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« Going to Hawaii to Jump the Shark | Main | Inside New Urbanism »

October 20, 2005


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Those in the mood for a best-of book-list to quarrel with or applaud have a new one: Time's ranking of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923.

* All the rebuilding being done in the wake of Katrina must be a boon for local workers, right? Randall Parker writes that, in fact, many post-Katrina construction jobs are being handed out to illegal Hispanic immigrants.

* No matter what degree of perversity your erotic imagination is capable of achieving, the Web reveals that there's always someone with a kink that makes yours look square. (NSFW, of course.)

* Witold Rybczynski's annotated slide show about America's megachurches is a civilized and open-minded treat -- as well as a nice demonstration of how words and images can enhance each other.

* Did Miramax make money for Disney? Edward Jay Epstein shows how complicated these questions can be. He also shows how that shrewd monster, Harvey Weinstein, screwed Disney out of millions.

* Neil Kramer wonders if Heaven is really where he wants to wind up.

* Up-to-date lit fans with a taste for the irreverent shouldn't fail to sample the fiction being published by the Contemporary Press, a feisty young house. Check out the company's motto too. It's one that -- 90% of the time, anyway -- I can get behind myself.

* Our poor, oppressed girls now make up 57% of America's college students, reports USA Today. One analyst elaborates: "Not only do national statistics forecast a continued decline in the percentage of males on college campuses, but the drops are seen in all races, income groups and fields of study." Attaway to go, social engineers.

* Freed from crippling traditional shackles, a couple of girls show what they're capable of.

* Reason's Veronique de Rugy and Nick Gillespie conclude -- a bit tardily, as far as I'm concerned, but let's be grateful for any and all signs of sanity -- that "the GOP has forfeited its credibility when it comes to spending restraint." Good passage:

When it comes to spending, Bush is no Reagan. Alas, he is also no Clinton and not even Nixon. The recent president he most resembles is in fact fellow Texan and legendary spendthrift Lyndon Baines Johnson—except that Bush is in many ways even more profligate with the public till ...

Perhaps not coincidentally, Bush and LBJ ... shared control of the federal purse with congressional majorities from their own political parties. Which only makes Bush's performance more troubling. Like a lax parent who can't or won't discipline his self-centered toddler, he has exercised virtually no control whatsoever over Congress ...

Bush has shown no leadership on spending reform—and Republicans have rebuffed even the mildest criticisms of their spendthrift ways. It seems incontestable that we should conclude that the country's purse is worse off when Republicans are in power.

* Here's a collection of interviews with people who work in the porn business. What an interesting field to learn a bit about.



posted by Michael at October 20, 2005


Without clicking on your no doubt entertaining links, I thought I'd quote comment, somewhat related to the "capable college girls":

"...During one game, a bio major managed to create an amazingly realistic penis from a banana using only her mouth. There were veins, I kid you not."

Posted by: Tatyana on October 20, 2005 12:24 PM

Regarding the declining percentage of males in colleges, is that necessarily a bad thing ... for *males*? A male high school graduate who forgoes college to learn a well-paying skilled trade sounds to me a lot smarter than his female fellow graduate who incurs four years' worth of student loans in return for an unmarketable "liberal arts" degree. Yes, I'm simplifying things a bit, many high school graduates struggle if they get no further education and many college graduates do very well for themselves, but the oft-heard no college = bad, college = good conclusion does not apply in all cases.

Posted by: Peter on October 20, 2005 1:04 PM

Though it was heartening to see sci-fi on a mainstream best-of list for once, that list is still east-coast-sensibility-centric. (Ouch, what an ugly construction on my part. Apologies.)

But those things are never perfect and really serve their purpose, which is to get good books noticed.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on October 20, 2005 1:07 PM

Ha! I love the contemporary press slogan, which is a sentiment that is eternally useful. It's new, fresh, tired, old, cliched, recycled, ridiculous and now a classic. If you get my drift.

Posted by: MD on October 20, 2005 1:51 PM

re:women in college

No idea about the future, but if the trends hold up, feminism is DEAD, DEAD, DEAD. Just wait and see how retro things get when there are 3 girls for every 2 guys. And it gets worse after college. Since women tend to want to marry up while older men are willing to step down socially (and marry younger women) 28 year old educated women are going to be walking around in bikinis and cruising Star Trek conventions to attract guys. Maybe it really will be Revenge of the Nerds.

This is only slightly in jest. In countries with high demand for men and substantially lower incomes, there's no stigma attached to Nerdliness. Cute girls figure out REALLY early that the guys with the pocket protectors and straight A's make all the bucks later in life. Hence, in much of the world (e.g. Russia, India, China, most of the Far East)the stereotype of the all-popular jock and BMOC is almost non-existent. In contrast, the pre-med, engineer, or all-around genius is always a hot property.

Posted by: laughing on October 20, 2005 1:52 PM

Hmm, I don't really want to read any of those books, though. Maybe the Johnny Astronaut one. That excerpt is funny.

Anyhoo, if there are too many males in China/India/etc because of the whole lets have girls thing, and too many edumacated females here who are reaching the age of 'you missed the boat, honey, and I'm glad you dumb feminazi' maybe we can all work something out?

Posted by: MD on October 20, 2005 1:55 PM

MD,you're so right! My former co-worker (Argentinian divorcee with 2 kids, an architect by education, project leader by company position) got married last year to an Indian professional 7 year younger. All very happy.

Posted by: Tatyana on October 20, 2005 2:12 PM

laughing -
If that "Revenge of the Nerds" scenario comes true, it'll be such a wonderful turn of events! As things stand now, the shortage of available women means that a man with even the slightest *hint* of nerdiness (or who is slightly overweight, has thinning hair, is shorter than average, unathletic, etc.) has a horribly difficult time in the dating market. It's no surprise that the membership at sites like and are something like 90% male. Who knows, maybe the tide will turn like you suggest and women will find it difficult to find partners. They sure won't get any sypathy from me.

Posted by: Peter on October 20, 2005 2:18 PM

*laughing, I can get you more reasons to laugh: in Russia there was such demand for males after WWII, the woman was considered incredibly lucky to get a husband with only one missing limb and managable drinking habit. Profession/education/money-making abilities became irrelevant all together.
Imagine what paradise that would be for you! May be you should look around the globe for that experience...Kashmir? Iraq? Sudan?

Posted by: Tatyana on October 20, 2005 2:41 PM

Someone -- I think it was Steve Sailer -- had an interesting conjecture about the girl/boy thing. He was thinking, well, if girls aren't offering to boys what they traditionally offered (understanding, support, encouragement, ego-stroking, etc), then what are they selling? (Forgive the word, but it was economic thinking.) Many girls these days are over-scheduled, full of themselves, hurrying off somewhere else, and competing hard. So why would a boy want anything to do with one?

The answer is what we've seen so much of: the girls, having so little else to offer boys (but still wanting boyfriends and mates), get themselves sexed-up to the max. In other words, it goes like this: "OK, so maybe I won't be sympathetic, understanding, and encouraging. But, hey, I'll embody your every masturbatory fantasy!"

Sounds plausible as a one-part-of-the-equation explanation to me ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 20, 2005 3:57 PM


Your comments bring to mind a conversation I had recently with the Karaoke Queen.

"The fact that so many people are turning gay isn't exactly a positive reflection on the relationship between the sexes," I said.

And, it isn't. I've lived among gay men for 35 years and I've heard it over and over again. "You're a fool to be straight." Why? Because women are a hindrance to an exciting and adventurous sex life, because women want babies and because women want men to have status jobs.

And Tatyana, I can understand your outlook. The relationship between Russian men and women is the most belligerent of any group I've encountered. I have a minor in Russian language and history, and I spent a year in college living with Russians. Russian men are the most outlandish male chauvinist pigs I've ever encoutered.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on October 20, 2005 4:18 PM

Oh, thank you, MB, now it makes perfect sense: that's why old boys who already have understanding, support, encouragement, ego-stroking, etc provided by their Wives, spend hours on "college girls bare all" websites to get their every masturbatory fantasy fulfilled.

It's really that simple!

Posted by: Tatyana on October 20, 2005 4:22 PM

ST -- Funny! I know what you mean about being gay. Too bad about the downsides, but there are pluses too. Unhindered fun fun fun. I was once given a tour of the Christopher Street scene back in the pre-AIDS years by some gay friends. Terrifying, of course. But it was also the most sexually overheated and freewheeling scene I've ever witnessed. Women don't like hearing about this, I've found. I once asked a gay friend about the partying and the promiscuity -- "Do you guys act that way because you're gay?" His response: "We act that way because we're men. And because, without women around, we can."

Tatyana -- You can't make a crack like that without providing a link! But seriously ... I dunno. We have had this epidemic of young women/girls sexing themselves up outlandishly and hyper-aggressively. And searching for an explanation for this behavior doesn't seem un-worthwhile. MTV ... A general express-yourself ethic ... Hormones and competitiveness ... Girls' love of teasing and looking (and feeling) hot ... Dumbo parents ... But there's an arms-race, out-of-control quality to some of it that's hard to explain. Why do they suddenly all look like Pam Andersons and pole-dancing porn queens? Many of them seem to hold nothing in reserve. Why should that development have occurred? I think the idea that these hyperdynamic, overachieving young girls don't have much else to sell to the boys they want but their sexiness is pretty plausible, don't you?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 20, 2005 4:59 PM

Neil Kramer should talk to Peter Kreeft:

What Will Heaven Be Like?
Thirty-five frequently asked questions about eternity.
By Peter Kreeft | posted 06/06/2003

Posted by: Dave Lull on October 20, 2005 5:28 PM

The reason Bush and Johnson were profligate spenders is that each was committed to fighting a stupid, unpopular war and they didn't dare to cut back other public spending (or raise taxes) because then people would get even more pissed about the war than they already were.

Posted by: MQ on October 20, 2005 6:40 PM

Re: girls getting sexually aggressive, I've heard it conjectured that eras of increased female sexual display/promiscuity correspond to periods and places when available men are scarce. Examples included the 1920s in Europe (a post-WWI man shortage) and black inner city neighborhoods, where so many guys are in jail. If this is true--and, remember, its not my theory--an a deficit of men on campus would, presumably, lead to greater looseness on the part of young women.

Re: The Weinstein's great rip-off of Disney--I've noticed over the years that every businessperson who is publicly praised for his/her great dealmaking skills actually ends up a sucker. And that certainly includes Michael Eisner. I think the pressure to land deals (and, apparently, the lack of enough fortitude to walk away from bad ones) overcome these great negotiators' common sense.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 20, 2005 7:21 PM

Why would ANYONE want to learn ANYTHING about the corrupt, vile, and soul-destroying porn industry?

Posted by: James Kabala on October 20, 2005 8:03 PM

Hmmmm, I notice that Edward Jay Epstein's site now deals exclusively with the movie industry. He seems to have taken down his rantage on conspiracy theories.

Posted by: Peter on October 20, 2005 9:39 PM

"Why would ANYONE want to learn ANYTHING about the corrupt, vile, and soul-destroying porn industry?"

Because... it's corrupt, vile and soul-destroying. Who could ask for more?

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on October 21, 2005 7:45 AM

A background in conspiracy-theorizing is probably good training for a career reporting on the business side of Hollywood ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 21, 2005 10:20 AM

Time's list of the 100 greatest English-speaking novels of the 20th century couldn't be improved. I speak confidently, having read all of them.

It would be, however, a closely run contest between Snow Crash and Kelly Tweaszer's Future Memoirs of a Macrophage Collector.

Posted by: Rick Darby on October 21, 2005 11:08 AM

Tatyana: in Russia there was such demand for males after WWII, the woman was considered incredibly lucky to get a husband with only one missing limb and managable drinking habit.

Gasp! It's like looking in the mirror!

MQ: The reason Bush and Johnson were profligate spenders is that each was committed to fighting a stupid, unpopular war

Johnson was committed to enlarging the welfare state ever since the New Deal years. He ran on the "guns and butter" policy - you could have domestic and military spending and stimulate the economy in the process. They were all Keynesians then. He spent because he wanted to. And I think Bush, with his "compassionate" conservatism, has the same reasons.

Finally - That chickfight was the worst brawl I've ever seen, even dumber than my Famous Irish New Year's Catastrophe of 1999.

Posted by: Brian on October 21, 2005 2:36 PM

Neil Kramer should read this:

"Report: 92 Percent Of Souls In Hell There On Drug Charges"

Posted by: Dave Lull on October 21, 2005 4:02 PM

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