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

Hotel fines guests for bad reviews

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

CNN:

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.

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I would rather stay in Bates Motel than this joint.

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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

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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.

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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:

Noted.

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.

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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.

How to ruin a great accomplishment

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 21, 2014 - 12:20 PM

Who’s up for losing whatever residual faith they have in humanity? Great! Off to NASA’s Google+ page, then.

We sent a robot to another planet and it took a picture of a comet. Naturally, this is cause for arguing about politics. And so much more! One of the comments:

NASA the Masta of Disaster know the truh. Why don't you ask them to tell the truth for a change while they are supported by the IMF look it up same funding International Monetary Fund the united nation not the United States don't even own its self anymore hahahhahahhhahh. IMF criminals. Now who is ruling. Learn who your real masters are. The real reason is not to educate about Mars or any other planet but to seek to learn to destroy under the Knights Templar tactics and demoralize and capture for enslavement. Who would know the planets better then the beings who reside on them. Damn people is dumb and blind. Never do their homework but quick to except the masters tricks. 

Never except the masters tricks, people.

Of course it all goes on to discuss the President. In a post. About a robot. On Mars. Can the sane, civil people have their own internet now? We promise to be nice.

NEVERMIND So that guy who said he’d solved the mystery of Jack the Ripper? Add him to all the others who turned out to be mistaken. So says the Independent, anyway.

. . . the scientist who carried out the DNA analysis has apparently made a fundamental error that fatally undermines his case against Kosminski – and once again throws open the debate over who the identity of the Ripper.

The scientist, Jari Louhelainen, is said to have made an "error of nomenclature" when using a DNA database to calculate the chances of a genetic match. If true, it would mean his calculations were wrong and that virtually anyone could have left the DNA that he insisted came from the Ripper's victim

Turns out the DNA evidence isn’t as tight as it seems, and the match to the blood on the victim’s shawl could be many people. INCLUDING THE ROYAL FAMILY! In case you’re still hanging on the idea of some syphlitic royal working out issues with the Masons, or something.

MUSIC Scariest film scores. Can music inherently frightening, or is it all context? “Rite of Spring” is rather terrifying, I think. Psycho? Well, if you scored it for flutes and slowed it down a bit, and you had no idea it was supposed to accompany shower stabbing but called it Bad Day at the Skating Rink, it wouldn’t be scary. The author cites the “Alien” score, which works in strange ways. The opening theme, for example. It’s sufficiently unnerving to fill you with dread before the first letter in ALIEN appears. You go into the movie knowing it’s going to be frightening, so you’re reading anticipatory dread into the sounds, but it’s so remote and cold it takes you right into the place where no one can hear you scream. It’s the sound of being a billion miles away.

Speaking of Alien: There’s a new game out, and people are surprise to find it doesn’t adhere to the standards of previous Alien games. In other words, it’s pretty good. It’ll be interesting to see how both sides of the #gamergate controversy deal with the main character: Ripley’s daughter. No, not Newt, whose strange line readings we have mostly accepted. Mostly.

DON’T DO THIS Anyone who's written a book knows the sting of a bad review. Oh yeah? you think. And what have you accomplished, other than sniping at the work of people who actually finished a book? It’s irritating, but you mend yourself and tell yourself there will always be carpers and pickers of nits. And then you figure out a way to find out where the reviewer lives and go their house to confront them. That’s the best part!

Why are you looking at me so oddly?

Of course, no, I didn’t do that, but one author did - and wrote about the experience in the Guardian, a confession of such horrible bad judgment that reading it is an exercise in the gradual loss of control over the muscles that keep your jaw from falling open.

The secondary stage: blogs detailing the fallout to the story, and picking apart some key details. The MEGO factor increases 10X here, because we’re getting into an online community, with all its petty eddies and log-rolling and outsized personalties. This site - which I have no reason to believe isn’t coming to this like everyone else, as a stranger to the author and the reviews in question - start to disassemble the original story. I mention this only to give you an idea how confusing this can be to outsiders:

Hale then is directed to Stop the GR Bullies where she finds a page on the GR Reviewer. According to fake person Athena Parker who co founded Stop the GR Bullies, the GR Reviewer attacked a fourteen year old. Stop the GR Bullies is a well known hate site that uses out of context screenshots to construct stories out of whole cloth. They have targeted people like Courtney Milan as well as many other individuals I respect. 

Hold on. Stop the GR Bullies it itself a bullying site that bullies people who want to stop bullying reviewers? And a bad review is now bullying?

You can get a round-up on the reactions, here

VotD The most nerve-wracking part of launching a ship? Launching a ship.

New Disney theme park?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 16, 2014 - 12:48 PM

Don't you have blog-post titles that end with a question mark? To say nothing of the first sentence in the post. At least it's not an exclamation point! Those always promise more than they provide. Anyway: Since it’s Fall Break for schools, more than a few families have decamped to Disneyworld. If they left yesterday they might get in all the parks . . . but comes 2021, that might take an extra day. WDW News Today, yesterday:

Just a few days ago we told you about the groundbreaking finally taking place at Flamingo Crossings and why that seems to be important and indicative of larger plans for Walt Disney World in the next 8-10 years. Well, it seems it might be a good sign that a 5th park is coming, especially with some recent land purchases made by Disney in the surrounding area.

What will the theme be? Can’t be all “Frozen,” since they’re building an attraction for that movie in Epcot. “Star Wars” is going into the Studios theme park, which is a natural place for future Pixar attractions - unless they go all-Pixar, which would be my guess. Think “Radiator Springs” on a massive scale, incorporating the non-Pixar “”Planes” spin-off. That’s a huge draw. They’ve sold enough “Cars” bedsheets for little boys to rival the GDP of developing nations.

The site also has this little character for their Twitter feed:

One of the most obscure Disney characters ever, at least before he was revived.

SCIENCE! The Mars colonists will have 67 days to enjoy humanity’s greatest adventure. After that they start to die. Telegraph:

Humans could only survive on Mars for 68 days according to a new study which throws doubt on ambitions to colonise the Red Planet.Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) concluded that with current technology a permanent settlement on Mars is "not feasible".They analysed the Dutch-based Mars One project which is aiming to colonise the planet starting in 2024.

I suspect the people who’ve signed up for this have no intention of going. Wonder if the document is legally binding; it would be dispiriting to see the trip start with pictures of the colonists being shoved in the rocket, screaming, holding on to the door like a cat that doesn’t want to be put in a toilet.

It would seem wise to A) preposition a ton of supplies, and B) wait until we have a drive that can get to Mars faster. Seven months is a long trip, especially when there’s no way back and you’ll die. It’s like rowing across the ocean from Japan to Antarctica without a good coat.

RUINS From Atlas Obscura: The secret escape train for Presidents beneath the streets of New York.

VotD And I do mean "day." It's almost six hours long. It's the Desert Bus of airline commercials. 

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