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

Kodachrome Minnesota

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: August 11, 2014 - 12:30 PM

A box of old slides yields some Minnesota history over at Shorpy; it’s remarkable what details the old pictures had - and what people uncovered once they started sleuthing. This, for example:

That would be Jerry Adler, a virtuoso harmonica player whose work was heard by millions.

Adler focused on popular music as his career developed, and he soloed in numerous film soundtracks from the 1940s to the 1960s, including Shane, High Noon, Mary Poppins, and My Fair Lady. He also taught actors how to pretend to play the instrument convincingly where their on-screen performances required.

We are well past the days of popular harmonica players.

That’s the easiest detail to run down. The ashtray matchbooks were a bit trickier.

URBAN STUDIES A speculative property venture hasn’t succeeded yet, and may never be occupied. Let’s spin the wheel . . . ah, it handed on Ireland. Here’s some pictures of empty places, followed by the usual comments. One person sniffs at the sameness of the houses, and another notes that the row houses of the cities of the Scepter’d Isle aren’t exactly noted for their stylistic diversity. True. I remember taking the train from DC to New York, and seeing endless expanses of row houses, all exactly the same, distinguished by the occasional attempt to customize. But the suburbs are bland and interchangeable. Right.

MUSIC It’s Weird Al’s moment, Vulture notes, and good for him. Sign of the times: the guy who had the #1 record in America doesn’t have a record contract. In a few years the #1 book in the country will be written by someone who went around the publishing houses and did an ebook on his or her own. TV will be next.

TECH The Man who Liked Everything on Facebook: sounds like an Oliver Sachs essay.

I tried counting how much stuff I’d liked by looking in my activity log, but it was too overwhelming. I’d added more than a thousand things to my Likes page—most of which were loathsome or at best banal. By liking everything, I turned Facebook into a place where there was nothing I liked.

For some people, it’s that already, and you don’t have to click on a thing. Article is notable for some Andy Warhol BS in the opening; why his remarks are still regarded as oracular pronouncements is mystifying.

Also in tech: why are remotes so ridiculous? I have the same problem with my DVD remote, which is replete with buttons that do nothing, or do something I can’t undo. There’s a button that says PRE-CH, which might trigger the TV to enter a state before all the major TV channels were established, and I’d just see a picture of Felix the Cat.

The Moon, Reconsidered

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: August 1, 2014 - 12:20 PM

CNN calls this “The hackers who recovered NASA's lost lunar photos.” No hacking seems to have been involved, at least in the sense of breaking into computers. More like "guys who were good at image enhancement are fixing some old pictures." Like:

Says one of the geeks:

"We're reaching back to a capability that existed but couldn't be touched back when it was created," says Keith Cowing, co-lead and founding member at LOIRP. "It's like having a DVD in 1966, you can't play it. We had resolution of the Earth of about a kilometer [per pixel]. This is an image taken a quarter of a f***king million miles away in 1966. The Beatles were warming up to play Shea Stadium at the moment it was being taken."

It's the Effing that really drives it home, doesn't it?

HAH BuzzFeed, of all places, comes out against Twitter accounts that attempt to puncture clickbait headlines.

TV “The Killing” returns to TV tonight, but it’s Netflix, not AMC. The show was excoriated for its cliffhanger first season, and while they eventually wrapped things up, no one expected a third season. But they got another chance, and it was worth it: everything grating and tiresome about the first few seasons somehow jelled in the third into a solid show. Early reviews of the fourth season - which Netflix calls the show’s Finale - are good.

Also: Gravity Falls comes back, after what AV Club called a "first season that seemed to last decades." True. Seems like it's been gone forever. It's a smart, funny show if you're 14 or 54 - the sort of program where Dad has to hit Pause and google some pictures to explain to your daughter the fleeting reference to Twin Peaks. A labor of love with none of the crass, smirky, po-mo cartoons-about-cartoons stuff you get on Adult Swim from time to time. Now, bring back "Space Ghost" and all will be right with the world.

VotD Holy Jeezum Crow: the aftermath of a gas explosion in Taiwan.

Remarkable footage: motion-stabilized drone, right? It has to be. Not something you’ll see here until the FAA changes its mind.

CCTV view of the explosion:

How to lose 8000 photos

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: July 31, 2014 - 12:52 PM

The cloud is not your friend. Do not depend on the cloud. Once upon a time this would’ve sounded like something you would say to friend who has developed a delusional attachment with things in the sky, but now you know what it means. Here’s a piece about how “a bug in Dropbox” accidentally deleted 8000 photos. Well, that would be bad, but those were backed up, right? No? NO? The author wrote to Dropbox: “This is an absolute disaster, I don’t have any other backup of these files, Dropbox was supposed to be the backup.”

If it’s your only copy, it’s not a backup.

YOU THERE The modern style of headline writing isn’t intended to catch your eye but punch you in the nose, because you totally deserve it. The author is better than you because the author is writing for Gawker, and you’re just reading. Basic format: Bald assertion, and preemptive accusation to deflect your objection. Today’s example:

Idiocracy Is a Cruel Movie And You Should Be Ashamed For Liking It

No, and I’m not, and good luck in your future endeavors. As one comment says:

Anyway, the movie has almost nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with culture. It's not about being born with high or low intelligence as much as it is being born into a culture that does not prioritize academics and intellect. This is what Novak gets wrong - in his haste to drum up some social-justice outrage for clicks he totally missed the point of the movie - the point being that intellectual laziness and pandering to base desires and non-contributing hedonism is harmful to society. Maybe he missed the point because he's part of the problem, on that front.

On the last point, no. He’s one of the smarter writers on the site, and constantly produces intelligent, engaging work grounded in a comprehensive grasp of 20th century technological history. Which is why it was dismaying to see his work get Gawkerized thus.

Related, from the Daily Dot: “You're tricking yourself into believing your iPhone is slow.” Didn’t know that about yourself, did you?

SCIENCE !Things like this are always exciting. Then disappointing. NPR:

Astronomers have a mystery on their hands. Two large radio telescopes, on opposite sides of the planet, have detected very brief, very powerful bursts of radio waves.

Right now, astronomers have no idea what's causing these bursts or where they're coming from. And nothing has been ruled out at the moment — not even the kind of outrageous claims you'd expect to see in tabloid headlines.

That’s such an NPR way of putting it. Why not just say “ALIENS”? That’s what we’re all thinking.

BREAKING NEWS Reet-deet-deetle-deetle reet-deet deet-deet:

A clown suffered minor injuries Monday after her clown car crashed into a utility pole in Westwood, New Jersey.

What you want to read next is “the other 25 clowns were unharmed."

The victim, according to The Record, was a 68-year-old female clown whose name was not released. Another clown, who goes by the moniker ‘Poppi T Clown’ told the paper that the accident victim was reaching for her GPS unit when she ran off the road and into the pole. In other words, she may have been juggling one too many things.

The female clown was said to have been driving home from a show at an elementary school. Several of her fellow clowns (“about 10,” the Record said) arrived on the scene quickly to assist her.

Is there a word for a quantity of clowns? A Pennywhistle, perhaps?

Votd Finally, the great lost cartoon show of the 80s has been found and restored! MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES!

(Warning: Adult Swim.)

GRIEFERS This Kotaku piece concerns the amiable sociopathy of a gamer who lured many Blue Sentinels to their deaths, and made a video compilation set to Tiny Tim music. Yes, I know, again? Again. It had a link describing what Blue Sentinels are, and if I may excerpt:

Blue Sentinels is the only covenant that can use Cracked Blue Eye Orbs, which allow them to invade the worlds of sinners and wretches. They have to be human to be able to use these orbs. A player becomes a sinner if they have gained 10 points of sin by killing other players online with invasions or by killing NPCs. They become a wretch after gaining 100 points of sin. When a Blue phantom defeats a sinner or a wretch, they will lose 1 point of sin. When using the Cracked Blue Eye Orb, Blue phantoms are unable to use healing items such as the Estus Flask, but they can heal themselves with Spells.

There are many, many other such collections of words in the entry, including helpful warnings: “Even if you are a Blue Sentinel you still can be invaded by an Arbiter Spirit (Blue Phantom).”

Consider the time required to understand all these things.

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.

Now the new building isn't big enough

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: June 18, 2014 - 12:32 PM

We'll get to that in a second. First, stuff:

ART Sometimes it’s just sufficient to say: mid-century British library posters. That works for you or it doesn’t.

URBANISM New Apartment, according to this story; here’s the site.


View Larger Map

Meanwhile, this Smithsonian story makes you wonder if we’ve reached peak peak. The term “peak X” usually means when we start to run out of something, or the high point of attainability and abundance. So it’s ridiculous to ask if we’ve reached “peak suburb” - except that it suggests there’s some iron law governing the process. I mean, peak oil means you start to run out of oil because there isn’t any more. We haven’t run out of suburbs. It usually means someone has come up with data that shows not that the range of choices is expanding, huzzah, but some people are deciding to live in a way that validates the author’s preferences.

A growing number of walkable urban areas suggests that the era of sprawling suburbs may be ending

Growing. Suggests. May. Case closed! Also, it’s a false distinction: just because “walkable” urban areas are increasing doesn’t mean that sprawling suburbs will disappear. I mean, when the “era of dinosaurs is ending” they die out. When the “era of whale blubber used as a source of illumination is ending” it means people no longer use any whale blubber for lamps.

Washington D.C., New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago took the top five spots. But the report also found that traditionally sprawling cities, including Miami, Atlanta and Detroit, are well-positioned for increased walkability based on current development efforts.

Good! If more people want to live in the city, let the market build what they need. If more people want to live in the suburbs for whatever reason they have, let them live in the suburbs. This would seem to be a point upon which all can agree, no? No. It’s a contentious fault line, because some people want to shape things to encourage the proper choice. The article ends:

But in some places, the shift to denser living might not yet we welcome, said Mangum.

"There's not an easy fix," he said. "It would involve giving up some of the things people like.”

If people want to surrender the things they like voluntarily, make a trade-off to enjoy the benefits of walkable cities - which, in this part of the country, means “slippable” half the year, then let them. But the article suggests that the “giving up” part must be required.

As for building dense neighborhoods, let’s see how that’s working out on the Superior Plating site:

It's a rare story in Twin Cities development these days: A neighborhood group telling a developer that his proposal doesn't add enough density.

But that's what happened Wednesday night during a meeting over a proposed 500-unit apartment project on the 5.4-acre former Superior Plating site in Northeast, a block from Surdyk's. A Florida based firm is pitching the mixed-use development in place of the just-demolished industrial building.

“The biggest problem we saw what that they were not proposing enough density in housing," said Victor Grambsch, board president of the Nicollet Island East Bank Neighborhood Association. "They were proposing something like 500 units. We think it should be closer to 700 or more.”

Well, then, buy the site and build it yourself. Honestly. The block’s been a vacant eyesore for a long time, and who knows what hellish metals lurked beneath it. Someone comes along to put something up on the site and it’s not big enough. I agree: bigger would be better. I agree: another building that looks like all the other apartments going up is an opportunity lost. But:

Grambsch said they do not want the building to resemble the "second rate" wood-frame construction that has sprung up in their neighborhood and across the city. But building higher than five or six stories generally involves switching to a concrete frame, which is more expensive.

"[The developer] actually indicated that if it were required that they would build to this level of density, that they would walk on the project," Grambsch said.

Which is a new definition of “Walkable cities,” perhaps.

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