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 Praise

How to get fired over Macadamia Nut deployment

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 9, 2014 - 1:16 PM

Headline: Korean Air executive apologises for delaying plane after recieving nuts in a bag

Really? Well. In her defense, First Class status gives one certain expectations. You will get a drink before you take off. You will get a warm wet towel before you land. You will not get a sack of ceramic pretzels or a bag of simple legumes; you will get high-class nuts like Macadamia, and they won’t be stuffed in a sack the guest has to open, as if he was some savage slamming coconut on a rock to get the tender tasty insides. The nuts will be served on a plate.


Heather Cho, a vice-president of the airline, delayed the plane at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday after taking issue with a crew member's decision to serve macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a plate.

Korean Air has apologised for the incident and the 40-year-old daughter of the airline's chairman, Cho Yang-ho, has resigned from her position as head of in-flight services but will remain a vice president with the South Korean carrier.

More details:

Ms Cho was seated in first class when she took issue with a flight attendant who handed her macadamia nuts in a bag. She summoned the cabin crew chief to ask whether the flight attendant was following the in-flight service manual, and the crew chief could not answer promptly, the airline said.

The company said Ms Cho "took issue with the cabin crew chief's qualifications" and the plane was returned by the pilot to its gate to expel the crew chief.

Here’s the thing. It probably was SOP to serve them on a plate. It’s part of the first-class experience the customer expects, because some of them haven’t opened anything with their own hands for years, and probably have servants who scurry ahead to loosen bottles and lift toilet lids. These people live in a life that puts Louis IVX to shame, and they will complain all the way to the top if the nuts aren’t on a plate. The stewards should have known that.  

That said: if you complain about such a thing you are - whether exec or customer - a dreadful person, and we hope someone on their way back to steerage bumps your arm and dumps your orange juice in your lap. 

GEEK A while back I expressed enthusiasm for Star Trek Axanar, a fan-film that looks pretty nifty, and has Real Professional Actors. That helps. Here’s another one.

Star Trek - Horizon is a  film set during the time of Enterprise (the fifth Star Trek series). 

Good decision; there’s room to stretch out your plots without banging into a dozen pre-existing story arcs.

The Coalition of Planets, a young alliance of worlds led by Earth, is at war with the Romulan Empire. Desperate for a chance to gain the upper hand in the war, the Coalition forms an alliance with T'mar, a Romulan deserter, in the hopes that she can provide valuable intelligence on her former masters.

I don’t know why the Romulans wouldn’t have defeated Earth quickly, given the technological imbalances. Perhaps we got lots of upgraded weaponry from the Andorians. Anyway, here’s the trailer. This is what technology in the hands of ordinary folk leads to: astonishing visuals that exceed the source material by a factor of 10,000, coupled with acting that’s . . . well, let’s put Shatner and Stewart over here,and then let’s put the people with boundless enthusiasm and good intentions over . . . here.

The problem: space scenes look like this. Incredible:

Domestic scenes on Earth look like this.

Just doesn't say Star Trek to me. You hope we'll improve screen doors by then. Anyway, it is an accomplishment, and I look forward to seeing it. 

Speaking of horizons: we're getting close to Pluto exploration. 

New Horizons left Earth nearly 9 years ago, and the craft has spent almost two-thirds of that time in one of 18 hibernation periods designed to keep its systems operational. But even though wake-ups have become routine, this one was special: It's the last time the spacecraft needs to wake up before it gets to Pluto. And what will it find there? We just don't know, and that's the most exciting part.

Between this and the thundering glory of the Orion liftoff the other day - oh, and the last Mars robot drop, which is still a thing of beauty, AND the asteroid landing - it’s a heartening time for people who grew up expecting a Moon base by 2001. So we’re behind schedule a little.

Crankshaft is still depressing

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 8, 2014 - 12:17 PM

Crankshaft takes place about twenty years in the past, according to Wikipedia. When it suits the comic’s purposes it lurches into the modern world so we can chuckle along with the nasty old misanthropist’s attempt to comprehend technology. (Note: by “chuckle” we mean stare stone-faced at the drawing before moving on to Pearls Before Swine.) LAst week’s strips seem to be playing with the timeline, as the local movie house is forced to close because studios are switching entirely to digital projection.

The comic:

For one thing, you wonder why everyone’s sitting in the back row. For another, you roll the word “comic” around in your head and consider the vestigal associations with “mirth” and “humor,” and wonder if you’re missing something. No, there doesn’t seem to be any molecules of amusement detectable by modern methods. Perhaps it’s setting up a punchline for tomorrow! So let’s look at Friday:

Ah. Well. Laughter is involved, it seems, but only the empty, bitter bark of someone cursed to live while all around him perishes, and he must make his way alone in an unrecognizable,  indifferent world. 

Then there’s the matter of today’s “Zits,” which appears to have redesigned the main character while keeping everything else in the strip intact, but we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if this was a one-off or a sign that the strip is about to tackle the subject of eating disorders.

LITERATURE Good news: undiscovered work of Raymond Chandler. Disappointing news: it’s a libretto.

The 48-page libretto to the comic opera The Princess and the Pedlar, with music by Julian Pascal, has hidden in plain sight at the library since its copyright was first registered on 29 August 1917.

The work, a copy of which was obtained by the Guardian, was found in March by Kim Cooper, shortly after she published her debut novel, The Kept Girl, featuring a fictionalised Chandler in 1929 Los Angeles.

While looking for more information about Pascal, Cooper discovered a missing link between Chandler’s English boyhood and his detective fiction: a witty, Gilbert-and-Sullivan-inflected libretto for a fantasy-tinged romance between Porphyria, daughter to the King and Queen of the Arcadians, and Beautiful Jim, a “strolling Pedlar.”

Keep looking through the archives; maybe we'll find out why the car went off the dock into the water. 

PODCAST An interview with the parents of the subject of Serial, here in the Guardian. Does the mother listen to the podcast?

“After everybody goes to sleep,” she says. “Eleven, twelve o’clock, I lay down here on this sofa and I listen.” She says she sometimes plays just one part over and over. “It’s the bit at the beginning where the prison operator says, ‘This is a Global-Tel link prepaid call from …’ and Adnan says, ‘Adnan Syed.’”

“So sweet,” Shamim says. “I listen to that again and again and again.”

With the tinkly tip-toe caper music included, alas. The last episode of Serial didn’t say this, but anyone listening may have suspected the jury convinced Syed because they couldn’t stand his lawyer’s voice.

8-BIT ART Charming little gifs of life in modern Japan. More here. 

Did you miss it?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 3, 2014 - 12:46 PM

The holiday specials are starting to hit TV. You already missed the Charlie Brown Christmas, but if you care you probably own it already, and have made your kids watch it as well. Stop fidgeting. This is classic. I’ve no idea if modern tots enjoy the show the way their boomer parents or grandparents did; animation has changed, and the leisurely pace of the show may bore jangly kids. They may wonder why characters are leaning up against a brick wall in the middle of nowhere and sounding depressed. I still remember showing my daughter the Great Pumpkin special and watching her lose the plot when it turned into a dog flying on a house shooting things.

She would have loved this, but I missed it:

Dang. I love these characters, and the post-Andy shorts have ranged from amusing to incredible. (The Halloween special had some of the best animation in the entire TS series.) But this is not like missing Rudolph in 1967, which would have been THE MEANEST THING EVER, especially if you had to miss it because you had to go to your aunt’s house. This is the modern world, and if you miss it you don’t have to wait a year for it to roll around again. Probably up on iTunes right now!

But it’s not. There’s an audiobook version. That’s it. You’re out of luck, unless you want to torrent it, which of course you shouldn’t. Is it too much to ask that I could buy it now? Look! Over here! Guy waving credit card! It will be repeated Dec. 23rd, so if you missed it, you’ve one more chance.

Here’s the trailer.

7Gh$?Qd Google asks: Are you sure you’re not a robot?

. . . we figured it would be easier to just directly ask our users whether or not they are robots—so, we did! We’ve begun rolling out a new API that radically simplifies the reCAPTCHA experience. We’re calling it the “No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA” and this is how it looks:

That’s great. But if it keeps doing that it’ll drive people mad. It’s already bothering you, isn’t it?

Surely this isn’t the only way to tell if people are robots.

The Verge tells you more. It’ll take a while for this to eliminate CAPTCHA entirely, and there still be sites that force you to squint at box and decipher the smeared, distorted text. At least we don’t force you to go through that here, and so far so good. By the way, my mom made $958 on the internet I didn’t think it was possible but check it out you can too

Hold on, need to adjust the spam filters. Be right back.

In the meantime, head over here: an analysis of the typography of “Alien.” Brilliant AND hilarious.

Griswold Lore

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 2, 2014 - 2:03 PM

CLAAAARK? It’s time for seasonal clickbait lists, so you’ll get “10 Creepy Santas Whose Laps We Want Nothing To Do With” and the like. (More unpleasant Santas here, by the way.) Mental Floss also has 27 facts about “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” that could have been molded into an essay, but it’s easier to bulletpoint the facts and slap a number on it. This is my favorite:

If Clark’s childhood home featured in those old movies looks familiar, that’s because it’s the same house featured on Bewitched as well as The New Gidget. Except it’s not a house at all; it’s part of the Warner Bros. back lot, located on what is known as Blondie Street. The rest of the Griswolds’ neighborhood is on a studio back lot as well.

The backlot can be toured here, and a website that lists all the movies shot at the individual houses can be found somewhere on the internet. Or so I assume. If I had the time I’d try to find it. Actually, I do have the time. I just don’t care.

It’s a funny movie, and compared to some modern comedies it seems almost leisurely and intimate. The name is peculiar, but accurate: it’s based on a story that appeared in National Lampoon, but audiences at the time just figured “National Lampoon” meant “A good Chevy Chase movie,” as opposed to the others.

It also had Brian Doyle-Murray, who always made you think of Jim Belushi, aka America’s Backup Belushi.

VRRRMM Montana might raise the speed limit to 80 MPH. If you think think is too fast and unsafe, spend some time in the middle of the state on I-94, where the average speed sometimes is, well, 94.

Seventy is too slow if conditions are good and you know what you’re doing. For fun sometimes if you have the kids along, and there’s no one around, drop down to 55 and let them know what it was like in the dark ages. You feel as if you’d get there quicker if you slapped some stamps on the car and pulled up at a mailbox.

VotD Somehow, I think this was avoidable.

GO HERE NOW Best story of the day so far: the mystery of the cryptic rubber slabs washing up on the beaches of Europe. Not so much a mystery any more, thanks to the internet. 

About last night's "Walking Dead"

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 1, 2014 - 12:09 PM

No spoilers. If you missed last night’s mid-season finale you aren’t reading this anyway. If you think the show is nothing more than the same plot over and over again - members of the group are separated, but eventually find their way back together - then you gave up on the show long ago, unless you have money riding on Which Character Dies in Tonight’s Shocking finale.

I’m still amusing by the idea of a mid-season finale, having grown up in a TV landscape where no show ever had a finale. They just stopped.

That said: not bad. Everyone seems to be dumping on it, but Atlanta is a nice change of pace, and much more interesting than wandering around the apparently infinite wilds of Georgia. Still, Ginger Rambo taking out the church porch seems ill-advised, but that entire sequence was problematic. Hey, the zombies are locked in the church, and we're out here without shelter. Great planning.

BAAAA If you loved Wallace and Grommit, this is for you. It’s aimed at a younger demographic, but it’s still worth it.

Shaun the Sheep, as any parent of a young child knows, was Aardman’s series of wordless shorts featuring barnyard animals, a mean and stupid dog, and a dim befuddled farmer. As with everything Aardmore does, there’s a basic decency about everything, and for a product aimed at kids it seems more grown-up than the crass, sniggering stuff marketed at “adults.” What am I thinking about, exactly? I’ve no idea. I don’t know. That one cartoon with the fish. The hip fish. Who smirked.

RECORD ART Via Coudal, a story on disco-era album art.

“I have been collecting since 1978 but I am still amazed by records I see with nice covers," he says. He identifies a few artwork trends that track the evolution of disco – and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the ones he has the most affection for are those that distil the disco experience into a single image.

The collection numbers over 7,000 disco albums. 2K were culled for an upcoming book celebrating the art of the disco cover.

Apparently we’re having a disco revival now, since we’re far enough away from the original culture to remember how drivelicious most of the stuff was. Any genre that ends up with “Grandma got run over by a Disco Reindeer” had trouble from the start.

LAMENT North Dakota gets good press these days: boom state. The west pumps and prospers; Fargo never slowed down during the 2008 collapse. But much of the state has withered and emptied out, as this site shows. The Ghosts of North Dakota.


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