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.

Groundskeeper Willie weighs in on the Scotland Vote

Posted by: James Lileks under Outstate Updated: September 18, 2014 - 12:18 PM

We'll get to that in a moment, although you probably know how he votes. 

URGH In time for the 50th anniversary, the Top 10 Pop-Tart flavors. I don’t think there were five when I was growing up. It’s basically compacted sawdust with a coat of lacquer-sugar; no thanks. Except for the cinnamon ones.

How could you possibly provide this for breakfast and think “I’m sending them off to school well-nourished”?

REWIND An amusing list of Top Five Video Store Memories, from Flashbak. Yes, children, you had to pay a membership fee.

They’ve been gone from my neighborhood for so long two of the dead locations have been something else twice over. Nostalgia aside, who misses VHS? No one.

YOURS TRULY They’ve found the identity of Jack the Ripper! And it’s not that guy. It’s the other guy. Atlas Obscura:

Mudgett's conclusion, supported by expert forensic analysts from The British Museum and elsewhere, is shocking: Jack the Ripper was potentially none other than Dr. H. H. Holmes, the "devil" of Erik Larson's best-selling book The Devil in the White City and North America's first and most horribly prolific serial killer. Holmes, whose given name was Herman Webster Mudgett, murdered and dissected over 200 women in Chicago in the early 1890s and against the backdrop of The World's Columbian Exposition - the first World's Fair.

Eh. The DNA evidence on the crazed Pole seems convincing. Holmes seemed too careful and methodical. On the other hand, maybe he was also eternal, and was responsible for the Black Dahlia and the Zodiac killings; someone get on that book right away.

TOMO EXPLAINS Confused about Scottish Independence? This should help.

Reinventing newspaper comics

Posted by: James Lileks under Architecture, Newspapers Updated: September 16, 2014 - 12:48 PM

They’re mostly awful, except for that one you like. The trouble is, everyone likes a different one. I think we can be done with Peanuts, but no. The Peanuts people probably hate Mr. Boffo, which is the only strip that makes me laugh. I read other strips and have an internal reaction that approximates indulgent mirth, but that’s rare. Dennis the Menace? No. Beetle Bailey? No. After half a century it might be time to give the strips a gentle pat and say farewell.

Can the genre be saved? Well, Chris Ware is going to try.

Chris Ware, the artist behind the multiple Harvey- and Eisner-award winning Acme Novelty Library and Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth, has teamed with The Guardian paper to demonstrate what a world-class artist can do with a whole lot of newsprint over the fall. His new graphic novella, The Last Saturday, is being published serially in the paper's pages over the fall, and the first installment was released over the weekend.

I wish it wasn’t this.

Those little-pictures-connected-by-lines are so much work. And the payoff, in this instance, is so slight. Before you scoff and shout PHILISTINE and tar me as someone who doesn’t get Ware, I have Acme Novelty Library #2, which came out in 1996, and every volume since. You want to debate whether the Rusty Brown sequence is better than Jimmy Corrigan, let’s go. You want to argue Big Tex vs. Rocket Sam: you're on. (Big Tex was better, and had that multi-panel homage to the old Sunday "Gasoline Alley," which told the story through a shifting prism of seasons; after all the hardy-har indignities Tex suffered at the hands of Paw, it was a sign of how Ware could nail you right in the heart without even showing a single character.) But I was dismayed by a lot of Building Stories, which seemed inert, laborious, and self-consciously packaged to celebrate Print in a way that couldn’t compensate for the morose, colorless main character, but just ladled on the Sad with a trowel.

That said, it’s bookmarked. I just hope he hasn’t given up on Rusty Brown.

ARCHITECTURE Who's up for some ruins? The remains of Borscht Belt resort hotels. The Homowack bowling alley shot is almost painful. As for the Homowack itself - oh, stop snickering, this isn’t 7th grade - here’s a postcard I have from its glory days.

When was the last time you saw a hotel with a bowling alley?

This post will gradually get quieter

Posted by: James Lileks under Technology Updated: September 15, 2014 - 12:28 PM

Slate describes the decline and evaporation of the Musical Fadeout:

The once-ubiquitous, but tragically under-appreciated fade-out in music appears to be near its end. And like a classic example of itself, the decline has been long, gradual, and barely noticed.

It’s a fine historical review of the subject, in case you’re wondering how it got started and how it because an artistic expression. (Because of the Beatles.) It took me a while to figure out why some bands could end songs, and why some couldn’t: the more they played live, the more the songs ended. When they became creatures of the studio, they got used to the board man pulling down the sliders, and that was that. Playing in a bar you have to end a song. In the studio, you don’t.

This led to the greatest lie of music television. Before MTV, artists with a hot single showed up on talk shows, often without a band at all. I remember watching Merv Griffin to see Gerry Rafferty play “Baker Street” - no band, just Gerry and a sax player, who may or may not have been Raphael Ravenscroft. The song faded out, as it did on the record, and they did what they always did: bring up the applause, as though the audience was so overcome with gratitude they couldn’t wait for the song to end before they started cheering. And then eventually the musicians stopped pretending they were singing and playing. It’s not easy to do. Takes perfect timing. Still looks completely fake.

Says one comment: “Composers should be inventive enough to come up with an actual ending. Fade outs are a cop out. For instance, it's never been used in classical music.”

BZZZZT. Sorry, that’s wrong.

ART The Flux Machine animates LOC GIFs for effects that are surreal, amusing, haunting, or all three together.

The artist has also put together a reasonable brief for renaming the Washington football team the Breadskins. His logic is impeccable. If you’re wondering whether this might alienate those who have difficulty with gluten, he addresses the matter.

COMICS It may seem from the outside like a bastion of solidity, but the Family Circus drops the mask today and reveals a world of paralyzing insecurity and misinformation:

Is Mom taking away the kid because the other one’s tableau of robots and airplanes holds some peril neither child can foresee?

VotD Let’s go bungee jumping! It’ll be fun. C’mon, these guys are professionals; what are you worried about?”

What took so long?

Posted by: James Lileks under Praise, Technology Updated: September 11, 2014 - 12:40 PM

Oreos are getting in on the game, but there are some issues that need clarification. Slate:

That Pumpkin Spice Oreos do not have any pumpkin in them is the least of their problems. This is par for the course for pumpkin-spice-flavored things: In an odd yet pervasive lexical leap, “pumpkin spice” typically refers not to pumpkin itself but to the spices typically found in pumpkin pie: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, sometimes allspice or cloves. But Pumpkin Spice Oreos don’t contain any of those, either.

Other than that, though, pumpkin spice all the way. I think the reason Oreo made these was obvious: something to fill the fortnight before Halloween Oreos appear. There’s a big gap in seasonal Oreo line-up; after the Fourth, with red / white / blue cream, there’s really nothing until Halloween. Usually you can tell what month it is by looking at the Oreo department and subtracting four weeks, but this falls apart in late summer.

INSERT SMILEY HERE  From Neatorama, first lines of famous novels in emoji form. The first two are easy.

This one you may get instantaneously, which tells you how we can read emojis as a sentence.

OMG Teens react to a NES machine! Just as you’d expect, they chose thoughtful, interesting kids with a sense of history, and they say things like “I don’t recognize it, but it appears to be a game console. Interesting graphics, given the limitations of the era.” Just kidding.

Why are these “teens express ignorance at things that preceded their existence” things fascinating to some?

ART + MUSIC This is fun. Let it load and play. Click around.  That's one way to rethink the music video. There is no proper combination; it’s all rather Gilliamesque, but short and unique. (Via.)

The Apple Watch: questions answered

Posted by: James Lileks under Technology Updated: September 9, 2014 - 2:44 PM

How much? $350.

Coolest trick? Sending taps to other people. You can tap them on the wrist remotely. This will allow parents to bug their kids like never before. The same technology gives you tactile hints fro turn-by-turn directions, which is a reminder that this is the 21st century.

Most needless aspect? Facebook notifications, if you hate Facebook. If you live on Facebook this will ruin your life, but only if you let it.

Whoa, wireless charging? Sort of. Not really. It’s not as if you can put it on the nightstand and it’ll soak up energy from the ether. You attach a device that looks like a stethoscope, and it charges.

Will it work with my iPhone 4? No. Sorry. 5s, yes.

Most underrated feature that will be ordinary one day but intermittently cool and frustrating right now? Using the watch to pay for something just by tapping the credit-card terminal - providing it’s so equipped. Many are. Walgreen’s uses them. I wonder if there’s a security feature built in, because otherwise what’s to stop someone from stealing your watch and going on a shopping spree?

Why doesn’t it look like the mockups that had a sleek piece of curved glass that fits over your wrist? It will, some day. This is version 1. It will get thinner, faster, more powerful, smarter, and everything else except cheaper.

Will it stream music to my Bluetooth device? I don’t know. It can control music from the “Glance” screen, but that might connect to iTunes or AppleTV. If it’s not in this version, it will be in the next. While that’s a cool feature, it would mean one more device to sync with your library, and right now I have a phone with some songs, a classic iPad with all the songs, an iPod mini that has 1/4th the library and is inadequately synced because my daughter uses it all the time because she dropped Mom’s and the screen shattered. She only listens to the radio, which reminds you that they didn’t put a radio in the thing. That would be nice in the next version.

Will it cause great gnashing of teeth on tech sites where people complain about Apple cultists and how their Android device did this a year ago? Will cause? It began the moment the slide went up on the screen.

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