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.
It’s possible we’re more tired of the constant coverage of the cold than the cold itself. At least the end’s in sight; at least the worst possible day of the year is behind us. Yes, yesterday was the most depressing day of the year, according to STUDIES. If there’s a STUDY, then the issue’s settled. What makes it so sad? Debt, divorce and rain. The methodology was rock-solid: a “drinks company” called “Upbeat” analyzed two million tweets. The comments at the Daily Mail piece are full of stern advice: STOP YOUR MOANING, YOU UNGRATFUL GROT BAGS is one bracing entry. Will do!
Could be worse; you could be here:
More than 500 passengers spent the night aboard three Amtrak trains stranded 80 miles west of Chicago by ice and snow that had drifted over the tracks, officials said.
The trains -- the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles, the Illinois Zephyr from Quincy and the California Zephyr from the San Francisco Bay area -- were halted around 5 p.m. Monday .
This sounds almost Dickensian:
One of the stranded passengers, Sarah Johnson, 19, said the crew told passengers they were going to try and free the train by moving back and forth – like a car stuck in snow – but that didn't work.
The train got stuck around 3:15 p.m. and everyone was fed a meal of beef stew and mashed potatoes with a dinner roll and coffee or water about 6:45 p.m., she said.
You expect to read "and everyone was sent to bed." I remember a train trip across the plains in the winter; cold compartments, frigid bathrooms overflowing with hideousness both general and specific. Never again. Here’s the fun part of the piece, though:
LATEST OUTRAGE Words to live by, and they’re in a footnote:
The controversy itself is an example of something interesting I'd been meaning to write about, incidentally. I was one of the first users of Reddit, and I couldn't believe the number of times I indignantly upvoted a story about some apparent misdeed or injustice, only to discover later it wasn't as it seemed. As one of the first to be exposed to this phenomenon, I was one of the first to develop an immunity to it. Now when I see something that seems too indignation-inducing to be true, my initial reaction is usually skepticism.
I came across the blog post thanks to a link in the comments on another site, here. That piece began like this:
Hi, Paul Graham. My name is Crystal and I’ve been hacking for the past 29 years. I don’t know how you intended your comments but oh lordy, the internet has had a fun time speculating. I’ll leave that commentary to others but I do want to say I’m happy you brought up this debate about gender disparity in tech, as it has sparked some excellent conversation about how we’re going to fix it. I believe we will fix it in part by having role models. In that spirit, I offer my own nerd story.
Which indeed she does. I found that piece linked at various tech sites that were angry at Paul Graham for saying something summed up in this Valleywag headline: ”Paul Graham Says Women 'Haven't Been Hacking For the Past 10 Years'"
Except he says he didn’t say it. Go here for his response. (The Valleywag piece also has some push-back on his remarks.)
”Now when I see something that seems too indignation-inducing to be true, my initial reaction is usually skepticism." Or, to recast the adage, Doubt, but Verify.
NIGHTMARE FUEL The Old Spice commercial is disturbing, yes:
If you’re revolted or annoyed, or cannot sleep because of Two-face Cafeteria Janitor Mom, then you’re not the target market. If you are an adult, the tagline “Smellcome to Manhood” is a first-wednesday-of-the-month-siren-test warning that this is for high school boys.
Or maybe you’re thinking it’s a hint of an upcoming Super Bowl commercial which will really move the merchandise, because everyone will be talking about it. Well: Ad Age says that 80% of the ads don’t boost sales. Let me put that another way: eight out of ten ads don’t work.
Why? The article quotes Jeri Smith, CEO of the company that did the study.
Tide's 2013 "Miracle Stain" ad, which was well liked and did well on branding, still didn't increase purchases or intent, according to Ms. Smith. "It didn't tell people anything they didn't already know," she said. "And unlike Budweiser, I don't buy Tide because of my personal connection.” Long-form commercials such as Tide's 60-second spot "run the risk of people being so caught up in the story that they forget about the brand," Ms. Smith said. And in "Miracle Stain," the brand appeared at the end as "kind of the anti-hero" by eliminating a stain that looked like former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Joe Montana.
Hair pulled out by the handfuls at the agency, I’m sure: what were we thinking? Not only was our story so compelling it overshadowed brand penetration, it left lingering impressions that equated miraculous apparitions with filth! But they’ll do it again this year, and we’ll all debate which commercials made an impression, because it’s January and there’s just bleep-all going on.
ARCHITORTURE One of the loveliest buildings in Times Square was the tiny little shoe store with the statues of famous actresses. Like this:
It seemed unlikely to survive Times Square’s expansion, but it’s been completely restored. The full story here at Scouting NY.
UPDATE Let’s check in on Mr. Trainwreck:
Actor Shia LaBeouf alienated the rest of the cast of the Brad Pitt tank movie Fury according to the Mail on Sunday. An item in the paper's showbiz diary suggests that LaBeouf pulled one of his own teeth out, and failed to wash himself during the entire shoot, the better to replicate conditions of life on the frontline in the second world war. According to the Mail on Sunday's "source", LaBeouf's behaviour proved so unpopular among cast members, which include Brad Pitt, Jason Isaacs and Logan Lerman, that he was installed in a bed and breakfast away from them.
Some say he’s acting peculiar because he’s addicted to “lean,” aka purple drank, sizzurp, and so on. Cough syrup and Mountain Dew, more or less. But that’s based on a tweet he . . . altogether now, PLAGIARIZED.
That’s it for today; I’d say “stay warm!” but that’s insulting and unnecessary. You know what to do, for heaven’s sake, and if you don’t, it’s unlikely you’ll take my advice. Bundle up! What am I, your mother?
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