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.

Posts about Architecture

Adolf Slept Here

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: August 5, 2014 - 12:41 PM

Concerning yesterday’s entry about the hotel that charges half a grand for bad reviews: Here's HuffPo.

Union Street Guest House in Hudson, New York pulled a written rule off its website on Monday that charged newlyweds if their guests posted a negative review of the hotel on Yelp or another review website. Then, after claiming the rule was all a joke on its Facebook page, the hotel deleted that comment as well.

An absolute PR disaster. The Yelp reviews continue to pour in:

Mein stay here vas actually very nice. I kame here vis a open mind it vas actually really quite nice. Ze owners ver lovely. I love to meet people who sink ze same as I do. Zey agreed with me on all my ideas! Overall it vas a nice stay and I loved ze decorations; ze red and black vurked so well, I sink I might use it for a project I have planned!

I just vish I'd not brought mein Gestapo buddies. Zey were up all night partying and marching vis ze owners all night! It vas a crazy time, ja!

Or:

got married here in 2013 but I didn't read the fine print carefully. Apparently the Hotel Manager had the right of "Prima Nocta" and was legally allowed to sleep with the bride on the first night. Needless to say this lead to serious issues with the marriage. I'm fairly sure he impregnated my wife- the DNA test says the baby isn't mine.

On the other hand they did leave a chocolate on the pillow, so it wasn't all bad- they deserve an extra star for that.

It’s turning into community-generated open-source improvisational theater. The owners, no doubt, are just keeping their heads down and waiting for it all to blow over. I mean, no one can take seriously a bad review from Adolf H, can they?

REAL ESTATE Walt Disney’s house is for sale. Sounds historic:

The home, owned by the Disney family in the 1950s and '60s, is where Disney hosted A-list stars including Humphrey Bogart, Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, offering trips on the zip line Disney had installed on the property. The home also still features the ceiling fan system in the main living area that was seen in the movie “Casablanca.”

One bedroom, 2 baths. Surprisingly cheap: $535K? In Palm Desert? Well, head to the comments for enlightenment, where people dispute whether Walt ever lived there, complain about the color of the kitchen, complain about people who complain about color, and generally tear each other to shreds with bilious hatred.

CULTURE The NYT discovers “Middlebrow” every so often, and out comes an essay that defends it, or explains it, or tries to give it its due without too much endorsement. Here’s the latest, discussing middlebrow’s most fiercest critics.

Among the most famous of these came from Dwight Macdonald in a long Partisan Review essay from 1960 called “Masscult and Midcult.” A political leftist and an aesthetic snob, Macdonald surveyed the abundance of postwar America with a skeptical eye. He was astute enough to identify the economic and political sources of that abundance: higher wages, more leisure, increased access to higher education, foundation- and government-supported arts organizations. He even approved of these developments and some of their effects. Great works of literature were widely available in inexpensive but nonetheless authoritative paperback editions; people were buying almost as many classical as rock ’n’ roll records; cinematic art house and community theaters were thriving.

But it wasn’t enough. It couldn’t be, in part because “the great cultures of the past have all been elite affairs, centering in small, upper-class communities which had certain standards in common.” Macdonald was too much of a democrat to wish for a return to such a state of affairs. But he did register the sense that something — variously called sophistication, authenticity, seriousness or just art — was being lost as the old, unbudging, quasi-feudal hierarchy of upper and lower was replaced by the hectic scrum of mass and middle.

Boo and/or hoo. Also, he was right - but the “elite affairs” that had “certain standards in common” had abandoned the old standards out of the sheer joy of demolishing the representative tradition, and art was unmoored from its history. when the Middlebrows went for the longhair stuff, it was more likely to be a classical symphony than a screeching atonal slab of Berg.

Here's an update of the old Life magazine illustrated chart of various Brow preferences. 

PRO TIP Do not speed in Virginia. In Virginia? Do not speed. Thinking of speeding? Not in Virginia.

The best plea deal I got was a fine of about $400 with court costs, a 10-day suspension of my license in Virginia, and three days in jail. The judge has an option of giving one day in jail for every mile an hour over 90 mph, and he would exercise it here.


A Jalopnik writer tells what happens when he tested an impossibly fast car on the backroads of VA. He got a ticket. And he went to jail.

GEEK Finally, after years in the vault! The very first Star Wars “Empire” trailer to show live footage!
It’s awful!

That font at the end: oy. The voice-over reminds you that Harrison Ford isn’t the most dynamic line-reader of his generation. You really don’t get the sense of the movie’s sweep and scope, but that didn’t matter. All we needed to know was that it was en route, and that was enough. The article also has the deleted scenes restored, and if you want to see Luke and Leia have a more . . . meaningful kiss than the final cut showed, well, there you go. Knowing what we know, though: no. And it reminds you that Lucas was just making it up as he went along, and ran out of ideas quite quickly. The brother-sister reveal was just one of the reasons “Jedi” was disappointing. Another familial relationship: surprise! We’re going to blow up another Death Star: surprise! Not really.

(Via Slashgear, whcih has much more.

An unanswerable question

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: July 28, 2014 - 12:32 PM

Wonder how long this sign will stay like this.

(Portland and 494.)

AHOY The final voyage of the Concordia - a 200 mile voyage. Lots of photos here as well, as well as news on the Captain. What, news of his life behind bars, you ask? No, he’s showing up with a nice tan for a party. Which has led to something of a Clameroso.

YOU BE THE JUDGE The question What really happened at the Comic-Con Zombie Hit and Run episode won’t be one of those mysteries that devils restless minds in the future. No, they’ll keep making fools of themselves over the JFK murder. But this Daily Dot story gives you an idea what not to do when engaging in dress-up play.

ARCHITORTURE This proposed building would replace this . . . thing in Edina. Look at this building. Just look at it.

I drive past that dullard once a week and I have no memory of it. That’s how nondescript it is. No loss.

SCIENCE Dinosaurs had a run of bad luck, says a new theory. This is the theory. Ahem! This is this theory, which is theirs. The next thing that is to come is the theory. Ahh-hem! Ahhh-hem! Now, a theory of Dinosaurs which is theirs, by Jennifer Viegas, brackets-Miss-brackets.

Tectonic events, such as mountain formation, also led to the disappearance of a large seaway that had covered much of the interior of North America during most of the Cretaceous.

All of these changes impacted dinosaur populations, with large plant-eating dinosaurs that were at the base of the food chain particularly experiencing a dramatic drop in number. This, in turn, would have weakened the entire dino ecosystem.

The article also notes:

“A lot of dinosaurs really looked and behaved like birds," he said. "If we were standing around in the Cretaceous, I don't think we would have made a distinction between a Velociraptor-type dinosaur and a true bird, and that is true of these feathered dinosaurs: these things were basically birds, and the line between them and birds is an arbitrary one.”

Aside from the leaping-on-you-with-talons-and-ripping-you-to-pieces part.

Okay, if you didn’t get the reference at the start of the entry:

Votd Jeez, another guy tweeted about a boarding-gate agent and got taken off the plane:

Actual details here.

"Fargo" is renewed

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: July 21, 2014 - 12:27 PM

So says AV Club. Wonder what the plot will be. More Marge? Actual Fargo? Almost wish they hadn't; there's no way they can top Malvo as a bad guy. 

LIT Sad piece on Harper Lee, the “Mockingbird” author who decided it was one-and-done. The only other thing I’ve read by her was an essay in Life magazine, preceding the publication of “Mockingbird,” describing a Christmas gift that allowed her to write without having to worry about rent. This was before anyone knew who she was. From the Vulture article:

If our country had a formalized process for anointing literary saints, Harper Lee might be first in line, and one of the miracles held up as proof would be her choice to live out her final years in the small town that became the blueprint for our collective ideal of the Small Town. But at 88, the author finds her life and legacy in disarray, a sad state of litigious chaos brought on by ill health and, in no small part, the very community she always believed, for all its flaws, would ultimately protect her. Maycomb was a town where love and neighborly decency could overcome prejudice. To the woman who immortalized it and retreated to it for stability and safety, Monroeville is something very different: suffocating, predatory, and treacherous.

Most eye-raising line about her sister:

Alice, who retired two years ago at the age of 100, had inherited her partnership in the family firm from their father

Yeah, you’re looking at 99, you might want to slow down. (Book Jacket from this Buzzfeed piece about how book jackets have changed over the years.) Related: Do you have a novel in you? Could be gas. Here are seven reasons not to write a novel - and one reason you should. (It’s not money.) 

TYPEFACES Font geeks will enjoy this piece about the typography of “Grand Budapest Hotel,” and how it helped create the bygone world of Zubrowka. A note about the little things you never saw:

I was talking to Ralph Fiennes one night and he was really appreciative of graphics work in film - he particularly liked the personalised notebook we'd made for his character to keep in his pocket. When we were developing it, he had asked that the pages be lined, rather than blank, as he felt that was more in keeping with Gustave's style. It's that kind of small detail that the camera is just never going to pick up on directly, but goes some small way in helping the scene, for example, in which Ralph is striding through the hotel lobby taking his notes. Every department pays the same amount of attention to detail - costume, set dec, make-up, props - and it all adds up.

And that’s why the movie is so convincing.

ARCHITECTURE Atlas Obscura looks at some statues rescued from a demolished New York skyscraper. The wikipedia page on the St. Paul building is rather cruel:

The St. Paul Building was a skyscraper in New York City built in 1898 to designs by George B. Post that repeated the same Ionic order for each floor, to little cumulative effect. At 315 feet (96 m) it was one of the tallest skyscrapers of its era. The building was 26 stories tall. It was demolished without public expression of regret in 1958 in order to make way for the Western Electric Building.

Bonus: the statues were the work of Karl Bitter, who did the Thomas Lowry memorial in Minneapolis.

NORKS The world’s most thin-skinned tyrant is not happy over this, and is demanding that China do something.

Note: that is not really Osama Bin Laden gamboling through a field. At least we hope not.

WEB CULTURE Our long national nightmare is over.

One of the world's largest cranes is here

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: June 30, 2014 - 11:57 AM

Wish I meant a bird. 

There are only 2 cranes in the world bigger than the one downtown right now. KFAN:

Piece by piece, the crane has already started arriving in town this morning, but there's no need to rush to the construction site to catch a glimpse. The crawler crane will be delivered by 70 different truck loads over the next week and a half and will take nearly 11 days to construct.

Hit the link for video on how it’s assembled. It’s like the world’s slowest Transformer. Speaking of which: did the Decepticons name themselves? That would have been unwise. It sounds like something they’re called by others who have experience with their untruthful ways. No culture calls itself the Liarbots.

HEY YOU Today’s hectoring, bossy-pants headline on an article I won’t read:

But I love this:

Thanks, totally neutral observer! From the piece:

The to-do list seems like such a necessary element of an efficient work day. Nearly everyone I know keeps a list of some sort, and those who don’t wish they did because it’s so hard to remember all that needs to be done. My heart’s in the right place, but still I constantly fail at maintaining a standard to-do list.

Am I doing something wrong? Maybe not.

Look, pal, if you don’t know if you’re doing it wrong, you’re in no position to tell me I’m doing it wrong.

It’s one of those sites with tips about improving your professional life; they range from obvious to useless. If you manage to scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll discover it’s part of a network of sites devoted to giving you tips and “news.” They get 6 million hits a year, they say.

In related news of things that are useless: "For five dollars, you get a thank-you email and a picture of a rock." Yes, it’s a Rock Simulator game. (I’d embed the vid, but it’s Biggie Smalls, so of course there’s cursing. If you can’t sing, you can always m-f your way to fame.) Looks like the game has enough funding, so let the exciting rock simulation begin!

Wonder if there’s a Death-Valley walking rock level. It would be great if it had social media built in, so you'd get a tweet that said "I unlocked the Move 1/4 inch achievement!" from someone you forgot why you followed in the first place.

ARCHITECTURE New York skyscraper-condos aren’t really for living. They’re for investing. New York mag:

20 Pine was developed at the height of the real-estate bubble. After the crash of 2008, it became an emblematic disaster, with the developers selling units in bulk at desperation prices, until opportunistic foreigners swooped in with cash offers.

”Opportunistic” sounds a bit derogatory, no? Other people who have more money who take advantage of a bargain: opportunistic. You, when you take advantage of a bargain: wise consumer. Anyway, here’s an interesting tidbit from One57’s Wikipedia page:

Entrepreneur Michael Hirtenstein and Gary Barnett, the building's developer, had a public clash regarding a unit Hirtenstein agreed to purchase in the building. Hirtenstein claims he would not spend $16 million for a unit without seeing it, and that the view from the unit he purchased was obstructed. Barnett has been strict about not permitting buyers to view apartments prior to purchase, and as Hirtenstein paid a construction worker to show him his unit, Barnett refunded Hirtenstein's funds and canceled the contract.

Good. Lord. “Can I see the unit? I’m paying $45 million, after all. And that doesn’t include the monthly condo fee, which is equal to the mortgage payment on a 10-acre Minnetonka lakefront property with a nine-car garage. Can I? Please?”

”No.”

”A picture, maybe? A computerized rendering?”

”Look, I don’t have all day. There are six Russian oligarchs in the office outside waiting to sign if you don’t want to. Make up your mind.”

If no one’s actually living in these buildings, aside from a few renters or relatives staying for a week, it makes you wonder how many new structures in Manhattan will just be tall empty things. A skyline of safety deposit boxes.

BTW, not everyone’s a secretive billionaire looking to park some money; Business Journal notes there’s a Fargo ND Vitamin Tycoon.

VotD Why? Are we running out of people?

CONTAGION IS SPREADINGWhat happens when a respected source of international policy discussion gets the click-bait fever? It’s not pretty.

That’s what the conversation needs. “Mean Girls” references.

How Not to be Trampled

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: June 23, 2014 - 12:38 PM

Chances are no World Cup game will end like this:

On an evening in January A.D. 532, pandemonium broke out in the Constantinople Hippodrome, a U-shaped chariot racetrack surrounded by stadium stands. Two factions, the Greens and Blues—the predecessors of today’s soccer hooligans—broke into a fight. When the rest of the spectators dashed to escape, many became trapped by the rushing crowd, couldn’t reach the exits, and were trampled and killed. That incident was the start of the Nika riots that almost ended the rule of Eastern Roman emperor Justinian the Great.

The article discusses what humans might learn from ants when it comes to not dying in a stampede, but i was struck by the reference to the Greens and the Blues. There were two others. From Roman Mysteries:

There were four major teams called "factiones": the greens ("prasini"), the reds ("Russata"), the whites ("Alba" or "Albata") and the sky/sea blues ("Veneti" or "Veneta"). Roman writers suggest that the colours were inspired by the colours of the four seasons of the year.

This tradition went back to the Republic, if I recall correctly - and that means that the names of the factions of a major sport were unchanged for over half a millenium. Which is like opening the newsfeed in 2514 and reading about the Vikings.

The New Republic notes that the great Argentinian writer Borges hated soccer; many Romans hated the chariot races, for the same reasons. PBS:

. . . not everyone was such a fan. Like the gladiators, chariot races were popular sports for the Roman masses, not the social elites, who disliked the mob behavior of the fans and found the sport unremarkable and childish.

One exception was the Emperor Nero. He was passionate about horses and even drove his own chariot. Nero’s enthusiasm for such a lowly sport scandalized Rome's elite, but endeared him to the masses. The historian, Tacitus, sneered at the mob for this: "For such is a crowd — eager for excitement and thrilled if the emperor shares their tastes."

Typical Nero. He also scandalized the upper classes by appearing in theatrical productions, which simply was not done, and some later historians suggest that the reason he has such a mad-man reputation has to do with his conspicuous enjoyment of plebeian diversions. It was immoral and low.

Well, that, and the whole murdering-his-mother business. And burning Christians in baskets. But we’re talking about post-Augustus emperors, who didn’t exactly follow an upwards trajectory in terms of acumen and quality.

ART Gorgeous little video game based on 30s cartoons:

If this does well, it would be great to see Cuphead in other cartoon eras as well, right through the ultra-cheap Hanna-Barbera era. Even as a very small kid I noticed that when Fred Flintstone ran through the house the same table and chair repeated behind him about six times. So either Fred’s house was very long - something belied by the exterior shots - and he has spaced identical pieces of furniture down the long corridor, or they were just reusing the pictures.

In related news of the era, sort of: (well, not really), AVClub asks “A Century Later, Why Does Chaplin Still Matter?”

The article doesn’t really answer the question. Another question comes to mind: does he? The comments immediately get into the Chaplin vs. Keaton struggle, with the inevitable minority opinion for Lloyd. All were great, and each were different; no need to compare. Except that Keaton and Lloyd never really came up with anything like the ending of “City Lights,” which has been scientifically proven to melt stone. Although Chaplin never had a thrill like the last sequence of “Safety Last,” and -

Oh, never mind. Here’s some Harry Langdon.

Thrill comedy: a genre in need of revival.

SPACE There are four possible reasons the “Magic Island” has appeared on Titan.

Northern hemisphere winds may be kicking up and forming waves on Ligeia Mare. The radar imaging system might see the waves as a kind of “ghost” island.

Gases may push out from the sea floor of Ligeia Mare, rising to the surface as bubbles.

Sunken solids formed by a wintry freeze could become buoyant with the onset of the late Titan spring warmer temperatures.

Ligeia Mare has suspended solids, which are neither sunken nor floating, but act like silt in a terrestrial delta.

It looks like this.

Won’t we be surprised some day if Titan launches a rocket to explore Europa.

FUN Boston Globe: How the Amusement Park Hijacks your Brain. Warning: it doesn’t to anything like that at all. Let’s try another way of putting it: amusement parts are “perfectly engineered to push psychological buttons you didn’t even know you had. Here’s how.” Bottom line: did you know that a lot of thought and effort goes into amusement park design? It’s true!

Related: did Disneyland inspire better downtown architecture? I'd say no, because cities kept mauling downtowns for decades after it was opened. But it's a nice thought. 

VotD Close-call compilation. Yikes.

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