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.

I Am Grout

Posted by: James Lileks under Architecture, Technology Updated: March 31, 2015 - 12:15 PM

The downside of living in a house lined with tile would be the acoustics, right? It’s possible to imagine a sound ricocheting through the house for several minutes until it finally gets smothered by a quilt in the spare room. On the other hand, this is an amazing piece of work: the Tile King House, now for sale in Minneapolis. Go look. Almost 70 pictures of an unspoiled midcentury house that could have come straight from a Better Homes & Garden spread. Here's the lower-level room for rumpusing:

Realtor's page here, with many photos. Retro Renovation's piece with photos and commentary, here

SDALE More on the sad failure of the original design for Southdale. Yes, yes, Victor Gruen was a socialist. Yes, yes, he wanted the interior courts to be public spaces. But if there was a utopian idea that failed, it’s because it was a utopian dream. One quote says malls bring out “the mini-Marxist in all of us,” and if only that was true; I could tie the bearded little troll to a bench and leave and never come back.

Gruen was an interesting chap, but his criticisms of post-war downtown's sterility don't quite jibe with the Dayton's block he designed for St. Paul.  That thing killed street life for blocks around.

ONE-CLICK: THE NEXT STEP Amazon has invented a button you stick on the wall in various places in your house. Push it, and it automatically orders what you’re almost out of. The Verge article, written in the necessary tone of boredom and cynicism, describes it thus:

The future where you can just be lazy and spend money with a push of a button from Amazon is here, and it’s very real.

Yeah, Murca! Because that’s what it’s about. Being lazy and spending money!

I’ll admit that the woman seems to be taking the lack of Maxwell House pretty hard here:

The trouble with "Bhutanese Passport."

Posted by: James Lileks under Gripes, Technology Updated: March 27, 2015 - 12:33 PM

BOOOO-tineese passsspoat.

The wikipedia edit page has the various arguments for deletion, such as:

The sound file has become an internet meme and needs removing unless you wish to deal with the influx of edits by children and trolls who have discovered this meme.

Right. And so:

This remix appears rather new. Well, five days old, which is seven months on the internet. Here’s the thing that makes this characteristic of the conundrums of internet culture: If the "Bhutanese Passport" reading is deleted because it has become a meme and subject to ridicule, then it’s something with enough cultural significance to merit its own Wikipedia page, regardless of whether it's inadvertently distorted or intended to mock or demean. Meanwhile, the discussions are fascinating, in that endlessly anal-retentive way Wiki editors have perfected:

What if the accent is verified as Bhutan, but the speaker is putting on a humorous affect? Imagine a hypothetical british guy narrating a WW2-related article by trying to talk like an over-the-top parody of old news real? In such a hypothetical case, the accent would be legitimately British, but the overall voice would be a silly put-on.

And so on. Perhaps someone gets around to going to the user: page for the fellow who uploaded the file. He doesn't seem to be trolling. Doesn't matter; the original has been deleted, and replaced by an audio file that's odd in its own way. 

NOT REALLY Let’s overstate the matter and say that optical illusions “prove everything we know is wrong.” Of course that’s not true. For example: I know, today, that this link takes you the page that says everything I know is wrong. 

Rote internet arrogance aside, it’s a nice collection of optical illusions.

Trending on Kinja, by the way, is this headline: “Man Forced to Sell His New house Because Comcast Lied to Him.” Really? Is that possible? Well, it’s a bit more complex than that. The OP is more interesting, if you like long customer-service rants. Which I do. It’s a modern art form, like the epistolary novel.

Beatnik Repair

Posted by: James Lileks under Photos Updated: March 26, 2015 - 11:53 AM

For some reason this was unearthed and passed around the internet yesterday, so whom am I to buck a trend. It’s a quick Pathe doc on the means by which oily beatniks were scrubbed down and converted into civilized women again. As the narrator says: “It’s all part of the deception of a modern woman’s life.” Well, when you put it like that, who could refuse? Especially filthy Beatnik girls.

Amusing comment on the YouTube page: “We’re the beatniks looked down upon?” It’s as if people think that “counterculture” was admired and revered in its time. No.

The Pathe archives are an astonishing resource, and they’ve even put up outtakes. Here’s some screen grabs from a short about things you can do to your head that make you look ludicrous forty years later. There's the dead bird look:

And then there's the other dead bird look. Literally:

The whole thing's here. 

SCIENCE! In honor of the X-Files returning, here's Inquistr, just throwing out nonsense:

UFOlogists have proposed that the moon, believed to be a natural satellite of Earth, is, in fact, a huge spaceship, a gigantic UFO, parked in orbit around the Earth by an advanced technological civilization.

The proposal that the moon is an artificial satellite of Earth, specifically an alien spaceship, a massive UFO, parked in orbit around the Earth, is known as the Spaceship Moon Theory, Artificial Moon Theory, or Alien Moon Theory.

Oh! Well. If the proposal is known as a theory, then we must take it seriously.

Speaking of the X-Files: wouldn’t it be nice if they explained everything left up in the air after the movie? The bees? The black oil? The Supersoldiers? The whole fight-the-future alien takeover business? All that hugger-mugger people obsessed about for half a decade?

The Bygone Boiler

Posted by: James Lileks under Minnesota History Updated: March 24, 2015 - 12:09 PM

At Hunt and Gather the other day, this logo plate was sitting on a shelf in the far corner of the basement:

It's beautiful. But what was it attached to? A boiler, perhaps one in a rural school; that seems to have been one of the markets they served. There's not a lot on the internet about the company, save some lawsuits digitized and uploaded to sit unread for the entirely of human history, but had a pamphlet - and here we begin with some 1930s marketing. TERROR IS STRUCK:

I wonder where that house is. Probably still standing, unless it was in the path of 35W. Here's the couple who are worrying about their obsolete home:

You never see people this worried in ads anymore. Things are generally A-OK in ads. She seems less bothered by the Obsolete Home Problem, though. Perhaps she's going to suggest a Waterbury. An ad from a 40s magazine includes the logo:

But if it was a Minneapolis company, where was it?

Ah, that helps. Wonder what's there today. 

View Larger Map

Well, what do you know. It's not a factory today - it's used for art galleries, as far as I can tell. But next time the Art-O-Whirl takes you there, you'll know why it's named what it's named. 

What's wrong with this picture?

Posted by: James Lileks under Minnesota History Updated: March 23, 2015 - 2:52 PM

I try to avoid nostalgia for the sake of lamenting and complaining, because it suggests your brain shut down after you passed 40 and assumed the permanent scowl of someone who views everything with ignorance and contempt. Why can't we take the trolley down to the Gopher theater and talk about Dave Moore? Things were better then.

Well, in some ways, sure.,The Gopher theater was beautiful in its day, but it was a grimy grind-house when I arrived in Mpls to go to the U, and downtown was something you did once or twice a month as a field trip.  Minneapolis and St. Paul lost a lot in the the last three decades, but we're better off, overall. Downtown is better. The riverfront is better. The freeways are better. If you're a light-rail enthusiast, you have two lines and more to come. If you're a sports fan, you may lament the loss of the Met, but c'mon: Target Field. And so on, and so on. Change is a given but improvement is not, and we're not only getting better but gaining recognition by the sources that count the most - surveys and magazine articles, of course.

That said: consider The Weatherball. If the subject makes you scratch your head, consult this account at Forgotten Minnesota, a nifty blog about just that. Watch this jingle:

Now consider this, which I spied at Hunt & Gather Antiques.

It's for a branch office; wonder where it's been all these years. But. What's wrong with this picture? I'll put the answer down below.

Illustrator's cliche: show the reflective nature of a globe by drawing a window mirrored on its surface. Except this was a giant orb atop a tall building. There would have to be a massive, enormous window floating above downtown. 


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