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 Technology

How to ruin a great accomplishment

Posted by: James Lileks 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.

Backlash backlash

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: September 30, 2014 - 12:43 PM

The backlash against Ello was so fast, it’s only a matter of time before the anti-backlash begins, possibly later this afternoon. The Daily Dot isn’t helping; they have a list of “10 cool brands you can hang out with on Ello.” But Ello is for people who hate the idea of hanging out with brands, and regard that sort of fake intimacy as everything that’s wrong with capitalism. Aside from the whole “being capitalism in the first place” part. Example:

Hi-Fructose, a "new, contemporary art magazine" is so cool in fact that it promoted its new account by issuing an Ello screencap from its Instagram account over Twitter.

Cool, or running all the bases because that’s obligatory these days? The magazine in Google Plus too, but doesn’t seem to be doing anything with the account.

There’s a surprise.

Anyway: if this thing is “Facebook for the rest of us, how did Netflix get an early invite? And who needs another platform on which to follow Netflix? Is anyone walking around morose because the opportunities for interacting with Netflix on a social level seem so few and far between?

SEE THE MAN Mesmerizing. Police scanners + ambient music. Here's Minneapolis. (Via Coudal.) Speaking of which: CNN.

U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson called an incident in which a man scaled a fence and entered the White House "unacceptable" and told a congressional committee Tuesday she takes "full responsibility.”

Does this mean she will resign? Otherwise, what does it mean? It’s like Captain Smith jumping off the Titanic into a lifeboat so there will be someone to take full responsibility.


Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Monday night that whistleblowers told the committee that the recent intruder ran through the White House, into the East Room and near the doors to the Green Room before being apprehended. They also reported to lawmakers that accused intruder Gonzalez made it past a guard stationed inside the White House, Chaffetz said.

The phrase “You had one job” comes to mind.

It’ll be an interesting scene come employee-evaluation time. Duties: keep people from entering the White House, ever. Evaluation: someone got in the White House. Performance Plan: make sure no one gets in the White House. If a year passes without the guard letting anyone in the White House, well, he’ll show marked improvement. Bonuses all around!

YOU WERE WARNED Don’t look at this! You will be shot. One of the many Passive-Aggressive Notes at . . . 

Some are not very passive. Language warning, as well.

Ello? Is this thing on?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: September 26, 2014 - 12:12 PM

Yes, we called it, but it was obvious to all: Crankshaft’s implausible mower-mishap went “viral.”

The real question is how a video could go viral in the Crankshaft timeline, which takes place in the past, because its parent strip, Funky Winkerbean, takes place in the present, where Ed is a doddering resident of a nursing home wearing an expression of permanent horror. Wikipedia might help, if you care.

WHERE’S KIM? The littlest tyrant may be suffering from an excess of uric acid in his blood. Or an excess of blood in his uric acid.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is suffering from “discomfort“, a state media report has said in the first official acknowledgement of ill-health after a prolonged period out of the public eye.

Kim, 31, who is frequently the centrepiece of the isolated country’s propaganda, has not been photographed by state media since appearing at a concert alongside his wife on 3 September, fuellng speculation he is suffering from bad health.

“Based on his gait, it appears he has gout – something [due to] diet and genetic predisposition that has affected other members of the Kim family,” said Michael Madden, an expert on the North Korean leadership and contributor to the 38 North website.

It used to be known as “the king’s disease” or “rich man’s disease,” according to Wikipedia, since they thought you got it from the foods only the uppermost classes could secure. Anyone planning a coup could probably put him out of action by stepping on his toe.

OH GREAT Another new social network.

It’s called Ello, and If you were lucky enough to snag an invite (don’t buy them on eBay, please) before Ello froze them due to high demand, you probably hit your invite link, logged in, and then paused.

Now what?

Ello is a very different network than Facebook, and not just because you can choose whatever name you want, post porn GIFs to your loin's content, and use it without seeing a single ad. It’s a different design than we’re used to: minimal, tiny, maybe even unintuitive. But it’s really, really pretty. Pretty, and sort of broken. Not to be cliche, but Ello is a bit of a beautiful mess.

Or it’s dull and ugly and has confusing UI. You decide. I think it’s too minimal. From the featured members on the main page it seems to attract people who work in lofts and want a Tumblr that isn’t tainted by the existence of a huge teen base.

This person thinks it’s better than the alternatives:

Right now the three biggest places on the net to socialize are Facebook, Twitter, and the Chinese network Qzone. None of these are socially or politically acceptable companies.

Oh. Okay. (Logging off of Tumblr, canceling account) But rest assured, an Ello post is already anticipating the day when Ello will be ruined.

My point is, for what little it might be worth: it doesn't seem that we are going to find the one resilient network that stands the test of time. We're never going to re-invent and preserve that one moment when everything seemed like it was going to be perfect for ever. At the risk of cascading waves of nostalgia for networked bliss that echo the non-existent generation of the golden age of newspapers, novels, radio, paintings, or whatever, we must reject this Christian utopianism.

I’ve no idea what that means. But at the risk of cascading additional waves, there were golden ages of various media, inasmuch as they had a unique role in society, attracted great talent, formed the basis for common conversations, and so on. They weren’t social networks, though. “Social networks” in the bygone eras were family, extended family, friends, and community. What we call “social networks” now largely consist of personas developed on public platforms, reinterpreted on the other end by strangers.
Unless the person on Facebook is a friend or Mom, of course. If you’re talking about social networks with friends, then the platform matters little, and people will abandon it in a second if something faster, better, and shinier comes along. The social network is not software. It’s friendship. It can be ported to whatever software you wish.

Votd The crack-and-chip windshield replacement industry is going to hate the Rage virus.

This post will gradually get quieter

Posted by: James Lileks 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 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.)


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