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 Praise

What took so long?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: September 11, 2014 - 12:40 PM

Oreos are getting in on the game, but there are some issues that need clarification. Slate:

That Pumpkin Spice Oreos do not have any pumpkin in them is the least of their problems. This is par for the course for pumpkin-spice-flavored things: In an odd yet pervasive lexical leap, “pumpkin spice” typically refers not to pumpkin itself but to the spices typically found in pumpkin pie: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, sometimes allspice or cloves. But Pumpkin Spice Oreos don’t contain any of those, either.

Other than that, though, pumpkin spice all the way. I think the reason Oreo made these was obvious: something to fill the fortnight before Halloween Oreos appear. There’s a big gap in seasonal Oreo line-up; after the Fourth, with red / white / blue cream, there’s really nothing until Halloween. Usually you can tell what month it is by looking at the Oreo department and subtracting four weeks, but this falls apart in late summer.

INSERT SMILEY HERE  From Neatorama, first lines of famous novels in emoji form. The first two are easy.

This one you may get instantaneously, which tells you how we can read emojis as a sentence.

OMG Teens react to a NES machine! Just as you’d expect, they chose thoughtful, interesting kids with a sense of history, and they say things like “I don’t recognize it, but it appears to be a game console. Interesting graphics, given the limitations of the era.” Just kidding.

Why are these “teens express ignorance at things that preceded their existence” things fascinating to some?

ART + MUSIC This is fun. Let it load and play. Click around.  That's one way to rethink the music video. There is no proper combination; it’s all rather Gilliamesque, but short and unique. (Via.)

What do dogs really want from you?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: September 5, 2014 - 12:23 PM

The Far Side cartoon is correct; blahblahblah is pretty much all they hear, and they couldn’t care less. Here’s what they want, says i09.. Besides steak.

MOVIES Behind the scenes of Fritz Lang’s “M”, which is better for its visuals than anything else, if you ask me. It’s a great early talkie that would have made a finer silent movie. (Imagine “Metropolis” as a talkie: it would be ruined.) The weakest part of the movie is also its most harrowing; Lorre’s performance is so frightening that his protestation about his helplessness over his urges is almost sympathetic, but it’s self-serving. Of course he could help it, or he would have kidnapped children in front of a cop.

TV Here’s an argument for removing “the stigma that follows Ken Burns.” To which one asks: there’s a stigma?

HISTORY Ancient Roman jewelry found in Britain; it was stuffed under the floorboards during the siege of Colchester, led by Queen Boudicca. The Romans took a pasting, but came back and then some.

DESIGN A place to waste hours and hours: a huge collection of restaurant menus at the New York Public Library, including many from Minneapolis. From the Hotel Nicollet:

1949. I'm just beginning to raid the collection - the stuff from the 40s and 50s is incredible. 

That's John Gill

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: August 18, 2014 - 12:28 PM

There’s no word for something that’s dorky, nerdy, and geeky all at once. We need a turducken-like word to describe nested layers of sci-fi obsessiveness. It’s geeky to know how warp speed is achieved in Star Trek; it’s nerdy to know the names of its inventor and his life story; it’s dorky to be unable to sustain human contact with other people unless they know these things.

That said, here’s some dorknerdky.

When I was a kid I drew Star Trek comic books. Couldn’t draw people, but I could draw the Enterprise, and that was sufficient. There was little else a fan could do; the show was long gone, the cartoon was off the air, the novelizations of the TV shows were just recaps of stories thrice told. Oh, there was talk of bringing it back, but we all knew it was over. Here’s lookin’ at you, Yeoman Rand. We’ll always have Rigel.

Nowadays I imagine going back to my young self, and asking what he’d like to know. I suspect Star Trek would come up. Did they ever make another show? Well, kid, yes and no. The good news: they made a movie. A movie! Was it awesome? It was . . . endurable, and we made lots of excuses at the time, but it was hard going. So that was the end of it, then. Drat. No. They made 12 more.

At which point my young self would be confused, because there weren’t two movies about the same thing, let alone 13. That’s when I’d have to elaborate. See, they brought Star Trek back, and it lasted for seven years. Then there was another Star Trek show that lasted for seven years, and while it was going on there was another Star Trek show that lasted for seven years, then one that lasted for four. There’s a quarter-century of Star Trek in your future, and for the most part you’ll like it.

The hard part would be explaining the fan movies, I think. With a dozen movies and hundreds episodes extant, there would still be such enormous hunger for the original Trek that people would spend their own money to build the sets and write the scripts and film their own versions of Star Trek, with varying degrees of artistic success. By 2014 we hadn’t returned to the moon or invented warp drive, but . . . there are consolations.

There will come a time when the tools of creation have been distributed to the audience, and the audience responds by making something that exceeds the source material. Something visually indistinguishable from the products of Hollywood, something that isn’t bound by the crack-monkey hit-the-beats dictates of a committee effort, something that channels all the raw geek fan love and brings to life the Star Trek you always knew was there, but had never seen like this.

That’s a trailer for the 20-minute finished portion of Return to Axanar, which is here. If I’d show this to my 15-year-old self without any context of what came before in the last quarter-century., I think he would have been unable to walk for a week. Yes, there are other fan-made movies and web series, and some look remarkably good. But the acting and the script often make you wince. This has actors who’ve done many things - including actual Star Trek TV shows.

Made by fans, funded by fans: it’s a Kickstarter project.

The plague of innumerable losers

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: August 13, 2014 - 12:50 PM

What did awful people do before the internet? Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda, has written this on her Instagram account:

I will be leaving this account for a but while I heal and decide if I'll be deleting it or not. In this difficult time, please try to be respectful of the accounts of myself, my family and my friends. Mining our accounts for photos of dad, or judging me on the number of them is cruel and unnecessary.

The question is whether the Internet created these people by providing anonymity and celebrating a lulz culture, or whether they always existed but had nothing to do with the curdled thoughts that rattled around their empty heads. Perhaps both. Doesn’t matter. It makes you want a separate internet just for the decent.

There's a Gawker story about the matter, but, well, it's a bit difficult to see a Gawker site getting het up over trolls. Better to read her own words, here.

AD OF THE DAY This is a nice restorative pick-you-up: a TV dad who’s not a stupid oaf!

MUSIC There was a schism, and it was deep, and two camps faced each other across the great divide:

In any case, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols came out two days after my 11th birthday and that confusion ended. Instantly. If you were all “punk rock,” then you had no time for progrock bands. You hated them. They were all totally unredeemably bleep. (All of them, except for maybe King Crimson. Robert Fripp, now he was cool.)

Perhaps if you were eleven they were bleep. (Note: "bleep" not in the original.) Sure, progressive rock was reviled by the punks, but it was reviled by everyone who liked other genres. The only thing anyone could agree on was that progrock was a bloated corpse of a dinosaur in a tar pit on a planet with 10X gravity, and oh by the way jazz-rock was worse. (Phil Collins, the drummer for Genesis, brought the Force into balance by drumming for a progressive jazz-rock group, but that’s another story.)

That’s where “New Wave” came in. Same idea - strip it down, tighten it up, and for heaven’s sake dump the strings. Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, dozens more. The work holds up. Sid Vicious does not.

Anyway. New Wave influenced prog-rock, in a way; when BeBop Deluxe came out with “Drastic Plastic” in 1979, you could tell that Bill Nelson had decided less is more, and went for a stripped-down, straight-ahead sound. No more vast overlaid guitar symphonies. The very idea of the Heroic Guitar Solo seemed outdated.

This was the stuff in the margins. The main attraction on the radio was still latter-period disco and California studio rock. Punk and New Wave were co-opted and watered down soon enough - the Romantic’s “What I Like About You” was clean and fresh, but it was as much of a Kinks-era throwback as a New Wave template; the Kings’ awful “Switchin’ to Glide” was a signal that the popular version of New Wave was going to be confuse “simplicity” with stupidity. Add Loverboy, and the rise of Hair Metal ensured that bro-friendly head-bobbing RAWK was going to rule, not smart nervy works by good songwriters.

(Note: in the mid-80s, the radio stations played “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend” at 5 PM on Friday, and yes, I turned it up to 11.)

ANYWAY. In the comments for the article - which is about learning to appreciate progressive rock, by the way - there’s the proggiest comment ever:

I was never vocally opposed to prog back then, but I never particularly liked Yes, something about Jon Anderson's vocals annoyed me. Other than Crimson I tended to like non-UK prog bands: Magma, Goblin, Zappa (face it, he was 'prog': what other rock band was stealing from Stravinsky in 1967?) Arguably even Can was prog, since two members studied with Stockhausen.

Yeah, and it showed. Magma! Good Lord, Magma? They sang in an invented language about some incomprehensible sci-fi story. If they’d been big and mainstream, the inevitable response wouldn’t have been Punk, boiling up from the clubs. It would have been disco. Because it was fun and had one objective: happy dancing.

Nothing since then has been about happy dancing, but that’s another rambling entry.

(via Coudal.)

Cheesy Organ Delights

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: August 7, 2014 - 12:01 PM

If I embedded the file you wouldn’t watch it. No one would. You’d look at the length and see “24 minutes? C’mon. Something under three minutes, if you please. This is the modern world and no one has time for that, as the saying goes." All right; how about this?

That is the swankest piece of music ever played on an organ. But electric organs are generally regarded as cheesy things, plinky-dinky kitsch machines that summed up everything horrible about middle-class taste. But their sound defined a decade and a half of popular music, if not more; they deserve respect.

They get it, right here. It’s a BBC4 radio documentary on the rise and fall of the electric organ. It’s a video, but it consists of a picture of the presenter, and his expression gets a bit unnerving after a few minutes, so just minimize the browser and listen. If nothing else you will meet the swingin’ sounds of Karl Wunderlich.

Related: Matrix fight-scene sounds replaced with 8-bit game sounds. Wonderful.

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