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 Outstate

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.

Hotel fines guests for bad reviews

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: November 19, 2014 - 12:17 PM


When a couple left scathing comments on a travel review website that a hotel in northern England they had stayed at was a "filthy, dirty rotten stinking hovel," they thought no more about it.

But Tony and Jan Jenkinson were shocked later to see an extra £100 ($156) added to their credit card bill. On investigating the couple found they had been fined by Broadway Hotel in the seaside resort of Blackpool, which reportedly told them its policy was to charge guests who had left bad reviews.

Thanks to the Streisand effect, the hotel is now “Ranked #858 of 894 Blackpool B&B and Inns.” Other reviews:

This place is filthy,it really needs closing down,bedroom full of mould no heater,no hot water,beds need throwing away,couldn't bear to eat breakfast staff drinking cans of strongbow while serving breakfast,could not wait to get out of this place and get home to bath.


I would rather stay in Bates Motel than this joint.


Trrible night, bed legs broken so slept on a slant. Next morning discovered mattress was ripped and spewing vile stuffing out. Went for a shower to wash the feeling of filth away. No hot water, cold water flooding out from under shower tray


Breakfast had to ask waitress to clear table from previous diners. She moved one cup and a spoon, no attempt to clear spilled baked beans.


a carpet that didn't meet the walls, wires hanging everywhere, and stains on every inch of the carpet. The window didn't lock properly letting in the cold. The net curtain was brown in muck, the mattress was a double lump of springs - 3 days on and I still have back ache. The bathroom was the worst bathroom I have ever seen. The toilet brush made me want to be sick. Mould on every wall, wall paper peeling off.

By the way, here’s the latest controversy about “Fawlty Towers,” which really isn’t fair to mention in the same breath as the Broadway Hotel. Say what you will about it, it was clean. Polly saw to that. Anyway: the classic ep about not offending the Germans has been reedited to remove offensive words. This comment on the Daily Mail nails it:

The point is that the major is a racist old bigot, incongruous with modern society – even in the Seventies. The audience isn’t supposed to agree with him, they’re supposed to laugh at him. The whole episode is about xenophobia in various forms – it’s social satire.

But not everyone might get the joke. So out it goes.

IMD Things like this make some writers nervous. It’s difficult to know precisely how to feel and how to act, because the potential for offense is enormous. Guardian writer Michael Kimmel bravely wades in:

Today is International Men’s Day. Are you celebrating? And if so, how? Well, what exactly are we celebrating? Is it “men”, just as they are? “Men” in opposition to women, who already have their International Women’s Day on 8 March? “Men” embracing new ways to be men?

I am celebrating his right not to read Guardian articles that can’t stop asking questions. Let’s pose our own: Will he come out against IMD early in the piece? Or later? Do you think the Guardian commissioned the piece to say something nice about men? Are you going to finish those fries? What’s the wifi password?

I think the title of International Men’s Day is so laden with the possibility for such confusion – is it for or against gender equality? Inspired by feminism or opposed to it? – that it is a too much of a political minefield to be navigated easily. Maybe it needs to be rethought.

Here’s the suggestion.

Perhaps we can replace International Men’s Day with something slightly different – and tailored especially for men and boys. A friend proposed calling it International Son Day. On one Sunday, every year, fathers can invite their sons into their own homes, so that they can learn how to clean, cook, vacuum, do laundry and childcare – skills that these boys will inevitably need.

These are fine skills. You can learn to vacuum in about 45 seconds, after you’ve figured out where the switch is. “Childcare” might be more difficult, if there are no small children in the house, but perhaps father and son can use a small pliant house pet.

I’m still stuck on the line “fathers can invite their sons into their own homes.” Is the author presuming that fathers and sons live apart? And isn’t this biased against non-fathers?

I realise that International Son Day, thus conceived, might exclude the fatherless or the son-less among us. But I’m sure we can find some community activities that men can engage in to promote greater equality at home and at work. Organise a toy drive for children whose mothers are in shelters for battered women. Cook and serve food for the homeless.

Perhaps not. Perhaps too ambitious. Still, without the explicit focus of IMD to engage men to further support gender equality, at home and at work, the day feels too reactive, too amorphous, too ripe for innocent misinterpretation or deliberate manipulation. I think I’ll sit it out.

You'll be missed, chap. Here’s how Digg ran the story, with a helpful suggestion:


Today in Internet Fake Nonsense

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: November 18, 2014 - 12:13 PM

There’s a story I think you all missed; came out at the start of the month. “Moon sized UFO may be evidence of Type II civilization.” I know, I know - I’m tired of moon-sized alien craft turning out to be from Type I civ. This might be important, though. When the UFO finally appears, it’s an 8-bit sort of image, so this could be Space Invaders. Literally.

To give you an idea of the level of technical expertise at work, a screen grab:

And this, which quite possibly sums up all UFO videos in its own eloquent way.

Don’t you see it?

Here's the video.

I love UFO footage, and there’s always the chance the next video might be the one that proves We Are Not Alone. And then it’s just more pictures of jumpy lights and recollections told by Ordinary People, set to worried, ominous music. Oh, by the way:

Type I civilization harnesses energy at planetary level, a Type II uses energy at a solar level, while Type III civilizations use galactic level energies. The November 2 video of the moon sized UFO near the sun may be evidence that our solar system is being visited by very advanced extraterrestrial civilizations that can harness the sun's plasma energy.

Mm-hmm. That’s why they’re here. They needed energy. The sun was like a Holiday station, and they looked at the gauge, saw they just had a little more than a quarter tank, and pulled over to top off the tank.

NONSENSE This article about 25 nightmarish airports would be notable if only for its Peculiar Style. I’m a fan of archaic capitalization affectations, but this one overdoes it a bit. This is compounded by the author’s style, which is almost incomprehensible.

Are you Afraid to Fly? Psychologists Believe FEAR of flying one of the Most Difficult Psychological Problems: some even Shudder at the Thought of how to Get on A plane and Get off the Ground. Sometimes, this FEAR Becomes for people serious Obstacle to ensuring That Move freely around the World and See many wonderful Distant Countries.

There’s a link to a site that also ran a list of nightmarish airports. It begins:

Fear of flying is considered by most psychologists one of the most complex psychological issues and because of the intense fear some people experience even at the thought of flying, they are condemned to never see many beautiful places even though they would love to. According to various studies, this fear becomes even worse when other security concerns are involved, and this list of 25 nightmarish airports perfectly justifies the fear of flying, which might not be as irrational as members of psychology circles suggest it is.

Why, it’s almost as if the first one is a paraphrase of something written by a native speaker. More:

In this issue, we’ll Tell you About the Most horrible 25 airports around the world where terror is born long before you sit on the plane.

Here's something that appears to be unlikely:

This May sound like an exaggeration, But it’s Probably one of the craziest airport in the World. Why? Yes Because right across the main Runway Railroad passes. Yes – A Real Railroad! Managers Should Coordinate takeoffs and landings with the arrival of the trains.

Yes, they should. One presumes that they do. Or would, if this wasn’t a Photoshop.

Look at the scale of the train vs. the plane. Who’s flying that thing? Andre the Giant? It’s the Gisborne Airport in New Zealand, which does have a railroad crossing the runway, but the photo can’t be real. This page says it is, but it was staged. You be the judge.

Jumping Spider Eyes: nope. Nope

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: November 4, 2014 - 12:12 PM

The universe is strange, beautiful, and utterly disgusting - but that’s the small wriggly mindless parts, like this thing. It’s from the gallery of 2014 photomicrography winners.

Nothing in most horror movies like this: spider eyes. You’ve been warned.

DISNEY Theme Park Tourist, a site about Orlando, discusses five WDW attractions that closed in 2014. That includes the Studio Backlot Tour. You’re on an ordinary normal tour, watching the pros make movies. Exciting! Except of course they aren’t making movies at all. They are pretending to make movies. That was the problem with the Hollywood Studio’s original concept - it was supposed to be a real studio, but it didn’t happen, so everything was a consensual falsehood.

Anyway. In the middle of the tour, your tram visits a “real movie set” where you can see movie magic happen right before your eyes. It’s bracing and surprising if you’re eight. In fact it’s awesome if you’re eight.


You can skip to about 7:20 or so. If you’re eight you’re not thinking “this isn’t real, because the idea that a studio tour would barge into a working set where millions of dollars are riding on this take is ridiculous.

Also closed: Maelstrom, the damp and exciting Viking simulation.

The decision to close Maelstrom, the headline attraction in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion, is surely the most controversial one on this list – but that has little to do with the ride itself, which was moderately popular but not one of Epcot’s star attractions. Instead, it has everything to do with the ride’s replacement – a Frozen-themed boat ride that will reuse its ride system.

Everyone could see that coming. Cue the complaints, from the comments:

Changing Norway Pavilion is a poor decision, Disney. Keep the Frozen story in the Magic Kingdom. It is fictional and not everyone is crazy about the large amount of strollers in the Showcase ..which will happen. Culture of the countries was Walt ' s intention for the Showcases. We are a DVC Member and don't have children. We go to EPCOT not to deal with stollers and screaming tired kids.

There are many legitimate gripes one may have about Disneyworld, but the presence of young children is not one of them. Also, the introduction of fictional elements into the World Showcase does not exactly ruin the pure, empirical realism of the place. It’s a theme park. It’s not an anthropological reconstruction erected for research purposes.

Related: Wes Anderson + DEVO = theme park. Telegraph:

In the foreword to his new art book published this week, Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia, Anderson wrote that he hoped to work with Mothersbaugh on a new project entirely.

"I hope to soon secure the means to commission the construction of an important and sizeable theme park to be conceived and designed entirely by Mark Mothersbaugh," Anderson said. "For 40 years he has set about creating a body of work which amounts to his own Magic Kingdom, where the visitor is amused and frightened, often simultaneously.”

I think it’s a jape, but we’ll see. I could see spending a day in the “Grand Budapest Hotel” world, though. Or a month. Or a year.

A ROGUE POET For some reason I thought of Dennis Moore. Paris Review relates the story of the bandit poet. Or the poet bandit. No, Bandit Poet. Thievery was his main vocation, 

November 3, 1883, marked the beginning of the end for Charles Earl Bowles, aka C. E. Bolton, aka Black Bart the Poet, aka the very picture of delinquent suavity. Bowles was a legendary nineteenth-century stagecoach robber known for the poetry he left at the scenes of his heists.

A great read; head on over.


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