This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.

You're not cool enough for This.

Posted by: James Lileks under Photos, Technology Updated: January 29, 2015 - 12:26 PM

Sometimes you learn things about history that tear apart all your old assumptions. For example: the Twitter account @History_Pics tweeted out this amazing photo, with the caption “The battleship Missouri second before being struck by a kamikaze in 1945.”

You might wonder why they didn’t react quicker. That’s because they are toys.

I had no idea we drafted plastic toys to fight in WW2. As it turns out, though, we didn’t. Wikipedia:

On 11 April, a low-flying kamikaze, although fired on, crashed on Missouri ' s starboard side, just below her main deck level. The starboard wing of the plane was thrown far forward, starting a gasoline fire at Gun Mount No. 3. The battleship suffered only superficial damage, and the fire was brought quickly under control.[5The remains of the pilot were recovered on board the ship just aft of one of the 40 mm gun tubs. Captain Callaghan decided that the young Japanese pilot had done his job to the best of his ability, and with honor, so he should be given a military funeral. The following day he was buried at sea with military honors.

The entry has the following picture:

THIS Here’s another hot social network you’re not on because you’re not cool enough. You can post one link a day. That’s it. NYT:

Currently, the platform is available only to those who receive an invitation from one of the nearly 4,500 users. As more journalists and media insiders become aware of it, they are jockeying for the exclusive invitations. “Someone get me an invite to @THISdotcm already,” tweeted Jessica Reed, the features editor at Guardian US, who punctuated her message with four cigarette emojis to signify her impatience, as she later explained it.

It’s a fine idea; the next thing should be THAT, which points people to the worst thing on the web that day, then THE OTHER THING, which consists of one link to the most irrelevant thing. The three sites will eventually form PronounMedia, which will raise $350 million in its first round, hire a bunch of people to grow the brand, spend $65 million on an app, get bought by, which then shutters THAT and THE OTHER THING in order to “concentrate on core strengths.”

Speaking of which, remember ello? Everyone wanted to be on it because only a few people could be on it. Then they let more people in, and the people who wanted to be in had forgotten about it. I got my invite last week, and shrugged: oh, right, that. Go to the home page. They have a nifty effect. And by “nifty” I mean it’s quite possible you will feel your stomach turn. It’s the most polarizing thing I’ve ever seen; everyone to whom I’ve shown the effect rears back a bit, as if they’ve just seen someone cheerfully bend his forearm or pull his earlobe down four inches like a Command adhesive tab.

SPQR Rome’s Flavian Amphitheater is being cleaned and repaired, and they’re finding interesting details:

Traces of red painted numbers have been found on the arches of Rome’s Colosseum during the ongoing $33 million restoration work aimed at repairing damage suffered by the 2,000-year-old monument since the Middle Ages.

More here. The numbers were used for sections, aisles, and seats, just like today. But did they drink Gatorade? No:

Roman gladiators drank an energy drink of vinegar and ash, according to an anthropological investigation of arena fighter bones.”

Maybe the Vikes should give it a try.

Fleegle, Drooper, Snorky and Bingo

Posted by: James Lileks under Praise, Restaurants Updated: January 27, 2015 - 12:17 PM

It is not a law firm. Flashbak takes a look at six bad TV-show comic book adaptations. Only six? Here are two more. Oh, this horrid thing:

Hanna-Barbera gets admiration in some quarters for keeping animation going during a dry spell, but nearly everything they did after the classic Tom & Jerry cartoons was awful, unimaginative, witless dreck. Yes, that includes most of the Flintstones. Maybe most of the Jetsons too; aside from the credits, the "Jet Screamer" and "Uniblab" episodes, it was tiresome.

This isn't exactly a TV-show adaptation, but notable for its wincing attempt to insert Bob Hope into the groovy generation demographic:

Has it all, doesn't it? Groovy kids AND monsters. Why, when kids learned that BOB HOPE was part of the fun they couldn't slam their 12 cents down on the counter fast enough.

PUFFERY To add to my series of utterly arresting opening lines, I was googling around for information on Duncan OK hotel. It led to Ron Howard’s Twitter account where someone asked him if he knew the name of the mynah bird in the lobby. This led to Googling Ron Howard, as well as a Vanity Fair story about a murder in Duncan. (He grew there, and his grandparents ran the hotel.) The story looked good, but since I was doing other things the offer of an audio version seemed appealing. If I bookmarked it or sent it to Instapaper or Pocket or Reading List or any of the other bins into which you drop scraps, I’d never read it. Alas, it was five dollars. Here’s the reason I bring it up: Vanity Fair’s page contains the most chest-puffing description attempted by any magazine in the history of the medium.

Vanity Fair is a cultural filter, sparking the global conversation about the people and ideas that matter most. With a dedication to journalistic excellence and powerful storytelling, Vanity Fair is the first choice—often the only choice—for the world’s most influential and important audience. From print to social media, the big screen to the smartphone and now on audio, Vanity Fair is the arbiter of our era.

Hah! No. You have to love the assertion that the planet’s most Influential and important audience will not accept a story if it’s not in Vanity Fair.

And no, I didn't find out the name of the bird in the lobby of Ron Howard's grandparent's hotel.

WHAT A COINCIDENCE Here’s the comparison between the Sam Smith and Tom Petty songs. The court says Smith was sufficiently influenced; Petty gets 25% of the royalties.

I recommend listening and not looking at that picture; it's disturbing. 

The money, I suspect, will also go to the song's co-writer, whose style is all over that track. The opening notes and beat and the sort of space it inhabits, to be a bad pretentious rock critic, is all Jeff Lynne.

CHECK PLEASE Bad customer stories from restaurant servers are always a tonic, if you’ve been a waiter or waitress yourself. Here’s another batch from Kitchenette; judging from the title, Richard Lewis is editing the site now.They're all entertaining in their own mortifying way. It's like YouTube commenters come to life.

Who is this?

Posted by: James Lileks under Gripes Updated: January 26, 2015 - 3:21 PM

Looking through an early 60s LOOK magazine - the Hunt’s Catsup to Life’s Heinz - I came across an ad for men’s hair dye. The copy said that grey hair made you look old, and not so virile, and not as ripe for Success as dark hair. Here’s the picture they used.

Is that who I think it is? Because silver hair didn’t exactly sink his career.

UPDATE: Well, well, well.  However did I forget the Roger Sterling-drops-acid scene from Mad Men? (Thanks to Justin via Twitter.)

BREAKING Denny’s used slang in a tweet. They said that their hashbrowns were “on fleek.” This is news. WSJ:

The message, which to teens translates to “these hashbrowns are on point (very good),” garnered almost 30,000 retweets and was seen in the advertising industry as something of a social media marketing masterstroke. Taco Bell and IHOP later sent out their own tweets using the phrase “on fleek,” looking to get in on the action.

If this makes no sense to you, imagine it’s 1973, and Perkins sent you a postcard that just said “eggs are groovy.”

For companies, these aren’t just punchlines, but a way to burnish their brands with young people by showing a working knowledge of the Web’s patois.“It’s Jay Z’s birthday,” said one of the creative specialists. “Anybody have any thoughts on what we could do?” 

Suggestions poured out, including “99 problems but lunch ain’t one” and “big shrimpin’,” both references to classic Jay Z songs.

Can we draw a connection between our menu and a famous song about a man living off the sexual exploitation of women? Anyone? C’mon, we’re losing the Millennials here.

Taco Bell’s new chief executive, Brian Niccol, told investors in December, “when we do the brand message consistently, we end up in a place where, to borrow a Millennial phrase, we’re ‘on cleek.’ ”

Mr. Niccol said he misspoke, adding that Taco Bell does an “amazing job of tapping into” the Millennial voice.

One day the Millennial voice will grow up.

Worst new word of the day

Posted by: James Lileks under Architecture, Technology Updated: January 23, 2015 - 12:27 PM

Should a house be saved because someone famous lived there? Moot question for Ray Bradbury’s house. LA Times:

The house that Ray Bradbury lived in for 50 years in Los Angeles' Cheviot Hills neighborhood was torn down this month by "starchictect" Thom Mayne, who bought it for $1.765 million and plans to build a new house on the lot.

What happened? Why did fans of the author of "The Martian Chronicles," "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "Fahrenheit 451" not get a chance to make their case that the house be saved?

Because . . . they didn’t own it? You can’t make the heirs sit on the property forever because Ray wrote books in one of the rooms.

Yes, the article said “starchictect”, which I presume is a portmanteau of Starchitect and Chic. Ugh.

Related: While researching a matchbook from Seattle - yes, I know, a blogger’s life as thrilling as all the rumors suggest - I got lost in one of those review sites where tales of bad visits can provide epic accounts of hotel horrors. Most people liked the Max, formerly the Vance, but a few guests thought the rooms were a bit small. The manager responds.

Thanks for staying with us and for taking the time to let others know about your experience via Google+. We are stoked to hear that you loved our location and our amazing beds! They are heavenly.

Stoked? When did the Responsible Adult Community turn into Spicoli?

Additionally, you are right about our rooms. They're smaller that what you'd find at a branded hotel but we rather like it that way. It makes us different and gives us an opportunity to share our history and story. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it as much as others.

Well, you can’t please everyone. Most of the reviews are positive, but another fellow notes you can stand in the middle of the bathroom and touch all the walls. The manager - and I’ll give these guys credit for weighing in to answer kudos and complaints - doesn’t drop some boilerplate, but revises the response a bit.

Now things get snippy.

thanks for staying with us and for taking the time to share your thoughts. Our rooms are definitely on the smaller side. Our building was constructed in 1926 so the funky room sizes and layouts tell you a lot about our history. Ultimately, we rather prefer it that way. I'm sorry our story, history and focus on supporting our local vendors didn't resonate with you. Again, thanks for giving us a chance and we wish you safe and adventurous travels in the future.

The Funky Room Sizes and Layouts don’t tell much about the history, aside from its construction date. I avoid staying in old hotels unless I know the bed does not take up 70% of the room. Because when there’s no room and the bathroom has no counter space, you rarely think “it’s tiny, but the way the support local vendors is resonating so hard right now I can’t think of anything else.”

Anyway, some people like these hotels, especially when they’ve been made Hip and Modern, and renovation is preferable to knocking it down the way Minneapolis trashed all its old grand hotels. Your taste may vary. I stayed in a Klimpton in DC a few months ago - a former apartment building, I think, and a post-war one at that. It was Hip and Modern, which in this case meant the room had a big picture of a young guy with black glasses smiling smugly as he played the piano, and I think it’s only a matter of time before someone punches it. He was just so pleased with himself.

VINTAGE The Flyer Arcade, courtesy of Coudal. Old arcade machines and pinball as well. It has no Gorgar. though. Needs more Gorgar.

Lois rebukes Hi at 6 AM

Posted by: James Lileks under Gripes, Technology Updated: January 21, 2015 - 12:13 PM

In today's comics, which are "comic" in name only, this exchange:

Are we to believe that Hi and Lois were having a conversation about the value of Twitter the previous night? Her expression is so self-contented that it seems as if she regards this development as the coup de grace. Unfortunately, Hi is hungover, and probably won't remember.

THE INTERNET IS TOO BIG J. C. Penney is bringing back the catalog. You might think it’s because they can’t think of new ways to lose money fast enough, but no: they’re “a strong, proactive tap on the shoulder.” At least that’s what the trade associations for catalogs says. The NPR article quotes the head fof “"The Internet has gotten so big that you can't find anything on it," Hagood says, "even on the J.C. Penney website." Hagood says a good print catalog can help customers cut through the clutter of the Internet.

Well, not exactly, but you know what she means. Maybe. Does she mean that the internet is too daunting for some? Or that you can find so much that it feels as if you can’t choose?

On second thought, I don’t know what she means. But flipping through a catalog is a different experience than clicking NEXT on a webpage, and a catalog that arrives in the mail is different from a pop-up box that requires your dismissal. Catalogs don’t stand in the doorway and forbid you to pass until you dog-ear the cover.

AHOY ABC news discovers a retiree living on a cruise ship, and some people are surprised. Some people applaud her decision. Some people are angry that you’re not angry she can afford it. Well, it makes more sense than a retirement home, if you like to travel, and she’s not alone; I’ve met another lady of a certain age who had retired to live on a cruise ship. Like the ABC story subject, she chose a smaller vessel that’s all-inclusive, and that’s what I find odd. I’ve been on the Crystal Serenity, and after 11 days I was delighted to leave. It’s lovely but small. I’d want the biggest cruise ship in the world, even if it meant paying three bucks extra for lunch - except that they just bob around the Caribbean over and over again, and the 47th time you looked out the window and said “Virgin Islands? Again? My, how this week flew past” you might yearn for something new.

REBOOT This stuff makes my head hurt.

"The Ultimate Universe and the Marvel Universe are going to smash together," editor-in-chief Axel Alonso explained. "Imagine there's two pizzas. They're going to smash together. You're going to have all-new toppings. Some toppings are going to drop off. You're going to yell about some that are missing. You're going to love the new ones that are there. That's the new Marvel universe moving forward.”

I’m old-fashioned, and prefer one universe, with one Spider-Man, and not a kaleidoscopic cosmos with 14 Spidermen, one of whom is Capt. Stacy in an exoskeleton. In related news, science has devised a way to read charcoal logs:

The contents of hundreds of papyrus scrolls that were turned into charcoal in the eruption of Italy's Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD - one of the great natural disasters of antiquity - have long remained a mystery. That soon may change.

Scientists said on Tuesday a sophisticated form of X-ray technology has enabled them to decipher some of the writing in the charred scrolls from a library once housed in a sumptuous villa in ancient Herculaneum, a city that overlooked the Bay of Naples.

Imagine what lost texts might be on those pages. Lost Pliny, for example. Granted, he was wrong about so many things - amber being compressed fox urine, for example - but it’s still tantalizing to consider

VotD Passing a truck by going into the opposing lane with no view of what’s coming: brilliant move.


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