too. Sepia Mutiny is nothing if not incisive, and the succinctly named Desiblog posted recently about bhangra aerobics. I've been getting a huge kick out of following Dancing With Dogs' feisty and on-the-ball Shanti. Don't miss Shanti's recent rant about why she doesn't like calling herself a feminist, as well as the fun and uninhibited commentfest that follows. (Thanks to GNXP, where I found many of these links.) Best, Michael UPDATE: Razib has put some more info and thinking about the Desi thing into a GNXP posting.... posted by Michael at September 11, 2004 | perma-link | (26) comments

Sunday, September 5, 2004

New Blowhard: Francis Morrone
Another break from the usual flow: I'm delighted to announce that the terrific Francis Morrone has agreed to join us as a regular blogger chez les Blowhards. You've probably already run into some of Francis' writing in various commentsfests, and as an occasional poster over at David Sucher's blog (here). But Francis has been developing a case of blogging fever, and I'm thrilled he's decided to do some more carrying-on here. Francis -- who will be blogging under his real name -- is a well-known architecture historian, a lecturer, and a teacher, and is the author of numerous classy architectural guides; you can check a few of them out here, here and here. (In case anyone's in doubt about this, "Fenster Moop," "Vanessa del Blowhard," and "Michael Blowhard" are pseudonyms.) Francis also writes a weekly column for the New York Sun, gives walking tours of NYC neighborhoods, and maintains his own extensive and fun-to-explore website here. He's no stranger to regular blogging either. Back in 2001, he was one of the very earliest bloggers, running a site called (hilariously) "Not Herbert Muschamp"; sadly, it isn't online any longer. I have to say that, when I get around to creating a one-volume anthology of Architecture-Thought Essentials, it'll certainly include an ultra-fab essay that Francis wrote for The New Criterion back in 2002, entitled "Do Architecture Critics Matter?" The essay can be read here; I hereby and heartily proclaim it to be Necessary Reading. I'm of course looking forward to being set straight by Francis on matters architectural, but I'm also hoping that he'll feel free to gab about whatever topics it pleases him to gab about. Movies, food, ads, art shows -- hey, it's all culture. Like Fenster, Francis has the gift for writing -- and writing super-fluently -- about everything in the right (ie., congenial, helpful, open, entertaining) spirit. When we chatted on the phone recently, Francis was quick to make sure I understood that -- despite his prodigious output -- he considers himself not an arts pro but a true arts "amateur" -- that is, someone who, no matter how he gets by, does it out of love. Amen, bro', to that. Please join me in saying hi to Francis.... posted by Michael at September 5, 2004 | perma-link | (6) comments

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Donate to Steve
Dear Vanessa -- Blogsurfin' fans of Steve Sailer's will want to make like me and contribute to his current fund-raising drive. Since Steve's work provides me with more free-thinking provocation, information, and matter to chew on than does the entire NYTimes, it struck me as quite a bargain to kick in the equivalent of a four or five months' subscription to the Times. Amazon and Paypal make the donating easy. Go and cough up here, then hang around to explore and enjoy Steve's brain and writing. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 8, 2004 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, July 22, 2004

More Cell Phone Annoyances
Dear Vanessa -- Those people who continue talking on the cellphone even while paying the cashier? How can anyone be so rude? And how's the cashier supposed to take their behavior? Nate Davis has been the cashier; he tells how fond he is of rude cellphone behavior here. Being one of Manhattan's few cellphone-free inhabitants myself, I see no upside whatsoever in the devices. As far as I'm concerned, all they've introduced into my life are a lot of unwanted externalities: madly-gabbing one-armed drivers; pedestrians who weave about erratically while waving their arms (a genuine nuisance in NYC, where sidewalks are narrow and crowded); cab drivers overexcited to be in touch with relatives in Nigeria. Worst of all: colleagues who leave work early because you can "reach them on the cell" after all -- but who, when you do call them, can't concentrate, struggling as they are with bad connections and screaming kids. At the doctor's today, I discovered yet another bummer: waiting rooms have been changed for the worse by cellphones. Perverse though it may sound, I used to enjoy the half-hour wait for the doctor. The air conditioning ... the magazines I'd never read otherwise ... the dozing and deep-breathing ... What with cellphones, though, the half-hour wait for the doc has become one long annoyance. There's the beeping and chirping to contend with, as well as the one-sided, overloud conversations. Today, I got to hear a business deal being hashed out; a Daddy being implored repeatedly to give his daughter more money; and train reservations get arranged. There was also the inevitable conversation about where exactly the cellphonist is located. ("Well, I'm in the doctor's waiting room right now. I got here about ten minutes ago, and blah blah ...") Not a single one of these cellphone gabbers made any effort to go out into the hall and leave the rest of us in peace. Are you any good at triumphing in these situations? I'm not. "Glaring," my usual weapon of choice, serves no purpose in NYC, where people make faces back at you and double their volume levels. I'm too polite a mid-American -- or maybe just too terrified -- to try scolding people for their bad manners. New Yorkers like nothing better than someone who's telling them to act decently; it gives them a target to heap abuse on. Shush someone, or (worse) tell them to be considerate, and the word "fascist" is guaranteed to be launched at you within seconds. Inside of a minute, you'll find yourself saddled with blame for slavery, various wars, and gas-price hikes. So I keep to myself, writhe impotently, and wind up feeling bad about my impotence. But, given that none of my companions in the doctor's waiting-room looked even the slightest bit peeved by all the cellphone rudeness going on around them, I guess the battle for quiet and civility has already been lost. And the BBC reports here that Europeans love love love their cellphones, and feel... posted by Michael at July 22, 2004 | perma-link | (14) comments

Many thanks to everyone who offered tips and coaching about controlling commentspam. Being the weeniest of technoweenies, I'm dependent on the kindness of strangers, and so am doubly appreciative. Major thanks as well to Daniel and Leilah at Westgate Necromantic who, overnight, installed MTBlacklist and the MTCloseComments plugin -- I wouldn't have been able to accomplish such a task in a zillion years. (Any computer challenge more demanding than typing in a password is beyond me.) But Daniel and Leilah have left me feeling optimistic once again about this blog's chances of surviving the evil plague of commentspam. I enthusiastically recommend Daniel and Leilah, by the way, to anyone interested in setting up (or updating, or tweaking) a blog or a website. They're fast and good, their prices are fair, and they're a complete pleasure to deal with. Their own smokin' Goth website is here.... posted by Michael at July 22, 2004 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Dear Vanessa -- I woke up this morning to find hundreds and hundreds of new spam-comments deposited on this blog. It took more than half an hour to cleanse them away. When it gets to this stage, spam-comments become more than a mere annoyance; they start threatening to make blogging not worth a blogger's time. In recent months, I've had to spend hours and hours of my life on spam-comment maintenance to keep this blog in running order. I've got nearly 500 IP addresses on our "banned" list so far. 500! -- that's 'way too much banning, and 'way too much time spent on banning. But the worst was yet to come, because this morning I also discovered a scary and unwelcome new spam-comment twist, a new generation (I think) of spam-comments: spam-comments that appear on the public version of the blog -- a websurfer looking at a posting would see them -- but that don't show up from inside the guts of the blog. In other words, the spam-comments have been deposited on the blog in such a way that visitors can see them, yet I can't delete them. When I go behind the scenes to do my usual spam-comment maintenance, these new spam-comments are invisible, so I can't get at them to zap them. I'm not sure I'm being clear, so forgive me for trying again. The affected posting when viewed by a visitor is dotted with spam comments. But the same posting when viewed from within Movable Type -- which usually shows the posting's contents as well as all the attached comments -- doesn't show that any spam-comments are on the posting at all. Some examples of postings that from the public's p-o-v have tons of spam-comments on them but which from inside Movable Type don't: this posting here, this one here, this one here, this one here, this one here, and this one here. From within Movable Type, I can see none of the spam-comments visitors can see. So I can't remove them, and I'm having nightmares about watching the blog drown in tidal waves of spam-comments that I'm helpless to do anything about. Has anyone run across these newfangled spam-comments? Is there a sensible way to contend with them? Also: is now a good time to upgrade to Movable Type 3.0? I confess to feeling baffled when I look at Movable Type's webpage (here). I can't tell whether we're being told that geeks and only geeks should now make an early move, or whether the time has come for everyone to upgrade. Many thanks for advice and tips. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 21, 2004 | perma-link | (12) comments

Saturday, May 22, 2004

One Blowhard
Visitors may have noticed that postings from Friedrich von Blowhard have been sparse in the past few weeks. In fact, life and business have dropped some extra-demanding challenges in his lap -- so much so that FvB has reluctantly concluded that the demands of regular blogging have become too great. Caution: FvB mind (and eye) at work The good news is that, by dint of gentle harassment, er, coaxing, I got FvB to agree to label his new blogstate "an open-ended sabbatical" instead of "outright retirement." I'm feeling pretty confident that he'll be making regular appearances in the Comments threads. More optimistically, I'm hoping he'll see the blog as an undemanding and friendly hangout, to be taken advantage of at whatever pace he chooses. So, shhhhh: don't let him know, because I don't want to scare him off. But I suspect we may not have seen the last of FvB's postings, even if they appear only very occasionally. To be honest, I marvel that he's lasted as long as he has. As a few visitors have no doubt noticed, FvB has been the Blowhard who supplies the blog's gravitas. While I've played imp, FvB has rolled up his sleeves, dug into messy and significant subjects, and delivered real goods. How'd he manage? I lead a streamlined bohemian life that offers a fair number of opportunities for mischief, while FvB leads a different kind of life altogether. He's an entrepreneur with his own business; he and his wife have a house and three kids; and he's his family's financial provider. I marvel at adults leading family-house-and-job lives: how do they find time and energy for Culture at all? (I mean, aside from the occasional DVD.) So I marvel doubly at FvB, who, despite his extra-heavy set of responsibilities, managed to write not just Posting #1, but hundreds and hundreds more. I suspect that the real reason he managed to crank out provocative writing for as long as he did is the fact that, like me, he's been having such a good time. For one thing, this digging-in-and-giving-heroic-thought-to behavior of his is something FvB does in the normal course of events. It's not some otherwise-hidden spigot he turned on purely for the blog; it's a basic part of who he is. He was rumbling along in this fashion when I first met him back in college, and he's never stopped since. He's got a mind like a diesel engine, made for eathworks and heavy lifting. Even the recent emails he's sent me about how Blogging has Become Too Much have been full of facts and thinking about early modernism, the meaning of the avant-garde in mid-19th century Paris, etc. Just between y'all and me, it wouldn't take much work at all to turn these emails into terrific blog postings. Too bad that isn't to be. FWIW (and as though anyone's interested), FvB and I did our best from the outset to make our blogging as direct an extension as possible of the... posted by Michael at May 22, 2004 | perma-link | (30) comments

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- * John Kerry's daughter Alexandra seems determined to give the Bush girls a run for the wild-child trophy, here. (Link thanks to Daze Reader, here.) * The NYTimes' most-underappreciated arts writer, IMHO, is their architecture-history columnist Christopher Gray. He's knowledgeable, responsive, and civilized; he writes extremely well in a low-key way; he knows how to help you see and appreciate what he shows you; and he's pushing no bizarro agenda. I met him once and was amused by how quick he was to assert, "I'm not a critic." Indeed, he seemed to relish the fact that his column runs in the paper's Real-Estate section rather than its Arts section. (My interpretation: he's pleased to be where he is because there's less hysteria and egomania to deal with in Real Estate than in Arts.) He gabs in characteristically sweet and helpful fashion about the history and features of some first-rate NYC buildings in this show with WNYC's Leonard Lopate, here. Here's Gray's latest Times column. * Steve Sailer's piece about nepotism around the world, here, is an eye-opener, as well as essential understanding-today's-world reading. * I'm not a huge fan of the work of the Canadian avant-garde filmmaker Guy Maddin. But he sure talks about movies entertainingly, here. * Enthusiastic collectors for decades, the Japanese seem to have brought as much of their amazing aesthetic sense to postcards as they did to their well-known prints. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has mounted a major show of Japanese postcards, and has done a good job of representing them online, here. * More on the French Paradox -- eat well, stay slim -- can be read here. * This Washington Post piece here by the notoriously confident and aggressive literary agent Andrew Wylie will leave you with a pretty accurate impression of what the glamor-and-lit side of the trade-publishing biz is often like. (Link thanks to Kitabkhana, here.) * Kevin Holtsberry has done a terrific two-part interview with W. Wesley McDonald, the author of a new biography of conservative guru Russell Kirk. Both parts of the q&a can be accessed from this page here. * Should tubby people really be showing off the tubbiness in low-riders? The sex columnist Dan Savage (here) asks for mercy. Some of his readers, in true alternative-weekly fashion, think that makes Dan an Evil Person. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 19, 2004 | perma-link | (7) comments

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- * I loved snooping around Alex Chun's website, here. Alex, a devotee of the work of pin-up cartoonists, collects saucy art by guys like Jack Cole, Bill Ward and Dan DeCarlo. (During his G-rated work hours, DeCarlo was the main artist for the "Archie" comic books.) Alex has published collections of the work of some of these guys too; they can be bought at Amazon. * JW Hastings thinks that the modernists gave "middlebrow" art and audiences an undeservedly bad rap, here. "America is pretty much a middlebrow country. This makes sense: Americans, as a type, aspire to be better than while shunning elitism," JW writes. "Most of our best artists aim for a middlebrow audience. And this is a good thing." * I don't link to Alan Sullivan's blog Fresh Bilge (here) often enough, and though it's my fault, I'll pin the blame on Alan anyway. He keeps the thinking and writing levels so high it's hard to pick one posting over the others -- just about all of them stand out. Alan's a really good writer; it doesn't hurt that he seems to be a seasoned human being either. Be sure to ogle this wild piece of art-furniture (a "throne-screen," whatever that is) that Alan's peddling, here. * Gerald Vanderleun's obit/memoir of the poet Thom Gunn (here) is personal and very moving. * Ian Hamet has posted a lovely biography/appreciation of the great Buster Keaton here. * Mara Miller's discussion of how to teach Japanese aesthetics (here) is also a firstclass introduction to Japanese aesthetics. * Whisky Prajer has posted a sensible appraisal of The Atlantic Monthly here, and links to an interview with the crime writer Dennis Lehane here. * A new study (here) suggests that women remember how other people look better than men do. Interesting to notice that both women and men were better at recalling how women look than at recalling how men look. What to make of this? * Tyler Cowen (here) points out a study about how women select their mates, here. Encouraging if tentative conclusion, at least for us prettyboys: "As our ancestors evolved, the ability to attract a female mate through good looks may have become more important in the mating stakes than the ability to fight off male rivals." Take that, brutes. * Fenster Moop works in a position of responsibility at a college, yet he's an unorthodox (if responsible) free thinker -- imagine that. He also has a way with the language, and a lot of unapologetic common sense. His recent posting about diveristy policies and accreditation (here) is characteristically smart, rueful and feisty. * John Massengale visits Frank Gehry's $300 million new computer-science building for MIT (here) and isn't impressed. Neither is James Kunstler, here, who gives it his Eyesore of the Month award. The NYTimes' Sara Rimer seems to consider the building a Major Art Event, here. * Toby Young writes an amusing Slate Diary that begins here about a recent trip to... posted by Michael at May 13, 2004 | perma-link | (8) comments

Friday, April 30, 2004

More Elsewhere
Dear Friedrich -- * I just learned that this year is the centennial of the birth of the roguish and great Fats Waller (1904-1943). He's certainly one of my favorite American entertainers; I can't think of many artists from any era whose work puts as big a smile on my face. Those who haven't yet treated themselves to Fats' fab and happy music might think of starting with this CD here. If tracks like "Honeysuckle Rose" and "The Joint is Jumpin'" don't raise your spirits, well, then you might as well give up now because you're already dead. Classic Fats line: "One never knows, do one?" * I found this Amy Harmon piece here for the NYTimes about Asperger's Syndrome fascinating. Asperger's, short version, is high-functioning autism. People with it are often very bright, and tend to develop intense if narrow interests. But they also seem to have a hard time picking up nonverbal signals -- they're emotionally tone-deaf. It's the syndrome du jour, which makes me a bit wary, but it's a fun syndrome to think about anyway. Might it help explain the work of someone like the brilliant pianist Glenn Gould, for instance? There are lots of talented and eccentric musicians, of course. Even so, Gould -- the man and his piano-playing both -- stood out. He was so ... singular. He was odd and distinctive to the point of seeming like an alien. So perhaps he was an "Aspie," as people with Asperger's call themselves. This isn't just my hunch, by the way -- the possibility that Gould was an Aspie has been much-discussed by Gould fanatics. Music buffs have also speculated that another great one-off, Thelonious Monk, might have had Asperger's too. Who knows? But both guys certainly seem to have rolled along a different set of rails than most of us do. Reading about the syndrome, I also find myself thinking about one side of my family. (Asperger's tends to run in families.) These relatives, who I'm very fond of, are smart and endlessly interesting. They're also ... Well, talking with them, you sometimes feel like you're talking to Martians. They're sometimes bizarrely blunt. They don't seem to have any instinctive sense of what's expected of them. The usual unconscious back-and-forth -- the swing of a conversation -- tends to grind to a halt. Signals aren't being picked up; things that don't usually need explicit spelling-out have got to be spelled out, or else. Aspies all, perhaps? Why do I suspect that a lot of ultra-brainy webheads might be a bit Aspie too? And how about all those oddball, pedantic college profs? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 30, 2004 | perma-link | (12) comments

Dear Friedrich -- * I assume that almost everyone has enjoyed reading this excerpt from the new Jonathan Margolis book about orgasm. If not, don't miss it, here. Fun passage: The nature of the female orgasm can now be seen in a new light: as a selective mechanism for women to choose mates not as an animal would - by body size, ferocity and aggressiveness - but by qualities such as intellect, sensitivity, kindness and popularity, plus not a little dexterity. No wonder Darwin said: "The power to charm the female has sometimes been more important than the power to conquer other males in battle." So we sensitive males can rely on our charm, rather than our nonexistent alpha-impressiveness, to score a little nookie, eh? Good to hear! I guess it's inevitable that Margolis treats the male orgasm as no big mystery while he treats the female orgasm as something that requires a lot of ... well, thought. And attention. And scrutiny. (Link thanks to ALD, here.) * This piece here in the Contra Costa Times reports that a recent Harris poll found that only 36% of unscheduled absences last year were actually illness-related. In other words, a lotta people who are calling in sick aren't really sick. Quel shockeroo. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 30, 2004 | perma-link | (5) comments

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- * Richard Grant's encounter with the comedian and filmmaker Christopher ("Spinal Tap," "A Mighty Wind") Guest is, as you'd expect, very amusing. It can be read here. * Did you know that Martin Mull, who's best known as a comedian (I love his "History of White People in America," buyable as a book here and as a videotape here), is also a serious visual artist? Good stuff, too, at least if you're in the mood for sorta-conceptual, sorta-art-school painting. You can eyeball some of Mull's work here, and a book of his paintings can be bought here. * The Book Babes marvel entertainingly and informatively about Bill and Hillary's oeuvre, here. * Talk about ultra-low-budget moviemaking! Check out what you can do with a budget of approximately $3.98, here. * Book collectors love snagging books that have been signed by their authors. I didn't realize it until now, but this taste for signed books didn't become widespread until recent years. The first-class mystery novelist Lawrence Block tells what the development has meant for authors, here. * I often wonder why economists aren't more interested in symbolic activity than they are. It seems plenty obvious that some policies are arrived at not because they work in any rational sense, but simply because of the signals they send. They make people feel good; they somehow mean something important. How much of our effort (and money) do we put into this kind of behavior? And what are its payoffs and virtues? Any thoughts here, economists? Anyway, I was tickled to see that Glenn Loury has formulated this question much better than I have; his essay can be read here. * Westerners often think of yoga as nothing but physical exercise -- stretch class, basically. In fact, yoga is a loose suite of things -- a philosophical system, a set of self-help tips, a religion, and yes physical exercise too. I'm finding it fascinating to explore all these worlds, and I enjoy checking in with Alan Little's yoga-themed weblog regularly. Here's a good Alan posting on the hardcore style of yoga known as Ashtanga. Alan's a first-class photographer as well as a knowledgeable yoga buff, so all you folks who enjoy thinking about photography will find much to chew on chez Alan as well. * Susan, of the blog Spinning, has been doing some helpful thinking about reading styles and hypertext, here. Well, to be honest, I guess by "helpful" I really mean that I agree with her. You go, Susan. * Edgy design doesn't interest me much these days. But people who do get a kick out of modern design should be tickled by MocoLoco, a very well-done modern-design blog, here. Keep up with the latest in blobbiness, glass, fractured geometry, and translucency. * I have no idea whether he's considered a genius or a lunatic, but Rodney Stark's evo-bio-style thinking about religion strikes me as eye-opening and plausible. Well, more than that, really, but I'm in a self-restraining phase... posted by Michael at April 29, 2004 | perma-link | (6) comments

Friday, April 23, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- * Chip McGrath, the former editor of the New York Times Book Review section, is now covering quirky cultural subjects for the newspaper. He has an interesting piece here about a cache -- 2000 pages' worth! -- of previously-unknown F. Scott Fitzgerald screenplay work that was just sold at auction. * Will e-book reading devices -- not ebooks as pieces of writing, but the standalone pieces of hardware made to display them -- ever take off commercially? For many good reasons, none have so far. But this new Sony device here, soon to be released in Japan, seems like the most plausible candidate yet. * Still in her beloved Poland, Maureen giggles at Polish rap, and finally figures out when it's OK to wear her Manolos and when it's better not to, here. * That buffalo-stampede rumbling you hear? It's the sound of movie critics all over the country hustling to fax resumes and clips to the NYTimes' arts editor. Why? Because, as Gawker (here) reports, rumors have it that Elvis Mitchell, the Times' snazzy film critic, has resigned. Talk about a much-coveted position. * Is there such a thing as rational irrationality? I certainly think so, and I'm glad to see that at least one real live philosopher, Alfred Mele, thinks so too (here). * Visitors who enjoy wrangling with notions of "utility" and "satisfaction" should get a kick out of this Martin Seligman interview about happiness, here. FWIW, I read one of Seligman's books years ago; it struck me as humane and solid. Arts and Letters Daily (here) links to another review of the current Barry Schwartz book about how too much choice can make people feel depressed, here. * Good lord: I neglect to visit Alice Bachini's blog (here) for a few weeks, and when I return it's only to discover that she's given up blogging. I'm sorry to learn that. Alice has always been a unique combo of brains, earthiness, larkiness, insight and sparkle. I was so amused and dazzled that I've been perplexed that her blog never became a bigger Web phenomenon than it did; if Alice doesn't have blogwriting star power, I don't know who does. But she's off to new challenges and parties now. Many thanks to Alice for a great show. * And talking about charmante: have you ever run across the one-of-a-kind jazz singer Blossom Dearie? Her voice may be a little Bettie Boop and a little Goldie Hawn, but there's a sly musician's mind at work behind the scenes as well; she's a sophisticated, mock-naive cartoon golddigger, roughly. I'm no scholar of her work, but I do know that whenever I hear her she puts a big smile on my face. If you go to this page here and click on "blossom_dearie-always_true_to_you_in_my_fashion.mp3" you can listen to her version of the wickedly deadpan Cole Porter song "Always True to You in My Fashion," also a fave of mine. Hey, wait: you can download the file too. Can this... posted by Michael at April 23, 2004 | perma-link | (3) comments

Friday, April 16, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- * A good taxonomy makes my brain feel like a closet that's just been cleaned and ordered; it can also enhance my grasp and enjoyment of art. Forager23 has a workable and ingenious taxonomy here of the various kinds of caper films. * John Massengale gets off a lot of sharp ones in his posting about the architects Andres Duany and Rem Koolhaas, here. Example: Late Modernism is sometimes analogous to Late Adolescence, which, of course, is the age of some architecture students. John also runs a long passage of Duany's own prose that shouldn't be missed. Example: Modernism -- which is a history of failure -- must evolve at a tremendous rate in order to evade the taint -- the stink -- of failed expectations. That was then ... look at this now! It will work this time. Trust us ... Society continues to grant modernist architects one more chance again and again. * Camera memory cards seem to be handling ever more data with ever more virtuosity. A consequence: digital cameras and digital videocams are beginning to merge. Already, of course, you can make rudimentary videoclips with many digital still cameras. And already a few hybrid still-camera/videocams are available. So far, they're pretty rudimentary too. Moi, I predict that, once it approaches maturity, this product -- whatever it winds up being called -- will become a huge hit. Well, I sure want one, anyway. Here's the latest iteration of the device, which is already accumulating good reviews at Amazon. * Scientific American reports that scientists using brain-imaging machines have located where in the brain aesthetic experience seems to occur, here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 16, 2004 | perma-link | (2) comments

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Life Among the Ruins
Michael: Thanks for the reference to an amazing website, DetroitYes! with its remarkable subtitle: Home to the Fabulous Ruins of Detroit. (You should check this out, here.) I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. However, after reaching the ripe old age of 18, I only lived in the Detroit metropolitan area (on and off) for three more years prior to leaving for good at 26. Possibly because of youthful callowness and self-centeredness, I dont think it really struck me at the time or even after my relocation to California that the period of my blossoming into adulthood had coincided with a truly remarkable collapse of my old home town. Oh, sure, even while growing up in Detroit it was known as The Murder Capital of the U.S.A. Heck, during my first job out of college when I was working downtown I myself was kidnapped at gunpoint while being relieved of my wallet and my car. (Nobody took this too seriously, not even me.) And the city was known for its racial tensions, what with the 68 riots, white flight to the suburbs and the fights over forced bussing in the Nixon years. And in my few reflective moments during my stint working downtown (1976-8) it struck me as odd that whole swaths of downtown had been demolished as a result of something called urban renewal and didnt appear to be slated for rebuilding anytime soon. (Few cities Ive visited since combine skyscrapers with sudden patches of uncut grass growing in vacant lots a la Detoit.) And it did seem peculiar that some of the citys worst neighborhoods were housed in large, stately structures that must have once verged on mansion-hood. But the true dimensions of what was happening didnt really register, at least not consciously. After all, in many ways metropolitan Detroit was (and I assume remains) a wealthy area. During my youth, I recall, it was the third largest (media? retail?) market in the country. The auto industry was a huge money pump, and not only to its large executive class: in the late 1970s semi-skilled (if unionized) labor on the assembly line was paid $40 an hour (counting benefits, anyway). The suburbs, at least, continued to expand, swallowing up farmland north and west of the city. If you focused on that part of the story, things didnt look so bad. But when I opened this website, I realized what a remarkable story had been unfolding under my nose. The creator of this website, Lowell Boileau (a painter) is a long-term Detroiter who has kept his eyes open during the past 30 years. He tells how he became a chronicler of the fabulous ruins of Detroit-- In the summer of 1971, I returned to Detroit after two and a half years in Africa, the Middle East and Europe where I had visited numerous ancient ruins. Detroit was restive, as the social revolutions of the late 60's played out their effects, and in transformation as its population began vacating... posted by Friedrich at March 24, 2004 | perma-link | (20) comments

Monday, March 22, 2004

Comment-Spam Update
Dear Friedrich -- Sad to report, but we've hit a small landmark. We've now banned over 200 evil IP addresses from posting comments on our blog -- well, really, from comment-spamming us. There oughta be a law. Well, maybe not. But some tactical nuke-ing would suit me fine. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 22, 2004 | perma-link | (5) comments

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- I confess it: I'm a hoarder. Not a collector but instead someone who heaps up goodies while making vague vows to do something -- and something wonderful -- with them at some vague future date. That date never comes, of course -- which is how my link-a-thons get so overgrown. I know I should do better, so I hereby vow to pass along my hoards of cherished links more regularly. Hey, I'll be supplying link-a-thins instead of link-a-thons. * Glad to hear you enjoyed that Robert Locke piece about corporatism. I've enjoyed wrestling with a lot of his pieces over the last few days. Here's an archive of them. * Here's a semi-debate, semi-discussion between the modernist architect Dan Solomon and the New Urbanism honcho Andres Duany. My favorite passage from Duany: And finally, there is the win/loss ratio. Dan, you and I know that there are between 300 and 3,000 modernist masterpieces. We've visited them, we admire them, we understand them. They are not the problem. The problem is the 30 million failures of modernism that have destroyed our cities and our landscapes. You cannot have one without acknowledging the other. There were very few failures prior to modernism. Architects and builders could rely on tradition to give them a base below which quality would not drop while not preventing masterpieces. The problem with modernism is that without acknowledging tradition there is no bottom it does not reach. Too many architects, unsupplied with genius, are asked to emulate the design methods of Wright, Mies, LeCorbusier, and the few geniuses there have been. And the result has been a comprehensive, world-girdling disaster. We cannot, as urbanists, for the sake of the occasional masterpiece, tolerate such an abysmal win/loss ratio. No one would in any other field. Why should architects be exempt? * Also snagged from The Town Paper: Laurence Aurbach's terrific page of links to New-Urb websites, here. There's hours of fun browsing and grazing to be had from this page. * You can read, watch or listen to a talk with Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Duany's co-honcho, here. If you've got a fast connection it's worth watching the video version -- Plater-Zyberk and the interviewer stroll through the new-traditionalist town of Kentlands as they talk. * Michael Hill explains the impact of the great, or not-so-great, Screen Actors Guild strike of 2000, here. * One of my favorite economists is the Chicagoan Frank Knight, probably as much for his snazzy, wry attitude and prose style as for his views. Here's a Library of Economics and Liberty page that links to a bio of Knight as well as to a piece by the Harvard economist George Borjas about immigration. The Library has posted a Knight essay here. * Andy Garcia is Modigliani, here. * The NYTimes' Nicholas Wade writes about what evolutionary biology might have to say about the origins of language, here. I think I snagged this link from Gene Expression, here. I notice at GNXP, by the... posted by Michael at March 17, 2004 | perma-link | (5) comments

Friday, March 12, 2004

The New York Times Takes Marching Orders From 2Blowhards
Dear Friedrich -- Do you get the feeling that we're being watched? I do. We go on (and, admittedly, on and on) about the New Classicism in architecture. Yesterday, the NYTimes profiles the terrific New Classicist Thomas Gordon Smith, here. We promote a more open way of discussing books and book publishing, and the Times goes looking for exactly that attitude in their new Book Review editor. A story about who they've chosen for the position is here. We rave about the too-little-known novelist Tom Perrotta. And um, er -- whose new novel would you guess is on the cover of the upcoming Sunday NYTimes Book Review Section? Right you are. (This story isn't online yet.) Spooky! Next thing you know, the Times will start championing 19th century American art, running appreciations of Anne Coulter, dissecting contempo magazine design, wondering what's what with young gals these days, and covering the topic of immigration. Oh, wait: they recently started taking note of immigration. Good lord, they're snapping at our heels. I don't know how all this copycatting makes me feel. On the one hand, it's only just (of course) that the world should be coming 'round to our way of seeing. On the other, if the Times continues to take its cue from us, things will soon get to the point where nothing Times-ian will be left to complain about. And I do love bitching about the Times. I dread the day when everyone finally sees sense and agrees with us, don't you? Because then we'll have to come up with something new to annoy people with, and -- at our slowing-down stage in life -- I don't know whether I'll have it in me. Fires burn only so long. In the meantime, what do you say we demand a consultant's fee? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 12, 2004 | perma-link | (26) comments

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- Hey, some new-to-me blogs I've been enjoying: * As far as I'm concerned, the big news in blogville is the return of the blogger formerly known as Cinderella Bloggerfella. He's now going by the handle J. Cassian and he has new digs here. But the old, inimitable brains and range of interests are on full display; already he's made some sense out of Macdonia, Catalonia, and Turkmenistan. Thanks to Tatyana for turning up CB's new incarnation. * The blogger (nameless, as far as I've been able to tell) at Rogue Classicism (here) is delivering a lot for your blogsurfing energy and time: this-date-in-history stuff; lots of classicist info, links and thoughts; even classical-history-oriented TV-viewing tips. * First-class Texas observing/thinking/reacting/writing is available at Three Dog Blog (here) and from Cowtown Pattie (here). Both have exuberance and freshness to spare. * Simon Kinahan (here) keeps it loose and witty. Recently he's written about ski injuries, CEOs who are younger than you are, and how irritating Neal Stephenson can be. He's one of those writers I read, nodding my head and thinking, "I know what he's talking about." * The English blogger Bilious Young Fogey (here) is young, conservative, and gay -- seems to be the latest thing. Bilious is also smart, free-thinking and provocative. * It's hard to beat Michael Huang (here) for thoughtfulness about big and weighty matters. Check out his postings on "The Passion"; I enjoyed another posting, this one about religious iconography, even more. * Rowdiness and brains from San Jose's WhiskeyPrajer, who blogs at Sodden Revelations, here. WhiskeyP finds himself in the middle of a favorite of yours, Walter Hill's "The Warriors" (here), and wonders whether such a thing as sexual maturity exists here. * The host at Tumblehome (here) describes himself as a Torontonian and occasional canoe guide, and he looks set to bring some welcome Canadian p-o-v into the cultureblogging scene. Here's an impressive and enjoyable posting about Canada's Group of Seven painters. Don't miss the galleries of G7 art he's put up too. * The lefty media critic Eric Alterman made jaws drop all over the country when he entitled his latest book "What Liberal Media?" The bloggers at Oh, That Liberal Media (here) are doing a convincing job of answering Alterman's question. * High-class filmchat and more from Michael Brooke, here. * Ah, the old question: are the English really bright, or is the appearance of intelligence just a function of how well they use the language? Mick Hartley (here), for one, seems to be both terribly bright and a really good writer. He gabs about politics and culture from what I guess I'd call a funky-right p-o-v. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 11, 2004 | perma-link | (9) comments

Monday, March 1, 2004

Spam Musings
Dear Friedrich -- Good lord, but the flow of information on the Internet is filling up with crap. To use this blog as an example: In our blog's mailbox, we receive around 75 pieces of junk for every legit email. Every few weeks, blizzards of spam comments glom onto our postings. I weed them out, and am diligent about banning offending IP's -- I've now banned more than 130 IP's. Nonetheless, every few weeks spam comments barrel in from a new set of IP's. That button in our left-hand column called "Our Last 50 Referrers"? It's a nice feature. Click on it, and you can see the sites where visitors have clicked through from. It's a way to learn about who's linked to us, and a wonderful way to learn about other blogs. Well, that feature is the latest one to fall victim to spam-esque assaults. Nearly half of the sites that show up as referrers are bogus -- outright porn sites, or innocent-seeming Blogspot sites that, when clicked on, wrench you into a hell of popups and endlessly-cycling windows, with no way to put an end to it but to shut down your browser. It's a nightmare. A small and manageable nightmare so far, although I'm not thrilled about the hours I've lost picking through trash email and cleaning out spam comments. We pay a monthy fee to our blog's host; now we're paying yet more in terms of the time we spend defending ourselves against spam and quasi-spam. And it's getting worse; the Economist recently reported that spam now accounts for close to 60% of all email traffic. Do you have any sense of what's likely to happen? A few questions: Spam-commenters spend tons of money buying up IP's, right? Which must mean that they make enough money from scattering spam comments to justify the expense, right? But how do they make money from scattering spam comments? What's going to happen when spammers start attaching video files to their emails? If the 'net is clogged now, how clogged will it be then? Let me see if I'm getting this right: Natural understandings, restraints and arrangements -- costs, weight, physical material -- repress and oppress us, and the Internet sets us free of them. But there's no Internet without spam. To defend ourselves against it, we now have to develop new forms of restraint and control. But this time around we don't get to rely on what's unspoken and passed along. Instead, we have to consciously design these new arrangements; they have to be explicit. And because they'll inevitably have the quality of puzzles, and because some maniac will always be trying to crack these puzzles ... Well, we're stuck in an endless arms race, right? Is my reasoning off here? Do spammers argue that they're exercising their freedom of speech? That would seem to raise the question of cost. For example: it costs the spammer next to nothing to exercise his freedom of speech by adding my name... posted by Michael at March 1, 2004 | perma-link | (18) comments

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- * Book Babe meets Hollywood Animal! Ellen Hetzel interviews the screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, here. * I enjoyed exploring the website of DesignChapel, a hot Swedish design outfit, here. Stylish, edgy-but-elegant, and not for those who don't have broadband. * An exciting new addition to the blogosphere is John Massengale, here, who describes himself as "a recovering architect." Would that there were many more such. John designs Classical and Traditional; sees modernism as just another style; and many of the books and authors on his list of recommended readings (here) will be familiar to 2Blowhards visitors. He also helped write (alongside the architect Robert A.M. Stern and others) the fantastic book New York 1900 (buyable here). Go, team. * The architect Lucien Steil, who runs the wonderful webzine Katarxis (here), wrote in to alert me to a delicious-sounding architecture-and-urbanism conference that'll take place in May, in Viseu, Portugal. Details about the conference are here. Now, if the NEA will only give me a grant so I can attend ... Lucien, by the way, is at work on a new issue of Katarxis that he's co-editing with the great Christopher Alexander. * James Howard Kunstler's architectural Eyesore of the Month Award (here) goes to the Stephen Holl MIT dorm we blogged about here. * Most buildings that go up will at some point also have to come down. Here's a page full of videoclips of buildings being dynamited and otherwise demolished. (Link thanks to Pamela LiCalzi O'Connell -- shorten that name, please! -- of the NYTimes.) * OGIC collects Edward Gorey books, here. * After a break, Gavin Shorto, a master of the links-plus-dry-commentary form, is blogging again here. * Nick Kallen knows how to attend a film festival, here. One hint: lots of caffeine. He's also been thinking about Chris Marker's "Sans Soleil," one of my very favorite movies, here. This mindboggling movie, which as far as I can tell is only available used and on VHS, can sometimes be bought here. * Robert Detman, hard at work on a novel, writes about agents and rejection letters here. Sensible conclusion: "Why bother with these people? How did they become the arbiters for our hard fought creations?" * Ivan Eland thinks the U.S. should avoid trying to rescue Haiti, here. Jon Walz cracks some related jokes here. * Forgive me while I do a little dance in the endzone: the topic of immigration, about which I've been blogging for a while, is starting to pop up in the mainstream -- and in the category-defying way I suspected it would. Here's a Salt Lake Tribune story about squabbles at the Sierra Club, for instance. The issue boils down to: what stand does a well-meaning leftish environmental organization take on immigration? On the one hand, good lefties are fans of high levels of immigration. On the other, many environmentalists have always been wary of population growth. Here's Brenda Walker's summary of the kerfuffle. The Immigration BigThink Award goes to Samuel ("Clash... posted by Michael at February 26, 2004 | perma-link | (5) comments

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- The quantity of good reading and looking to be found on the web is wonderful and overwhelming. It also leaves me feeling a bit apologetic when I cobble together one of these linkfests. For every good article or posting I point out, there are tons I don't find the time or wherewithal to highlight -- not that it's up to me to do so in the first place, of course. But somehow I can't help feeling sheepish anyway, like I'm being a bad friend. Which probably makes me an Old-Media (ie., someone from back when the problem was too-little rather than too-much) guy. Sigh. * Jim Kalb points out a first-rate Roger Scruton essay about Islam and politics, here (warning: PDF file). Jim comments here, and has posted some more of his own head-clearing thoughts about conservatism and liberalism here and here. * Speaking of Roger Scruton, George Hunka has been enjoying Scruton's new book about Wagner, here. George also announces (here) that he's finished the first draft of his play -- a play with no frontal nudity, and no references to George W. Bush (!!!) -- and points out here that Syberberg's zillion-hour-long Brechtian epic "Our Hitler" can now be watched on the web. Having made it through Syberberg's weirdo version of Wagner's "Parsifal," I suspect I won't be first in line for the webcast of "Our Hitler" -- but don't let my snideness deter you, no sirreee. * Lynn Sislo has been listening to and thinking about Bach, here and here. Good observations and tips, and as always Lynn makes her own, refreshingly free observations. Pro critics could learn from Lynn; there's never anything knee-jerk about her responses. * This speech-plus-q&a by the ABC newsguy John Stossel, here, should leave libertarians feeling mega-stoked. Kudos to David Theroux and the Independent Institute for running the piece. Gluttons for discussions about libertarianism -- you know you're out there! -- won't want to miss this posting-plus-comments fiesta at God of the Machine, here. * Too bad you've got to subscribe or endure a commercial to get to it, but Michael Hastings' look at Bill O'Reilly's novel -- yes, he wrote a novel -- is worth the inconvenience. Hastings has some not-so-delicate fun at the egomaniac's expense, here. * Hours can be wasted -- I can vouch for this -- exploring this page of links here. (Dutch? Danish? Hmm, "NL" -- stands for Netherlands? Well, some European micro-country or other ...) Many of the links are anything but office-safe, and many are super-amusing. * Tim Hulsey is certainly the most articulate Oscar-forecaster I've run across, here. Question: why's someone as smart as Tim spending so much brainpower on the Oscars? Have you ever been an Oscars fan yourself? Years ago I tried to work up some campy enthusiasm -- betting on winners, indulging in cattiness about outfits, attending Oscar parties with friends. But I couldn't sustain any enthusiasm. * Time to call 1-800-PETA? Here's a report on something called... posted by Michael at February 19, 2004 | perma-link | (8) comments

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

For the past few months, 2Blowhards has been amazed and pleased to welcome a couple of thousand visitors on a typical day -- hi, everyone! But back when we were just setting out, we counted ourselves lucky to play host to, oh, a couple of dozen visitors a week, most of whom probably surfed off without reading. Yet Friedrich and I remain pleased with some of those early postings. They've got some youthful p-and-v (piss and vinegar) that our more recent blogging may lack, now that we've entered our mellow, sherry-sipping, senior-statesman phase. Still fond of some of this hotheaded youthful product yet certain that almost no one explores our Archives, we've decided to revive some of our early writing. So every now and then we'll run a posting like this one, linking to some of our early oeuvre. We hope a few visitors will have a read, and that everyone will forgive us for this self-indulgence. This week's Rewind: * Friedrich von Blowhard spells out The Economics of Shakespeare, here. * Michael Blowhard waxes nostalgic about middle America, here. TECHNICAL NOTE: Our 2Blowhards emailbox has been jammed and useless for the last 24 hours. It has evidently choked on the recent virus -- thousands of emails have been showing up every day -- and is in need of some expert Heimlich maneuvering. Apologies to anyone who's been trying to get in touch. We're hoping to have functioning email again real soon.... posted by Michael at February 11, 2004 | perma-link | (8) comments

Friday, January 30, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- * DVD update: as many bloggers have already noted (here's George Hunka's posting; Terry Teachout has mentioned the event several times, but I couldn't turn up his postings), Criterion has just brought out a DVD of Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game. (It's buyable here.) It's often held by filmlovers to be the greatest movie ever made -- and if one film has to be proclaimed the Greatest Ever, I'm happy that it's "Rules." I haven't seen this Criterion disc, but news reports indicate that the print is the most pristine version extant. A friend tells me it's good indeed, though nothing like the revelation the recent restoration of "Grand Illusion" was. (The "Grand Illusion" disc, looking like it was shot yesterday, is buyable here.) The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern pointed out this morning that DVDs of two of my favorite Jacques Demy movies are available, Lola (here) and Bay of Angels (here), the latter's production supervised by Demy's widow, Agnes Varda, herself a first-class filmmaker. Did you ever do Demy? He's best known for the Deneuve musical "Umbrellas of Cherbourg," but I'm a bigger fan of these two earlier movies. They're low-budget, black and white, early New Wave pieces, and they're full of lyricism, absurdity, fate, luck and charm. Morgenstern also mentions that a movie that's one my personal faves, Robert Altman's California Split, hasn't yet been brought out on DVD. Grrrr. It's a wonderful film that I hope will soon get the DVD treatment it deserves. I watched it once on a panned-and-scanned VHS version that seemed to have been produced by a drunk in a garage; it was a powerful lesson in just how much a movie can lose in interest when given a lousy presentation. * Maureen pointed out this touching blogtribute by John Perry Barlow to his friend Spalding Gray, here, the well-known actor and performance artist. Gray, who has evidently always been prone to depression, disappeared a few weeks ago, has yet to be found, and is assumed by most to have killed himself. * Can too much choice become overwhelming? The question is still rattling around the blogosphere. Will Wilkinson comments here; and Tyler Cowen comments here. * I notice rather late in the game that the very snazzy Colby Cosh (here), in a best-of-the-blogs posting, has awarded 2Blowhards a Special Interdisciplinary Statuette for successfully inhabiting "the murky crossroads between biology, politics, and art." Thanks, Colby -- you rule, dude. * After a few years following the publishing industry, I began telling young people to go get degrees in copyright law -- it seemed clear as a bell to me that, thanks to the digital tidal wave, copyright law would be a lively field for decades. Arts and Letters Daily (here) points out this good Robert Boynton overview of differing approaches to copyright, here. An infinitely more interesting and important topic -- even from an arty point of view -- than any critic's evaluation of the latest hot... posted by Michael at January 30, 2004 | perma-link | (2) comments

Friday, January 23, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- * I've noticed fun and substantial reactions to our interview with Jim Kalb from Thrasymachus (here) and Squub (here). I also notice that, at his own blog, Jim has been exploring some of the questions that got raised, here and here. If anyone spots other continuing discussions of the interview, please let me know. * Polly Frost may not have been blogging much recently, but it seems she's been up to creative mischief anyway. She's written some erotic-horror short stories and will be presenting them Sunday (as in tomorrow) at a Greenwich Village club. Here's her announcement. You'll have to scroll down a bit for details. * Wired magazine reports that a Sundance favorite was edited in Imovie and made on a budget of $250, here. * Aaron Haspel is breaking windows and throwing cherrybombs again -- and I say that appreciatively. Here he rates the blogger-humorists, and here he pulls apart some critic cliches, most of which I make plenty of use of myself. * I love James Kunstler's "Eyesore of the Month" page (here). He's got a rare knack for spotting, displaying and commenting on very American forms of ugliness, disregard, and cluelessness. * In case anyone's still skeptical about my observation (here) that the culture has done a remarkably fast U-turn where the goodness or badness of carbs are concerned: Newsday reports here that sales of OJ have slowed so rapidly (due to people cutting back on easy carbs) that growers are threatening to sue the author and publisher of a low-carb diet book. By the way, I just spotted the first magazine I've noticed (aside from promotional rags such as Atkins') devoted entirely to low-carb livin'. Its website is here. A question? When Ford discovers a bad flaw in one of their cars, it's often front-page news, and Ford itself often comes in for a beating on the op-ed pages. So why, when the health-tips biz reverses direction, are similar sounds of outrage and betrayal not heard? It couldn't be because the media outlets that normally broadcast outrage are themselves part of the health-tips biz, could it? Just a hunch ... * Intense, weirdo, more-downtown-than-you actor/director Vincent ("Buffalo '66") Gallo turns out to be a Republican, here. I wonder what he thinks about Bush's budget plans. * Peter Cuthbertson suspects that a reading of Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" is likely to turn a person into a conservative, here. * Nietzsche fan that you are, you won't want to miss Patrick West's article about him in Spiked Online, here. * The New Urbanist Peter Calthorpe talks here about some of the reasons why American towns and cities are the straggly, sorry-ass things they so often are. (In his view, one of the biggest culprits is the single-home-mortgage tax deduction.) Calthorpe can get a bit Volvo-eco-hippie-ish, but he can also talk a lot of sense. An example: "To think of the street as just a utility for cars is so absurd. And yet that... posted by Michael at January 23, 2004 | perma-link | (2) comments

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- * Sean Hackbarth's reaction to the plan for a WTC memorial couldn't be briefer or more to the point, here. * SYAffolee (here) pointed this out: a be-Flash'd essay/demo about fashion photography by Karen Lehrman for Slate, here. I think I like the form Lehrman's piece takes better than her fuddy-duddyish points. It's certainly a promising way of discussing the visual world. Brian Micklethwait comments here. * The filmmaker Robert Benton tells the Telegraph why he likes Sam Peckinpah's "Ride the High Country," here. * Despite having visited Canada many times, I've never been able to puzzle out Canadian politics. Colby Cosh's posting here got me started. * I forget who pointed out this charmingly bizarre Japanese Flash whatjamajig, here. Thanks! * I've been remiss in not highlighting, here, where Franklin Einspruch discusses art in an informed and up-to-the-minute way, and where he shows off his own classy paintings. A few are fresh out of the oven today. * The times are certainly changing. Here's a USA Today editorial by Yale's Sally Shaywitz arguing that schools, especially grammar schools, may be biased against boys. * James Russell has some tough talk for Britney Spears, here. * Fun with IMDB: Joe ("Basic Instinct") Eszterhas has earned $20 million from his sold-but-as-yet-unproduced screenplays alone, here. Scroll about halfway down and find out how much he's made from the produced scripts. * Greg Ransom figures out his family's share of the national debt, here, and points out that, according to the WSJournal, "Republicans had a 28-point lead over Democrats as party best able to 'control government spending' in 1996. Now, their lead is just 2 points." * Tim Hulsey loves George Axelrod's flakily brilliant SoCal comedy "Lord Love a Duck," here. The Wife is a SoCal native, and it's one of her favorite movies too. * Our Girl in Chicago and Terry Teachout are comparing notes about movies and words, as well as movies about words, here and here. * I followed up on a referral and discovered this good Bill Brown posting about dads, parents, daughters, clothing styles and sexiness, here. * People who are fond of Arts and Crafts, bungalow-style houses should enjoy the well-done magazine American Bungalow, whose website (here) is a generous one. * Can writing be taught? Alan Sullivan has some sensible thoughts, here. "Few adults need to write creatively; but many need to write competently," he points out. * I enjoyed browsing through this comics encyclopedia, here. What a resource: 4500 artists from many different countries, with biographies and art samples. * John Derbyshire thinks that too much has been made of Lenny Bruce, here. Fab passage: "Bruce was one of those annoying people who do not see the point of the kind of mild, harmless hypocrisy that allows us to get through life without having to think about unpleasant things too much." * Evo-bio types won't want to miss Godless Capitalist's essential reading list, here. Oops: I've got some catching up to... posted by Michael at January 17, 2004 | perma-link | (7) comments

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Dear Friedrich -- I was about to begin this linkathon with "I still haven't caught entirely up since we took our holiday break." But then I realized there's never any catching up with the web, or even with the blogosphere. They're such rich, ever-in-flux environments that all you can ever really do is plunge in and take a little note of what you encounter. Herewith, just a little of what I've enjoyed recently. * The immigration debates rumble on. The Hayekian Greg Ransom (of the excellent Prestopundit, here) thinks that the combo of high legal immigration rates and high tolerance for illegals represents class warfare -- war, that is, on the part of the American elites against the American working class and poor. His posting is here. Greg also points to a hilarious Mark Steyn column about the differences in attitudes between American elites and regular people, here. On his blog (the right-hand column here) and in this first-rate piece here, Steve Sailer has been giving the subject a thorough going-over too. Gene Expression's Godless Capitalist, fearless and informative in our comments section some postings ago, takes his ideas and facts further, here and here. Vinod surprises by approving of Bush's plan, here. This story (here) by Jim Motavalli for the leftish-environmentalist (hey, I was one of those once!) E magazine lays out some population numbers you'll probably find interesting, and that I certainly find cause for concern. Example: "The [American] population could double by 2100, with two-thirds of that growth attributed to immigration." As Godless points out, the two sides in the immigration debate have nothing to do with Right and Left. * I notice that Steve Sailer subscribes, as I do, to the email journal of the Post-Autistic Economics Network. (You can subscribe too, here.) Like Steve, I got a lot out of Robert Locke's discussion of how Japan's economy works, here. "Post-Autistic" -- what the hell does that mean? My guess is that the group, a loose collection of heterodox brainiacs, wants to suggest that it's time to move beyond fundamentalist economic doctrines. (I hope those who know better will correct me if I'm wrong.) The Post-Autistics seem to view one-size-fits-all approaches with horror, and to do their best to understand economic questions as part of the more general scene. I find a lot of their stuff dull, but Locke's piece demonstrates how beautifully the group's approach is capable of paying off. Here's a good quick interview with another interesting Post-Autistic, the Aussie Steve Keen. Thanks to Jimbo for introducing me to the PA scene. * IMHO, one of the most important things Webheads can do is trade tips about good-quality culture and education resources. I try to do my bit with, for instance, occasional raves about some of the Teaching Company's audiotaped lecture series. (Here's the Teaching Company's website.) Many thanks to 2Blowhards visitor Bill Rouse, who has written in to point out that MIT has put a lot of its course materials online for free... posted by Michael at January 13, 2004 | perma-link | (14) comments

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Spammed, or Something
A plea for help or advice. All kind of ads are showing up in 2Blowhards' Comments section. Viagra, of course, but oh so much more too -- easy credit, drugs you've never heard of, even budget travel deals. Some of them are quite short, but others are enormously long and include dozens of URLs. I've had to spend hours combing through our entries and comments, and deleting whatever spam-comments I could find. It's terrifying that the scumbags have branched out from email spam and have figured out how to attack the Comments sections of innocent blogs. How long until these monsters bring the entire web to its knees? But, my own hysteria aside: does anyone have any advice about how we might best deal with, and maybe even put an end to, this plague? We'd be grateful for any and all suggestions.... posted by Michael at December 11, 2003 | perma-link | (10) comments

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Dear Friedrich -- I've spent the last week with blogging crippled not just by in-law hospital challenges but by a dial-up AOL connection. How is blogging life even possible without broadband? More than ever I marvel at Lynn Sislo, here, who does some of the best linking of any cultureblogger and who does so via a 56K connection. Downright heroic. * British scientist Mae-Wan Ho, reviewing Christopher Alexander's four-volume summa, "The Nature of Order" here, does an amazing job not just of describing Alexander's thinking and originality but also of conveying the impact reading Alexander can have on a person. Volume One is buyable here; volume Two, just out, is buyable here. Be sure not to miss the very interesting and informative Amazon reader reviews of both books. * Laurance Aurbach passes along a link to a fascinating paper by Charles C. Bohl (here) about urban development in Europe, which doesn't seem to be proceeding along inspiring lines. The compare-and-contrast photos are very well-chosen. Nate Davis will appreciate some shots of the place where his own store is located, Mashpee Commons, an oldtime shopping mall that's been reworked along New Urbanist lines. * Swapping emails, Laurance and I discovered that, in addition to being New Urbanism fans (Laurance a much more serious and well-informed one than I am), we're also genre-fiction buffs. I got a chance to lay a couple of my more tiresome theories on Laurance, the first one being that genre-fiction forms (crime, romance, etc) are the equivalent of vernacular and folk architecture, while contempo literature is best compared to the swoopy, jagged, anxiety-making bizarreness that the official architecture press tries to make us swallow. In other words, if your idea of interesting and worthwhile architecture tends more towards comfy houses, Adirondack cabins, roadside architecture, and neighborhoods that make you want to sit and have a coffee than to standalone, gleaming avant-garde jewelboxes, then you may well prefer the best genre writers to most of what contemporary "literature" is producing. My other theory is that genre-fiction forms are like such poetry forms as sonnets and villanelles -- rewarding both for writers (whose ingenuity and imaginations are stretched) and readers, who can have the fun of matching their knowledge and expectations against what the author is actually doing. Laurance responded much more sensibly, passing along a bunch of alluring-sounding tips and recommendations. I just finished reading one of them, Dan Simmons' Hardcase, a tiptop Buffalo-set hardboiled crime tale (buyable here). I loved the book: roughhewn and engaging, with tons of momentum, humor and brutality. Kurtz, Simmons' protagonist, is a dandy invention. If there's a hardboiled continuum ranging from Spenser on the more civilized end to Mike Hammer on the psychotic end, Kurtz certainly tends towards the Hammer-esque. He seems meant to embody an idea of Buffalo, really -- a creature from another time, burly and none-too-fashionable or suave, but with moxie to spare. Plus, man, can he take a lot of punishment; he reminds me of those old bunched-up,... posted by Michael at November 19, 2003 | perma-link | (5) comments

Saturday, November 1, 2003

Dear Friedrich -- * How lucky for everyone that City Journal, one of the best magazines around, puts all its contents online. There's a new issue up here, and it's full of tasty-looking treats. Be sure not to miss this piece by Brian Anderson here, about how the leftist hold on the media is relaxing. It's interesting and perceptive -- and I don't say that only because a certain M. Blowhard is quoted in it. (Twice!! Twice!!! Oops, sorry: lost my cool there for a sec.) * How to get a foot onto the art-world ladder? Rose Aidin writes a good piece for the Guardian about young artists who take jobs as assistants to famous artists, here. * Mike Snider (whose own blog is here) spotted this NYTimes piece by Michael Luo (here). It's about a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Manhattan that was originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and that has just gotten a fix-up. Not the most practical or convenient automobile showroom, apparently. * Signal + Noise (here) points out a Scientific American q&a with string-theory honcho Brian Greene here. * Alan Sullivan, who's a poet and a sailor, often blogs about the weather (here) -- he gives clouds and storms the kind of attention novelists sometimes give to their characters' psychologies. Recently he wrote a lovely posting about a show of French and British paintings from the 19th century (here). It isn't your typical piece of artcrit -- Alan focuses especially on how well the artists do light, clouds and water. * JW Hastings has some tart things to say about how blogging about comics compares to having message-board conversations about comics, here. * Jon Gertner profiles Harvard prof Daniel Gilbert for the NYTimes Magazine, here. Gilbert is studying happiness -- what causes it, why it goes away, etc. Visitors who've enjoyed conversations on this blog about such topics as behavioral economics, utility, and why we bother getting up in the morning at all will probably enjoy the piece. * It's a font-and-typeface universe these days, isn't it? Are you sensitive or responsive to typefaces? I'm not, at least not much -- about all I seem to care about is that the size of the body text show a little respect for my lousy middle-aged vision, and that it have serifs so my eyes have something to grab hold of. Even so, I enjoyed this piece here by the graphic designer Mark Simonson called "The Scourge of Arial," Arial being a typeface that Mark doesn't like one bit. * Tom Ehrenfeld takes the pulse of the Wal-Mart economy in three postings, here, here, and here. It's fun and interesting to follow his arguments as well as his links to other articles on the topic. * Social Security -- train wreck or ... well, train wreck? In TechCentralStation, Megan McArdle lays out the facts, the issues, and some possible ways of wrestling with the mess, here. * Have you heard the term "food porn"? It's a funny way of... posted by Michael at November 1, 2003 | perma-link | (10) comments

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Dear Friedrich -- Finally, what the world's been waiting for: an all-boys linkfest. Radical 'roid ranting! Or something like that. * Tyler Cowen asks why women like cads, here. * Aaron Haspel knows how poetry should be taught, here. Mike Snider's got some thoughts on the matter too, here and here. * George Hunka (here) is reading a book I've wanted to catch up with for years, Auberon Waugh's famously testy autobiography "Will This Do?" * Obnoxious, overcaffeinated white guys who are bursting with exasperation sometimes make me laugh a lot. Maddox (here), for example: I find him hilarious. Here's a great rant about the "Matrix" sequel, and here's the best review I've read yet of the "Lord of the Rings" movies. I especially liked Reason #2. * Felix Salmon's got the lowdown on not-for-profit credit-counseling services here. Not a sexy-sounding post, granted. But I bet it'll hold your interest. * Steve Sailer's got the lowdown on how the GOP won the California election, here. * Evan Kirchhoff sharpens his bushido sword and does to "Kill Bill" what Uma, in the movie, does to her opponents, here. * So, Michael Eisner: devoted blog-reader or not? Gerald Vanderleun can't help wondering, here. * Speaking of the recently-canned Gregg Easterbrook, Scott Chaffin makes a gallant effort to cheer up the blogger and former ESPN sports guru, here. * Ionarts has some thoughts about the big Gauguin show in Paris. Here's part one -- scroll up and you'll see two more postings on the topic. * Alexis does some sharp thinking about depression, modern life and drugs, here. * Brian Micklethwait has a good word for perfectionism, at least when it comes to performances of Brahms on CD, here. * Ian Hamet is amazed that he now loves some Western movies, here. * Terry Teachout suspects that some of the people who say they don't like anything modernist have simply missed a few of the more likable modernist things, here. * Does more money always make people happier and more satisfied with life? Andrew Norton reviews some of the evidence, here. Yo, dudes!!! Alpha-bloggers forever!!! (Note to videotape editor: Insert sound here of football helmets clacking aggressively together. And how about some backlit, slo-mo footage of brawny fists tossing cold, dripping, job-well-done beer cans to each other?) Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 25, 2003 | perma-link | (5) comments

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Dear Friedrich -- * Courtney has turned up some interesting papers on the topic of introversion and multitasking, here. * I was planning to make fun yet again of the NYTimes' absurd and always-hyperventilating radical-architecture propagandist Herbert Muschamp, whose topic today is Frank Gehry's new Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., here. Muschamp is quite the phenomenon, about as dizzy and self-entranced a writer as I've ever run across. I'm not sure this is logically possible, but it seems that every time I read him I think, "He's outdone himself again!" as well as "What's this guy on?" It's impossible to narrow the outrages he commits down to a mere one or two; nearly every paragraph he writes makes the eyes bug and the jaw hit the ground. Still, try we must. Here's one brief passage from today's review: Though the forms are abstract, fleeting images can be glimpsed in them. Drive-in movie screens. The curving edge of a bass cello. A ship's prow. Sails. The Rust Belt before the rust. If you're unwilling to mix your metaphors, you've come to the wrong place. Boy, I'll say. But Philip Murphy (here) says it far better. * Get out the tweezers! Yet, can you beat this here for cute? * My favorite movie of the year so far is one that you'll never get a chance to see, Marco Bellocchio's Good Morning, Night, a surrealist Italian chamber drama about the Red Brigade team that kidnapped and ultimately murdered Aldo Moro. It's a quiet, rich experience, as beautifully lit and acted as anything I've seen in years, and so subtle you worry a bit whether it's ever going to go anywhere. But it does: the Red Brigade team, which you watch through the eyes of their one female member, at first appears to be idealistic, young, and committed -- halfway attractive, and halfway plausible as human beings. By the end of the movie, although little external has changed, you understand without a shred of doubt that they're psychopaths. When a title comes up informing you that these deranged maniacs were caught but are no longer imprisoned, you want to go find them and put them down like rabid dogs. Here's a page about the movie. Here's a short q&a with Bellocchio. And here's a piece about America's Weather Underground by James Miller that describes a similar band of radicals. (Link thanks to Arts and Letters Daily, here.) I saw "Good Morning, Night" at the New York Film Festival, but the film hasn't been picked up for distribution in the States, and probably won't be. * In her wrestle with the old "what is art?" question, here, Alice Bachini shows once again that "hilarious" and "profound" can sometimes walk hand in hand. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 23, 2003 | perma-link | (6) comments

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Dear Friedrich -- * Get to know some of the world's most obese people here. * The art critic Robert Hughes' biography of Goya goes on sale soon here. It's been released already in Britain, where reviews have been enthusiastic. Here's Sebastian Smee in The Spectator. * Lynn Sislo offers a compact history of the castrato in classical music here. * Graham Lester writes a sensible posting about poverty, here. Great (or at least simpatico to me) line: "Poverty is primarily a practical problem, not a moral issue." * In the Financial Times, Mark Archer reviews Robert Skidelsky's biography of John Maynard Keynes, here * Find out which Western stars have been doing the Bill-Murray-in-Lost- Translation thing -- ie., shilling products in Japanese commercials -- here. * Nancy Levovitz (whose own site is here) has a knack for turning up fascinating and unexpected art. Here's a page featuring the work of Jirapat Tasanasomboon, a contemporary Thai painter whose work crosses traditional Thai motifs with characters from American comic books. * I've met a number of New Classicist architects, and many of them tell the same story: of loving buildings, of being trained as Modernists -- and of waking up one day to the fact that they were designing buildings they loathed. Milton Grenfell, a New Classicist architect in Charlotte, N.C., lived a similar experience. Here's an article by Richard Maschal about Grenfell. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 21, 2003 | perma-link | (15) comments

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Friedrich -- Forgive another Andy Rooney moment on the part of your blogging partner. I love the way that computers have made it easy to combine visuals with text, don't you? This is how books (and other publications) started out and were probably always meant to be -- nonlinear, and as visual as they were "written." Many people don't realize that the nothing-but-text, read-it-straight-through book that's still seen by many overly-serious people as the only kind of "real book" was a bizarre and anomalous publishing development; it was (in large part) a historical accident attributable to the difficulties of getting industrial-era publishing technology to manage images and text well. So it's lovely seeing books, magazines and websites making extensive and resourceful use of the visual side of things. When I visit a museum and look at old scrolls or early Bibles or Korans, I'm often struck by how much they resemble contempo publications -- they're "looking" as well as "reading" experiences. Still, the Quark-and-Photoshop revolution has delivered some -- OK, many --evils to us too. Foremost among them, as far as Im concerned, is the vogue for whats known as "reversed-out" type -- white (or light) type set over black (or dark) backgrounds. Have you noticed how common reversed-out text is these days? It's everywhere. Type on top of dark photos, type on top of color blocks and swirls. The eyes boggle -- which can be exciting and/or cool. What's not cool, IMHO, is when the eye-boggle goes on too long. Who can read extended passages of reversed-out text? Im good for a couple of sentences of it myself; then my eyes and concentration give out. (I feel sorry for writers whose stories have been set in reversed-out text. Hard to imagine anyone reading all the way through their hard work.) It ain't easy to pull the written meaning out from a display that's so intensely visual. In fact, back in the classic era, it used to be one of those do-or-die typographical/layout rules: never use reversed-out type for more than a paragraph. Hey, designers: what do you say we revive that rule? And then enforce it, too. What are the Quark-and-Photoshop-era tropes and cliches that irk you the most? Best, if often somewhat cross-eyed these graphics-happy days, Michael... posted by Michael at October 1, 2003 | perma-link | (13) comments

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Friedrich -- * Tim Hulsey gives Wesley Clark a little -- no, make that a lot of -- what-for, here. * Francis Wilson reviews Lesley Branch's new biography of a famous Regency London courtesan, here. * Kurt Thometz interviews the droll Fran Lebowitz here. * I find webpages of video clips like this one here more exciting, or at least more promising, than most theatrical movies these days. * Theater critic Alfred Hickling explains the difference between French and English farces here, and hopes neither tradition is coming to an end. * More on parking! Virginia Postrel has a column about downtown Dallas and its ugly-parking lot dramas here, and the Cranky Professor writes about campus parking pressures here. Maybe it's becoming a genuine web meme. * Ian Hamet has enlightening things to say about story structure (here) and "From Dusk till Dawn" (here). * Martine is making eager if anxious plans to move into a house together with her boyfriend Blork, here. * Aaron Haspel has been giving thought to story structure too (here), as well as to Alexander Pope (here). My favorite recent Aaron posting, though, is here -- a bizarre kind of blogger's autobiography. * Alexandra Ceely does one of her priceless compare-and-contrast postings, this one looking at three versions of The Ecstasy of St. Francis, here. * Lynn Sislo tells the story of the medieval composer Hildegard of Bingen, here. * Terry Teachout hears from a reader who has actually lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright house, here. Short version: it was beautiful and uncomfortable. * Did you know that Victor Salva, the writer/director of the "Jeepers Creepers" movies, is a convicted pedophile? Michelle Malkin (here) and Alan Sullivan (here) have observations to make. * Elizabeth Loftus, who a few years back helped blow the whistle on the absurd recovered-memories-of-sexual-abuse fad, is interviewed here. * Scott Chaffin, making proud mention that his wife has won a Dallas best-blogger award, here, gets in some funny jabs at the local press. * In an interview here, computer-usability guru Donald Norman talks about color vs. black and white, robots, fuzzy logic, and how videogames are beginning to turn into a kind of literature. * Will Duquette reinvents the movie medium courtesy of Imovie and his son's stuffed python, here. It's a three-part tale, all of them very amusing. * Deb English (here) sensibly decides that The Iliad reads like an action-adventure novel. * Polly Frost reads a book-length interview with the horror-movie director John Carpenter and does some thinking about audience-centric art, here. * Hallelujah -- The Oldie lives online, here. Founded a decade or so ago by Richard Ingrams as a kind of dodderers' version of The Spectator, The Oldie features rambling memoirs, meandering put-downs of what the world's become, and out-of-it scraps of this and that. It's the anti-celebrity, anti-edge, anti-youth publication, and one of the most amusingly eccentric things I've ever seen. Really, I love it: if Ralph Richardson were a magazine,... posted by Michael at September 25, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Friday, September 19, 2003

Criticism and Me
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Friedrich -- A visitor writes to ask why I don't use this blog to do more criticism and reviewing. Well, she hints that she's interested. Kinda. In any case, I've decided to use her very sweet note as a taking-off point. Major Self-Absorption Alert here; coming up are ruminations even the long-suffering Wife would have a hard time faking an interest in. Anyway. One very good reason I don't use the blog to do criticism or write reviews is simple: the world doesn't need more critics or reviewers. What's the point in adding another opinion to a world already awash in them? I do know, by the way, that one reads critics and reviewers for other reasons too -- for their ideas and observations, their points of view, their personalities, their writing chops. But my main reason is this: because I see writing reviews and doing criticism as a profession. I'd be happy to write reviews or criticism if someone were paying me enough money to make it worth my while. But no one's offering. Between you and me, I've managed to get myself paid a few times for doing reviews and criticism. I didn't luvluvluv the experience, as some people seem to: lots of work and little money, and the thrill of seeing my opinions in print wasn't overwhelming. So I was never driven to pursue a professional post as a reviewer. And, yes, it's a field that, in some ways, is like many others: not untainted by politics, networking, positioning, egos, and even a little backstabbing. Back in more naive days, I confess that I made the mistake of writing a fair number of essays and reviews "on spec" (ie., writing what I felt like, unsolicited) and sending the results around in hopes of getting them published. Gosh, I was just so good and smart that they'd have to publish me! I think one of those pieces managed to find its way into print. I worked on it for weeks, got paid 50 dollars, and felt lucky to get looked at by a few relatives. I was writing criticism as though it were poetry, and I wound up getting read that way. The rest of my spec pieces, on which I worked just as hard, still sit in a file-cabinet drawer. Never again. But why, why am I dwelling on the money? What about the art of it? Where's the love? Well, I'm perfectly happy with the idea that criticism and reviewing are literary forms in their own right, if rather specialized ones. I enjoy reading critics and reviewers, and admire the good ones. I once asked the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami for his thoughts about critics and reviewers, and he said something I found interesting. First he took a very long Haruki-pause, then he said something like (his English was terrible): "Well, I think they're writing their own kind of literature, as I'm writing mine. The difference is that where I mostly use... posted by Michael at September 19, 2003 | perma-link | (19) comments

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Digital Crack
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Friedrich -- Have you caught the lead article in the WSJournal's "Marketplace" section today? It isn't online, unfortunately. Geoffrey Fowler writes for the newspaper about recent developments in digital piracy. The newest DVD/CD burners -- which are (surprise surprise) much faster and smaller than they were just a few years ago -- have given rise to a new generation of music, software and video pirates. Getting started as a digital pirate used to take about a million bucks and some serious square footage. Today, capitalization and space demands have become so minimal that piracy has gone mom 'n' pop. An interesting wrinkle is that organized crime syndicates have discovered the advantages of the new equipment too. The movie business, in fact, fears the syndicates more than it does the mom 'n' pop burners. Why? To quote Fowler: "Trafficking in pirated DVD-Rs and DVDs is almost 100% more profitable than trafficking in heroin." I'm picturing furtive tough guys hanging out near urban schools, trying to get kids addicted to pirated movies ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 18, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Friedrich -- * Thanks to Laurence Aurbach for pointing out this superb New Urbanist manifesto by New-Urb ayatollah Andres Duany in Planetizen here. Duany spells out 41 principles he wants to see architecture base itself on; tweak a word or two here and there, and I'd be happy to see all the arts based on them. Laurence is an interesting guy himself, and about as New-Urb as a person can be. He works as an assistant editor at the New-Urb publication The Town Paper (which I recommend, and which can be read here), and although he doesn't live in a New-Urb town, he does work in one, Kentlands. He has this to say about Duany's manifesto: Architects of all stripes and persuasions seem to find these 41 principles to be valid, worthwhile and more-or-less uncontroversial. It is boggling that so many designers can agree to this list, and yet they produce such different works that lead to such heated disagreement about style. Those few that might disagree with Duany's principles (Eisenman, Muschamp, Koolhaas, etc.) would, I suspect, believe that a response to Duany is beneath their dignity. * And thanks to Mike Snider (whose own blog is here) for pointing out this brilliant essay by Paul Lake here. Essential reading for art-lovers who are fed up with the played-out modernist/po-mo thing, and who are curious about what's likely to take its place. Hint: form, tradition, patterns, neuroscience, evo-bio ... Dis the Blowhards all you will, but don't say we didn't give you fair warning. * Visitors who enjoy musing about the French may enjoy this Atlantic Online q&a with the novelist Diane ("Le Divorce") Johnson here. * Here's a transcript of a first-rate Booknotes interview with the Princeton historian Robert Darnton. I'm a big Darnton fan. He's an 18th-century buff who's fascinated by the French and the Enlightenment, he's got a searching and industrious mind, and he writes elegantly and entertainingly for the general audience. If you haven't given his work a try, my tip is to start with The Great Cat Massacre, buyable here. In this interview, he makes a characteristically Darntonian point: that, until modern dentistry, most people lived with constant jaw and tooth pain. * The economist Tyler Cowen (who co-blogs at Marginal Revolution, here, with Alex Tabarrok) is interviewed by Nick Gillespie for Reason magazine online here. The Marginal Revolution duo are really rockin' out, by the way -- it's one of the liveliest blogs around. And, hey, Cowen provides a link to this recent interview here with Milton Friedman. * Gerald Vanderleun (whose blog is here) linked to this Washington Post piece here by his wife Sheryl. It seems that when Gerald gets an itch, there's nothing that's going to make him stop scratching. And he bought this digital camera, see, and ... Well, suffice it to say that many wives and husbands alike will recognize themselves in Sheryl's hilarious piece. Oops, did I make all this sound too R-rated? Well,... posted by Michael at September 17, 2003 | perma-link | (6) comments

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Friedrich -- My theme this time: Some Boss Chick Blogs. * Glad to see that Polly Frost is blogging once again, here. Polly's better than any writer I know of at experiencing art (and discussing it) both from the point of view of the audience and the point of view of the artist. Glad to see too that her writing life's at a lively stage, what with readings of her work happening soon in both Pasadena and Worcester, Mass. * After time away spent doing some blog-relocating and blog-redecorating, Alice Bachini is once again posting regularly. (Alice's blog now lives at a sensible new address, here.) Is there anyone who hasn't yet sampled Alice's writing? If so, get ready for a one-of-a-kind mixture of ranting, flirtatiousness, performance art and whimsy. * Martine, of Ni Vu Ni Connu, has also been doing some blog-redecorating, but is once again welcoming visitors here. Martine posts -- in French and English -- witty and festive verbal snapshots from Montreal. Classy new design, too. * The possessor of one of the quietest of blogging voices, S.Y. Affolee (here) also has one of blogdom's most thoughtful and observant minds. In her very subdued way, she shows off lots of energy and dazzle; she's another Boss Chick Blogger not to be missed. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 16, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Posting #1001
A Brief Dialogue Michael & Friedrich Friedrich: We are entering a new world-historical era. With my Picasso posting, we have completed 1000 such pieces. A new millennium awaits. Michael: 1000 posts? Howd we do it? We've only been blogging for a little over a year. I wonder how many words each of us has written? Friedrich: By my exact count, 11,347,298 for me and 11,347,297 for you. Michael: Oh, my aching typing fingers! Still, I've never as much fun with writing as I've had blogging. I'm amazed how easy it's been to leave behind the old-media game and move into the web-and-blog world. No regrets at all -- the new world agrees with my soul. How's it been for you? Friedrich: I've been too preoccupied with the zeitgeist to notice. The burden of history, you know. Michael: Speaking of history, I was leafing through some early postings of ours the other day. We both started off pugnacious and surly. Thank god that in those uglier times we barely had any visitors. We're much more relaxed and expansive these days. Friedrich: Relaxed? Expansive? These are decadent concepts. Michael: I guess we both had a lot of backed-up, festering stuff in us. But the pipes seem clear now. Blogging's lovely. I laugh to myself when i'm around real-writer friends these days who aren't into blogs or the web. Don't they know what they're missing? Friedrich: Probably not. Your real-writer friends who do not blog are, to speak bluntly, worthless and weak. Michael: How true. And they'll never know the pleasure of welcoming and enjoying such a classy crowd of visitors as we get. Friedrich: Yes, our readers are bold spirits indeed. Nonetheless, it would be false modesty to avoid doffing our hats to the crowd. (They doff.)... posted by Friedrich at September 14, 2003 | perma-link | (16) comments

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Friedrich -- * The imaginative and entertaining economist Tyler Cowen has caught the blogging bug bad. Good for him, and better for us. Along with co-conspirator Alex Tabarrok, he's now blogging at Marginal Revolution, here. Both Cowen and Tabarrok have hit the ground running, and Marginal Revolution is instantly one of my favorite blogs. * Tom Ehrenfeld runs a blog about entrepreneurship, but he's begun including some observations and comments about culture too. He offers the most original movie list I've seen in a while -- nominees for the half-a-dozen best movies to inspire entrepreneurs here. Happy time-clock-puncher that I am, I've got nothing to contribute myself, but I'm eager to see the candidates more enterprising people come up with. You'll have to forgive much too kind a mention of 2Blowhards at the top of the piece. And here's a Tom posting about what entrepreneurs can learn from Monty Python. * You probably noticed that Leni Riefenstahl has died at 101. Here's a good obit by the Guardian's Richard Falcon. Here are some thoughts of my own that I jotted down last year on the occasion of her 100th birthday. Leni's own website is here. * Cultureblogging trailblazer (and much else) Sasha Castel has moved her blog to a new address, here. Adjust bookmarks, permalinks, etc., and then go enjoy Sasha's lively brain and writing. * David Sucher has an amazing gift for putting all you really need to know about cities and architecture into short, sweet and easy postings. He does it again here. My favorite sentence: "It is not genius which creates cities worthy of humanity but adherence to time-tested rules." * What David is to the discussion about cities and architecture, Mike Snider is to the conversation about poetry. For an example, check out this posting here. Fave sentence: "The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, as a whole, are interested in form only as form, as they are interested in language as an abstract system of references rather than as a way human beings form community." Hard to imagine making the evo-bio/neuroscience (and anti-modernist) case for art more concisely. * Terry Teachout explains here why there hasn't yet been a DVD of Jean Renoir's "Rules of the Game." Are there 2Blowhards visitors who haven't watched "Rules of the Game"? Tut tut. * My thoughts about prison and imprisonment? Thanks for asking. Roughly: "We throw criminals in jail primarily to protect the rest of us, and secondly to punish them. Rehabilitation? If it happens, it happens, but it's unlikely, and hardly worth getting hung up about." I didn't realize that holding such opinions meant that I was a fascist until I moved to the Manhattan arts-and-media world, where the conventional wisdom is that no one's really responsible for his/her actions, especially criminals, and that prison ought to be a cross between a day-care center and a seven-step program. So I always find it a relief to read something like this Thomas Sowell column here. * I don't follow film criticism the... posted by Michael at September 10, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

Saturday, September 6, 2003

Friedrich -- * I've got the worst batting-average imaginable when it comes to predicting the next hot "issue," but it's beginning to look like, for once, I'm onto something. (Hey, it happens.) As you know, I've been scratching my head for years over the topic of immigration -- especially the way that, even while many Americans are frankly worried about the question, the issue has so seldom become public. Now it's becoming public. A few incidators: here's an interview with Victor Davis Hanson about his new book, "Mexifornia." And here's a review of the book by James Q. Wilson. * This kind of planning or that kind of planning? Well, how about no-planning? Chris Bertram (here) found this interesting piece (here) by Paul Barker on OpenDemocracy about Cedric Price, an English architect who was so appalled by the destructiveness of post-WW2 planning that he floated the idea of the "non-plan." Chris' new book about Rousseau has just been published in England, by the way (buyable here); it'll go on sale in the States in November. * I've got a copy of Virginia Postrel's new book The Substance of Style (buyable here) but, to my shame, haven't read it yet. I'm looking forward to it, though: aesthetics, utility, taste, prosperity -- sounds provocative, enjoyable, helpful and downright 2Blowhardsish. She strikes me as one of the freshest, most alert thinkers around. For the moment I'm making do with this good q&a here that Sage Stossel has done with Postrel for The Atlantic Unbound. Here's Postrel's own excellent blog. * A new cultureblog discovery, at least for me: Ionarts (here). High-end, civilized blogging that reveals 2Blowhards for the shiftless, cheesy, no-account tabloid it really is. * I haven't followed pop music for almost 20 years now. I can't get past the feeling -- and, to be honest, I long ago stopped trying -- that it's music for kids. The last popster I paid attention to was Elvis Costello, whose range and variety of attacks continued to hold my interest, at least for a while. I wonder if any of his recent CDs are worth checking out. I did find this interview with Costello that Simon Hattenstone did for the Guardian here worth reading; Costello, who has a new CD of love songs coming out in a few weeks, has certainly lost none of his cussedness, his garrulousness, or his perversity. * Tim Radford reports in the Guardian that scientists are more likely than lib-arts types to believe in God, here. A nice passage: Colin Humphreys says that quite a number of his colleagues at Cambridge are also believers. "My impression is - and it is just an impression - that there are many more scientists on the academic staff who are believers than arts people." Tom McLeish says something similar. He cheerfully offers several reasons why that might be so, one of which might be called the postmodernist effect. "Our dear friends in the humanities do get themselves awfully confused about whether the... posted by Michael at September 6, 2003 | perma-link | (6) comments

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Friedrich -- * Florence Fabricant reports (in the NYTimes, here) that enrollment at professional culinary programs has jumped 20-100 percent since 2001. * "Metrosexuality"? What's that? Felix Salmon explains the term here. I also notice that Felix felt about as enthusiastic (not) about "American Splendor" as I did, here. * A cab driver once told me that he liked to end his night's work by stopping outside Chippendale's. "Why's that?" I asked. "Because after the show's over, that's where the city's horniest women can be found," he said. "And they've already bought and paid for as many drinks as they're going to need." (He was no metrosexual.) Yahmdallah once had a similar inspiration, and tells the story about his adventure here. A hilarious posting -- not to give anything away, but I suspect that he hasn't repeated the experiment. You have to read past the posting's first paragraph to find the story. * The Smithsonian presents a compact intro to South Asian art here. * Should videogames be taught in college? Evan Kirchhoff thinks not, and works up an amusing and persuasive head of steam here. * People are chatting about movie westerns: Spencer Warren (here), Tim Hulsey (here), and Terry Teachout (here). Why did the Western die out? My own shot at an answer is that it didn't, it just changed its clothes and reemerged as the sci-fi movie. Before you laugh, here's the similarity: both genres (by and large) are peddling the pleasures of action-centered heroic morality tales set in mythical landscapes. * Samizdata's Michael Jennings supplies a lot of information and perspective as he tries to make sense out of the summer movie season here. * I noticed a small piece in Chicago Magazine by Randy Minor, who lives in one of Mies van der Rohe's legendary modernist buildings. Despite the building's status, Minor isn't wild about his apartment. Why not? Well, for one thing, those floor-to-ceiling windows are a serious challenge. "My own living habits, however dull, are calculated and self-conscious the minute I walk into my modernist marvel," Minor writes. "The only privacy I have is in a couple of corners in my tiny bathroom and kitchen, where I retreat when I want to be 'alone.'" I couldn't find the piece online, but here's Chicago Magazine's site. * More than half the residents of Miami-Dade County are now foreign-born, reports Matthew Waite in the St. Petersburg Times here. "Miami-Dade reflects population trends nationally and statewide," writes Waite. "There are now 33-million foreign-born residents in the United States, the Census Bureau reports, a 44 percent increase since 1990." * You're in bed. You're on the verge of sleep. You're sliding into it, sliding, sliding ... And your body twitches. Writing for Discovery here, Hannah Holmes explains what's known about these dropping-into-sleep twitches, a phenomenon evidently called "myclonic jerk." Link thanks to Edgy, here. OK, now back to my own thoughts for a few days ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at September 3, 2003 | perma-link | (7) comments

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Friedrich -- Good god but it's hard to keep up with what's wonderful on the web. Correction: it's impossible to keep up with it. But I'm not about to stop trying. * Paul Williams has put out another issue of his enjoyable and impressive one-man magazine Cipher Culture here, and it's full of his quirkily brainy musings on subjects from genetically-modified food to the desire to live forever. Between you and me, I wish Paul would present his thoughts in blog form -- but then, these days, there's almost no one whose thoughts I wouldn't prefer to read in blog form. * It's not a surprise to hear that press agents and entertainment journalists work together closely. It can be surprising, though, to learn just how closely. Toby Young, interviewed in Gawker magazine, explains the significance of uber-publicist Pat Kingsley here. * I diligently maintain a list of books that are considered pop-entertainment classics and every now and then even get around to reading one of the books on it. Most recently, I caught up with Gregory MacDonald's sorta-PI novel Fletch, buyable here. Have you read it? It's funny, ingenious, and tense -- well-deserving of its reputation, IMHO. And it moves like a freight train -- what a virtuoso display of pacing and flair. I didn't find the gonzo-counterculture journalist-hero as winning as I was meant to, but the book's a dazzler anyway. OK, so "Fletch" isn't a web-thing, it's a book-thing. Want to make something of it? * What I enjoyed most in this absorbing and thoughtful Geoffrey Wheatcroft essay (here) about intellectuals in the post 9/11 world were a few cracks he made about literary writers -- cracks which in my experience are spot-on. "In practice writers are all too often sillier and nastier in their politics than anyone else," Wheatcroft writes. "Imaginative writers are distinguished not by a sweeter character (too often very much not), greater intellectual honesty, or even deeper intelligence, butapart from the gift of expression which is their stock in tradea way of looking at the world which is interesting because it is exaggerated or distorted." Link thanks to Arts and Letters Daily (here). * I suppose that, kid-equipped as your household is, you get more than your share of exposure to music videos. Me, I take a peep at that perplexing scene about once a year. What struck me during my most recent glimpse is how overproduced, over art-directed, and over-processed the standard music video is these days. It's pumped to the max and swollen to bursting; every square inch of it is styled to within an inch of its life, and maybe beyond. Bizarre that many people now expect this level of overdone-ness from their audiovisual entertainment. For a movie fan this is a scary reflection because these days ads, video games and music videos are having more of an influence on movies than movie history is. Ah, just what the movies need: more production values. If you've got a fast connection,... posted by Michael at September 2, 2003 | perma-link | (7) comments

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Friedrich -- * Mike May, who regained his powers of sight thanks to a stem-cell procedure, has written his own account about it for the Guardian -- thanks to Srdjan Keca for pointing this out. May's diary is readable here. "I found it very distracting to look at people's faces when I was having a conversation," he writes. "I can see their lips moving, eyelashes flickering, head nodding and hands gesturing. At first, I tried looking down, but if it was a woman in a low-cut top that would be even more distracting. It was easier to close my eyes or tune out the visual input." * Alexandra Ceely (once again posting regularly at her wonderful blog Out of Lascaux, here) found this piece by Victoria James from the Japan Times about prehistoric art, here. It's full of interesting news about how the ways people think about very ancient art have changed in the last few decades. * Your questions answered. Two beyond-first-rate articles that Denis Dutton, the editor of Arts and Letters Daily, has written for the Oxford Handbook for Aesthetics are now online: "Aesthetics and Evolutionary Psychology" (here), and "Authenticity in Art" (here). One of our goals here at 2Blowhards is to help people who are eager to ditch the modernist/po-mo/decon straitjacket find threads that are more comfy, useful and sensible -- hence our championing of thinkers like Michael Oakeshott, Christopher Alexander and Nikos Salingaros, Michael Polanyi, Ellen Dissanayake, Frederick Turner, Steven Pinker, V. S. Ramachandran and others. Dutton's at the top of this list, both with articles like these and with ALD itself. * Some fascinating lightness-darkness optical illusions created by Edward Adelson can be seen here. * Terry Teachout responds to Aaron Haspel and others on the greatness question here. (All necessary links are in the posting.) It's good to see a pro critic like Terry get more into the give-and-take that's such an important part of blogging. It took me a long while to find the swing myself, so I'll be curious to read Terry's reflections about blogging once he's found his groove. Writing reviews, giving speeches, and doing criticism it ain't, even if those are a few of the things it can be. Tim Hulsey has his say about greatness here. * Good lord, did you know that Cornell has hired the loony former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney to be a visiting professor? Read about it here. * During a recent tour through Western New York's Finger Lakes region, The Wife and I spent an absorbing couple of hours at the Arnot Art Museum in Elmira, NY. Housed in an 1833 neo-classical mansion, the Arnot's an attractive and resourceful place. Open-minded too: unlike many of the trendier, big-city, first-tier museums, the Arnot's hip to the current revival of figurative art. Their current exhibition is called "Re-presenting Representation VI," and despite the awful name it's a knockout. (It includes one large stunner by Raymond Han, whose work I love and posted briefly about here.) The Arnot's... posted by Michael at August 28, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Friedrich -- * In the great New Urbanism debates, it's now Haspel vs. Sucher. Well, not really: Aaron and David are playing on the same team: better buildings, better neighbhorhoods and better cities, please. But how to get there? I've written before about the quandary: while I'm no fan of burdensome regulations, I still find it hard to deny that many of the country's most attractive cities are heavily zoned. In a posting here, Aaron is working towards a purely-libertarian approach; in the posting's comments and on his own blog (here), David takes a seasoned-realist stance. My own view of what to do? Boils down to two words: "beats me." * Brian Micklethwait, noticing that his ears open up to classical music when he's playing computer Solitaire, does some musing about brain processes here. Amusing and thoughtful reflections that are of special interest to me, married as I am to a Solitaire-lovin' classical-music buff. * Have you heard of the poet/novelist/critic Thomas Disch? He's amazing, as well as amazingly undersung. I'd write a long, rhapsodic posting about him but for one thing: I have zero feeling for the kind of fiction he writes, which is sci-fi and horror. So I'm simply no judge. But I certainly think he's a major poet -- wicked and informal even while playing sly changes on traditional forms. I never have the sense that I'm doing my dreary lit duty when I read his poetry; instead, I think, "Wow, accessible yet sophisticated! Cheery yet perverse! What fun, and how cool!" I also think he's a major critic. "The Castle of Indolence," his collection of pieces about contempo poetry (buyable here), is a joy: full of terrific evocations and descriptions, as well as informed jabs at how academic and ingrown the poetry world has become. (Do you find most writing about contempo poetry as perplexing as I do? The critics seem off in their own hyperrefined ozone, listening to music mere mortals can't hear.) He's also written some first-class art and drama criticism -- hard to believe that he hasn't become better-known as a reviewer than he has. As for the fiction? Well, I know that he's prolific, and that he was well-known as one of the counterculture pop-culture buffs who tried to make sci-fi more hip and contempo back in the '60s and '70s. I've read a few of the books and was impressed, but don't trust me on this. Still, a tip of the hat to him. I'm apparently not the only Disch fan who's in this position. I was talking to a composer friend a few months ago. "I think he's probably a really major figure even though I can't read sci-fi," I frothed. She looked thoughtful for a few seconds and said, "You know, I can't read sci-fi either. But even so I think you may be right." In any case, I bet that you won't regret reading this interview with him here, or exploring this excellent fansite here. * Arts and... posted by Michael at August 27, 2003 | perma-link | (9) comments

Monday, August 25, 2003

Guest Posting -- Rick Darby
Friedrich -- One of those post-college surprises: how much time and energy attending to basic maintenance eats up. Given that fact, and given how few people manage to do the time-effective thing of making a living at some kind of satisfying arts job, how do arty people sustain their interest in the arts? And how do they organize their lives so they manage to keep the pleasures of art alive? Rick Darby, one of our most enjoyable commenters, has enlightened and entertained with observations about many topics, from Vedanta to immigration. In an email exchange, he also volunteered this: I used to be in the culturebiz, quite a few years ago now. Did PR and advertising for the Boston Ballet Company (where I discovered that I adored ballet ... for the first 10 minutes of a performance, after which it put me to sleep) and the Albany Symphony Orchestra (it wasn't the Vienna Phil, but it wasn't bad either). Eventually I had enough of artistic temperament, arrogant rich board members and constant crisis. These days I'm a writer and editor at the Flight Safety Foundation (, encouraging airlines to transport their passengers to their destination in one piece, if that is at all possible. I've found that there aren't many good jobs for writers. Journalism -- especially, daily journalism (my parents both wrote for AP) -- is a ticket on the express to Burnout City. Advertising is a crazy boom-and-bust business, champagne one week when the shop lands a new account, clean-out-your-desk notices a few months later when a client hits the bricks. I've worked as an advertising copywriter and radio commercial director and quite enjoy the work itself, but it's mostly the biggest agencies in big cities that have full-time copywriters these days, and I don't like big cities. Anyway, copywriting is becoming something of a lost art ... advertising is all about graphics and animation these days. I enjoy those too, but I hardly ever see a well written print ad these days, and I miss them. Working for the Boston Ballet and the Albany Symphony Orchestra was interesting -- it's fun to see behind the scenes and meet the artistes -- but the PR people at arts organizations get low pay and nil respect. Plus lots of people in arts management are (perhaps understandably) paranoid, always afraid they're about to get the chop. It doesn't make for a friendly work environment. I was also a sort of in-house freelancer in the PR department of WGBH Boston, which produces Masterpiece Theatre and all. The people in the department were very talented and intelligent, and the coldest mob I've ever met. There seems to be an idea that you can eliminate some of the insecurity by being rude to anyone who might conceivably replace you. Although the subject matter isn't as interesting to an "arts guy" like me, I've actually enjoyed for the most part working in technical or semi-technical fields as a tech editor. Engineers and such aren't... posted by Michael at August 25, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

They Know Too Much
Michael: I picked up a weird but interesting magazine over the weekend: American Demographics. Its subtitle: Consumer Trends for Business Leaders describes the editorial content; the ads are mostly for companies offering what is termed geodemographic segmentation. One of its stories, Street Wiser describes how this works: Gwen St. Clair can tell you exactly who puts the worth in Fort WorthAs special features manager in the ad department at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, St. Clairs job is to help 40 or so advertiserscosmetic surgeons, swimming pool builders, high-end audio entertainment retailers and the likecomb through the 240,000 daily circulation baseand beyond, to identify the crme de la crme among readers and non-readers in the nations seventh largest market.[T]his is where Panache comes in. Panache is the Star-Telegrams lifestyles magazine, created to allow advertisers to zero in on affluent readersPanache has been around for about six years, but it struggled at an anemic 16 pages until February of this year. At that time, it shifted from ZIP code to address-specific distribution along newspaper routes, landing at the homes of only those residents with incomes in the $100,000-plus range. The May and June issues suddenly swelled to 40 pages, thanks to a host of newly enthused advertisersSelective insertion [a la Panache] is still [restricted to] a few pioneering newspapers, but the Star-Telegrams unique use of it is due in large part to a market segmentation systemClaritas PRIZMthat offers the mailbox-by-mailbox specificity [that] Panache advertisers so crave. Well, the next time you get some direct mail or other advertising that seems to know exactly who you are and where you live and how much tread life remains on your right rear tire, you know who to thankor blame. (Well, at least you do in Fort Worth, although I must admit that Gwen St. Clair sounds a lot like the fake name some shady broad would use in a hard-boiled detective story.) And let's not forget our favorite vendor, Claritas. Even though it's the dominant player in the geodemographic segmentation market with roughly 67% market share, it is by no means alone; its competitors are, in some ways, even more sophisticated: Acxiom positions its Personicx system as the best for capturing purchase motivation and intent behavior related to key life stage changes, while AGS/Experian attempts to cobble an advantage for MOSAIC clients through aggressive alliances with media-consumption and purchase behavior researchers like MRI, Simmons Market Research, Scarborough and Media Audit. Those alliances are aggressive, or so I imagine, in layering what is known about your purchasing and credit history on top of your neighborhood, educational credentials, and anything else a total stranger may want to take note of before pitching you to buy something. Andget thisour friends at American Demographics are interested in blogs and those who read them! (Isnt that hitting close to home?) According to a study commissioned by AD with research firm Ipsos-Reid, only 17% of American adults are aware of blogs, and only 5% claim to have read one. The... posted by Friedrich at August 25, 2003 | perma-link | (7) comments

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Friedrich -- * Relocating from Milan to England, Alexis of The Stumbling Tongue celebrates here with an amusing posting about Italian packing rituals. * We all know we're living in a re-touched media world. Still, it's useful to be reminded of the fact -- and Greg Apodaca, a San Francisco photographer, has put up a page of very effective demos here. Roll your cursor over a polished, finished photo and see what the original looked like. Link thanks to Brian Micklethwait, here. * Fred Reed spares no one's delicate feelings in this grumpy and mournful column here about the scorn he feels for the overprivileged and badly-educated. * For a long time, I've wanted to read the essay by Robert Nozick whose title asks, "Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?" An eternally perplexing question, no? It turns out to be a good piece, and it can be found here. * 2Blowhards fave Nikos Salingaros has put more essential reading online. In his essay, "Understanding Deconstruction" here, Salingaros compares deconstruction (convincingly, IMHO) to both a virus and a cult. * One of my favorite book forms is the 18th-century miscellany -- it's a catch-all nonform, really. The organic opposite of the streamlined one-idea theme book, a miscellany can bristle with freewheeling energy and thinking. At his miscellany-like blog The New Companion (here), Peter Riis is showing off a rambunctious, omniverous 18th-century-style spirit and brain. * After following the publishing and new-books field professionally for 15 years, the last thing I'm interested in these days is lit-world gossip, let alone blab about hot books and hot writers. I'll be making an exception, though, for Kitabkhana (here), a droll, sophisticated new-books blog. It's written by someone who calls himself The Babu, and who manages the too-rare trick of being interested in his subject while being anything but starry-eyed about it. * Mike Hodges, the director of the film "Croupier" -- my fave of all the recent Brit gangster movies -- turns out to have had an interesting up-and-down career. Xan Brooks at The Guardian visits with the 71 year old director here. Link thanks to James Russell here. * I love the smooth, quietly absurdist bits of Flash poetry at Vector Park, here. Be sure to poke into the archives. Link thanks to S. Y. Affolee, here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 23, 2003 | perma-link | (8) comments

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Friedrich -- * Steve Sailer, as down-to-earth and fearless as ever, reviews current theories about what causes male homosexuality here. * You say you're curious to see what all the movies-being-projected-digitally fuss is about, but have no idea where to find a DLP-equipped theater? Click here. * Budget-busting Republicans? Deficit-hawk Dems? Jerry Taylor and Peter VanDoren at NRO marvel at the bizarre D.C. goings-on, here. * Edward Said (and cultural propriety generally) be damned: Orientalism is something to be savored and enjoyed, at least where cheesy, exotic, sexy paintings are concerned. Here's the best site I've found for fans of this kind of art. * What makes a work of art great? For some reason the question is in the blogging air. Tim Hulsey (here) and Terry Teachout (here) are of the I-know-it-when-I-feel-it school. Aaron Haspel most certainly isn't; he has a whack at the question with a scythe here. Blessed with no sense of timing whatsoever, I cranked out my own, much more pedestrian thoughts a zillion months ago here. Short version of the Michael Blowhard p-o-v: since it's got nothing to do with you or with me (it's something history, whatever that is, decides on and then may or may not change its mind about), why worry? * In the NYTimes here, Katie Hafner visits with three women tech geeks whom the paper first checked in with 10 years ago. What's become of them, their dreams, and their lives? Are they still world-slaying fem-geeks? Nope, nope, and nope is the answer: one's become a lawyer, one's a professor, and one came out of the closet and now works in "business development." Hafner never quite says it in so many words, but you're led to understand that if these women haven't had the careers the Times once envisioned for them, it's the fault of Evil Sexism. Much progress, as ever, remains to be made. Nonetheless, I found it an absorbing article. * Sometimes a blogger rides a beautiful wave of inspiration. Lynn Sislo (here), whose deadpan, soulful tone -- a mixture of calm and quirkiness -- I love, is showing what that's like at the moment; her recent postings have been full of ideas and feeling, and have been even more generous with links than usual. * Evan Kirchhoff (here) and Brian Micklethwait (here) have been mulling over digitization and art, money and copying, and the economics of CDs and DVDs. They're smarter and funnier than anything you'll read on the topic in the mainstream press. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 21, 2003 | perma-link | (11) comments

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Rick Poynor
Friedrich -- Bravely risking the chance that I might break my arm patting ourselves on the back, I'm tickled to take note of a piece in Eye magazine written by Rick Poynor (here) that makes appreciative mention of 2Blowhards. Here's the relevant passage: When it comes to reading blogs, I am strictly a dabbler. These constantly updated logs offer the same fascination and pleasure as diaries. They are direct and confessional and if they are done well, its possible to become absorbed by the musings of a total stranger. Too bad that any time you spend perusing blogs will have to be deducted from time reading other things. Blogs need to be unusually worthwhile to triumph in this Darwinian struggle of texts and justify your return visits. My favourite blog for now, anyway is Two Blowhards (perfect name, a collaboration by a couple of scarily urbane eternal amateurs, which is beautifully written, invariably entertaining and almost indecently well stocked with useful insights. "Scarily urbane" -- I like it! Let's not neglect to tell the wives about that description. They'll scoff, but hey, there it is in print. The mention is a special treat because Rick Poynor is the best design critic I'm aware of. He's a fab thinker and writer, one of the most tuned-in observers of visual culture around, and one of the few who's as interested in the content as much as the visual impact of what he's discussing. Some years back, he was also the founder and then editor of Eye magazine, and during his time at the helm Eye (which is still first-rate) was one of the best arts magazines I've ever read. Poynor's praise also comes as a pleasing if embarassing coincidence, because shortly before leaving on vacation I'd spent time combing the Web for links to Poynor's work, eager to pass them along to you and to any visitors who might be interested. Unfortunately, time pressed, energy flagged, and I crapped out and let my little project go. Let me semi-correct that bit of injustice now -- do be sure to check Poynor's brain, eye and writing chops out. Here's a book he's written about contempo design which, to my shame, I haven't yet read; here's another. Here's a talk he gave to the AIGA, the graphic designers' organization. And here's a piece he wrote for Metropolis about the vogue for "magalogs" -- publications that are half magazine and half catalog. Many thanks to Rick Poynor, who I hope will set up up his own website soon. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 20, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Saturday, August 9, 2003

Friedrich -- * James Russell (of Hot Buttered Death) is interviewed by Dave Tepper, here. James is recommending the now-on-DVD film "24 Hour Party People" -- I'll second that. * The innovative Austrian-ish economist Tyler Cowen has joined the team of bloggers over at the Volokh Conspiracy, here, where he's supplying fresh and informative econ-and-culture postings. 2Blowhards visitors are also likely to enjoy Cowen's book about culture and the market, In Praise of Commercial Culture (buyable here). First-rate, and full of eye-opening facts your English and art profs never passed along. Hey, here's a review of the book (from Salon) that I can totally get behind. * Kevin Michael Grace, than whom no one is more balefully conservative, grumps his way (entertainingly, and rather sweetly) through the Bennifer imbroglio as well as (eeeeek) "The Vagina Monologues," here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 9, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Friedrich -- * Aaron Haspel finally comes through with his long-promised, much-anticipated posting on Objectivism and Objectivists, here. More than delivers, really -- it's a corker that makes you wonder exactly how many Ayn Rand-ish bridges Aaron is burning. Not to be missed, especially for those who, like me, are mystified by the lure of Objectivism. Lots of goodies and info, too: Did you know that many Objectivists are Jewish? * I'm fonder of theatergoing than most straight guys are, but even I stare at some shows thinking, They can't really expect the straight audience to be interested in this, can they? Steve Sailer muses about the topic, as well as other gays-in-the-higher-arts questions, here. * Did you know that whistling was once a big cultural thing? Make that a big, big cultural thing. Swing bands featured whistling virtuosos, and whistling stars were popular recording artists. Hey, my dad was a heckuva whistler with a big pop-song repertoire. He could trill and improvise, and was a terrific birdcall imitator. Me, I'm lucky if I get a few sloppy-wet notes out -- and apparently the whistling craze did indeed (mostly) come to an end with the Boomers. Dan Barry of the NYTimes visits with Steve Herbst, currently the country's Grand Champion whistler, here. You can enjoy some whistling sound samples (as well as buy CDs) at Herbst's own website, here. I notice that the sound samples at the site of four-time-champ Chris Ullman (here) are more extensive. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 7, 2003 | perma-link | (10) comments

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Friedrich -- * The Freudians just won't let it go. Have you followed their latest ploy to keep Freud in the legit spotlight? OK, so as a scientist he may have been flat-out wrong, over and over again. It doesn't matter -- because we never should have been evaluating him as a scientist in the first place. It's our fault, our mistake. We were missing the point. Which is ....? That his work shouldn't be taken as science, it should be taken as imaginative literature. He wasn't an out-of-control, ambitious nutcase who made destructive and misleading (and sometimes dishonest) overgeneralizations based on tiny Viennese samples. No, he was a great literary writer. So now we've got Freud the artiste to contend with. I don't know whether to be amused or appalled. Adam Kirsch does a fine job of examining the new case for Freud in Slate here. Link found via Arts and Letters Daily, here. * Buddhist wildman and take-no-guff GenX entrepreneur David Mercer is whipping up a blogging storm here. * Cristina Hoff Sommers bemoans the efforts of educationists to make boys get in touch with their feelings here. * Are there readers who haven't yet enjoyed Luke Ford's long q&a with the very impressive Heather MacDonald (here)? Go. Read. Learn. Caution: megabrain at work. * Given that (depending on the poll) 70-80% of Americans have serious reservations about current immigration policy, it's amazing how little press coverage the issue gets. PC time, anyone? So it's nice to see that the web seems to be breaking this taboo down. Anthony Browne reviews the state of the immigration debate in England for the Spectator here. It turns out that even some lefties are alarmed about current policies. * Yet another way to escape BlogSpot: TypePad, the EZ and cheap (or so they claim) hosted service put together by the creators of Movable Type, is now open for business here. * I get accused of all kinds of Boomer treachery whenever I try to formulate an observation or two about Xers and Yers. Which leaves me wondering: when exactly did I become Mr. Representative Boomer? Heck, I remember you and me bitching about the Boomers 25 years ago. Anyway, I was pleased to see that I'm not the only person foolhardy enough to try to make a little sense of today's young people. Frank Furedi in Spiked Online marvels at them too, here. I wonder if offended Xers and Yers will let him have it the way they do me. They don't seem to like being observed, do they? Hmmm. Kinda fits with the picture ... * Hard-drive rage alert: a message left for the customer-service rep, here. Link thanks to Yahmdallah (here), whose posting is full of many other goodies. * As attention-grabbing as the low-riding hip-hugger style can be, it can also get to be a bit much. As a friend of mine, generally an enthusiastic girlwatcher, recently said, "I don't even know these people. Why am I supposed... posted by Michael at August 5, 2003 | perma-link | (15) comments

Saturday, August 2, 2003

Web Brilliance
Friedrich -- The time has finally come for traditional artists to give up the fight. To just lay down those clunky old analog tools. What's the point in carrying on a battle that's already lost? OK, so I'm raving and overstating. Still, thanks to links supplied by a friend in the ad biz, I've been looking at the websites of a couple of brilliant digi-designers, and my mind and eyes are dizzy from doing happy backflips. (I was struck so dumb -- in a good way -- by this stuff that I thought of titling this posting "Holy Fuck!!!!") Word to the wise: fast connections only. * Yugo Nakamura's site, here. Imagine a horizontal line about a half inch up from the bottom of your screen; there's a line of dots there. Run your cursor over them, click on a few -- and enter mischievous miniature universes that are like cyber versions of Mallarme poems. * And a page of trippy, gorgeous Flash (I assume) things by the British designer Daniel Brown (and some collaborators) here. Be sure not to miss my two faves, here and here. Lava lamps, only about a zillion times better. Whew: interactivity, beauty, wit, play, moods. And more art 'n' talent 'n' creativity on display here than in -- OK, I am raving. Still: pretty darn cool. Eager to know your reactions. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at August 2, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Friedrich -- * I just noticed that all-around visual guy and occasional 2Blowhards commenter John Leavitt (a guest posting by John is here) now has his own website, here. Check out his illustrations and cartoons. John's got a striking way with Art Nouveau-ish lines and shapes; he's an artist who really knows how to make ink behave. * A brief, casual posting by Lynn Sislo (here) says just about everything that's ever needed to be said about why artists find the idea of socialism so appealing. * Did you know that Denis Dutton, the man behind the great Arts & Letters Daily (here), is an evo-bio/evo-psych fan, as well as an arts buff? As well as much else: philosophy prof, editor of the journal Philosophy and Literature (you can get a free copy here), author/editor of a fascinating book about forgery and the philosophy of art (here) ... Despite his obligations, he sometimes finds time to write, and when he does it's always a treat. Here's a recent essay of his discussing politics from an evo-bio point of view. Vigorous, brainy, organized, and funny -- hard to beat. Link found thanks to the Human Nature Daily Review, here. And here's a long Salon q&a with Dutton. * Do you follow Peter Briffa, who writes the blog PublicInterest (here)? He's one of a kind -- grumpy, goading, sarcastic, reactionary, brusque. Full of entertaining bile, in other words, and (he'll kill me for saying this, but so be it) sweeter and more affable than he probably means to be. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 30, 2003 | perma-link | (7) comments

Friday, July 25, 2003

Yet More Elsewhere
Friedrich -- Good god, but I'm in a happy, link-y mood this week. And why fight it, eh? * Virginia Postrel has been thinking about technology and aesthetics. Her new book on the topic is "The Substance of Style" and is buyable here. (I have a copy but haven't gotten into it yet.) She gives Wired magazine a sample of her thinking here, and I suspect that many 2Blowhards visitors will find her p-o-v attractive: All of us must give up the cultural baggage we've inherited from the romantics, who set art against tech, and feeling against reason; from the modernists, who treated ornament as crime and commerce as corruption; and from the efficiency experts, who valued function while disdaining form. You go, cyber-aesthete girl. She includes some interesting facts, too: "The number of graphic designers in the US has grown tenfold in a generation, to an estimated 150,000." You know, there is a heck of a lot of design around these days, isn't there. Link thanks to Arts and Letters Daily, here. And here's a q&a David Womack did with Postrel for Gain magazine. * David Sucher, who took some time away from his terrific urban-design blog City Comforts in order to put finishing touches on a new edition of his book, announces that he's finally done -- with this edition of the book, anyway. In his I'm-back posting here, he includes a link to a PDF file that'll give you a taste of what the book is like. I recommend the book strongly. It's full of good perceptions and helpful ideas, all of which couldn't be more down to earth. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 25, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

More Elsewhere
Friedrich -- * Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes (here) points out that the first-rate (and largely jargon-free) British art magazine Modern Painters has a revamped website here. They don't give much away for free, that's for sure. But there's enough on display so surfers can do a little taste-testing. * Readers perplexed (as I often am) by the way the words "liberal" and "conservative" get used in America might find this passage from Jonah Goldberg's current column (here) helpful: In America it's true that conservatives want to defend traditional arrangements but our traditional arrangements are defined by classically liberal institutions. This is why Hayek admired American conservatives even though he distrusted European ones because American conservatives are determined to defend the institutions which keep us free. American liberals are determined to protect the "advances" they believe keep us "progressive." * A new blog-discovery for me, Gerard Van der Leun's American Digest (here) has a freewheeling, recess-time quality that I find hard to resist. Long on brains, information and ideas, too. For fun displays of blogging fireworks, try this posting on the anti-war poets (here), or this one on what Gerard amusingly calls "media-induced ADD" (here) * In his Home Video column for the NYTimes (here), Peter Nichols includes some useful reminders about how important the DVD/videocassette markets are for moviemakers. In the first half of the year, video revenue was up 16% even while box office receipts were down by 4 percent. "Movies routinely make more money (sometimes twice as much) on video than in theaters," Nichols writes. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 25, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Good News
Friedrich -- * I don't spend a lot of time surfing the (yawn) political blogs simply because I find (yawn) politics such a yawn. But when I do surf them, I'm often surprised how good many of them are. Jim Miller (here) is beyond first-class -- why doesn't he appear in my morning paper? Catallaxy Files (here) is always provocative and often jazzily written. Andrew Norton, for example, describes an evening spent at a university conference. "For people who insist on 'critiquing' and 'problematising' everyone else, they seemed rather reluctant to accept criticism," he marvels. * Paul Williams has a new issue of his minimagazine Cipher Culture up here. He's got an agile, musing, loop-the-loop mind that never seems to lose its poise. In an essay about tourists vs. travelers, not only does he not take the expected point of view, he pulls the whole question inside out: "The search for 'authentic' local cultures been rendered impossible, says Naomi Klein in No Logo, by global corporate capitalism. Oh - the irony - that No Logo has become the bible for English-speaking travellers searching for themselves! But wait - the belief remains that authentic cultures haven't completely disappeared." * Best of all, Yahmdallah is posting once again, here. He reports that his spirits are in OK shape, and as he tears through reviews of movies and books he scatters "plot spoiler alerts" all over the place -- always a good sign. I'm thrilled he's back. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 24, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Charlie B Part 4
Friedrich -- Ain't it always the way? The moment I pull my sorry self together and put up links to the first three installments of Charlie B's why-didn't-I-think-of-that-myself "50 Things That Made Me What I Am" series, he goes and puts up Part 4. (It's readable here.) It's a fascinating posting on the topic of the gay-porn artist Tom of Finland, whose work clearly means more than a little something to Charlie. Full disclosure: I admit that I'm a fan of Tom of Finland's too. Talk about an artist who did what he did once and for all, and made it his own. Even if the objects of my own desire are of a different sex, I find that there's very little art that's so direct and unapologetic about the way the male erotic imagination works -- its love of the exaggerated and the heroic, its dick-centeredness, the way raunch and rapture overlap and blend, the combo of sweetness and grottiness ... Has there ever been a straight artist who was so eloquent and direct about the male erotic urge? Bukowski, maybe. A couple of film directors: Bertrand Blier and Marco Ferreri. A few comic-book artists: John ("Horny Biker Sluts") Howard, especially. But many others? It seems that guys, and even guy artists, tend to moderate their tendencies when they have to take gals into account. Which reminds me of an exchange I once witnessed. A woman said to a gay friend of mine, "Why do so many of you gay guys tend to be so promiscuous? Is it something about gayness?" And my gay friend said, "No, it's something about guyness." Did I ever tell you that I once went to a movie theater to see a documentary about Tom of Finland? Being very careful to keep my eyes to myself. And not turning around to check out what all the creaking, groaning, and gasping was about ten rows behind me. A not-bad documentary, by the way, now purchasable as a DVD here. Fun to learn that Tom was drawing what moved him deeply -- he was doing what he loved -- and that he eventually managed to make a living at it. Imagine that. Tom's work raises some fun questions, too. For instance: why is "objectification" objectionable if it's done by men to women, but not if it's done by men to men? Tom of Finland's work is nothing if not flamboyantly, insistently objectifying. Yet you don't hear too many political complaints about it. Do we conclude that only gay guys are allowed to have the fun of objectifying? Or is it perhaps that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with objectification? (My own hunch is that objectifying is simply part of what the erotic imagination does, whether it's a question of the male or female, straight or gay erotic imagination. Indulge your erotic imagination, in other words, and there's going to be some objectifying going on. Deal with it. Or, even better, learn to enjoy it.) You can check... posted by Michael at July 24, 2003 | perma-link | (9) comments

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Friedrich -- * Steve Sailer is best-known for his brainy essays about race and genetics (here's a good recent example), but he's just as brainy and down-to-earth when he writes about movies. I hope he won't mind me lifting a long passage from his current UPI review of "Northfork":At age 31, Michael and Mark Polish are still in the extended prime of what novelist Milan Kundera calls the "lyric age." They possess the young artist's obsession with finding beautiful patterns in the world and revealing them with hallucinatory emphasis. There's something spiritual about their search for the perfect camera angle to show that even in the dingiest of diners, the ceiling lamps recede with a lavish regard for the laws of perspective that would have delighted Van Eyck or Vermeer. Nonetheless, audiences watch movies for plot and personality, not perspective.There's more worldly wisdom in that paragraph than in entire issues of Film Comment, and no shortage of film smarts either. You can read the whole review here. * Aaron Haspel has been up to some entertainingly malicious no-good again. Pull together a little courage and check out his "blogger's lexicon" here -- oops, I can see that I've transgressed more than a few times myself. Reading Aaron is like going in for a brain tuneup. * Charlie B. has said some awfully nice things about 2Blowhards on his blog Here Inside. So I hope I'm not embarrassing anyone by subjecting them to an overly-slobbery mutual admiration society, but Here Inside has been one of my favorite reads since I first ran across it a few months ago. At the moment, Charlie's big project is an ongoing series, "50 things that made me what I am." #1? Donna Summer. Followed by Penguin Books and Paul Tillich -- Charlie is one very interesting guy, to say the least, and the series so far reads like a classic small autobiography. Posting #1 in the series is here; posting #2 is here; and #3 is here * I also love reading View from the Foothills, Will and Jane Duquette's blog, which day after day demonstrates that sunny spirits and brains don't have to be strangers. (An assumption the NYC crowd I live among is much too quick to make.) Deb English, a first-class reader and regular Foothills contributor, has read Quentin Bell's bio of Virginia Woolf and passes along her thoughts about it here. She also reports that she's come around on Ngaio Marsh (here). Will, meanwhile, has released a new version of his software package Notebook v. 1.1 (here) -- if only he had a version for those of us still getting by with Mac OS 9. And he has finally licked the old how-best-to-backup challenge (here). * Have you heard that Penthouse is likely to stop publishing sometime soon? Felix Salmon, just back from holiday, compares the latest issues of Penthouse and Loaded and offers some reflections here. There isn't a smarter observer of the media scene around. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 22, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Back from the Dead
Apologies to anyone who tried to leave a comment on our blog over the last 12 hours or so. Our webhost company, which generally gives us excellent service, was wrestling with some technical challenges. Things seem to back in functioning order, so let the party begin anew.... posted by Michael at July 16, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Paris, City of Romance?
Friedrich -- Maria Farrell over at Crooked Timber thinks not, here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 15, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

18 and Over Only, Please
Friedrich -- Ero-blogging bliss, here. Who knew Portuguese could be such a sexy-looking language? Maybe life in Brazil actually is as hedonistic as the tourist ads make it out to be. And, hey, if this blog really is by a woman, as it claims to be, then there go every single one of my theories about the differences between the way women and men react to erotica. Don't neglect to scroll to the bottom of the screen -- a little way up is a long posting in English. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 15, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Evan Kirchhoff's Honda
Friedrich -- What was stolen is now found, and only two blocks away. Evan Kirchhoff's postings about the disappearance and reappearance of his Honda are droll little blogging gems. Here, the car is stolen, and here it shows up again. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 15, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

Monday, July 14, 2003

Terry Teachout Now
Friedrich -- A few postings ago I was feeling mighty pleased with myself for being the first blogger (I thought, anyway) to announce that the first-rate theater and music critic Terry Teachout had started a blog. Whoops -- I pulled the trigger a few days too early, as it turned out. In fact, Teachout begins blogging today, here. Along with his many other virtues, Teachout is especially generous with tips and suggestions -- further reading, further viewing, further listening. (I've already ordered a Benny Carter CD he mentioned in one posting.) But then, I've never understood critics who don't pass along a lot of suggestions and tips. Have you? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 14, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Lynn Sislo's Back
Friedrich -- Very glad to see that Lynn Sislo's back blogging. After enduring a nightmarish stretch with an evil webhosting company, she's up and running again at her usual address, here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 10, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Terry Teachout, Blogger
Friedrich -- I'm thrilled to discover that Terry Teachout, one of the country's best critics -- he writes about theater for the WSJ and music for Commentary -- has just started his own blog. Is he the first of the "real" critics to do so? I'm hoping we'll see more of the professional art-chat class open their doors to the public a little more than they've shown themselves willing to do thus far. I'm not surprised that Teachout is the leader here. He's a free thinker, not at all constrained by academic nonsense or media pomposity -- makes sense that he's written a biography of H.L. Mencken. He's generous with insights, discoveries and tips, and is also the kind of critic you get a lot out of even when you disagree with him. We need more such. We need more such running blogs, too. Take it to the people, critic-dudes and critic-dudettes. You can find Teachout's site here. Best, Michael UPDATE: Teachout is also contributing to the National Review's groupblog The Corner, here. Thanks to Sasha Castel-Dodge, here.... posted by Michael at July 10, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

Free Reads -- Alice on Punk
Friedrich -- Another inspired, merrily whimsical (and incisive, ballsy, etc) posting from Alice Bachini, here. Hippies vs. Punk is her theme. Sample passage: The Hippies had long drawn-out drugs of self-indulgence that made people think their most boringest ideas were worth droning for hours and hours. The Punks had amphetamines. Amphetamines evidently make you play a snappy tune several times while jumping up and down and wanting to kill people. I kind of appreciate this, as a sentiment; also it's very Eminemish, which is good. So, that's why everyone used to hate hippies. Punks were better, and changed the culture, allowing us to stop pretending we actually liked guitar solos. Now that's blogging. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 10, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Our Condolences
Michael: Our frequent commenter, Yamdallah, has recently endured great loss. (You can read his rather stunning post here.) On behalf of 2blowhards I'd like to wish him and his family our deepest sympathy and our hopes that they face easier times ahead. Sincerely, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at July 9, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Crooked Timber
Friedrich -- Some classy bloggers (including two of my faves, Chris Bertram and Henry Farrell) have just kicked off a new groupblog called Crooked Timber, here. They're off to a confident, entertaining start and I'm looking forward to lots more. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at July 8, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Monday, June 30, 2003

Weekend Update
Michael: Just a few items that cropped up over the weekend: Re my posting on Fathers, Sons and the Hulk, there is a lengthy and interesting profile of the film's director Ang Lee entitled Becoming the Hulk, in the June 30 issue of The New Yorker. Re your post on Surfin' Ignominy, I thought you'd like to know that my 12-year old daughter went to her first day of surf camp in Malibu on Friday, where she managed to get up on her board and rode a wave at least 5 times. Kind of reminds me of that scene in "Personal Best" where the male coach sits in the bleachers drinking beer while his Olympic-level female athlete is training on the track, during which she passes an anonymous guy out jogging; the coach yells "You got passed by a girrrlllllll!" One of the great scenes in modern cinema. Re my career as a weekend painter, I packed up my new foldable French easel and headed off into a canyon for a spot of plein-air painting, only to be attacked by a swarm of carnivorous insects. I tried to ignore them while creating a masterpiece; but I regret to announce the final outcome was Art 0, Insects 1. They even chased me back to my car and then buzzed around the windows making a noise that sounded like and dont come back, punk. I've had plenty of time to contemplate my humiliation while I dab my hundreds of insect bites with calomine lotion. Re nothing in particular, I managed to dodge going to Lily Tomlins one-woman play, The Search for Intelligent Life by convincing my wife to take her girlfriend as a birthday present. While chortling evilly to myself at my cleverness, I then ended up having to take my daughter to Charlies Angels: Full Throttle. This was a bit too much good-girl sexinesswhich has nothing to do with real-life sex, you understandfor me to take in a mere two hours. The situation was made worse by a weird coincidencein twenty years of living in Los Angeles, I never saw such a collection of attractive women as were at that particular movie showing. All this goes to show that despite rumors to the contrary, there is a God, and that trying to take the easy way out is apparently an efficient way to piss him off. Cheers, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at June 30, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Mini Link-o-Rama
Friedrich -- Life's been busy, I've been even more disorganized than usual ... So just a quick once-over today. * Evan Kirchhoff has been wrestling with computer games, spam, and Canadian politics (Canada has politics?), and has been making sharp point after sharp point (here). * Tim Hulsey (here) continues his first-rate Intro to Film History series with a posting on "Chimes at Midnight," writes a refreshingly ambivalent piece about Gay Pride Day, and does some thinking about live vs. animated action movies that'll interest a lot of 2Blowhards visitors. * Over at the engaging new pop-culture blog called The Bizness (here), the pseudonymous blogger is full of enthusiasm and energy. If Tim Hulsey is the refined and articulate observer of the movieworld, The Bizness -- uncouth and overexcited, yet with a puppydog sweetness -- is like the movieworld's id. * Alexandra Ceely (at Out of Lascaux, here) has been lively and searching, with thoughtful postings about medieval and postmodern art, and about beginning to collect Hawaiian shirts. * All we bloggers have our warmer and our cooler streaks, and part of the fun of following blogs is keeping up with these cycles. The hottest cultureblogger I'm aware of at the moment is David Sucher at his architecture-and-town-planning blog City Comforts (here). He's only a couple of weeks into blogging and is clearly overflowing with energy and things to say. He'll be terrif even if and when he slows down a bit, but lord knows there's a special thrill in catching someone while he's on fire. Short sample: A diverting and comfortable city --- check this out for yourself --- is not made of a series of 'brilliant' designs but is a fabric woven according to well-understood rules. Some of the buildings may indeed be indifferent as pieces of architecture. But they fit together to create good streets. Great stuff: in three sentences, David says 9/10s of all anyone really needs to know about architecture and neighborhoods. It's a pity -- a tragedy, really -- that so many of the architecture critics and schools have lost track of these basic, but important, principles. * Polly Frost (here) seems to be edging back into quirky blogging life again, having put up one of her too-rare but always insightful postings, this one about the new Lukas Moodysson picture "Lilya 4Ever." * Lynn Sislo (here) has been generous and inventive with links, has written reflective short essays about writing and racism, and has begun a series of postings on Classical Music 101. * Brian Micklethwait (here), writing about the architect Michael Graves, has some caustic and sensible things to say about design in general. * Two of the most civilized culturebloggers out there -- Alan Sullivan and Will Duquette -- have moved their blogs onto Moveable Type -- yay to that -- and have new URLs. Alan's Seablogger is now here, and Will's View from the Foothills is now here. Adjust those bookmarks. * And, Yahmdallah visits a few strip joints, here. Best,... posted by Michael at June 14, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Friday, June 13, 2003

Free Reads -- William Berlind on Itunes
Friedrich -- We aren't the only people gnawing over the question of how the digitizing of almost everything may be affecting the arts, and our experience of the arts. William Berlind noticed that his daughter and her friends are listening to pop music via Apple's new Itunes service -- but they aren't downloading the songs. They're just listening to the free 30-second promotional snippets. He takes off from there to make many terrific observations. Sample passage: Technological advancement has changed the priorities of composition. The emphasis, which was once on development and theme, on modulations that took place over the course of a song or a musical piece, has shifted to sound design and texturevariables that can be piled up and reduced in a manner of seconds. Its the difference between developing a musical idea (recasting it, changing keys and repeating it) and putting a sound through different filters, or playing a beat four bars with a bassline, four bars without. If our musical attention span could be diagnosed, we would all get treated for musical Attention Deficit Disorder. Berlind's piece can be read in the New York Observer, here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at June 13, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Mini Link-a-palooza
Friedrich -- Home with a stomach virus. Heroically, I struggled to the keyboard and, despite the occasional tummy gurgle, made a few happy discoveries. * Aaron Haspel has posted a new installment in his "How to Read a Poem" series, this one about "The Emperor of Ice Cream" (here). * Paul Mansour, who blogs too seldom, makes an inspired return here. He takes a swing first at the chic architecture world, then at a Robert Schiller op-ed piece about inequality. I also stumbled across the online presences of a couple of magazines, both of which offer much to be enjoyed. * The American Conservative (here) -- yep, the one edited by Patrick Buchanan and Taki -- runs articles and essays from the point of view of the paleo-right. Some are surprising (righties against the Iraq war; righties against free trade), and some are well-done. Not enough of what they print in the magazine is online -- I want it all, and I want it free! -- but I enjoyed wrestling with this piece by Robert Locke (here), in which he makes a distinction between globalism (in his view, an elite ideology akin to Marxism) and globalization (a simple acknowledgment of the fact that more trade is occurring between countries worldwide). Is he correct? I certainly wouldn't know, but I had a good time scratching my chin over his arguments. I can also recommend this piece here by Matthew Alexander, arguing that the English renaissance composer William Byrd ranks among the very greatest of composers. I'm a long way from being anyone whose classical-music tastes anyone else should pay attention to, but I can't resist noting that one of my favorite CDs is of Glenn Gould performing work by Byrd and two other standouts, Gibbons and Sweelinck. Heartbreakingly beautiful, and buyable here. * Why hadn't I run across the Australian magazine Policy before (here)? Free-market theory, evolution, the occasional look at culture ... Bliss. Even though I've only begun to scratch the surface of their vast online archive, I've already liked a lot of what they've published. Peter Saunders has a marvelous a q&a with the brilliant English prison doctor/essayist Theodore Dalyrmple here. Denis Dutton (of Arts & Letters Daily) and Wolfgang Kasper argue here that the Kyoto Treaty is less about doing the environment some good than it is a powergrab by Euro-bureaucrats. Marian Tupy makes a couldn't-be-more-clear-or-concise presentation (here) of the free-market view of foreign aid. In "Evolutionary Economics" (here), Jason Potts connects the dots between Darwin and Adam Smith. And a special treat for culturebuffs -- the terrific political-philosophy prof Jeremy Shearmur (who once worked with Popper and Hayek) visits the New-Urbanist Florida town of Celebration and comes back with mostly-positive things to say about it here. Having a computer and a cable modem makes being home sick a whole lot more fun than it'd otherwise be. Gurgle, gurgle, Michael... posted by Michael at May 31, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Friedrich -- It may be impossible to keep up with all the good culturechat in blogland, but that isn't going to stop this Blowhard from trying. Alexandra Ceely has given her art-history blog Out of Lascaux a fresh look, poured it into Movable Type, and parked it at a new address (here). Felix Salmon (here) enjoyed an evening of Woody Allen one-act plays. Mike Snider (here) asks why there isn't more erotic poetry written from the hetero-male point of view, and supplies his own lovely example of such. Brian Micklethwait (here) buys a set of Dvorak's string quartets and wonders what will become of the classical-music CD business. Felicity McCarthy (here), deep in the midst of a major move, decides to take charge of her dad's 80th birthday party. Lynn Sislo watches "This Old House" and wonders why she doesn't have her own show on PBS (here). Yahmdallah (here), on an inspired tear, discusses the "remastering" of CDs, Kurt Cobain's journals, people who take pop music 'way too seriously -- and reprints a "date from hell" story he originally wrote for Salon. Forget the review in your local paper. Dick Ranko's posting on "The Matrix Reloaded" (here) is the one to read. J.W. (here) is presenting his 25 favorite comic books. "The Matrix Reloaded"? "Batboy"? That new Robert Flaherty DVD? Tim Hulsey (here) has brainy and helpful things to say about them all. At this pace, he's giving Yahmdallah a run for his money. Over at the ever-hopping, Deb English loves an E.F. Benson "Lucia" novel (here). Will himself gets his first eyeglasses (here), and switches to Mac (here). Scott Chaffin, a fan of suspense potboilers, reads a John Sandford thriller (here). My find of the week is S.Y. Affolee, a young Asian-American woman (and self-described geek) who's studying bio at Dartmouth. She writes a me-blog and posts about this 'n' that, yet I was taken by her sharp mind and her voice, which is intimate yet reserved, direct yet discreet, solemn yet sly. Her blog's a charmer. If you want to taste-test, let me suggest this reflective posting here about what it's like to grow up being watched by older Asian ladies. Charlie B has been doing some sharp thinking about the relations between modernism, pop, and the new cyberarts here (but the permalink doesn't work, so go to his blog and then do a search on the word "pussy"). Aaron Haspel fearlessly takes on the important topic of zoning laws, technology and architecture (here). Don't miss the comments. Ian Hamet shows a lot of enthusiasm for two great ages of adventure fiction (here). The amazing Colby Cosh -- what is he on, and where can I get some? -- takes a break from mad cow disease and Canadian politics to discuss Benvenuto Cellini and the Italian Renaissance more generally (here). Over at Gene Expression, Razib describes the early migrations of our ancestors (here), while Jason Soon has a brilliant posting on Hayek, neural networks and free will... posted by Michael at May 24, 2003 | perma-link | (15) comments

Friday, May 16, 2003

Friedrich -- * Here's the transcript of a long Booknotes interview with John McWhorter, the Berkeley linguistics prof and author of "Losing the Race" and "Authentically Black." I find his thinking about racial issues very simpatico. Plus a 2Blowhards exclusive (I think): McWhorter has been an enthusiastic customer-reviewer at Amazon. You can read his reviews and get a sense of his tastes (musicals and '70s sitcoms!) here. * Not all architecture chat is incomprehensible and jargon-heavy. Here's a freewheeling discussion about urbanism, planning and money that has its feet on the ground and some provocative ideas up in the air: New Urbanists and libertarians discuss whether it's possible for them to find common ground. Some New Urbanists tend to the NPR/Al Gore/soft-socialist side of things, while others see themselves as working with the market. Some libertarians see New Urbanists as allies, but the more hardcover libertarians see them as new-style socialists. An absorbing discussion on topics that resonate. (Link via the always interesting Plenetizin, here) * The Daniel Libeskind WTC-site-winning proposal: admirers see it as grand and tragic yet up to date. To me, it's a trainwreck of soon-to-be-regretted fads, a videogame parlor with pretentions to gravity. So I was glad to read Catesby Leigh in the Weekly Standard (here) and Michael J. Lewis in Commentary (here), who both seem to dislike the design as much as I do. * Here's a fascinating comment thread from a discussion on Archnet that'll interest anyone who enjoyed our q&a with Nikos Salingaros. The excellent Lucien Steil (of Katarxis, here) checks in with some very civilized and tantalizing contributions. * Denis Dutton (editor of Arts & Letters Daily) has a well-argued column here about welfare and dependency in New Zealand. * Weird Flash genius, here. * I suppose everyone else has read this already, but for laggards like me, here's a q&a with the brilliant columnist Mark Steyn. Steyn, by the way, is a theater critic and historian as well as a political commentator. Here's a terrific piece by him about Bob Hope, who turns 100 later this month. * Did you get as fascinated by the Unabomber as I did? The bitter ex-grad student, seething with high-minded anarchist contempt ... Hmm, I have dim but definite memories of going through such a phase myself, funnily enough. Robert Birnbaum interviews Alston Chase about his new book "Harvard and the Unabomber" here. * Maggie Gyllenhaal, tastily adorable-yet-edgy in "Secretary," comes off in this interview (here) like someone much too eager to be taken seriously, alas. * I hadn't realized until today that dynamist-libertarian Virginia Postrel is writing a blog, here. * BBC Radio Four's website runs an engaging and informative five-part series on neuroscience, here. (Look for the "transcript" buttons on the righthand side, and you'll be able to print out a copy.) Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California (San Diego), is the very good and helpful lecturer. (Link thanks to Stumbling Tongue, here.)... posted by Michael at May 16, 2003 | perma-link | (5) comments

Thursday, May 15, 2003

New CultureBlogs
Friedrich -- Three more sharp new additions to the cultureblogosphere. *Dick Ranko (why do I suspect a pseudonym?) is only one real posting into his career as a solo blogger (here), but it's a corker, comparing the rock group The Band to the Robert Altman movie "McCabe & Mrs. Miller." *At his new blog Forager (here), JW is showing off serious writing chops and an obsessive involvement with all things movie and comic-book. JW takes the occasional break from treatises on the X-Men and Jack Kirby to indulge in reflections about such topics as Justin Timberlake and NASCAR. *Only a couple of issues into his kinda-blog/kinda-magazine site Cipher Culture (here), Paul Williams has already mused winningly about the antiwar Left, the vogue for the hairless-male look, and the changing nature of cultural criticism itself. All three of these brainy young Turks are enthusiastic participants over at Polly Frost's Forum, where the conversations have an even looser feel than blogging babble does. Shooting from the hip, or artchat at the Cedar Bar --that's what it's like over at Polly's Forum. You can join in the fun here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 15, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...
Aside from a few minor database glitches during the export/import process, and the optimizing of images posted here - it is done. One change that may help many - the logo image up top, on every page except for the main page, is now a link back to the main page. That should save some people the monotony of clicking back, back, back..... I now return you to your regular hosts.... Daniel... posted by Michael at May 13, 2003 | perma-link | (9) comments

Sunday, May 11, 2003

test #2
still testing, sorry........ posted by Michael at May 11, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Saturday, May 10, 2003

testing..... give me a day or so to sort out the templates and everything should be working fine..... daniel... posted by Michael at May 10, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Friedrich -- I just finished Roger Scruton's new book The West and the Rest (here). I enjoyed it, and got a lot out of it. Scruton does an amazingly clear and vivid job of spelling out how different the West has made itself from the rest of the world, and reminds us that not only do the Islamic countries have no experience with democracy, they have no experience with any separation at all between church and state. In a startling article here (click on "Continue to message"), Steve Sailer points out one more challenge, which is the frequency of "consanguineous" marriages in the mideast -- marriages, that is, between first and second cousins. Remember "Deliverance"? Well, an Iraqi is twice as likely to marry his cousin as an American hillbilly is. "In Iraq, as in much of the region," Sailer writes, "nearly half of all married couples are first or second cousins to each other." No wonder tribal loyalties are so ferocious in that part of the world. Why hasn't the mainstream press made more of this? Polly Frost writes about the influential (and underknown) stage monologuist Ruth Draper here. Polly has also kicked off a "let's discuss art, books, theater and food" forum, which is off to a lively start. You can join the party here. Lynn Sislo takes note of and wrestles with the way she's an elitist so far as the arts that she knows well go, and a populist so far as arts that she knows less well go, here. A posting that'll ring bells with many arts fans. Aaron Haspel works up a good God of the Machine head of steam over the question of whether hetero marriage should receive any governmental privileges at all, here. The assaultively sexual play XXX (which does not star Vin Diesel) by the experimental Spanish theater troupe La Fura dels Baus has opened in London for a four-week run. Based on the Marquis de Sade's "Philosophy in the Bedroom," it's said to be the most sexually explict show ever to be produced in England. Quel surprise that there has been no shortage of coverage: you might start here and here. Here's a Guardian account of the play's original Spanish production. Sodomy, incest, rape and genital mutilation figure among the play's attractions. Did audience members really have sex in the aisles during one performance (here)? Via Daze Reader, here. Alice Bachini has developed an amusing and persuasive something that she calls the Common Person's Theory of Work (here -- you'll have to do some scrolling, but be sure to let yourself be tickled by Alice's prose and thoughts on the way down too). How many films has your opinion done a U-turn on? One of the films I came around on was Dziga Vertov's legendary Man With a Movie Camera, which I saw back in film class at our Lousy Ivy University and wasn't much struck by. Years later, when I saw a version of the film set to a... posted by Michael at April 29, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Web Surfing
Friedrich -- William Shawcross is best known for his book "Sideshow," in which he made the case that Nixon and Kissinger were responsible for the destruction of Cambodia. So it's fascinating to read this recent speech of his here, which is full of admiration for America and even recognition that, like him or not, GW Bush is some kind of effective leader. I guess the French still do wine, cheese and fashion pretty well, though a friend living in Paris tells me that French cooking has gone to hell. But do they matter on any other subject? Yet the French seem to be having an even harder time than the English getting used to the fact that they aren't playing in the majors any more. Jackie Wullschlager in the Financial Times makes some sense about the decline of France here. (Both of these links via the ever-resourceful John Ray, here.) Are there surfers who aren't aware that, "the conservative news service," provides and updates links to the work of a couple of dozen right-ish columnists here? Too much! But isn't that always the way on the Web? Denis Dutton (editor of Arts and Letters Daily, here) thinks that Theodore Dalrymple is one of the best essayists since Orwell. And, hey, I'm on board with that. It's a good week for Dalyrmple fans. In the Telegraph, he reviews a new Peter Hitchens book that attempts to explain why the crime rate in Britain has been on the upswing, here. For City Journal, he writes about Rhodesia and Zimbabwe here, and about Cairo here. An interesting old-media/new-media moment occurred a few days ago when I received an email from the editor of City Journal letting me know that the new issue of the magazine was available online. I was flattered that City Journal knew of the existence of 2Blowhards. But once I was done puffing myself up, I of course realized that he'd no doubt alerted dozens and dozens of other blogs too. What I wound up feeling was intense admiration for his marketing resourcefulness. City Journal (here) is an excellent magazine, by the way. Its ideas were behind the Giuliani approach to crime, it features some rowdy and brainy, fresh voices on politics and the arts, and it's one of the few places in America that publishes such first-rate righties as Dalrymple, Roger Scruton, and David Watkin. Tell a leftie friend about a great article you've read in City Journal and have fun watching her get really, really furious. The Stumbling Tongue has some provocative musings about computer games as art here. Movie buffs Ian Hamet (here) and Tim Hulsey (here) are both fans of Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese animator known for "Princess Mononoke" and the current "Spirited Away." Colby Cosh has been thinking about fast food and the decline of McDonald's, here, here, and here. April is Poetry Month, and Mike Snider has noticed (here) a few telling things about the poems that are being highlighted by Poetry Daily.... posted by Michael at April 19, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Web Surfing
Friedrich -- I remember liking the hotwired early books of Richard Price -- "The Wanderers," "Ladies' Man," etc. But, though I've enjoyed some of the movies based on Price's screenplays, I've lost track of his work as a novelist. Aaron Haspel writes a convincing appreciation of Price's recent books here. Steve Sailer has written a couple of articles about golf and race that are as satisfying and substantial as one of those New Yorker magazine reporting epics of yore -- but without the excess length and all the fussy writin'. Part one is here. Part two is here. A lot of wonderfully strange music and bizarre instruments can be listened to here. Nat Henthoff wrestles with some of the more bizarre consequences of affirmative-action law here. You'll probably enjoy exploring these two sites devoted to your namesake Friedrich Hayek, here and here. I don't think you've ever told me, by the way, when you first ran across Hayek's work. How did it strike you? And how did you discover it? It wasn't as though the profs back at our Lousy Ivy College were eager to tell us about Hayek. The good mystery novelist and screenwriter Roger Simon recently started a blog here, and he's a looser and more engaging blogger than most professional writers are. (Most of them can't seem to understand that blogging is as much about holding a conversation and being a party host as it is about traditional writing.) Here's a good short posting on why movie stars tend to be so antiwar. A study at the University of Rochester (here) has found that meditation seems to make people happier. John Ray (here) points out that while the world's been fixated on the war in Iraq, millions of Africans have been dying in a war in the Congo. Millions! And he asks, Why aren't the do-gooders carrying on at least as much about this as they have been about the Iraq war? He points to this article about the mess, here. I enjoyed many of the games at this site here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 15, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Tax Time
2Blowhards regrets to announce that tax season has proved so traumatic this year that we have been temporarily unable to blog. We hope to sober up, er, resume our regularly scheduled blogging shortly. Best regards, Michael and Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at April 15, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Web Surfing
Friedrich -- A quick tribute to the courageous and entertaining Steve Sailer (here), who I don't link to often enough simply because, well ... how to pick out just one good piece from among the riches? Sad to say, but there are days when I take his work -- completely but unfairly -- for granted. Luckily his website is well-organized and easy to browse. Recently Sailer has written about the IQs of Jews, on the murder of Pim Fortuyn, and on why high immigration rates can actually promote, not reduce, anti-Americanism. What's not to be fascinated by? Agree or disagree with him, Sailer's always provocative, smart, and humane. Tim Hulsey at My Stupid Dog (here) has put up a blizzard of postings in the last few days, all of them well worth lingering over. Be sure not to miss the one about the comic Southern writer Charles Portis (scroll down a bit), or the one about Murnau's "Sunrise." Girls are frighteningly competent, poised, assertive and achievement-oriented these days, don't you find? Maybe they really are superior beings, as I usually suspect; or maybe (as I confess I do occasionally wonder), a couple of decades of having vast amounts of resources and "self-esteem" pumped into them has been a help too. These days, attention seems to be turning to boys, who are routinely outperformed in high school, and who are now outnumbered by girls in colleges. Julie Henry writes in the Telegraph that studies have shown that boys can benefit from single-sex schooling as much as girls can, here. (Link thanks to View From the Right, here.) You go, boys. On the other hand, I spent a couple of years at an all-male school, and I wouldn't wish that fate on anyone. Legendary exploitation filmmaker -- OK, in the exploitation world "legendary" doesn't really mean much, but still -- Larry Cohen writes for the LA Times about what a strange adventure it was getting his screenplay for "Phone Booth" made, here. A good snapshot of how the Hollywood process can drive you insane. Yahmdallah (here) tries to figure out the best way to let the evangelist who has knocked on your front door know that you're already a Christian. Git funky! On April 29th, the doors of Memphis' new Stax Soul Music Museum will swing open. (You can read about the Museum here.) Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, The Staples Singers -- the list of Stax artists brings tears to my eyes, makes me feel lucky to share a country with such talented people, and -- best of all -- makes me want to get out on the dance floor and do some spastic white-boy flailing. Which may be a treat to absolutely no one else on the face of the planet, but it makes me feel good. And isn't feeling good -- in a deep, denying-none-of-the-pain kind of way -- what soul music is all about? I love this 3D reinvention of Pong, here, even though I can't seem to... posted by Michael at April 10, 2003 | perma-link | (20) comments

Sunday, April 6, 2003

Lynn Sislo, blogging again
Friedrich -- After too long a wrestle with Movable Type -- blogging's easy? hah! -- Lynn Sislo finally has Reflections in D Minor (here) behaving again. Lynn has always been one of the most stimulating and one of the freest-thinking of bloggers. I missed her, and it's good to have her back. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 6, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

Philosoblog, R.I.P.
Friedrich -- I hadn't surfed by Jim Ryan's Philosoblog (here)in a couple of days. When I did stop by this morning I was sorry to read that Jim's calling it quits -- something about life getting in the way and demanding a little attention. (These indignities we have to live with! I mean, shouldn't life be a subset of blogging rather than vice-versa?) Blog-reading and blog-writing have given me a lot of pleasure over the last year, and Jim's was one of the blogs I've enjoyed most. Full of ideas and information, as well as good writing and thinking. And a model in many ways for how to run a blog. Jim always advanced his observations and ideas in an accessible yet never dumbed-down fashion; he conducted the ensuing conversations in a friendly, helpful, and civil way; and he never shrank from (however reluctantly) dropping a bomb when a bomb needed dropping. The blogosphere would be an even better place if we could all do half so well. So: a toast to Jim for delivering so much in the way of learning and pleasure, and best wishes to him in his new projects. And here's -- greedily and unphilosophically -- hoping he'll find the occasional spare minute to stop by, say hi, and let us know what he's been thinking about. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at April 6, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, April 3, 2003

Web Surfing
Friedrich -- 2Blowhards visitors will want to check out Tim Hulsey's new blog, My Stupid Dog, here. Tim (self-described as gay and conservative -- deal with it, world!) is brilliant, can write rueful and precise circles around most of us, and lugs around enough movie and books knowledge for a half a dozen normal buffs. Tim only began taking his thoughts public about a week ago, but he's already one of the brainiest culturebloggers around. Will and Jane Duquette are a California couple who run a wide-ranging and meaty website, here. The blog is only part of it; there's also Ex Libris, their own book-reviewing publication, as well as much else. Marvel at how much reading the two of them do, and how freely and intelligently they discuss it. A special treat: Felicity McCarthy (usually of Goliard Dream, here) has begun reviewing books for Ex Libris. Do you have much interest in Dave "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" Eggers? I don't. All that narcissism, the whimsicality and arbitrariness, the fatigue-crossed-with-a-caffeine-high, the self-regard masking as modesty, the supposedly winning frank bragadoccio, the bullying, and the ever-lurking threat of a temper tantrum ... Lordy, I've only got one life to live. I do admire his industry and entrepreneurship, though. These days, Eggers is semi-sponsoring a new lit mag, The Believer. Felix Salmon (here) gives the magazine a good going-through. Have you run across soundboard sites? They're web sites where sampled sounds from movies and TV are available. Click and hear Arnold say "Hasta la vista, baby" -- that kind of thing. I can't explain why, but these sites make me crack up. Here's one. Experience Eminem's immortal "Fuck you, go home," then marvel at Sarah Michelle Gellar's classic rendition of "duh." Setting the World to Rights (here) is fresh out of the oven and very promising: British free-thinkers who claim to be real-world libertarians. So far, that seems to be exactly what they are; they genuinely seem not to have that nutty utopian gleam in their eyes that the dogmatic libertarians so often get. Will it last? H.D. Miller, a Yalie and a military man, thinks it's too bad that more elite college types don't have some experience of the military, here and here. "The social and intellectual elites form their opinions about military personnel in the absence of first-hand experience; form their opinions based upon prejudice and hearsay," he writes. The BBC reports here on a study that has shown that the oldest known DNA lineages are from East Africa -- "The most ancient populations include the Sandawe, Burunge, Gorowaa and Datog people who live in Tanzania." Mucho genetic diversity in that part of the world, apparently. Thomas Sowell has a go at the ideas underlying affirmative action here. (A good long interview with Sowell can be read here.) Sample column passage: Being admitted to a selective college does not make anyone become a better student, any more than joining a basketball team makes anyone taller. In reality, affirmative action... posted by Michael at April 3, 2003 | perma-link | (5) comments

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Web Surfing
Friedrich -- Chris Bertram (here) recommends some books on political philosophy. Eddie Thomas (here) and Aaron Haspel (here) analyze the lyrics of a song by the Derailers, a honky-tonk band. Jim Miller (here) argues that a big majority of Iraqis want Saddam gone. Polly Frost (here) writes about the upside and the downside of William Gibson's new novel "Pattern Recognition." Christopher Caldwell claims here that the only way to explain Jacques Chirac's refusal to join the anti-Saddam coalition is that he's pandering to, er, catering to his own country's poor and disaffected Muslims. Alexandra Ceely (here, though you have to scroll down about six postings) has an art-history lesson about Caravaggio's Judith and Holofernes. Jim Ryan (here) wonders whether to reduce his blogging schedule or to quit blogging completely, while Andrea Harris (here) spells out, in no uncertain terms, what the rules for taking part in the "comments" section of her blog now are. A few years back, I stumbled across Timothy Taylor's audiotaped lecture series "Legacies of Great Economists" and found it a great help. It's beginning econ for those who fall asleep at the sight of an equation or a graph -- economics as seen through the lives and works of Smith, Ricardo, Mill, Schumpeter, etc. Taylor explains it all in straightforward English and his enthusiasm never flags. I notice that the Teaching Company is currently offering the package for sale here at the really amazing price of $15.95. A new find: I stumbled across Charlie B's blog Here Inside (here) about a week ago and took to it instantly. It's everything a gayblog should be and more -- witty, cheerfully perverse, moving. Charlie rhapsodizes about classical music, gardening, and cute soccer players; reviews movies and books; makes observations about this and that; relishes what turns him on; and doesn't shy from the earnest and sincere when the moment calls for it. He also turns a heckuva blog posting -- he's one of the slyest and most stylish writers in the blogoverse. And here's another interactive drawing/animation thingee. Impossible to describe, a lot of fun to play with, completely disruptive of all previous concepts of "drawing." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 26, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Guest Posting -- Yahmdallah
Friedrich -- I recently swapped some emails with our favorite commenter, the guy who goes by the online handle Yahmdallah, and wound up asking if I could use a few passages from his notes in a posting here on the blog. They were memories of life in the Minneapolis art scene and reflections about staying involved in the arts once equipped with job and family -- too interesting not to pass along to the rest of our readers. After an "aw shucks" or two, he agreed, so I'm pleased to pass these Yahmdallah observations along: After a romance squashed my heart flat, a buddy in Minneapolis told me to come crash with him till I picked myself up. He was an artist deeply enmeshed in the art and music scene of the "Miniapple" (their cute little moniker for themselves). So, by default, I ended up in the scene, too. This is back when Husker Du, the Replacements, Soul Asylum, and Prince were all getting started or were firmly established. Minneapolis was THE music scene in America a few years before it moved to Seattle. I mostly helped with a lot of gallery installations. Attended a lot of openings and house parties where some of the bands listed above played along with the ones who never made it. We also lived next door to a design genius who literally won every design contest he entered. So just by association to him we met some superstars. The Minneapolis art scene was actually very un-P.C. and vibrant. Strand a bunch of Swedes, Norwegians, and Germans in the middle of a winter wasteland, close the liquor stores at 8 P.M. and Sundays, and you get some pretty interesting stuff. In my opinion, the only places in America where the galleries and the openings rival Minneapolis are New York/Boston and San Francisco. The only odd-ball thing about the Miniapple art scene was a quirk that drove us to create a game we called "find the fish." Most of the artists who came down from the iron range and all the little Garrison Keillor ("Prairie Home Companion") towns around the 10,000 lakes had Christian, particularly Lutheran, backgrounds, so every show by a new artist would somehow have a fish in it somewhere. Sometimes it was in honor of the faith, but often it was, of course, for degradation and mocking. Still, it was something to do if the box wine was gone, and if you'd already completely checked out all the goths, punks, and weird art chicks' costumes. (Why do so many art chicks look exactly like what Picasso painted? -- that weird disjointed countenance and that face with those freaky eyes?) My participation in the art scene these days is almost entirely via the web and the odd movie about an artist's life. The major city I live near now has an art scene that's truly abysmal. Many little towns in Michigan's wine country have better galleries and showings. I think James Lileks is correct... posted by Michael at March 26, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Web Surfing
Friedrich -- James Q. Wilson, reviewing David Frum's new book about George W. for Commentary, here, and Richard Brookhiser, in a q&a about George W. with the Atlantic Online here, both have sensible things to say about brains and leadership. Has feminism destroyed a Frenchman's pleasure in being a Frenchman? Charles Bremner, writing for the London Times (here), suspects so.The Wife, looking disapprovingly over my shoulder, says that she for one is glad to hear that French male egos are being beaten down: "I wish I was a French feminist," she says. (Link thanks to View from the Right, here.) I'm coming to this late due to a media-free vacation, but it was good to catch up with Blair Kamin's report (here) in the Chicago Tribune (registration required) that the great Leon Krier will be the first recipient of the new Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture. This is, IMHO, part of what the strategy of traditionalists should be -- not just to gripe about the lefty/modernist stranglehold on discussion about the arts, but also to set up their own, more sensible and appealing, universe of publicity, awards, and journalism. Readers wanting to learn more about Krier, a brilliant thinker and writer as well as a witty and provocative designer, can start here and here. The Teaching Company, whose ads you've probably semi-noticed in highbrow magazines, offers lecture series by mostly American profs on audio (tape or CD). Avid audiobook listener that I am, I've tried a number of their packages, and have hit about .250 -- not great, but a far better batting average than I managed at our Lousy Ivy College. Some of the Teaching Company profs I can recommend are Timothy Taylor on economics, Jeremy Shearmur on politics, Robert Greenberg on Western classical music, Robert Sapolsky on neurophysiology, and John Searle on the philosophy of mind. Hint: unless you have big bucks, never buy from the Teaching Company at list price -- they put all their courses on sale at least once or twice a year. Here's a page listing courses they currently offer on sale, and, at these prices, these courses are a steal. Er, deal. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 22, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Web Surfing
Friedrich -- John Zmirak, an inspired conservative/reactionary, has started a new blog here. Hes using it mainly as a portal to his professional writing, and its a good way to sample a very interesting mind. (Link thanks to Steve Sailer, here.) Robert Birnbaum interviews the novelist and screenwriter (and very amusing interviewee) Richard Price here. Ive just discovered that Tim Hulsey -- a topflight arts buff and occasional visitor to 2Blowhards -- is an avid consumer-reviewer of books, CDs and DVDs at Amazon. (Beware the reach of the Blowhards.) Find out whether that new DVD of Metropolis is really worth owning. Tim has a couple of hundred reviews to explore here. In his new book Diversity: The Invention of a Concept, Peter Wood argues that -- almost without anyone looking -- diversity has become a fullblown ideology, although one with little actual meaning. I havent read the book, but Stanley Kurtzs review at National Review Online (here) and John Derbyshires at the New Criterion (here) make it sound like a gem. Felicity McCarthy, the hostess of the wonderfully freewheeling blog Goliard Dream (here), has put up a couple of short postings about how working as a professional musician affected her pleasure in attending concerts. (Hint: not for the better.) The postings are here and here. "The process of severe self-examination in the pursuit of one's art serves also to burn away one's innocent love -- probably the very same love that brought one to the field in the first place," Felicity writes, and has it ever been put better? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 19, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Friday, February 28, 2003

Another Web Crawl
Friedrich -- * If you didn't happen to catch the mention of this in the NYTimes (and, boy, don't I hate it when the Times gets wise to things before I do), here are the Photobloggies -- prizewinning (in the most friendly and low-budget way) photoblogs. The great thing about surfing photoblogs: lots of visual pleasure. The worst thing about surfing photoblogs: realizing that I'm not just a so-so photographer, I'm in fact a really bad photographer. * An amusing review by an unnamed writer in the Economist (here) of Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni's new biography of the film producer Sam Spiegel. I often go on, no doubt tiresomely, about how very much filmbiz people differ from normal human beings. Here's pleasing confirmation: "Honesty came no more easily to Spiegel than financial regularity. To get his way, he would fake heart attacks. 'Telling the truth unnerved him,' according to an acquaintance." * The Economist's obit of JFK advisor Walt Rostow (here) makes something clear I'd never quite understood before. I'd known that Rostow played a big role in getting the U.S. involved in the Vietnam War. What I hadn't realized was that the war was an extension of Rostow and JFK's altruistic foreign aid policy -- ambitious do-goodism gone mad, it seems. This deserves a long-ish excerpt: Mr Rostow's ideas matched the mood of the Kennedy administration. It fitted with liberal notions of ending poverty at home and devising a welfareish state. Kennedy declared the 1960s the decade of development, and Mr Rostow was allowed to try out his ideas. He became particularly concerned with South-East Asia. South Vietnam was getting American aid, and prospering. But it was being undermined by guerrillas infiltrating from communist North Vietnam. If the South fell, Mr Rostow feared that a series of countries would topple like dominoes into the communist grasp: Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. His remedy was that the United States should use force to rid South Vietnam of guerrillas to allow the country to continue to develop successfully. It was this policy, seemingly carefully thought-out, that dragged America deeper and deeper into what came to be called the Vietnam war. * In the Financial Times, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge (here) ask whether the joint-stock company has been a blessing or a curse. I can't tell whether this piece is an excerpt from a forthcoming book or an appetizer for it. What is going on? Seen from a broad historical perspective, two things stand out. The first is that the current wave of anger against companies is completely normal even a healthy thing. The second is that the companys gainsayers particularly the anti-global crew are wrong: the company has been an institution that has changed the world enormously for the better. Indeed, it has been the secret of the wests success. * I missed this first time around, but NRO, bless them, has had the inspiration to run it again: Catesby Leigh's review of the WTC proposals, here. Have you... posted by Michael at February 28, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Another Web Crawl
Friedrich -- *Aaron Haspel (here) threatens that his latest "How to Read a Poem" posting will be the last in the series. Email him and theaten grievous bodily harm unless he continues. *Jim Ryan (here) continues his excellent series on the conservative philosopher John Kekes. *Brian Micklethwait (here) argues that while Mies van der Rohe's influence on building was largely bad, his influence on interiors was for the better. *Now that Daniel Libeskind's mausoleum/videogame design has won the competition for the reconstruction of the WTC site, it's all the more timely to give Brian Hanson and Nikos Salingaros' brilliant essay about it a read, here. *James Howard Kunstler is the New Urbanist movement's attack dog, an entertaining (and brainy) combination of Dennis Miller and Anne Coulter who does his ranting and joking on the topic of suburbs and buildings. I've often wondered why people in towns and cities don't form protest groups and picket aesthetic atrocities. Kunstler shows the way. His own high-blood-pressure website is here (don't miss the q&a he did with the great Jane Jacobs); a decent short interview with him is ">here. You can buy his eye-poppingly good book The Geography of Nowhere ">here. *And, did you know that making little Flash animations of stick figures engaging in fights, especially kung-fu fights, has become a standard Web folk-art thing to do? I didn't either, until I read about it in The Scotsman. (Damn, can't find the link to the exact story anymore.) Anyway, this one guy who goes by the handle Xiao Xiao (here) is considered to be the true auteur of the school. Fun and impressive: plot lines, humor, Bruce Lee-style sound effects -- and watch for the slow-mo/3D "Matrix" passages. Thwack, thwack, Michael... posted by Michael at February 26, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Another Web Crawl
Friedrich -- I don't know if you kill quite as much time in front of the computer as I do. But I'm stunned these days by how many good sites and blogs there are. Even given my own relatively-limited set of interests, there's 'way too much to keep up with. Which leaves me feeling like a bad friend, breathless and apologetic. (I wonder whether young people will have such qualms. They're growing up in a time of media and information excess; it's now just a matter of simple fact that there's never enough time or energy for what's available and desirable. Will they ever be able to imagine what it was like when there were only three TV networks, a finite number of books and magazines, and no internet, no local Borders and no nearby videotape-rental store?) Old fart that I am, it bugs me that I can't manage to make more mention of, just for a very few examples, Cinderella Bloggerfella, PublicInterest, Colby Cosh, Glenn Frazier or Steve Sailer. First-rate and provocative stuff keeps coming from all of them, and at a dazzling rate. In any case, apologies (and gratitude) to many, many sites and people. That said, today I'm singling out a few (which doesn't mean I wouldn't like to single out a whole bunch of others too). *Plep and Cronaca are both pig heaven for arty websurfers. Postings feature lots of links of interest to culture buffs, often wittily chosen and described. Cronaca (here) has more interest in the art market, in archaelogy, and in art-news headlines, while Plep (here) is more meadering and whimsical, its entries often arranged by theme (lately: tea, and architecture). They're both witty and idiosyncratic resources. I don't know how the brainiacs behind them get the time or energy to do the sheer amount of good, entertaining and helpful work they do. *Alaina Alexander is an interesting and thoughtful person who has led a challenging life, and who gives her good times and bad times some moving thought on a small network of sites. She's a young black woman who has studied opera and law, and who has faced family and academic ups and downs, and she's direct and down-to-earth about her experiences in ways I find sweet and engrossing; I'm even touched by the way she uses the web to explore and express different sides of herself. Here she and some friends discuss one of my favorite themes: the challenges of making a living as an arty person. Here she talks about what it was like for her to bail out of law school. And here she gives her personality-kid/diva side a chance to frisk. I'm not a fan of me-blogs generally, but Alaina's sites -- which, taken together, are like a still-in-process memoir -- I've come to respect, and to enjoy a lot. *Here's a bizarro web-art treat. Eyeball this here. Web projects like this one makes me muse all kinds of things about the digital universe and what's maybe... posted by Michael at February 22, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Web Crawl
Friedrich -- A few of the goodies I've stumbled across in recent days... Daniel Libeskind's proposal for the WTC site has been widely praised. Brian Hanson and Nikos Salingaros take a different view. This is the complete version of an essay that 2Blowhards was proud to run an excerpt from a couple of weeks ago. Brian Micklethwait likes reading Nick Hornby, Susan Isaacs, and a few of his own short stories. Eddie Thomas and Aaron Haspel are kicking up a lot of entertaining dust on the question of Hegel: Classical Liberal or Writer of Gibberish? Jim Ryan is up to installment eight in his not-to-be-missed introduction to the conservative philosophy of John Kekes. Paul Mansour has turned up an excellent City Journal essay by the British new-Classicist architect Robert Adam about skyscrapers. Sasha Castel recommends the tenors Ramon Vargas and Frank Lopardo. Andy at Blog Lodge is enthusiastic about "All the Real Girls," David Gordon Green's first movie since "George Washington." Alexandra Ceely has some reflections about Buddhism and art. I dimly recall from the days when I was interested in anarchist social criticism that Paul Goodman was a poet as well as much else. (And, hey, "Communitas," a book about city planning he wrote with his architect brother Percy, was pretty good.) Mike Snider recommends some of Goodman's sonnets. What is it with women and comic books? Let alone graphic novels? Polly Frost has set off an interesting conversation by asking these questions. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 19, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Free Reads -- Lynn Sislo and more
Friedrich -- Good stuff from all over. Too much! But in the most wonderful kind of way. Lynn Sislo has written a lovely -- touching and open-minded -- short memoir (here; be sure to read both parts) of what it was like when her Texas junior high school was desegregated. (Note to self: write posting someday on how great it is to be witnessing the birth of new art and literary forms -- the photoblog, the mini-essay, the mini-memoir, etc.) Although blogosphere sweethearts Sasha Castel and Andrew Ian Dodge remain stuck in a gulag somewhere in deepest Maine, their blogging continues unabated, here. Well, "unabated" is far too weak a word. The two of them manage to make all other bloggers look like bleary-eyed laggards. Recent postings have touched on opera (of course), the anti-war movement in Portland, and genetically modified food. They're using more images these days too. Sasha links to a special treat: an interview (here) by John Hawkins with columnist Mark Steyn. (Note to self: reserve opera tickets, brush up on political philosophy, then write posting about art and politics as separate "modes," to use an Oakeshottian term. Expect fierce rebuttal from Felix Salmon and, possibly, Robert Birnbaum.) Aaron Haspel (here) kicks off what he's promised is a series on Bogus American Sages by letting the reputation of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. have it with both barrels; little is left of OWH Jr. when the dust settles. Mere postings later, Aaron returns to a discussion of rule-based reasoning that he's been carrying on with Jim Ryan of Philosoblog (here) fame. Jim responds to Aaron, then puts up a wonderful short paragraph that includes all you need to know about Karl Marx, meanwhile crediting Cinderella Bloggerfella (here) for setting him off. CB's gem of a posting turns out to be a response to Aaron, who in turn had written about a Mark Goldblatt piece about the MLA's annual meeting, which 2Blowhards had linked to maybe six or seven postings ago. Which pleases me, but which seems to prove nothing, really, except that blogging is a Really Great Thing. At Out of Lascaux, here, Alexandra has been classing up the blogosphere with posts about anime and Japanese scrolls, David Hockney's theories about artists using optical-device crutches, and how she herself was once the stepdaughter of comics legend Wally Wood. Modernist architecture takes it (deservedly) on the chin once again, this time from Paul Mansour at The Scourge of Modernism, here. "If you cannot line a street with 5 or 10 buildings of a particular style and have the total effect be greater than the sum of the parts then you are not working with an architectural style. Maybe you are working with art or sculpture, but you are not working with architecture," he writes, and Tom Wolfe never put it better. Kevin Drum's CalPundit (here) and Chris Bertram's Junius (here) are brainy and provocative, the two decent-leftyish blogs I enjoy checking in with regularly. Kevin's been having fun tweaking... posted by Michael at February 12, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Blog Reading
Friedrich -- Has spending time in the blogosphere affected your reading habits? It has mine, even where something as basic as the news is concerned. These days, I find that I rely on the major media only for headlines and basic information. When I want commentary, brains, insight, debate and personality, I turn to blogs. It's a livelier, freer, more open universe than the traditional media one. But I'm finding more and more that I turn to blog-reading to satisfy fancier appetites too -- appetites for entertainment, and even for pleasures literary. Seeing what's happening on my favorite blogs gives me some of the satisfaction of watching a good TV series. There are recurring characters, long story arcs, the fun of familiarity crossed with the fun of surprise. The bloggers themselves become characters in my brain much like fictional (or public) figures do. As for literary pleasure ... Well, from a voice and personality point of view -- ie., for some of the things I've tended over the years to turn to fiction for -- there are bloggers who outdo most of what's done in the official literary world. They're as or more distinctive, plus they're looser and more informal. So, let's see: there's story, there's character, there's voice ... Hmm, I'd say literature may have some real competition on its hands. Which is by way of providing a link to a terrific character I hadn't run across until last night: Rob somebody-or-other, who goes by the handle Acidman and runs the blog, Gut Rumbles, which is readable here. I can't do justice to his voice, though I can tell you that reading it reminds me of reading Barry Hannah, Charles Bukowski, Joe Lansdale, and Charles Willeford -- shitkicking and wild-ass, depressive and bitter, rowdy and absurd. But there I go, getting pretentious. (The curse of the arty.) Here's my reaction minus the pretentions: Smokin' stuff! Gut Rumbles is instantly one of my favorite blogs, in any case, and not just for Acidman's voice. There's a super-lively set of regular comment-leavers, each one a full-fledged character, and a whole new set of links to explore, many to other southerners with original voices of their own. Lordy, doesn't it sometimes seem like it must be a lot of fun to be a Southerner? Pulitzer Prizes? New York Review of Books? Your number may be up. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 4, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Saturday, February 1, 2003

Blog Surfing
Friedrich -- Is there no end to the good blogs? It's amazing how many people are both sensible people and good writers -- who'd have thought such creatures existed in such numbers? And even if, who'd ever have known, prior to blogging? Some of my latest finds: Jim Ryan at Philosoblog is finally getting around to his long-promised discussion of the work of John Kekes, and it's a multi-part corker, here. Paul Mansour runs The Scourge of Modernism, a blog devoted to giving modernist architecture a little what-for. Too bad he doesn't post more often, but when he does it's worth paying attention to, here. Alice Bachini, the Libertarian Parent herself, has kicked off another blog, Rational Parenting, here. At Cybrarian at Large, Liz L. does a little me-blogging, and writes about this and that. But she always seems to find her way back to cultural matters, especially what should be done with the WTC site, here. And a couple of amazing meta-blogs, sites that incorporate typical blogging material but much else as well -- total cranial environments, perhaps: Jeff Ward's brainily seedy and literary Visible Darkness (here), with a focus on writing itself, photography and (good for him) grotty bars; and Alan Sullivan's lyrical and contemplative Seablogger (here), all about Tolkien, the weather, sailing, life in the midwest, and more. Humbling! But in a good way. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at February 1, 2003 | perma-link | (4) comments

Friday, January 31, 2003

Blogads Redux
Michael: Im shocked at you, even discussing the topic of blogads! As if I would ever subject the readers of 2blowhards to the pain and anguish of ads distributed around the borders of our lovely site. As I was just saying to Justin Timberlake the other day, while drinking a Coke and discussing the impact of TIVO on television revenues, advertising is just so bogus! I mean, its morally distressing to hear that Philip Morris, oops, I mean Altira, pays Hollywood producers money to have characters in films smoke! Not that our sophisticated readership would let themselves be distracted by the commercial aspects of material that shows up in our website. Thats why I know my integrity is intact when I present art photography like the samples below, knowing that the accidental tie in to a major motion picture starring Ben Affleck (who is engaged to Jennifer Lopez) wont impact the pristine consciousness of our readers. Sensitive Lighting Studies of A Young Woman Who Is Playing Elektra in Twentieth Century Fox's Upcoming Smash Hit, Daredevil I hope youve learned your lesson, and you never raise this topic again. Sniff, Friendrich... posted by Friedrich at January 31, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Free Reads -- Blogads?
Friedrich -- Is blogging ready for primetime? There are some dynamic, enterprising types who think so. Get ready for "blogads" (advertising aimed at bloggers) and "nanopublishing" (blogging itself). Jim McClellan's report in the Guardian is readable here. Sample passage: Though, for the most part, he is operating at the other end of the scale to Denton, Jarvis is optimistic about his approach. "Nanopublishing will not replace magazine publishing or mass media. It is a new opportunity. It won't make money for political punditry or for the diaries of college students. But it will work for gadgets and sex and special interests such as disease - imagine a great weblog for diabetics - because it is so cheap to publish." Time for 2Blowhards to start spinning off subsidiary rights? Link thanks to The Global Citizen, here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 30, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Free Reads -- Philip Murphy on Herbert Muschamp
Friedrich -- On his blog The Invisible Hand, Philip Murphy has posted a blistering attack on the latest ravings of the NYTimes' architecture "critic" Herbert Muschamp. Brilliant stuff -- though I'm feeling envious, I confess; for some years I've enjoyed hating Muschamp's writing and have fantasized about taking him down. But I have to admit that Murphy, who has let fly at Muschamp with both barrels before, has claimed the franchise decisively for himself. Let's hope this posting is just part of an ongoing series. Sample passage: The Muschamp Seven with the notable exception of the Peterson/Littenberg team are all of the radically pluralist school of architecture. To them everything but the past, especially the Western past, is valid. They believe in the Hetropolis, a vast interconnected multicultural urban landscape where the oppressive strictures of gender, morality, capitalism, culture and language melt away to reveal people in their common essence. Muschamp is disappointed that New York has taken so long to accept its role as the global Hetropolis. Instead, it has shortsightedly looked to its own vernacular tradition for cues about what to build next. Never mind that that vernacular includes some of the most beautiful buildings in the world the Empire State, the Chrysler, Rockefeller Center these are building that could only be in New York. Notice how Muschamps favorites would look more at home in Singapore or Shanghai. The posting is readable here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 29, 2003 | perma-link | (2) comments

Friday, January 24, 2003

Blog Surfing
Friedrich -- * The scarily-smart Aaron Haspel (here) and the equally-scarily-smart Jim Ryan (here) are having an enlightening exchange about the proper use of slippery-slope-style arguments. Aaron, a poetry buff worth attending to, has also begun treating us to an occasional series of first-rate postings on "how to read a poem." Jim Ryan is still putting off his long-awaited posting on the political thinking of John Kekes. Email Jim and tell him to get his act together! * The scarily-smart (and scarily-entertaining) Brian Micklethwait, of Samizdata fame, has finally, after much inexcusable foot-dragging, got Brian's Cultureblog up and running. It's already wonderful, and it's readable here. * Polly Frost, of Notes from the Velvet Crypt (here), is back posting after a few weeks away, during which she produced a workshop of a comic play she wrote. Its subject: a young woman's love affair with her cell phone. Nifty! * On Banana Oil, his new movieblog (here), Michael Hamet confesses that he has watched "Singin' in the Rain" oh, maybe about a hundred and seven times. * Alice Bachini, the Libertarian Parent in the Countryside (here), continues to get my vote for the blogosphere's "most winning voice," an apparently inimitable combination of whimsy and acuteness. * I've never properly pointed out Mike Snider on Poetry (here), so I'm doing so now. Mike's blog is the best, most down-to-earth way I know of to ease yourself into the contempo poetry scene. Some damn good poems, too, from Mike himself. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 24, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Friday, January 17, 2003

Free Reads -- Felix on Film
Friedrich -- Felix Salmon gets off some good ones at the expense of the Charlie Kaufman/Spike Jonze movie "Adaptation," and then segues into some good ones about the downside of watching films shot on digital video, here. Sample passage: Every columnist, it is said, is allowed precisely one column about how hard it is to write the column, how he has nothing to say in his column, how he needs to turn in something but can't think of anything to write, that sort of thing. Even when it's done well, it reeks of desperation. Adaptation is the filmic equivalent of that one column. Charlie Kaufman has got away with it, mainly because he's Charlie Kaufman, and in the wake of the success of Being John Malkovich, he and Spike Jonze could do pretty much anything they wanted. But insofar as Adaptation represents a whole new genre in filmmaking, it only does so because it's a genre which shouldn't exist, and which should never be repeated. I haven't seen "Adaptation" yet. Have you? I haven't, partly because I was apparently the only person in the world un-wowed by the Kaufman/Jonze "Being John Malkovich." I mean, all due credit for a grabby premise. But I thought Kaufman and Jonze had no idea what to do with it, or where to go with it. And the film seemed to me to start falling apart within about 30 minutes. But most people seemed to love it -- thereby confirming my theory that many people are content these days to love something simply because it's offbeat or unusual. How'd you react to it? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 17, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Free Reads -- Murphy on Muschamp
Friedrich -- Philip Murphy at his blog The Invisible Hand (dedicated to "Vital Information About Islamofascism, Euro-snobbery and Lousy Modern Architecture"), in an eloquent rant about most of the new WTC design proposals, takes some well-aimed shots at the New York Times' ludicrous "architecture critic," Herbert Muschamp. The posting is readable here. Sample passage: Id love for Muschamp to occupy an office on the 120th floor of Norman Fosters absurdly inhumane kissing towers. Yeah Herb, just take this express elevator to the sky lobby, then wait for the local, walk down a couple of dark over-air conditioned corridors, and your desk is right up against that inward-slanting plate glass window with southern exposure. A bit hot in there? Oh well, thats the price you pay for culture. Do you enjoy hating Muschamp's work as much as I, and apparently Philip Murphy, do? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 15, 2003 | perma-link | (3) comments

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

500 and Counting...
FRIEDRICH: Mein Gott, Michael, are we making any progress here? MICHAEL: Shut up, you pathetic Prussian, and keep blowing! We're at Post #500!... posted by Friedrich at January 8, 2003 | perma-link | (1) comments

Friday, January 3, 2003

Free Reads -- Timewaster
Friedrich -- Over at the Velvet Crypt, Polly Frost has put up a hilarious piece about her obsession with computer and video games. Sample passage: The Status Bar has indicators of your overall health and well-being. The Dimple Palette indicates how much your cellulite hangs over the edge of your computer chair, while the Gab-o-meter shows how angry the people in your book club are with you. You can visit the Velvet Crypt here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 3, 2003 | perma-link | (0) comments

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Free Reads -- Kevin Michael Grace
Friedrich -- Have you ever marveled at how little conventional singing gal pop singers do these days? And how much outright whooping, trilling, sliding and warbling they do? I sure have. "What is this? A contest to see how many notes can be hit, and how many vocal effects can be shown off?" -- that's how I tend to react. Kevin Michael Grace marvels at it too, and does so much more amusingly and articulately. Sample passage: Remember that woman who suffered seizures whenever she heard Mary Harts voice? I get like that whenever I hear any of the MelismaticsChristina, Cline, Whitney, Mariah. (When did emotion get conflated with trying to cough up a lung, anyway? I blame Barbra Streisand.) I dont black out; I just want to vomit or howl like a beaten dog. (Much as Christina, Cline, Whitney and Mariah do, come to think of it.) Let's hear it for intelligent, amusingly grumpy conservative cultural commentary. (Which isn't, of course, to say that we shouldn't also cheer for amusing and intelligent lefty cultural commentary. Hey, this is the arts. Disagreements should be fun and enlightening.) Kevin's blog The Ambler can be read here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 19, 2002 | perma-link | (9) comments

Monday, December 16, 2002

Free Reads -- Velvet Crypt
Friedrich -- A delightful new participant in the culture-blogosphere -- Polly Frost's Notes from the Velvet Crypt, readable here. Polly's focusing mainly on sci-fi and horror, though she promises to make occasional excursions into other interests too. So far, she's put up postings about such topics as Bruce Lee, Japanimation, and Philip K. Dick, and she's wondered out loud about such key questions as "Do you have to be Catholic to love horror," and "Where has the eroticism in mainstream fiction gone." Judging from what's on her blog, she has a remarkably free-ranging, insightful and intuitive mind. Sample passage: I found Philip K. Dick's Ubik spiritual and moving -- its spiritual standup. Like Terry Southern, hes a romantic cynic -- a bebop nihilist, really. Admittedly, Southern is body-centric, pop, and Rabelaisian where Dick is mind-gamey. Dick's universe is so cerebral. Its about the disembodied consciousness of our time, and people striving for that. Hes prescient -- he got virtual reality way before it existed. You can see the freak show. And, like Anthony Burgess, he paints a world thats very Jacobean. But its not a sensual world. I notice that Polly runs some other websites too -- she seems to be in the midst of a right little creative explosion these days. At Tantric Afterlife (here), she's writing and publishing erotic horror and sci-fi stories. Hot stuff! And at Scorpio Visions (here), she has some information about a play she's written on the theme of "a woman's obsessive love affair with her cell phone." That sounds like hot stuff too. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 16, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Friday, December 13, 2002

Free Reads -- Fred Reed
Friedrich -- However inclined I may be to libertarianism, I still can't help wincing at a lot of what tends to happen when business and money values trump all others. Economic efficiency is a good thing in many cases -- but in all cases? Where family life is concerned? Where friends are concerned? Where art is concerned? And I do know that libertarianism isn't just about economic efficiency, and yes, I'm all for freedom and choice. But isn't it remarkable how often arguments made in the name of libertarianism turn out to really concern economic efficiency? Hmmmm. Given my suspicion that I'm not alone in wondering about this kind of thing, I also wonder: Why are so many libertarians such eager-beaver, everything's-always-for-the-better-when-the-market-takes-over, Pangloss types? Optimism is good; idiotic optimism is idiotic. It might be a sensible and necessary thing to argue that some things that are ugly (strip malls, etc) can be a sign of economic vitality. But it's absurd to argue that blatantly ugly things aren't ugly. (Although, come to think of it, much of the official -- ie., avant-garde -- art world has been getting away with this for years.) But there are some ugly things that everyone knows are ugly. Ask random people if they'd ever, given a choice, choose to live or work in a strip mall. Despite this, some libertarians continue to insist on arguing that pigs are gazelles. After all, they have good scientific proof, or at least a wonderful theory, that predicts that even if the pig's looking a trifle piggy today, by tomorrow it'll be a thing of wealth, elegance, etc. Meanwhile, anyone who happens to be listening takes a good look, thinks, "That's a pig if I ever saw one," and leaves. So a few questions arise: do the hyper libertarians know they look like, and are behaving like, aliens? Perhaps they are aliens -- or possibly Arizona used-car salesmen. If this is indeed what they are (aliens/used-car salesman), why do they think anyone else would ever trust them, or their arguments? I mean, don't they have any audience sense? Of course, there's always the chance that the hard-core libertarians don't actually want to win people over -- that what they really enjoy is hanging with fellow-aliens and griping about what irrational idiots the rest of us are. I say all this as someone whose temperament tends to anti-statism, or at least strongly-suspicious-of-statism. It also tends, however, to adore friendship, love, art, and beauty. A long prologue to a link -- Fred Reed, having some fun with freedom and how it so often seems to play out, here. Sample passage: [Wal-Mart} puts most of the stores in the country seat out of business. With them go the restaurants, which no longer have the walk-by traffic previously generated by the stores. With the restaurants goes the sense of community that flourishes in a town with eateries and stores and a town square. But this is granola philosophy, appealing only to meddlesome lefties.... posted by Michael at December 13, 2002 | perma-link | (16) comments

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Free Reads -- Alexandra Ceely
Friedrich -- Alexandra Ceely, who runs Out of Lascaux (here), has been on a cultureblogging tear, showing how to do it with class. She reflects about working as a kind of teacher's assistant, muses about how reading books as an adult is different than it is when you're a kid, and provides a first-class illustrated introduction to the Candle Light Painters. De La Tour wasn't alone -- who knew? She also reminisces about visiting Cairo -- not a happy experience, apparently. Sample passage: My advice about seeing Egypt: if you want to see pyramids, go to Vegas. If you want to see the tombs of Saqqhara, go to the Field Museum in Chicago. They have an exact replica of the paintings and carvings. So exact, I stepped inside and realized I had been there before. I still enjoy the Ancient Egypt shows on TV. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at December 12, 2002 | perma-link | (1) comments

Friday, December 6, 2002

Blogging Bliss
Friedrich -- Do you carry a cafe conversation around in your head? I do. What I mean is that some part of my brain is home to an ongoing bull session.Voices gather to compare notes about all kinds of topics -- occasionally politics and econ, most of the time art and philosophy. (Many detours into sex, of course.) It's Les Deux Magots, open and busy 24/7 in some seedy Montparnasse quartier of my brain, and I'm the grizzled old owner hurrying about with wine and bread, sometimes taking part in the disputes, sometimes watching benevolently out over the excitement ... Where do these voices come from? Given how hard it is to rustle up good in-person art chat once you're out of college, most of them show up from what I've been reading. I go around thinking about what I've read -- in my mind, quarreling/arguing/discussing/comparing-notes with authors of books and articles. It's all very real to me -- smoke, coffee, lots of intellectual ooo-la-la. It's also all very absorbing, fun, and exciting. So much so that when I surface back into everyday life and start talking to The Wife about the discussions that have been buzzing in my mind, she looks at me (fondly, I hope) like I'm insane. I raise this because something interesting has happened to this imaginary scene of mine in the last few months. The people taking part have changed -- there's been some turnover in the clientele. Most used to be magazine writers, artists, critics, academics, newspaper people -- professionals. Lately, many of the voices taking part have belonged to bloggers, and fewer voices have come from the familiar old professional crowd (and most of them have been culled from Arts and Letters Daily, here, a kind of meta-proto-blog). The people I'm talking with in my head as I make my way through my daily rounds are as likely to be bloggers like Glenn Frazier, Alexandra Ceely, Aaron Haspel, Sasha Castel, Scott Chaffin, Peter Briffa, Jason Soon, Alice Bacchini, Chris Bertram, Lynn Sislo and many others as they are to be such pros as (god forbid) Paul Krugman and Susan Sontag. I'm much happier for the change. The conversation is more freewheeling and spirited. There are fresh faces, and lots of new points of view. For every asshole who can't seem to understand that he's addressing another human being, there's a dozen charmers who are funny, loose, wry and civil. Some human element has returned into my life that I hadn't realized was missing. The bloggers have more sides to them than the pros, their talk isn't tainted by careerism, and they by and large seem to share a respect for life as it's actually experienced. I like the makeup of my new clientele. They strike me as a bunch of rough-edged, three-dimensional people rather than a bunch of disembodied, streamlined egos. I wonder if my experience reflects the experience of other bloggers and blog-surfers. If so, I think there may be something important... posted by Michael at December 6, 2002 | perma-link | (4) comments

Monday, November 25, 2002

Free Reads -- Q&A archive
Friedrich -- Are you as fond of the q&a form as I am? I sometimes feel sorry for the interviewee, who's often spent years developing a subject and a style and who's now expected to deliver the essential goods in an hour or less. Yet the first thing I do when I get interested in a recent artist is search for q&a's he's done. It's an amazingly efficient way to get up to some kind of speed. A resource for q&a junkies I hadn't run across before just came to my attention: an archive of interviews with a fun range of book people, from Nicholson Baker to Anthony Lane, readable here. The interviewer, Robert Birnbaum, gives his subjects plenty of space, as well as attentive and sensitive questioning. Sample passage, from an interview with Alain de Botton: Birnbaum: Let's talk about the sublime. You introduce this notion as a kind of substitute for traditional religious worship in the 19th century. AB: The sublime is a feeling provoked by certain kinds of landscape that are very large, very impressive and dangerous. Places like the wide-open oceans, the high mountains ... It's interesting that around the end of the 18th century, people started to say that the feeling that these places provoke in us is a recognizable one and universal oneand a good one. This feeling was described as the feeling of the sublime ... What lies at the center of the experience is a feeling of smallness. You are very small and something else is very big and dangerous. You are very vulnerable in the face of something else. Of course, the other thing that tends to make you feel very small and vulnerable is God, traditionally, in our culture. There is an intriguing synchronicity between the rise of the idea of the sublime and the decline of organized religion. The way many people speak of landscape as of the late 18th century is often in quasi-religious tones or actively religious tones. So if one thinks about people like Thomas Cole going out and painting the American West what they are saying and seeing is the hand of God in Nature. Lots of good reading to be had here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 25, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Free reads -- Philosoblog and Glenn Frazier
Friedrich -- Jim Ryan is an interesting case -- a philosopher with a lot of respect (including philosophical respect) for common sense. At Philosoblog, here, he writes mini-essays on provocative topics. The exchanges in his comments are a special pleasure. Today's topic is "A Rough Topology of Right and Wrong." Sample passage: In many cases, one has a right to act in his own self-interest. Also, everyone has a duty to sacrifice his interests in order to help others in some cases. There is a restriction on harming; it is wrong to inflict harm in many cases. But, it is also wrong to allow harm in some cases. Finally, the degree of harm and self-interest at stake matters. And I just stumbled across this enlightening posting over at the always-interesting (here): a discussion of the differences between what he labels the radical liberal and the liberal conservative. Sample passage: The point is that it is very good to want to make life better for people, but it can't be done in ignorance to or without respect for the powerful world outside. The fundamentals of this world will not change, no matter our intentions. We have to go with what works. And that is the statement that so chills the romantic, the radical, the liberal. And for good reason: "what works" does not constitute a good enough criterion for how we decide to live our lives. The liberal heart insists on doing "what's right." What separates the liberal conservative from the radical liberal is the idea of a balance of tensions between the two. Exposure to the mainstream media can sometimes leave you wondering whether common sense, as well as horse-sense, have become things of the past. But blogdom seems to have given both a great new outlet. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at November 23, 2002 | perma-link | (1) comments

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Reflections on blogging
Friedrich -- How have you found the process of blogging? I've found it fascinating. In fact, it's the intellectual/cultural thing that's been most on my mind recently, tiresomely self-reflexive though I'm sure that is. I've found blogging a fun and curious topic to think about, as well as a fun and curious medium to exploit. There are days when I feel the high and crave more, and turn to the computer hungrily, like an addict. There are other days when I don't have the urge at all, and even feel a little disgusted with myself. But there have been a few things about the process itself that have struck me. The first is that it's its own thing. I don't know about you, but I went into blogging thinking of it as the poor cousin of real writing and publishing. Maybe I could diddle a bit, and maybe I'd get the first draft of a book out of it, or at least cook up a few ideas I might develop in some real medium... After a few months, I find myself thinking instead: no, it's not a poor excuse for a book or a magazine, it's a blog. I'd been thinking of it as a substitute for something else when it turns out to be its own, fully-absorbing (or at least as-absorbing-as-you-want-it-to-be) activity. These days, I'm feeling no need at all to view what I write here as a preliminary step in any other direction. I'm just happy to be blogging. Being its own thing, blogging makes its own demands. I went into it, as I've so stupidly gone into many cultural forms, thinking: all right, finally, no formal constraints. Cut loose: finally, I'll have the means to rock on out, unrestricted. Freeform orgy, baby. Basically, I thought I'd be able to get down most of what passes through my head, and to do so effortlessly. Instead, I find myself putting some real time (in a small way) into these postings, and thinking thoughts like, hmm, I'd better keep each posting to one main topic. (Not easy for me, given my taste for weaving together a lot of disparate, only-loosely-related themes.) I look at the computer screen and think: hmm, better break those paragraphs up, and offer some visual relief and variety. All of which means that, to my shame (but pleasure too), I'm thinking like a magazine editor. So I'm as conscious of effort, and am as consciously attending to form and finish, as ever. And, instead of getting down most of what passes through the noggin, I'm getting down who knows, 10%? But it turns out that 10% leaves the desk clean enough, as it were. My brain's a little freer of what usually gnaws at it. The frustration of keeping a traditional arts journal was that, enjoyable though it could be to note down reactions and reflections, the journal itself did nothing but gather dust. It was hard not to ask yourself, what's the point? The frustration... posted by Michael at November 6, 2002 | perma-link | (6) comments

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Top Drawer Blogs
Friedrich -- Something Ive come to appreciate over the past few months is blogging as an improvisatory performance art. What generally seems to create the most buzz in the blogozone is political ideas. Steven den Beste and Glenn Reynolds, for instance: brainy guys doing impressively heavyweight things -- and I hardly ever look at them. No music or poetry (or something like that). Culturebug that I am, Im drawn instead to style and personality, and gravitate to the likes of (among others) Colby Cosh, here, who has a heavy-metal guitar-solo way with a posting, and Kelly Jane Torrance, here, a model of class, grace and generosity. I'm happy to report some tiptop recent blogger discoveries, both of whom project a ton of likable personality, and both of whom have style to kill. Theyre distinctive without trying too hard; they just seem to "have it. (Of course, that it may take a lot of effort to achieve.) Alice Bachini, whose blog, A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside, is readable here, is a Brit with an eccentrically winning manner -- lots of playful irony and mock-naivete, delivered with the kind of verbal ease that makes an American feel cloddish and want to give up. This is blogging as charming chatter -- until you realize how much substance, daring, and fresh thinking is also whirling by. Sample passage: My education philosophy is temporarily stuck at the "well, it works for me..." stage again, at the moment. This happens from time to time. I will take it in to the Repair Shop at some point soonish and see if I can get it a nice overhaul, service and respray. In the meantime, you might find me pottering gently in the comments section, talking contradictory nonsense. Contradicting oneself is positively a good thing, in my opinion. It shows you are open-minded and learning and not unduly concerned with outward appearances. The other charmer is Scott Chaffin of The Fat Guy (here), who does a burly, ten-gallon-hat-and-a-pickup-truck act better than anyone else online. Part of whats pleasing about his blog is his drawling, Im just a guy with too many dogs and opinions flair. (Sample posting title: How do you spell Ten-Hut!?) But hes like a good poker player, always playing what he's got a lot more shrewdly than you could. Most of the time he's humorous and to the point, but every now and then he can really take you by surprise. Check out, for example, his recent posting about hunting and his dad: sweet and powerful. (Search on the posting's title, "Mi Padre.") Sample passage: I feel sorry for my poor Mom, now that I think about it. She can cook anything on the face of the earth and make it taste good. And she had to deal with four Texas males who wanted nothing more than fried beef and Del Monte green beans most nights. She tried hard, with salmon croquettes, and eggplant parmesan, and all kinds of gussied-up vegetables like zucchini, but... posted by Michael at November 5, 2002 | perma-link | (4) comments

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Righties, Lefties, Art and Pleasure
Friedrich -- Laurel Panella has been following our discussions about righties, lefties and pleasure from her home in eastern Tennessee. She had these lovely thoughts and observations to pass along: I live in the middle of the conservative, small town South. (Diverse, within its narrow boundaries.) What I find is that the right defends a positive interpretation of status quo living. They won't be entering any debates on beauty and the arts, except to comment on the changing leaves in the Smokies, or the latest football victory. The right here is so grounded; they have a strong sense of identity from their deep home and community roots. From my perspective, they honestly need only a drop of novelty. The concept of beauty and pleasure doesn't seem to be an interesting topic of discussion to them. When they do discuss it, they go back to the Renaissance, when art was art, or quote from Southern Living Magazine, with its "gourmet" recipes. Sometimes I think it's the job of the right to balance out the left. The right doesn't defend cutting edge art, they defend the status quo -- in whatever package it comes. I tend to think this serves a valuable societal purpose. With the left, theyre adventurers, paving the way, so to speak, for the right. The right provides a sense of societal stability that gives the left its courage and footing, to stretch and question boundaries. I have a lovely group of friends that often debates the ideas you have presented. They of course are all lefties. Personally, I enjoy the challenge of learning from both perspectives without the desire to make one more like the other. The conservative right has so much to offer. But I don't think they'll ever play ball in the world of pleasure and beauty the way some would like. I tried suggesting that "status quo" pleasures are as legit as cutting-edge pleasures; that football games, changing autumn leaves and "gourmet" recipes represent a perfectly valid aesthetic; that there's no reason to let the left get away with defining art as being necessarily adventurous, or necessarily about questioning boundaries... But Laurel, who I suspect knows a fancy big-city move when she spots one, was having none of it. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 30, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Friday, October 25, 2002
Friedrich -- Curious about who the brainy, party-hearty British libertarians at are (here, as though I don't link to them often enough), I emailed Brian Micklethwait and asked what their story is. Here's his reply: Samizdata happened for two reasons, as I understand it. One, there has long been a London libertarian scene based around the Libertarian Alliance ( which has been shovelling out pamphlets, essays, monographs, scholarly writings, call them what you will (I'm working on the next little clutch right now) since the early 1980s. Not that many people knew, but we kept at it. In connection with that, I and a friend, Tim Evans, who now has a swank job at the Centre for the New Europe (I can't remember the www of that, but google will tell you - its basic remit is to try to libertarianise the EU as much as that can be done), have been holding Friday evening speaker/discussion evenings. Tim on the second Friday, me on the last Friday of every month. (It's all a bit like Peter Hall's description in Cities in Civilization of the evenings that Freud used to run, but alas, without a Freud to make it so historical, or not that I'm aware of. I.e. not everyone who comes is as clever as some of the people who come. There's one tonight, on philosophical themes.) These friday meetings have been going on for a decade or more, like clockwork, and since email came along they have been pretty much automatic to make work okay. Okay, so there are these fridays. At them, some time during 2001, this character called Perry de Havilland shows up. He's already a libertarian, but not because of anything we in London said or did. He's a libertarian because of his time in America, which is where he picked up on it. Can't remember the details of how, but that's where he got it from. And Perry picks up various human pieces of the London libertarian scene, David Carr, Adriana Cronin (like many bloggers too busy to be writing huge great bits for the Libertarian Alliance, although she did manage a couple when she was at Oxford), me, Tom Burroughes (who works for the hated Reuters!), Antoine Clarke (bilingual in English and French, I wish we could persuade him to make more blogging use of that than he does), and probably some others I've forgotten. Well, yes, I forgot to mention Patrick Crozier and Natalie Solent, who run their own blogs but who are definitely part of our scene, and Alice Bachini who connected more recently through Sarah Lawrence and the T(aking) C(hildren) S(eriously) crowd. ( I think) The other thing I ought to mention is the Libertarian Alliance Forum, one of those email chat room whatsits that the Libertarian Alliance runs that I never could get with, where people with no sense of shame or style can call each other arseholes for the crime of disagreeing with each other. That turned up... posted by Michael at October 25, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Free Reads -- Andrew Sullivan on the economics of blogging
Friedrich -- I just caught up with Andrew Sullivan's essay for London's Sunday Times about writing, blogging, and trying to make a living, here. Sullivan is amazingly good at catching the conundra and paradoxes that bedevil online life. The piece is also a nice complement to your postings about copyright law and electronics. Sample passage: It takes a few minutes to set up your own "blog" ... and you can publish anything you can conceivably want to a readersip that has no physical boundaries whatsoever. My own modest little venture, imaginatively called, is now around two years old. I've written tens of thousands of words; I've made hundreds of new web-friends; I get around 400 emails a day. I have to say I've never enjoyed myself as much as a journalist, had as much impact with my writing, or had as much sheer fun as a commentator on things large and small. But it's also true - and here's the catch - that this wonderful experiment has yet to make me any significant financial return. Despite what the New Statesman just called the "astonishing influence" of my site, it pays next to nothing... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 24, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Free Viewing -- Clive James Interviews
Friedrich -- Online entrepreneurial arts-and-ideas flair: Clive James, the Australian novelist and journalist (remember how great his TV reviews were?), has set up a site devoted to video interviews of interesting figures, among them Jonathan Miller, Jung Chang, and Terry Gilliam, here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 23, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Thursday, October 3, 2002

Not a Critic
Friedrich -- After a few recent visits with bright, talented friends who are critics, it occurs to me why Im not one. (Putting aside all questions of my gifts and credentials, or lack thereof, of course.) Critics, generally speaking, care about their opinions. I mean, really care. Do they want to impose their opinions, and see them prevail? I dont know. But at the very least, most of the critics Ive known want their opinion to be out there in public, playing a role (the bigger the better) in forming the general consensus. My opinion just isn't that important to me, and I have a hard time seeing why it should be of much importance to anyone else. (Opinions are like assholes..., etc.) The real critic seems to feel that the world needs to know his opinion. Me, Im grateful to have a few people in my life willing to put up with me, let alone my no doubt tiresome opinionating. The general consensus? It gets on fine without input from me. And then it gets revised anyway. So why waste the energy? For me, an opinion is a small part of a much larger package of responses: feelings, reflections, musings, thoughts, observations, bodily sensations. And lord knows I do love exploring reactions, other people's as much as my own. But that's one of art's functions, to give us excuses to muck voluptuously about in this make-believe-but-oh-so-real way. Comparing notes=bliss. Fighting over opinions? Arguing about whose is right? Thanks, but Ill pass. How do you experience your own opinions? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at October 3, 2002 | perma-link | (2) comments

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Funny Bloggers
Friedrich -- Though no longer totally new to bloggerdom, I continue to be amazed by the number of smart, funny, and free-thinking bloggers out there. Many of them make the conventional media look like a bunch of stiffs. This morning I find myself wondering, for my own whimsical reasons, "Whos the funniest blogger of them all? Lileks? Hmm: Hes a pro, and his Bleats, while brilliant, are pulled-together pieces. Hes playing a different game than the one I'm thinking about. How about people who toss off a lot of stuff on the run, in true blogger spirit? Allowing for the fact that there are seventy-nine quadrillion people whose blogs I havent yet had time to sample, Ive narrowed my personal funniest blogger competition down to three contestants. On the right is IMAO (site here), who has as good a brainy-redneck act down as Ive ever run across. Here's a sample: Search Engines are the Opiate of the People Now China has blocked AltaVista in addition to Google just to make it clear to everyone they're still evil Commies. They can't have information going unfiltered to their populace making them realize how much better life would be if they just lynched all the Reds in charge. There doesn't seem to be any official statement on either AltaVista's or Google's webpage, but hopefully they'll do the proper American thing by responding, "Screw you, you stupid Commie bastards!" and then make one result of every search something embarrassing to the Chinese government. On the other hand -- no, actually, also on the right -- is Natalie Solent (site here), a wiz at libertarian-party-girl chat. Natalie? Stolen: one peal of thunder. The Blogger Sex War enters its second day. Godless Capitalist and Mrs Elizabeth Capitalist join forces in Gene Expression to make all my best points before I could in response to this post about sexism by Meryl Yourish. Letter from Gotham fires off a few salvos, too. Scroll up, down and sideways for more highly provocative commentary. (Did you know that in blind auditions orchestras hire more female musicians? That Venus Williams ran a 5:29 mile when she was nine years old?) Though I have to say Diane E misses the point about Stephen Den Beste. Although I am not well enough informed myself about Israeli politics to say which of the two is stronger on that topic, surely a high proportion of his audience consists of technically-minded men to whom what she refers to as an "overlay of wargame theories that look to me as if he got them from science fiction novels" is a feature not a bug. And finally here's Scott Ott, whose blog is called ScrappleFace, here. He shows the Onion how it's really done. INS to Probe Breaches in Microsoft Windows (2002-09-12) -- The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) launched a probe today to determine how many illegal aliens are actually entering the U.S. through gaping holes in the Microsoft Windows operating system. Good work from all... posted by Michael at September 14, 2002 | perma-link | (1) comments

Friday, August 30, 2002

Colby Cosh
Michael I must earnestly recommend to anyone who has a brain and a sense of humor that they stop everything else theyre doing and check out the writings of Colby Cosh which you can check out here. Mr. Coshs day job is as Senior Editor of The Report, Canada's independent conservative newsmagazine, but that cant be nearly as much fun as his website. In a topic close to my heart as an entrepreneur, following is an excerpt from a fairly serious discussion of the excesses of Canadian taxation: By world standards, Canada is in fact good at facilitating the creation and survival of enormous private fortunes. It is not so good at encouraging people to make that step from a $40,000 income to a $60,000 one, or from $60,000 to $80,000. The experience of the typical Canadian working person is a slide backward that never seems to end. Work for a raise, or put in overtime, and you'll see about half of every extra dollar you've earned disappear. Assuming you can hold a job and go up the salary ladder in the first place, that is. As the Fraser Institute has pointed out, the average Canadian's tax bill increased $761 in the past year. Income taxes went down, but the gain was promptly swallowed by Canada Pension Plan contribution hikes. If you fly, there's a new "security" tax. If you drink or smoke, you're paying more tax than you did before: I'm paying $3 a pack more for cigarettes than I did at the start of 2002, but then, smoking makes me evil so I deserve to be broke. Medicare premiums are going up in the provinces that have them; but those that don't will have them soon, don't worry. These are the good times, mind. The pattern is that taxes more or less stagnate when there's no crisis, and go up when there is. They don't ever go down. I speak solely from the standpoint of one who works for a living. This, of course, is unforgivable selfishness in a Canadian. On a less ideological note, I cant help but quote his observation on airline safety in Canada: My morning Post tells me the U.S. Transport Security Administration has abandoned the routine check-in questions in air terminals. "Did you pack your own luggage?" Naw, I let my friend do it--my friend Abdul, fresh out of university in Pakistan! He is, like, the goddamn packing master! I think it was his major! Canada is retaining the routine questions, which a ministry spokesman explained by saying "We're all pretty much bonobos with chromosome damage around here." I'm paraphrasing, of course. Cheers, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at August 30, 2002 | perma-link | (0) comments

Friday, August 16, 2002

Blogging, Movie Update
Michael The job is coming along. Astonishingly, several of my initiatives from earlier in the year seem to be paying off. I'm always kind of wide-eyed with wonder when my ideas actually come to some kind of fruition--financially, I mean. By the way, do you have the same reaction that I do to seeing some of your opinions on the Web--to wit, uncertainty as to whether the opinions are too extreme/sweeping/unfair? For example, while I appear to smack Kubrick, Altman and Woody Allen some postings ago, the larger truth is that I love and frankly treasure several individual movies by each of them. I mean, I'm not about to disresptect "Thieves Like Us," "California Split," "Dr. Strangelove," "Bananas," "Take the Money and Run," etc. (Not only do I like them, I understand "Dr. Strangelove" was Elvis' favorite movie of all time!) Ann Prentiss and Gwen Welles in "California Split" On the other hand, I believe the "Economist" style guide maintains that vivid writing results from a two part process--simplify and exaggerate, so maybe strong opinions are their own reward. As far as my own movie-going activities, I saw "Signs" which I thought was pretty ramshackle if ultimately redeemed by having Joachim Phoenix take on an evil alien with a baseball bat. M. Night is a weird mixture of an eight-year-old comic book fanatic and an adult in therapy, and this time the adult-in-therapy part never quite got out of his head, so thank God the eight-year-old was along to take up the slack. I also saw "Spy Kids II" which was like eating cake for breakfast: not exactly stick-to-your-ribs fare, but goofy, fast-moving, and good for a sugar rush. Antonio Banderas was brilliant as the blundering, vain but good-hearted dad. I could have used more of Mom (hubba hubba)--are there other movies she's been in? By the way, what do you think of Steve Buscemi? He appears to be having the ultimate stealth career success of the modern acting world. Cheers, Friedrich... posted by Friedrich at August 16, 2002 | perma-link | (1) comments