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.

Being the dog vs. evil aliens

Posted by: James Lileks under Praise Updated: October 23, 2014 - 11:57 AM

Good lost TV and bad lost TV. By “lost”, of course, I mean “easily available to millions worldwide on YouTube." First: Benji the dog + aliens + 80s music that sounds like John Carpenter + Hasselhoff Hair = this, which was an actual TV show.

Benji, Zax, and the Alien Prince. (via Coudal.)

The Dissolve explains:

Together, Zax, the most irritating alien this side of Jar Jar Binks, and Benji patrol the suspiciously empty streets of Anytown, U.S.A., one step ahead of the nefarious alien baddies in a Chevy van who are out to get between a space boy, his dog, and their wacky floating robot-alien comic relief. In a premiere episode that all but dares even the most easily entertained children to stick around past the first commercial break, let alone tune in next week for more sleepily paced, bizarrely convoluted adventures, these hunters chase Zax and Benji in hopes that they will bring him to the Prince, who is hiding out in a shed trying to repair his spaceship.

There are many episodes on YouTube. I don’t believe the show really exists. I think someone made the first five minutes out of old 80s footage, knowing no one would be able to watch any more.

The opening credits are worth watching. Obligatory Dark Tyrant who’s on the verge of galactic conquest, and dispatches Team Rocket to go find the kid. No doubt there’s an online petition somewhere to bring them all to DVD, because some people loved it when they were 11. The evil tyrant, by the way, is named Zanu, which might raise some eyebrows. 

PYTHON NEWS My brain hurts - from joy! RadioTimes:

The British Film Institute has said that the two episodes of At Last the 1948 Show – a sketch comedy with spoofs of different broadcasting formats - have been discovered in the archive of the late journalist Sir David Frost and will be shown for the first time since they were aired on ITV in 1967.

The discovery is being dubbed a major find for fans of the early flowering of surreal British television comedy which led to the creation of the Monty Python programmes two years after the series aired. “At Last the 1948 show” is famous for containing the first use of the phrase "And now for something completely different" which became a Python catchphrase and for showcasing the first outing of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch.

Good news. But it’s still a sin that Rutland Weekend Television isn’t available in a clean DVD version. It’s really the lost season of “Python,” and shows how much of the show was due to Eric Idle’s sensibilities. Apparently he doesn’t want it re-released, because it “reminds him of an unhappy time in his life.” Too bad.

Machine-wrapped with butter? Machine wrapped with butter.

CIAO The Spectator has a sad and disheartening piece on the fate of Italy. The wounds are entirely self-inflicted. It begins:

The Rome Opera House sacked its entire orchestra and chorus the other day. Financed and managed by the state, and therefore crippled by debt, the opera house — like so much else in Italy — had been a jobs-for-life trade union fiefdom. Its honorary director, Riccardo Muti, became so fed up after dealing with six years of work-to-rule surrealism that he resigned. It’s hard to blame him.

The musicians at the opera house — the ‘professori’ — work a 28-hour week (nearly half taken up with ‘study’) and get paid 16 months’ salary a year, plus absurd perks such as double pay for performing in the open air because it is humid and therefore a health risk. Even so, in the summer, Muti was compelled to conduct a performance of La Bohème with only a pianist because the rest of the orchestra had gone on strike.

Read on; it seems that those were the only people fired from a job in Italy in the last 10 years. Also, the piece contains the line “Regardless of who is in charge in Italy, it is nearly always all mouth and no trousers,” which would appear to be the British version of “all hat and no cattle.” You learn something every day.

How to ruin a great accomplishment

Posted by: James Lileks under Outstate, Technology Updated: October 21, 2014 - 12:20 PM

Who’s up for losing whatever residual faith they have in humanity? Great! Off to NASA’s Google+ page, then.

We sent a robot to another planet and it took a picture of a comet. Naturally, this is cause for arguing about politics. And so much more! One of the comments:

NASA the Masta of Disaster know the truh. Why don't you ask them to tell the truth for a change while they are supported by the IMF look it up same funding International Monetary Fund the united nation not the United States don't even own its self anymore hahahhahahhhahh. IMF criminals. Now who is ruling. Learn who your real masters are. The real reason is not to educate about Mars or any other planet but to seek to learn to destroy under the Knights Templar tactics and demoralize and capture for enslavement. Who would know the planets better then the beings who reside on them. Damn people is dumb and blind. Never do their homework but quick to except the masters tricks. 

Never except the masters tricks, people.

Of course it all goes on to discuss the President. In a post. About a robot. On Mars. Can the sane, civil people have their own internet now? We promise to be nice.

NEVERMIND So that guy who said he’d solved the mystery of Jack the Ripper? Add him to all the others who turned out to be mistaken. So says the Independent, anyway.

. . . the scientist who carried out the DNA analysis has apparently made a fundamental error that fatally undermines his case against Kosminski – and once again throws open the debate over who the identity of the Ripper.

The scientist, Jari Louhelainen, is said to have made an "error of nomenclature" when using a DNA database to calculate the chances of a genetic match. If true, it would mean his calculations were wrong and that virtually anyone could have left the DNA that he insisted came from the Ripper's victim

Turns out the DNA evidence isn’t as tight as it seems, and the match to the blood on the victim’s shawl could be many people. INCLUDING THE ROYAL FAMILY! In case you’re still hanging on the idea of some syphlitic royal working out issues with the Masons, or something.

MUSIC Scariest film scores. Can music inherently frightening, or is it all context? “Rite of Spring” is rather terrifying, I think. Psycho? Well, if you scored it for flutes and slowed it down a bit, and you had no idea it was supposed to accompany shower stabbing but called it Bad Day at the Skating Rink, it wouldn’t be scary. The author cites the “Alien” score, which works in strange ways. The opening theme, for example. It’s sufficiently unnerving to fill you with dread before the first letter in ALIEN appears. You go into the movie knowing it’s going to be frightening, so you’re reading anticipatory dread into the sounds, but it’s so remote and cold it takes you right into the place where no one can hear you scream. It’s the sound of being a billion miles away.

Speaking of Alien: There’s a new game out, and people are surprise to find it doesn’t adhere to the standards of previous Alien games. In other words, it’s pretty good. It’ll be interesting to see how both sides of the #gamergate controversy deal with the main character: Ripley’s daughter. No, not Newt, whose strange line readings we have mostly accepted. Mostly.

DON’T DO THIS Anyone who's written a book knows the sting of a bad review. Oh yeah? you think. And what have you accomplished, other than sniping at the work of people who actually finished a book? It’s irritating, but you mend yourself and tell yourself there will always be carpers and pickers of nits. And then you figure out a way to find out where the reviewer lives and go their house to confront them. That’s the best part!

Why are you looking at me so oddly?

Of course, no, I didn’t do that, but one author did - and wrote about the experience in the Guardian, a confession of such horrible bad judgment that reading it is an exercise in the gradual loss of control over the muscles that keep your jaw from falling open.

The secondary stage: blogs detailing the fallout to the story, and picking apart some key details. The MEGO factor increases 10X here, because we’re getting into an online community, with all its petty eddies and log-rolling and outsized personalties. This site - which I have no reason to believe isn’t coming to this like everyone else, as a stranger to the author and the reviews in question - start to disassemble the original story. I mention this only to give you an idea how confusing this can be to outsiders:

Hale then is directed to Stop the GR Bullies where she finds a page on the GR Reviewer. According to fake person Athena Parker who co founded Stop the GR Bullies, the GR Reviewer attacked a fourteen year old. Stop the GR Bullies is a well known hate site that uses out of context screenshots to construct stories out of whole cloth. They have targeted people like Courtney Milan as well as many other individuals I respect. 

Hold on. Stop the GR Bullies it itself a bullying site that bullies people who want to stop bullying reviewers? And a bad review is now bullying?

You can get a round-up on the reactions, here

VotD The most nerve-wracking part of launching a ship? Launching a ship.

Last night's "Walking Dead"

Posted by: James Lileks under Praise Updated: October 20, 2014 - 12:02 PM

Lots of talking. Bob seems to be a cliche machine, but his sunny disposition can only mean one thing, you suspect. Oh look, a sanctuary that may have a Dark Secret. Rick has trust issues. Carl apparently needs instructions on being careful, as if he doesn’t look like he’d put a bullet through you if you sneezed. Is it wrong to have forgotten what exactly some people did that was so awful? Because I have. Is it wrong to freak out when a former parishioner, her nice church-lady glasses still somehow attached, come for you with mindless flesh-lust? I’m not really in a position to judge. Rating: B -.

MEANWHILE IN SWEDEN Quick, get the Fred Thompson pic. Foxtrotalpha:

Details remain sketchy, but something is clearly afoot off the coast of Stockholm Sweden, where a large search and intelligence operation is underway involving ships, from small riverine craft to stealthy Visby Class Corvettes, aircraft and over 200 operators. Something of great interest is under the water, and it may be a Russian submarine in trouble.

There's the Strib story, and lots more here. Harrison Ford may be wondering if it’s time for a K-19 sequel.

FAIL It’s J. Edgar H-Dog like you’ve never seen him before:

Bad bootleg covers, here. Speaking of covers: an appreciation of the art of Hipgnosis, the brilliant album-cover designers of the 70s and 80s.

MYSTERY Great piece in the Paris Review about the many deaths of Ambrose Bierce. Guy made Rasputin look like an amateur.

Speaking of covers: an appreciation of the art of Hipgnosis, the brilliant album-cover designers of the 70s and 80s.

UNSUNG GENIUSES Meet the man who invented the inflatable-tube guys who dance in front of tire shops and mattress vendors.

VotD What if Spaceballs was a dark Nolan movie? What would the trailer look like?

It would still look like Spaceballs. Hard to get the gritty gravitas when Barf is in the picture.

New Disney theme park?

Posted by: James Lileks under Outstate, Praise Updated: October 16, 2014 - 12:48 PM

Don't you have blog-post titles that end with a question mark? To say nothing of the first sentence in the post. At least it's not an exclamation point! Those always promise more than they provide. Anyway: Since it’s Fall Break for schools, more than a few families have decamped to Disneyworld. If they left yesterday they might get in all the parks . . . but comes 2021, that might take an extra day. WDW News Today, yesterday:

Just a few days ago we told you about the groundbreaking finally taking place at Flamingo Crossings and why that seems to be important and indicative of larger plans for Walt Disney World in the next 8-10 years. Well, it seems it might be a good sign that a 5th park is coming, especially with some recent land purchases made by Disney in the surrounding area.

What will the theme be? Can’t be all “Frozen,” since they’re building an attraction for that movie in Epcot. “Star Wars” is going into the Studios theme park, which is a natural place for future Pixar attractions - unless they go all-Pixar, which would be my guess. Think “Radiator Springs” on a massive scale, incorporating the non-Pixar “”Planes” spin-off. That’s a huge draw. They’ve sold enough “Cars” bedsheets for little boys to rival the GDP of developing nations.

The site also has this little character for their Twitter feed:

One of the most obscure Disney characters ever, at least before he was revived.

SCIENCE! The Mars colonists will have 67 days to enjoy humanity’s greatest adventure. After that they start to die. Telegraph:

Humans could only survive on Mars for 68 days according to a new study which throws doubt on ambitions to colonise the Red Planet.Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) concluded that with current technology a permanent settlement on Mars is "not feasible".They analysed the Dutch-based Mars One project which is aiming to colonise the planet starting in 2024.

I suspect the people who’ve signed up for this have no intention of going. Wonder if the document is legally binding; it would be dispiriting to see the trip start with pictures of the colonists being shoved in the rocket, screaming, holding on to the door like a cat that doesn’t want to be put in a toilet.

It would seem wise to A) preposition a ton of supplies, and B) wait until we have a drive that can get to Mars faster. Seven months is a long trip, especially when there’s no way back and you’ll die. It’s like rowing across the ocean from Japan to Antarctica without a good coat.

RUINS From Atlas Obscura: The secret escape train for Presidents beneath the streets of New York.

VotD And I do mean "day." It's almost six hours long. It's the Desert Bus of airline commercials. 

Iron Man may be a bad guy.

Posted by: James Lileks under Gripes Updated: October 14, 2014 - 12:57 PM

Lots of news in the comic-book world today. And by "news" we mean the same old stuff that's supposed to make you buy the Special Issue. EW:

During a Comic Con panel on Sunday, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso and Fantastic Four writer James Robinson announced the series will end in 2015. Robinson said during the panel that the Fantastic Four are “going away for a little while” and that he is “building up to the end of the Fantastic Four.”

Uh huh. And Superman was killed and stayed dead. Just as a new FF movie is coming out? Does it make sense to kill the comic? Well, it does it you consider that Disney owns Marvel, and the FF movie is made by Fox.

Speaking of comics, who’s up for Captain America 3? As you might have heard, he teams up with Tony Stark to defeat a terrorist organization that got control of an entire country and is planning biological warfare against the US and Europe. Ol’ Shellhead and Cap together again, trading quips, defending Western Civ! It’ll be awesome.

Just kidding. Variety:

The plot will pit Stark against Captain America's alter-ego Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans, as they feud over the Superhero Registration Act, which forces anyone with superhuman abilities to reveal their identities to the U.S. government and agree to act as a police force for the authorities.

Stark supports the program, but Rogers does not, saying it threatens civil liberties, causing sides to be taken and Rogers, among others, to go on the run to avoid arrest. The moral question and battle with his Avengers teammate essentially makes Stark a villain of sorts in "Captain America 3," providing Downey with a meaty role he could play out into future Marvel films, including a fourth “Avengers.”

The story arc is called the Civil War. I’m sure it’ll all be cleaned up for the movies, but here’s the wikipedia entry about the finale:

The Secret Avengers and their allies reached Riker's Island penitentiary. Betrayed by Tigra, they were met by Iron Man and the pro-registration forces, and a number of supervillains who were being controlled by nanites. Hulkling used his shape-shifting ability to assume the role of Henry Pym and release the incarcerated heroes, leading to an all-out battle between the two sides.

During the fight Cloak teleported the battle to the centre of New York City, where the pro-registration forces were joined by the fixed Thor clone and Captain Marvel, and Namor led an army of Atlanteans to assist the Secret Avengers. Captain America targeted Iron Man, whose armor had been compromised by the Vision II.

Look, I grew up on these thing. I still enjoy the Marvel movies. But things like “the fixed Thor Clone” are asking a lot.

Speaking of super villains, this guy might trying out for the job:

GAMES If you’ve been following #gamergate, you know it has to cast a black shadow over everything. So here's HeroComplex on the new indie game con:

While big-budget games with guns still rule, independent developers are opening up new avenues with games that tackle police brutality, explore the perils of dementia and address the difficult conversations parents have — or don’t have — with their children regarding sex. These smarter new titles are getting attention, and a very vocal, largely anonymous online game community isn’t happy about it.

Their fear? It’s the end of games as they know them.

I doubt that. It’s possible they’re tired of being told it’s the end of games as they know them, when they suspect that “big-budget games with guns” will probably outsell parental sex-chat simulations. Not a lot of guys are going to get together online for a night of exploring the emotional depths of dementia.

It just means there will be games for people who don’t like the run-and-gun genre, and that’s fine - just as there are small novels for people who tire of big-name serials.

LATEST HACK Was Dropbox compromised? No. That’s what the company says:

Recent news articles claiming that Dropbox was hacked aren’t true. Your stuff is safe. The usernames and passwords referenced in these articles were stolen from unrelated services, not Dropbox. Attackers then used these stolen credentials to try to log in to sites across the internet, including Dropbox. We have measures in place to detect suspicious login activity and we automatically reset passwords when it happens.

Why doesn’t Anonymous ever go after the password stealers and credit-card hacking rings?

Yeah, yeah, I know. Stupid question.


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