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 Photos

Pieces of Moment

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: January 5, 2015 - 12:21 PM

If you don’t mind, I’d like to state several obvious things and pass it off as “useful tips” in case you have nothing better to do this evening. But first: at Motherboard, a contemplation about the early days of digital photography and storage.

The pictures these cameras took are, and will forever be terrible. And we saved them on our desktop behemoths with Pentium II processors and burned them onto CD-Rs that we bought from CVS in spindles of 50 or 100 for a couple nickels a pop. What were we thinking?

That we were saving the images for future reference? It’s possible.

I was recently going through some old things, and I came across damaged CD-R after damaged CD-R—many without even a sharpie-marked label, but many more with things like “PHOTOS-NEW YORK TRIP” written on it. Problem is, unlike the film photos I found laying around—from the early 90s, the 80s, some of them from my parents from even before that—I have no idea what these photos even look like. I don’t have a CD-drive anymore.

At the risk of sounding like a passive-aggressive adult who tries to sound civil like saying “at the risk of sounding like,” go buy one. They’re cheap, and handy in case you need to install something from the dim dark era of the mid 2000s. And then you can transfer the pictures to your hard drive or back them up in the cloud. I know, I know, I’m getting too technical here, but stick with me. By putting them in the cloud they’re immune from archaic storage formats. You just smote yourself in the forehead with the palm of your hand, surprised you hadn’t thought of this before, right? We continue:

Obviously, I’m overstating the problem a bit. Lots of people shot digital and film and backed up their things responsibly. Not everyone was a dumb high schooler who thought every little thing could be tossed onto a CD-R, and then, into a shoebox for safekeeping.


And we’ll just leave it there. The “but” is the justification for writing the piece in the first place, which is: tech changes, so, how will we preserve our memories if we store them on things that might go out of style?

You could print them.

Of course that has occurred to you, but there’s more. At the end of the year I go through all the photos for the past twelve months and make sure they have descriptive names like “Last Day of School 01.jpg”, and then I compress them into an archive and store it on DVD, on another hard drive, and in the cloud. Then I winnow out the best and sent them to a place that prints them into a book. The chances of anyone ever going through 1000 photos are slim; the chances someone in the family will page through the book some day - next year, ten years away - are high. Or fat, if you want to keep the figures of speech consistent.

Since it’s a pain to do it all at the end of the year, I’ve decided that this year I will do it every day, so I’m always on top of the gargantuan data-wad of dog pictures, nature shots, building-site progress, and so on. So far so good; all the photos are in order, and the duds already winnowed out.

It’s like the resolution people make to take a picture every day, which always peters out around February.

I expect I’ll abandon this resolution around then as well, and wish I wasn’t A) compelled to take a picture of everything, and B) such a packrat when it came to computer files. Makes me envious of my daughter, who takes Polaroids and puts them in a book called PIECES OF MOMENT.

Made in China, where perhaps the creative team didn’t run the name past a native English speaker. 

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.

Technically, it's food

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 3, 2014 - 12:49 PM

When they say “Old Fashioned,” do they mean the cheese-like spackle that came out of aerosol cans, invented about 50 years ago? Seriously, there’s not a word on this label that makes sense, except perhaps for “Cheesy,” which suggests it has the properties of cheese but is not actually cheese itself.

Spred! Intentional misspelling is always your guarantee of fun and convenience.

AHOY Underplayed sentence of the day: "The HMS Terror has still not been discovered." The Terror! That's how you name warships. 

But they did find the Erebus. A long search for the lost exploratory vessel found the ship in well-preserved condition. Both ships vanished during the Franklin Expedition, an exercise in Arctic exploration that ended poorly for all involved by a variety of methods: “the entire crew perished from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning and scurvy.” As if that wasn’t enough, there were allegations of cannibalism, which outraged the folks back home. The allegations, not the actual consumption of shipmates. Wikipedia on Capt. Franklin’s last voyage:

"In 1997, more than 140 years after Dr. Rae's report, his account was finally vindicated; blade-cut marks on the bones of some of the crew found on King William Island strongly suggested that conditions had become so dire that some crew members resorted cannibalism.” The same study also suggested that some crew members succumbed to botulism, in case there weren’t enough causes of the death to go around. More:

In October 2009, Robert Grenier (a Senior Marine Archaeologist at Parks Canada) outlined recent discoveries of sheet metal and copper which have been recovered from 19th-century Inuit hunting sites. Grenier firmly believes these pieces of metal once belonged to the Terror and formed the protective plating of the ship's hull.

I swear I've seen most of this story scattered around a dozen Star Trek episodes. Erebus, by the way, was a region of Hell in Greek mythology, an area through which the freshly dead go promptly once they arrive. After that I don’t know where they go, but they probably follow the signs that say BAGGAGE and GROUND TRANSPORTATION.

More on why Canada cares about this right now:

Canada has been attempting to assert sovereignty over the Northwest Passage in recent years, claiming the area as its own.

The US does not agree. Let us hope the diplomats are successful and can pull us back from the brink of war.

GAAAH The Roosevelts, a site whose connection to its namesake seems obscure, presents some “Terrifying Halloween Costumes Parents Made for their Children.” One of the less terrifying:

More here. Have fun, and sweet dreams.

Kodachrome Minnesota

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: August 11, 2014 - 12:30 PM

A box of old slides yields some Minnesota history over at Shorpy; it’s remarkable what details the old pictures had - and what people uncovered once they started sleuthing. This, for example:

That would be Jerry Adler, a virtuoso harmonica player whose work was heard by millions.

Adler focused on popular music as his career developed, and he soloed in numerous film soundtracks from the 1940s to the 1960s, including Shane, High Noon, Mary Poppins, and My Fair Lady. He also taught actors how to pretend to play the instrument convincingly where their on-screen performances required.

We are well past the days of popular harmonica players.

That’s the easiest detail to run down. The ashtray matchbooks were a bit trickier.

URBAN STUDIES A speculative property venture hasn’t succeeded yet, and may never be occupied. Let’s spin the wheel . . . ah, it handed on Ireland. Here’s some pictures of empty places, followed by the usual comments. One person sniffs at the sameness of the houses, and another notes that the row houses of the cities of the Scepter’d Isle aren’t exactly noted for their stylistic diversity. True. I remember taking the train from DC to New York, and seeing endless expanses of row houses, all exactly the same, distinguished by the occasional attempt to customize. But the suburbs are bland and interchangeable. Right.

MUSIC It’s Weird Al’s moment, Vulture notes, and good for him. Sign of the times: the guy who had the #1 record in America doesn’t have a record contract. In a few years the #1 book in the country will be written by someone who went around the publishing houses and did an ebook on his or her own. TV will be next.

TECH The Man who Liked Everything on Facebook: sounds like an Oliver Sachs essay.

I tried counting how much stuff I’d liked by looking in my activity log, but it was too overwhelming. I’d added more than a thousand things to my Likes page—most of which were loathsome or at best banal. By liking everything, I turned Facebook into a place where there was nothing I liked.

For some people, it’s that already, and you don’t have to click on a thing. Article is notable for some Andy Warhol BS in the opening; why his remarks are still regarded as oracular pronouncements is mystifying.

Also in tech: why are remotes so ridiculous? I have the same problem with my DVD remote, which is replete with buttons that do nothing, or do something I can’t undo. There’s a button that says PRE-CH, which might trigger the TV to enter a state before all the major TV channels were established, and I’d just see a picture of Felix the Cat.

The Moon, Reconsidered

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: August 1, 2014 - 12:20 PM

CNN calls this “The hackers who recovered NASA's lost lunar photos.” No hacking seems to have been involved, at least in the sense of breaking into computers. More like "guys who were good at image enhancement are fixing some old pictures." Like:

Says one of the geeks:

"We're reaching back to a capability that existed but couldn't be touched back when it was created," says Keith Cowing, co-lead and founding member at LOIRP. "It's like having a DVD in 1966, you can't play it. We had resolution of the Earth of about a kilometer [per pixel]. This is an image taken a quarter of a f***king million miles away in 1966. The Beatles were warming up to play Shea Stadium at the moment it was being taken."

It's the Effing that really drives it home, doesn't it?

HAH BuzzFeed, of all places, comes out against Twitter accounts that attempt to puncture clickbait headlines.

TV “The Killing” returns to TV tonight, but it’s Netflix, not AMC. The show was excoriated for its cliffhanger first season, and while they eventually wrapped things up, no one expected a third season. But they got another chance, and it was worth it: everything grating and tiresome about the first few seasons somehow jelled in the third into a solid show. Early reviews of the fourth season - which Netflix calls the show’s Finale - are good.

Also: Gravity Falls comes back, after what AV Club called a "first season that seemed to last decades." True. Seems like it's been gone forever. It's a smart, funny show if you're 14 or 54 - the sort of program where Dad has to hit Pause and google some pictures to explain to your daughter the fleeting reference to Twin Peaks. A labor of love with none of the crass, smirky, po-mo cartoons-about-cartoons stuff you get on Adult Swim from time to time. Now, bring back "Space Ghost" and all will be right with the world.

VotD Holy Jeezum Crow: the aftermath of a gas explosion in Taiwan.

Remarkable footage: motion-stabilized drone, right? It has to be. Not something you’ll see here until the FAA changes its mind.

CCTV view of the explosion:


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