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 Gripes

Who is this?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: January 26, 2015 - 3:21 PM

Looking through an early 60s LOOK magazine - the Hunt’s Catsup to Life’s Heinz - I came across an ad for men’s hair dye. The copy said that grey hair made you look old, and not so virile, and not as ripe for Success as dark hair. Here’s the picture they used.

Is that who I think it is? Because silver hair didn’t exactly sink his career.

UPDATE: Well, well, well.  However did I forget the Roger Sterling-drops-acid scene from Mad Men? (Thanks to Justin via Twitter.)

BREAKING Denny’s used slang in a tweet. They said that their hashbrowns were “on fleek.” This is news. WSJ:

The message, which to teens translates to “these hashbrowns are on point (very good),” garnered almost 30,000 retweets and was seen in the advertising industry as something of a social media marketing masterstroke. Taco Bell and IHOP later sent out their own tweets using the phrase “on fleek,” looking to get in on the action.

If this makes no sense to you, imagine it’s 1973, and Perkins sent you a postcard that just said “eggs are groovy.”

For companies, these aren’t just punchlines, but a way to burnish their brands with young people by showing a working knowledge of the Web’s patois.“It’s Jay Z’s birthday,” said one of the creative specialists. “Anybody have any thoughts on what we could do?” 

Suggestions poured out, including “99 problems but lunch ain’t one” and “big shrimpin’,” both references to classic Jay Z songs.

Can we draw a connection between our menu and a famous song about a man living off the sexual exploitation of women? Anyone? C’mon, we’re losing the Millennials here.

Taco Bell’s new chief executive, Brian Niccol, told investors in December, “when we do the brand message consistently, we end up in a place where, to borrow a Millennial phrase, we’re ‘on cleek.’ ”

Mr. Niccol said he misspoke, adding that Taco Bell does an “amazing job of tapping into” the Millennial voice.

One day the Millennial voice will grow up.

Lois rebukes Hi at 6 AM

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: January 21, 2015 - 12:13 PM

In today's comics, which are "comic" in name only, this exchange:

Are we to believe that Hi and Lois were having a conversation about the value of Twitter the previous night? Her expression is so self-contented that it seems as if she regards this development as the coup de grace. Unfortunately, Hi is hungover, and probably won't remember.

THE INTERNET IS TOO BIG J. C. Penney is bringing back the catalog. You might think it’s because they can’t think of new ways to lose money fast enough, but no: they’re “a strong, proactive tap on the shoulder.” At least that’s what the trade associations for catalogs says. The NPR article quotes the head fof “"The Internet has gotten so big that you can't find anything on it," Hagood says, "even on the J.C. Penney website." Hagood says a good print catalog can help customers cut through the clutter of the Internet.

Well, not exactly, but you know what she means. Maybe. Does she mean that the internet is too daunting for some? Or that you can find so much that it feels as if you can’t choose?

On second thought, I don’t know what she means. But flipping through a catalog is a different experience than clicking NEXT on a webpage, and a catalog that arrives in the mail is different from a pop-up box that requires your dismissal. Catalogs don’t stand in the doorway and forbid you to pass until you dog-ear the cover.

AHOY ABC news discovers a retiree living on a cruise ship, and some people are surprised. Some people applaud her decision. Some people are angry that you’re not angry she can afford it. Well, it makes more sense than a retirement home, if you like to travel, and she’s not alone; I’ve met another lady of a certain age who had retired to live on a cruise ship. Like the ABC story subject, she chose a smaller vessel that’s all-inclusive, and that’s what I find odd. I’ve been on the Crystal Serenity, and after 11 days I was delighted to leave. It’s lovely but small. I’d want the biggest cruise ship in the world, even if it meant paying three bucks extra for lunch - except that they just bob around the Caribbean over and over again, and the 47th time you looked out the window and said “Virgin Islands? Again? My, how this week flew past” you might yearn for something new.

REBOOT This stuff makes my head hurt.

"The Ultimate Universe and the Marvel Universe are going to smash together," editor-in-chief Axel Alonso explained. "Imagine there's two pizzas. They're going to smash together. You're going to have all-new toppings. Some toppings are going to drop off. You're going to yell about some that are missing. You're going to love the new ones that are there. That's the new Marvel universe moving forward.”

I’m old-fashioned, and prefer one universe, with one Spider-Man, and not a kaleidoscopic cosmos with 14 Spidermen, one of whom is Capt. Stacy in an exoskeleton. In related news, science has devised a way to read charcoal logs:

The contents of hundreds of papyrus scrolls that were turned into charcoal in the eruption of Italy's Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD - one of the great natural disasters of antiquity - have long remained a mystery. That soon may change.

Scientists said on Tuesday a sophisticated form of X-ray technology has enabled them to decipher some of the writing in the charred scrolls from a library once housed in a sumptuous villa in ancient Herculaneum, a city that overlooked the Bay of Naples.

Imagine what lost texts might be on those pages. Lost Pliny, for example. Granted, he was wrong about so many things - amber being compressed fox urine, for example - but it’s still tantalizing to consider

VotD Passing a truck by going into the opposing lane with no view of what’s coming: brilliant move.


Posted by: James Lileks Updated: January 20, 2015 - 12:29 PM

Modern life: I wanted to get a screen grab of something I saw last night on Netflix. I could take a picture of the TV with my phone, or call it up in a browser and use the imprecise controls to get where I needed to go.

Except . . . that the latest build of Safari on Yosemite doesn’t like Netflix, and tells you that your monitor isn’t compatible. Why does it have to be compatible? New anti-piracy safeguards that prevent people from recording streaming content. If you point a video camera at the screen while it’s playing protected content, a bolt of electricity shoots out and stops your heart. Or something. Anyway. Since Safari wasn’t working, I tried Chrome, well aware that I did not have the latest build. I have 39.0.2171.98, and I think they’re up to 39.0.2171.99 now.

I had to lot in to Netflix, since I hadn’t logged in using Chrome before. Mind you, I’ve logged in to Chromecast to use the daughter’s phone to stream Netflix to the TV, but that’s completely different. Since I have complex passwords to prevent criminals from hijacking my account and filling the RECENTLY PLAYED with episodes of Sailor Moon just to make me look ridiculous, I had to open the password manager app, which of course has its own password.

Sure enough, it wouldn’t play. A helpful screen said I should go to “chrome://components, locate the WidevineCdm component, and click the ‘Check for update’ button.” Which I did. At this point it would have been easier to take a picture with a Kodak Instamatic and send it off to the lab to be developed, but in the end I got the screengrab. I thought I’d seen a particular book on a shelf. I was wrong.

Point is, I hate passwords. We all do. Most of all I hate this:


This is the default password for everything, right? Because no matter what you type, that’s what you see. This is because invisible hackers are standing right behind you taking notes, so they can get into your Pinterest account and unfollow your niece, which will cause all sorts of problems the next time the family gets together.

Which brings us to predictions for 2015, from VentureBeat:

Consumer wearables will disappoint in 2015 (including the Apple Watch). These devices are highly-priced toys and don’t add significant value. Of course, there are some Apple crazy fans who will buy every new product. However, I predict the company will not sell enough to impact either Apple shareholders or the wearable market in general.

Based on an unreleased product whose feature set is most speculative. Well, give it a few years, and you’ll be filling in passwords by saying your special password to your watch, which will match your voice and beam the logon instructions to the browser via Bluetooth. If you don’t have retinal-scan enabled, that is.

Can’t wait.

WHO KNOWS Profile of the guy who might be the next Greek prime minister. The article notes that he is a Marxist who named his son after Che, and speculates how he might govern. Yes, it’s surely a mystery.


Or, as some have said, AIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

The last one is the best, or worst, depending on your point of view. If nothing else, a testament to pilots and planes, and the flight attendants who had to swab up the cabin afterwards.

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. 

How not to make 7,000 people ill

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

Just got off a ship. Almost 7,000 people on board. This did not happen to us:

The latest norovirus outbreak aboard the Princess Cruises' Crown Princess has infected 172 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least 158 of 3,009 passengers and 14 of 1,160 crew members came down with the virus aboard the Crown Princess during a 28-day cruise that docked in Los Angeles on Sunday.

The comments immediately tear into Fox News and start debating whether Christianity’s influence as irrevocably waned. While I was on the ship I avoided the internet entirely.

It was nice.

The cruise began with the usual safety drill. No longer do you go to the deck where your lifeboat hangs above, sweating in your lifejacket; now you sit in a big theater and see a movie about safety procedures, which of course you forget immediately. But there’s also a segment on washing your hands, and some people on the cruise balked a bit at the infantilization this implies. Speak to me like a grown-up, for Poseidon’s sake.

But it is cute. Wash your hands!

SCIENCE! Why Conventional Wisdom about 8-hour sleep needs are preposterous: here. You may think “that’s interesting; is there science involved?” Yes. But then you look skeptical and say “there might be studies and data, but I prefer such pieces to be preceded by several paragraphs of personal observations with no relevance to my own life, but seem to reinforce the modern trend to personalize everything at the expense of the reader.” Then this is for you.

HISTORY Roman silver on display. It’s not a new discovery:

Accidentally discovered by a French farmer plowing his field near the village of Berthouville in rural Normandy in 1830, the spectacular hoard of gilt-silver statuettes and vessels known as the Berthouville Treasure was an ancient offering to the Gallo-Roman god Mercury.

Worth it for the statue of Mercury. It’s oddly proportioned. The head is huge. It’s possible that archeologists are wondering about the religious meanings behind the enormous cranium, but it’s also possible the sculptor did a poor job, and everyone laughed at old Marcus Philiistinus. He was so proud of that stupid thing.


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