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

Groundskeeper Willie weighs in on the Scotland Vote

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

We'll get to that in a moment, although you probably know how he votes. 

URGH In time for the 50th anniversary, the Top 10 Pop-Tart flavors. I don’t think there were five when I was growing up. It’s basically compacted sawdust with a coat of lacquer-sugar; no thanks. Except for the cinnamon ones.

How could you possibly provide this for breakfast and think “I’m sending them off to school well-nourished”?

REWIND An amusing list of Top Five Video Store Memories, from Flashbak. Yes, children, you had to pay a membership fee.

They’ve been gone from my neighborhood for so long two of the dead locations have been something else twice over. Nostalgia aside, who misses VHS? No one.

YOURS TRULY They’ve found the identity of Jack the Ripper! And it’s not that guy. It’s the other guy. Atlas Obscura:

Mudgett's conclusion, supported by expert forensic analysts from The British Museum and elsewhere, is shocking: Jack the Ripper was potentially none other than Dr. H. H. Holmes, the "devil" of Erik Larson's best-selling book The Devil in the White City and North America's first and most horribly prolific serial killer. Holmes, whose given name was Herman Webster Mudgett, murdered and dissected over 200 women in Chicago in the early 1890s and against the backdrop of The World's Columbian Exposition - the first World's Fair.

Eh. The DNA evidence on the crazed Pole seems convincing. Holmes seemed too careful and methodical. On the other hand, maybe he was also eternal, and was responsible for the Black Dahlia and the Zodiac killings; someone get on that book right away.

TOMO EXPLAINS Confused about Scottish Independence? This should help.

Re: re: re: re: re: re:

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: August 15, 2014 - 12:44 PM

A stirring defense of email? Yes. It is indeed a “tremendous, decentralized, open platform on which new, innovative things can and have been built,” as Alexis Madrigal says at the Atlantic. It’s also becoming the equivalent of snail mail, inasmuch as the personal communications come via other channels. Phones killed the letter; email killed letters; texting killed email; and so on. So this is heresy! Or is it?

It's worth noting that spam, which once threatened to overrun our inboxes, has been made invisible by more sophisticated email filtering. I received hundreds of spam emails yesterday, and yet I didn't see a single one because Gmail and my Atlantic email filtered them all neatly out of my main inbox. At the same time, the culture of botty spam spread to every other corner of the Internet. I see spam comments on every website and spam Facebook pages and spam Twitter accounts every day. 

That’s true. But texts on your phone are easier, no?

This isn't something the originators of email ever could have imagined, but: Email does mobile really well.

While the mobile web is a rusting scrapheap of unreadable text, broken advertisements, and janky layouts, normal emails look great on phones! They are super lightweight, so they download quickly over any kind of connection, and the tools to forward or otherwise deal with them are built expertly and natively into our mobile devices. 

That’s true as well. Hmm. Well, here’s the problem. Email as a means of personal communication works fine, and allows for more greater length, if people in the future will still be capable of such things. But it will be mostly associated with work, which for millions means it is simply a nag that tells you what you haven’t done yet.

Good article; give it a read.

SCIENCE! Another big rock heading our way. Panic. Slowly. The Independent serves up some quality science writing:

They were studying asteroid 1950 DA, which has a one in 300 chance of hitting the planet on 16 March, 2880 Although the odds seem small, it is the most likely asteroid to collide with Earth and the odds are higher than being shot dead in the US.

Sigh. That’s a meaningless statistic. Where in the US? Chicago? The Alaskan tundra?  Let’s keep reading:

The University of Tennessee researchers said 1950 DA is rotating so quickly it “defies gravity” and is held together by cohesive forces, called van der Waals, never before detected on an asteroid.

From the comments:

Van der Waals force is the name for the intermolecular electromagnetic forces that keep your desk together and the screen you are reading this on. Every solid body is kept in one piece by them, including asteroids, big and small.

Moving right along:

The findings, published in the science journal Nature, could prompt a change in tactics defending our planet.

The chance of contemporary tactics changing to anticipate an event in 2880 seem small. It’s difficult to change tactics to anticipate something we know for certain will happen in 2015. Moving right along:

Previous research has shown that asteroids are loose piles of rubble held together by gravity and friction but by calculating 1950 DA’s thermal inertia and bulk density, the team detected the action of cohesive forces that stop it breaking up.

Ben Rozitis, a postdoctoral researcher, said if only gravity were holding it together, the spinning would cause it to fly apart.

The rotation is so fast that at its equator, 1950 DA effectively experiences negative gravity and if an astronaut were to attempt to stand on the surface, he or she would be thrown off into space.

Which sounds like nonsense. But speaking of being flung into space:

Votd Surely there’s a point where you’re fleeing the cops and you have one on your hood banging his helmet on your windshield where you think This cannot possibly end well.

Adolf Slept Here

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: August 5, 2014 - 12:41 PM

Concerning yesterday’s entry about the hotel that charges half a grand for bad reviews: Here's HuffPo.

Union Street Guest House in Hudson, New York pulled a written rule off its website on Monday that charged newlyweds if their guests posted a negative review of the hotel on Yelp or another review website. Then, after claiming the rule was all a joke on its Facebook page, the hotel deleted that comment as well.

An absolute PR disaster. The Yelp reviews continue to pour in:

Mein stay here vas actually very nice. I kame here vis a open mind it vas actually really quite nice. Ze owners ver lovely. I love to meet people who sink ze same as I do. Zey agreed with me on all my ideas! Overall it vas a nice stay and I loved ze decorations; ze red and black vurked so well, I sink I might use it for a project I have planned!

I just vish I'd not brought mein Gestapo buddies. Zey were up all night partying and marching vis ze owners all night! It vas a crazy time, ja!

Or:

got married here in 2013 but I didn't read the fine print carefully. Apparently the Hotel Manager had the right of "Prima Nocta" and was legally allowed to sleep with the bride on the first night. Needless to say this lead to serious issues with the marriage. I'm fairly sure he impregnated my wife- the DNA test says the baby isn't mine.

On the other hand they did leave a chocolate on the pillow, so it wasn't all bad- they deserve an extra star for that.

It’s turning into community-generated open-source improvisational theater. The owners, no doubt, are just keeping their heads down and waiting for it all to blow over. I mean, no one can take seriously a bad review from Adolf H, can they?

REAL ESTATE Walt Disney’s house is for sale. Sounds historic:

The home, owned by the Disney family in the 1950s and '60s, is where Disney hosted A-list stars including Humphrey Bogart, Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, offering trips on the zip line Disney had installed on the property. The home also still features the ceiling fan system in the main living area that was seen in the movie “Casablanca.”

One bedroom, 2 baths. Surprisingly cheap: $535K? In Palm Desert? Well, head to the comments for enlightenment, where people dispute whether Walt ever lived there, complain about the color of the kitchen, complain about people who complain about color, and generally tear each other to shreds with bilious hatred.

CULTURE The NYT discovers “Middlebrow” every so often, and out comes an essay that defends it, or explains it, or tries to give it its due without too much endorsement. Here’s the latest, discussing middlebrow’s most fiercest critics.

Among the most famous of these came from Dwight Macdonald in a long Partisan Review essay from 1960 called “Masscult and Midcult.” A political leftist and an aesthetic snob, Macdonald surveyed the abundance of postwar America with a skeptical eye. He was astute enough to identify the economic and political sources of that abundance: higher wages, more leisure, increased access to higher education, foundation- and government-supported arts organizations. He even approved of these developments and some of their effects. Great works of literature were widely available in inexpensive but nonetheless authoritative paperback editions; people were buying almost as many classical as rock ’n’ roll records; cinematic art house and community theaters were thriving.

But it wasn’t enough. It couldn’t be, in part because “the great cultures of the past have all been elite affairs, centering in small, upper-class communities which had certain standards in common.” Macdonald was too much of a democrat to wish for a return to such a state of affairs. But he did register the sense that something — variously called sophistication, authenticity, seriousness or just art — was being lost as the old, unbudging, quasi-feudal hierarchy of upper and lower was replaced by the hectic scrum of mass and middle.

Boo and/or hoo. Also, he was right - but the “elite affairs” that had “certain standards in common” had abandoned the old standards out of the sheer joy of demolishing the representative tradition, and art was unmoored from its history. when the Middlebrows went for the longhair stuff, it was more likely to be a classical symphony than a screeching atonal slab of Berg.

Here's an update of the old Life magazine illustrated chart of various Brow preferences. 

PRO TIP Do not speed in Virginia. In Virginia? Do not speed. Thinking of speeding? Not in Virginia.

The best plea deal I got was a fine of about $400 with court costs, a 10-day suspension of my license in Virginia, and three days in jail. The judge has an option of giving one day in jail for every mile an hour over 90 mph, and he would exercise it here.


A Jalopnik writer tells what happens when he tested an impossibly fast car on the backroads of VA. He got a ticket. And he went to jail.

GEEK Finally, after years in the vault! The very first Star Wars “Empire” trailer to show live footage!
It’s awful!

That font at the end: oy. The voice-over reminds you that Harrison Ford isn’t the most dynamic line-reader of his generation. You really don’t get the sense of the movie’s sweep and scope, but that didn’t matter. All we needed to know was that it was en route, and that was enough. The article also has the deleted scenes restored, and if you want to see Luke and Leia have a more . . . meaningful kiss than the final cut showed, well, there you go. Knowing what we know, though: no. And it reminds you that Lucas was just making it up as he went along, and ran out of ideas quite quickly. The brother-sister reveal was just one of the reasons “Jedi” was disappointing. Another familial relationship: surprise! We’re going to blow up another Death Star: surprise! Not really.

(Via Slashgear, whcih has much more.

One spout, 400 brands

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: July 29, 2014 - 2:03 PM

All the fancy artisanal hand-crafted bourbon with the well-designed label and premium price points? Probably comes from the same spigot, says the Daily Beast. The article links to this page, which compiles all the brands and notes who really makes who. I had no idea Four Roses made Bulleit. Next we’ll learn that many beers are made by the same enormous distilleries. You can’t trust anything anymore!

SCIENCE! Another day, another skull - but this time it has a bonus feature. Ancient brains.

Archaeologists in Norway made an extremely rare discovery when they found an ancient skull believed to date back 8,000 years at a dig site in Stokke, southwest of Oslo. According to a news report in The Local, the skull was found to contain a grey, clay-like substance inside it, which is thought to be the preserved remains of the individual’s brain.

If analyses confirm this to be the case, it will constitute one of the oldest brains ever found. Being able to study a preserved brain enables scientists to piece together the individual’s last hours and may also reveal any diseases or pathological conditions such as tumours and haemorrhaging.

Scientists can piece together the brain-inhabitant’s last hours? No. I mean, it’s not as if they’re hooking it up to a Dreamscape recorder and downloading the memories. I don’t know what that means. So let’s go to the original story in the Local.

For the past two months archaeologists have been digging at the Stokke site, believed to be two separate Stone Age settlements.

The human skull containing brain matter is among many findings unearthed at the dig.

It is hoped the skull can tell something about how it was to be a Stone Age human in Norway. It is not yet known whether the skull belongs to an animal or a child.

I didn’t think many human skulls belonged to animals, but I’m not a paleontologist.

HMMM Questions that don’t seem as provocative as they might:

Related, inasmuch as it's a teaster on the internet:

No. Don’t.

TIOT That’s the Internet of Things, the nebulous and infantile name for the imminent future of interconnected machines. Some people think it’ll be overkill. Like this.

You wake up to a jazzy MIDI version of the “Happy Birthday” song. Your smart thermostat and smoke detector are singing in harmony because today is your day. Your fitness tracker is vibrating in an unfamiliar Morse Code. Searching the internet, you come across a question in the support forums about it, explaining it is the preprogrammed birthday greeting silent alarm that you can disable after pairing the device again and updating your settings. Your bathroom scale, toilet, and garage door also welcome you with birthday wishes. Open up the refrigerator to another friendly jingle. Tropicana, Fage, and Sabra Hummus all wish you happy birthday. Now there’s an incoming message. It is the “birthday selfie” it snapped when you reached for the orange juice

If you don’t think this is likely, check your email for all the letters you get and don’t want but haven’t bothered to unsubscribe from. I don't want to unsubscribe from my orange-juice camera.

TRAVEL TIPS From Michael Totten, freelance globe-trotter:

I was advised to check out Le Mat on the outskirts of the city. There you will find the Snake Village where you can pull up a bar stool and order some snake wine. The bartender will kill a cobra, pour its blood into rice wine, and drop the snake’s still-beating heart into the shot glass.

If you don’t want to drink blood, you can have it with bile instead.

I refused. Why make my stomach churn and possibly heave just so I can write about it? The description of the drink itself is enough. I went to Iraq seven times during the war, but drinking snake wine is over the line. I don’t care whether or not that makes sense. 

Where he went, and what he saw, make for a fascinating read. Here you go.

Sioux Falls, North Dakota

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: July 23, 2014 - 12:39 PM

More on the second series of "Fargo" on FX. Hmm:

Executive Producer Noah Hawley told a TV Critics' panel that season two will be set primarily in North Dakota in 1979 with a younger version of the Lou Solverson character (played by Keith Carradine in season one.) His daughter, Molly, who Allison Tolman portrayed, is just 4 years old.

From another piece:

In the first season, cop-turned-diner owner Lou Solverson (Keith Carradine) often mysteriously referred to a major incident that occurred back in Sioux Falls. At the time, he was 33-years-old and recently back from the Vietnam War.

Which saw the withdrawal of combat troops in 1973. Other than that, though, good news.

ANIMATION In which grown men complain about a movie about self-aware planes that can talk and have developed a complex industrial infrastructure despite the lack of opposable digits: Cartoon Brew on the recent “Planes” movie. 

A prevailing argument seems to be the belief, if not the horrible certainty, that the existence of “Planes” is intended to spur the purchase of toys intended for small boys. Also, it was better in the old days of hand-drawn cartoons, when masterpieces appeared in the theater every two months. I remember growing up in those days. Animated movies were rare. Continents drew closer by inches between the releases.

DUH HuffPo on why Smart People don’t buy brand-name aspirin:

The researchers reached the conclusion that informed consumers are more likely to buy a generic product after analyzing Nielsen data from more than 77 million shopping trips by 124,114 households. They also conducted two surveys with more than 160,000 individuals.

That seems like a lot of research for people to do on their own.

There’s a difference when it comes to flavored stuff. Brand-name goods generally taste better. Store brands have a taste that seems to say “if you deserved something that didn’t taste like Mr. Creosote’s sweat, you’d be able to afford it.”

TECH Reviews for Amazon’s new Fire phone are coming in. The Verge is thorough, fair, and not impressed.

Firefly can recognize lots of things, but it’s incredibly, hilariously inconsistent. It figured out the type of Jelly Beans I was shopping for, but only offered them to me in massive bulk. It identified my Dove deodorant as the wrong scent; it turned green tea into citrus; it logged the wrong kind of Trident gum. It identified Michael Lewis’ The New New Thing by its large, title-driven cover, but couldn’t figure out the small type and barren green cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It couldn’t identify my keyboard or mouse or speakers or shoes, despite the fact that I bought them all on Amazon.

Do you want to stand in a store and take pictures of Jelly Beans to see if you can buy them cheaper on Amazon? Only if they get approval for same-hour drone delivery, and even then, why? There are Jelly Beans. Right there. In the store. For 24 cents more, granted, but you can eat them in the car, now. I love Amazon, but the idea of turning every retail establishment in town into a showroom for something you buy elsewhere is not the best idea I’ve heard in a long time.

AHOY The Costa Concordia is floating again. Remarkable. The Blue Peter flag has been hoisted, the article notes, as if you know what that means. Might be a good time to acquaint yourself with Nautical Flags.

VOTD Nice dog made nicer by editing and a soundtrack that drowns out the commands. Otherwise, totally legit:

Feeling good? Have a nice warm feeling in your heart? Let’s go to the comments:

Some days you read about the plague in China and think: can’t make it here fast enough.

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT