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 Photos

What IS that thing

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: April 18, 2014 - 12:24 PM

Well, what aren’t we reading today? Daily Beast: “Are Atheists the New Mormons?” No. Description: “Atheists are holding their annual convention in Salt Lake City, but things have been surprisingly cordial. Maybe these uniquely American religions have more in common than they think.” Except for holding absolutely opposite belief systems, sure. Moving on, here’s a BuzzFeed piece asking whether it’s “time for us to take Astrology seriously.” Because:

Even the celebrity astrologer Steven Forrest has acknowledged his field’s dubious image. “I am often embarrassed to say what I do… Astrology has a terrible public relations problem,” he wrote in an essay for Astrology News Service.

But then there was this sense — suddenly, on the street — that astrology had credence. A 2013 New York magazine story claimed that “plenty of New Yorkers wouldn’t buy an apartment or accept a new job without an astral okay.”

The question is whether it’s time to stop taking New Yorkers seriously.

Here’s another piece whose headline made me move along without a click:

Chances are you didn’t mean to sound like a jerk, but you did.

After we have shamed YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG headline writers into finding something new, let us all agree that ads like these must be ignored by everyone until they figure out why people aren’t clicking:

I suppose they think you’ll click to find out what that thing is, but that’s the very reason I didn’t.

WEB Will Chinese company Tencent make a splash in the US? FastCo took a look at the company’s relationship to the state:

News that's embarrassing to the government, such as a 2011 train crash that killed dozens of people, now spreads across China in a way never known before.

To counter this, according to the official press, Beijing has enlisted some 2 million people across China to monitor the Internet and search for banned words. Chinese Internet companies, Tencent included, employ hundreds if not thousands of their own censors, whose job is to block illegal, anti-government posts.

The government last summer issued tough new regulations: Internet users who make defamatory comments that are visited by 5,000 users or reposted more than 500 times can face up to three years in prison. The new rules have been devastating to Twitter-like microblogging sites (for which Sina had been the dominant player); users dropped by 9% last year. But this appears to have helped boost Tencent's Weixin, which is based on private conversations among closed circles of friends, and is thus seen as a safer space.

But is it? Probably not.

And this company wants to be a player in the West. Good luck People expect the NSA to snoop on everything we do online, but China too? You have to draw the line somewhere. .

APPS Idiot-proofing smartphone videos:

If only it made the phone vibrate so much the video was even more unwatchable, but people would just think it was broken.

RANDOM Gospel Family Album Covers of the Seventies. From Anorak.

SPORTS This long read from Deadspin is titled “Why I Fixed Fights,” and it will shock people who believe in the sanctity and truth of professional boxing. It’s a great piece. In related news: Live Science reports on ancient wrestling match:

Researchers have deciphered a Greek document that shows an ancient wrestling match was fixed. The document, which has a date on it that corresponds to the year A.D. 267, is a contract between two teenagers who had reached the final bout of a prestigious series of games in Egypt.

This is the first time that a written contract between two athletes to fix a match has been found from the ancient world. 

No mention of a promotor named Don Ceasar, alas. 

Selfie teen gets the boot

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: April 16, 2014 - 12:03 PM

Literally. Guy stands too close to train to take a selfie. Conductor warns him with the horn, then gives him a workshoe in the brainpan.

The internet is doing what it naturally does: first, there’s the excruciatingly long 9 seconds edited down to its pith in GIF form:

And then the frame grabs for detailed study. Before everything went south, he’s preparing for a selfie - a Vine, I’m guessing.

The Boot of Doom enters the frame:

Contact, with some chin-rippling:

An almost contemplative moment:

Sudden transformation into an aging British rocker:

And brief stint as an Edward Norton impersonator:

The GIF and the grab are mine, which I mention in case anyone thinks I stole them without credit. Comment#1:

And WHY did you want to share this on social media? It's something potential employers, future in-laws, and most people that see it... after the sensationalism wears-off... will think shows poor judgement. 

If getting kicked in the head doesn't wake you up this fact, what will? 

He won’t wake up until he’s hit by a train. No - wait, that’s not right.

SCIENCE! A moon is being born in the rings of Saturn, right before our eyes.

“We have not seen anything like this before,” said Carl Murray of Queen Mary University in London, lead author of the paper. “We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right.”

I'm just waiting for BuzzFeed to run the news with the headline "Saturn is having a moon and it is ADORABLE." 

Off to figure out a column; see you around. 

Spanking in Minnesota

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: April 9, 2014 - 12:39 PM

I'm tempted to drive to Calhoun to see if anyone's on the beach today. It's only 57 now, but we're promised 70. Then it's back in the 40s next week, because life is cruel. Is this worse than last year? Well: last year, April 15: high of 37. April 15, 2012: High of 61. 2011: 43 at noon. 2010: 66. As you see, it goes back and forth with big swings. Let’s check 1986: 45 at noon. 1985: 62 at noon.

All this data comes from the Time Machine feature of Plug in any date. You’ll see wide variances, but a mean emerges. Imagine that.

DISENGAGE Captain Janeway says she was tricked into voicing the geocentricism documentary. AVClub:

Seeming to offer explanation for why the vessel of Star Trek: Voyager became so irrevocably stranded, Kate Mulgrew—best known as that show’s Captain Janeway—has lent her familiar voice to The Principle, an upcoming documentary about the belief that the Earth is the center of the universe. The film has been in the works for a while, though it’s mostly been as ignored as those who have propagated the theory of Geocentrism past the 17th century.

But that’s all changed with the release of a trailer that finds Mulgrew’s familiar voice intoning, “Everything we think we know about our universe is wrong,” before a montage of physicists offers vaguely articulated assessments of how unique our planet is, seemingly in support of the idea that everything must therefore revolve around it. Some of them stand before whiteboards with calculations written on them. The evidence is compelling.

She says - well, read the article; they did the heavy lifting, I didn’t. I figured she was just taking a paycheck. Just because Orson Welles did the voiceover for frozen peas didn’t mean he ate them.

WEB CULTURE You never know which gaping hole in our culture exists until someone plugs it. This is one of those: man recreates bathroom fight from “World’s End” in Minecraft. Whew.

Via AV Club.

ART Beautiful cinemagraphs by Rebecca Mock.

They’re all available at one page, and I could point you there - but then they’d get the traffic instead of the artist, and you wouldn’t see the rest of her portfolio. I know, I know, who appointed me Link Cop today.

BAD ROBOT Let’s check in with our favorite gibberish blog, automatically compiled to snag search results. It’s written by “Leonard,” and it’s called “Minnesota / A blog about minnesota from a graduate student.” Today’s title: “Spanking in Minnesota.”

Under Minnesota state and local law enforcement agencies have implemented an aggressive approach to curbing driving under the spanking in minnesota a great place to move. There are also fun family activities and various cultural showcases held in this state should spend a night at the spanking in minnesota an old historical landmark which has both a park and an area of a home in the spanking in minnesota that takes cruises in this modern arena. The large and beautiful state with a criminal offense. In fact, the spanking in minnesota, which is nice. There are several people who visit the spanking in minnesota during the spanking in minnesota can go on kayaking or canoeing trips.

No link, because that’s what they want. SAYS I, LINK COP.

VotD From Blastr, a story about the original design for the Predator.

Before it landed on the iconic beast we all know and love, the 1980s action hit Predator featured a very different look for its namesake hunter -- and Van Damme, was it terrible.

Before the studio mercifully turned to FX legend Stan Winston to redesign the creature, they originally hired Jean Claude Van Damme to play the Predator, wearing a weird red suit that would be changed in post-production as part of the cloaking effects.

The recollection of Van Damme’s fury is priceless.

Wait a minute, says Link Cop. What’s this in the comments?

I love how you idiots are always stealing headlines from Bloody-Disgusting. Don't think I don't notice. This site should be taken down

Well, let’s see how Bloody-Disgusting titled the piece: “Hilarious Story About Jean-Claude Van Damme In ‘Predator’!! Okay. Blastr: “Awesome, long-lost 1980s footage of Van Damme's hilariously bad Predator.” No, different headline. And better. And they link back to as the original story.

So Link Cop will let them go on their way, and detain the commenter for a while to issue a warning against making spurious accusations.

Finally: yesterday's discussion of Archie dying - and by that we mean "dying in an alternate timeline to goose sales" led to someone tweeting out the cover of Life with Archie #37 by comics legend Alex Ross. Oy:

Can you possibly imagine a situation where this would be your perspective, and something really awful wasn't about to happen? There are actually many different covers, and you can see the whole batch here. You may not care a whit about Archie, but the comic is an American archetype, and it's interesting to see what different artists do with the concept of Riverdale's redhead taking the big sleep.

Walking Dead and Morton Salt

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 31, 2014 - 2:45 PM

"The Walking Dead Finale was Brutal, Shocking and Heartbreaking," says i09. Agreed for the most part; not sure about “heartbreaking.” You have to feel bad for the gang; things would have worked out better, you suspect, if they weren’t in a TV show that needed a season finale. Comment that may be a spoiler at the absolute end of this piece, below the video. So you’ve been warned.

MPLS From the Strib archives, an old view of a bygone Minneapolis corner. Can you identify it? Don’t worry. It’s an obscure and forgotten building.

Can you find it in this picture?

Lower left-hand side. The building was the National, which was torn down for the two-tower skyscraper first known as the Pillsbury Building. Note the absence of electronics on top of the Northwestern Bell building, and the utter filth begriming City Hall. Now let’s look at the billboards:

The great age of conspicuous whiskey ads. Kentucky Tavern. Still made. Can you identify the other ads? Computer, enhance!

Both brands are still around, too. Now, in the background:

A national brand: this ran in Life magazine, at the peak of the company’s popularity:

For a while, the largest supplier of blankets in the country. The factory moved away and the building sat empty for decades, but it’s lofts now. The sign must have been a landmark for a while, lit at nigh. We need more of those. 

Speaking of ancient civilizations: Here are 10 that history forgot. The Zapotec structure is particularly surprising: huge and intact. Then there’s this: “Europe’s biggest prehistoric civilization, the Vinca, existed for nearly 1,500 years. Beginning in the 55th century B.C., they occupied land throughout Serbia and Romania.”

55th century BC. There’s bygones, and there’s bygones.

In more recent history: technological advances in uncovering Roman graffiti.

More than 1,600 years after the Romans fled this cold, damp island for the warm south, their secrets are still emerging, thanks to a new technique called Reflectance Transformation Imaging, or RTI. By firing a flash gun at worn-away ancient graffiti from dozens of different angles and photographing it, suddenly the ancient world comes to life. It's a related technique to seeing inscriptions just before sunset, when the letters fall into shadow. Thanks to RTI, new Latin inscriptions have emerged at Hadrian's Wall, and Greek ones on Athenian pots.

Don’t miss the Latin-based pedantry in the comments; smart and amusing.

In related news: “Assyrian stele containing ancient curse will not be reunited with its other half.” Not until Ghostbusters 3, anyway. Which isn’t going to happen. Anyway, here's the curse:

Whoever discards this image from the presence of Salmanu puts it into another place, whether he throws it into water or covers it with earth or brings and places it into a taboo house where it is inaccessible, may the god Salmanu, the great lord, overthrow his sovereignty; may his name and his seed disappear in the land; may he live in a contingent together with the slave women of his land.”

So says the curse. More here, if you’re wondering where the two halves are and why they won’t be joined together again. Who was Salmanu? Wikipedia will tell you:

Salmanu was king of Moab during the reign of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (ruled 745–727 BCE). He is mentioned in a clay inscription found in Nimrud as a vassal of Assyria. Eberhard Schrader theorized that he might be identical with the Shalman who waged war on Israel and sacked Beth-arbel (Hosea x. 14); though other scholars identify Shalman with one of the Assyrian kings named Shalmaneser.

It’s amazing we know these things, really. It makes you marvel at the amount of likewise information we’ll never know.

HMM Redditor spotted a map of Minnesota on the map of Minnesota. The Google one, that is:

View Larger Map

Votd Tired of car dashcams? Let’s look at a Tramcam.

Now, for no reason, Weird Al has a problem with his hotel door chain.


1. Terminus is creepy because it has things written on the wall in a room full of candles. It seemed like a lot of candles, no? At some point I think the point's been made, and it seems like quite a lot of work. Maybe they all do it together and sing a song. If you're creepy and you know it light a match!

2. It takes a steely, determined leader to find himself stripped of weapons, heavily outnumbered, chased by sniper fire and locked in a hot train car to say "they're screwing with the wrong people." Or one who's completely delusional. At least we have a new bad guy who, we can be assured, will be gutted and brain-spiked at some point in season 5. 

Always something to look forward to on this show. 

Melty Cities

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 27, 2014 - 12:50 PM

Sun without warmth yesterday, then warmth without sun today. C’mon, guys. Get it together.

ART The strange beauty of Apple Maps, back when they were melty and surreal and made you feel slightly queasy.

The artist said:

The fact that Apple is currently working on improving the database of its renderings already heralds the end of the special quality of these images: soon the streams of data will have expanded many times over again; the algorithms will have been refined and the visualizations of reality so perfected that these cartographic images will turn into simulated immediacy, and thereby become artlessly mimetic.

All that’s true, but of course artlessly mimetic is what you want when you’re lost and looking for landmarks.

At least Apple Maps haven’t ruined things like the new Google Street View, which was designed by people who think I want to see lots of pictures at the bottom of the screen.

In related art news: Billions of Blue Blistering Barnacles! A new Tintin book en route - and it’s another “lost” story with actual Herge contributions.

French publisher Casterman (intends) to release a new Tintin book, Tintin Thermozéro, apparently completed by Herge and ready to be published in a similar style to Tintin: Alph Art. The provenance of Rich Johnston's piece was this La Parisien article by Christophe Levent- the link is pay-walled and in French, but here's a translation of the whole thing.

Right here.

And there’s more: A look at “The Art of Atari,” a book about the box art of gaming’s “golden age.” Some fine high-80s illustration there, and an amusing reminder of the disconnect between the games and the art. The box:

The game:

Via hardcoregaming. This reminded me of my modern assumptions about the depth and breadth of the internet. I looked for screen captures of the game and had no doubt I would find them, but an exhaustive review of a 34-year-old game.

SCIENCE! NASA says they’ve discovered a new object in our solar system:

Scientists using ground based observatories have discovered an object that is believed to have the most distant orbit found beyond the known edge of our solar system. Named 2012 VP113, the observations of the object -- possibly a dwarf planet -- were obtained and analyzed with a grant from NASA. A dwarf planet is an object in orbit around the sun that is large enough to have its own gravity pull itself into a spherical, or nearly round, shape. 

How did it remain undetected for so long? Wasn’t the big arrow a giveaway?

GAMING Monopoly is soliciting new rules. I recall our house rule had to do with putting all fines into a pile in the center of the board, and when you landed on Free Parking you raked it all in. Not sure how this comports with the pure, cut-throat capitalism of the game; it suggested a Tammany-Hall style disbursement of public funds.

BURN Some aloe vera for the gentleman. From FiveThirtyEight:

A New York Times columnist has expressed substantially more negative sentiments about FiveThirtyEight since it left The New York Times, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis.

The columnist, Paul Krugman, who writes about economics and politics for The Times, has referred to FiveThirtyEight or editor-in-chief Nate Silver 33 times on his blog. FiveThirtyEight classified each reference based on whether it expressed a favorable, unfavorable or neutral sentiment toward FiveThirtyEight.

Statistics follow. Then:

While it can be easy to extrapolate a spurious trend from a limited number of data points, the differences are highly statistically significant. At his current pace, Mr. Krugman will write 425 more blog posts about FiveThirtyEight between now and the 2016 presidential election.

Snort. That’s all, folks; have to finish a column. See you around.



Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters